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Caffeine and Adrenal Fatigue

Modern life is overly busy, frenetic and we are always “on”.

This results in a body that is constantly on alert and this is not helped with our daily over reliance on caffeine to keep us going throughout the day. For some people, this can result in adrenal fatigue.

But, what is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue, or hypoadrenia, describe the condition in which adrenal glands are exhausted and unable to produce adequate quantities of hormones, such as glucocorticoid cortisol, often due to chronic stress.

How can caffeine affect adrenal fatigue?

Caffeine stimulates neuron activity in the brain in which neurons send messages to the pituitary gland to stimulate the adrenal glands, which then produces adrenaline and cortisol. 

Adrenaline and cortisol are those famous hormones involved in “fight or flight” mode, which happens when you are faced with danger. This was particular useful for our ancestors when faced with a horde of mongols or, back further, encountering a sabre toothed tiger.

But, are those “fight or flight” hormones useful for modern life – and on a daily basis? They are stress hormones – for us in emergencies – not a deadline to submit a business plan or a quarterly report.

But, caffeine is a crutch, which we use every day to help us keeping fighting on.

If your adrenal glands are fatigued, then caffeine can cause your adrenals to overwork to make more cortisol and burns out your glands. This leads to your adrenals being weakened and less able to respond adequately. This is why coffee has less and less effect over time on people with adrenal fatigue.

Furthermore, caffeine is mildly addictive. This is down to its effects on the nervous system, which increases the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres.

We are not saying “don’t drink coffee” though.

Scientific studies increasingly report health benefits including high levels of antioxidants and nutrients and it can help burn fat. There is also increasing evidence to suggest coffee protects against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes and liver disease.

But…how much coffee?

Caffeine has downsides. Firstly, with regards to adrenal fatigue.  Coffee is acidic and can cause indigestion, heart burn and an imbalance in your gut flora.  Too much caffeine can interact with medications, increase blood sugar levels, raise blood pressure (1) and can lead to bone loss.

In short, respect caffeine.

It is a drug and it should be treated as such.

If you love coffee for the flavour, then consider his quality Swiss Water Decaf coffee as part of the mix during your day – particularly after you’ve had that first or second cup of coffee a day. Decaffeinated coffee often still works as a pick me up as your brain is fooled into associating coffee as an energy booster – even if there is no caffeine in the coffee!

Remember, caffeine is addictive, so you may need to gradually wean yourself off it. Stopping suddenly can cause headaches.

 

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