Just three months ago, if you had asked me to give up coffee, I would have laughed maniacally and demanded you buy me a latte for spouting such rude words in my face. I was as addicted as one could possibly be to caffeine. Not a day went by when I didn't have at least one cup of joe, and if I didn't have it in my system by 11 a.m., I would be left with a splitting headache. All that changed recently, though. After my anxiety got particularly bad one day, I made a sudden decision to kick my coffee habit, and it was one of the best choices I've ever made.
On the subject of coffee, we get a lot of mixed signals. One second, we're presented with a study that says drinking coffee is an excellent way to improve our mood, fight diabetes, and help our liver do its job properly. Experts say having up to five cups a day can actually be really good for you, as well as improve the health of your heart. But there is also a host of contrasting evidence suggesting that coffee is more of an enemy than a friend. It could be negatively affecting your sleep patterns, increasing your anxiety levels, and dehydrating you — and that's just to name a few side effects. The cons may outweigh the pros, especially considering the fact that there are loads of other things that can give you the same benefits that coffee can, without all the nasty side effects.
Here are nine reasons to give up coffee — or at least consider it.
1. Coffee Can Make You More Stressed
The high amounts of caffeine in coffee make catecholamines, the stress hormones in your system, spike up to abnormal amounts. As a result, you feel, well, more stressed out. It can make your heart race uncomfortably and your hands shake. You may not even notice these side effects, especially if you've been a long-time coffee drinker, but, trust me, it's much easier to get your work done with you don't have extra stress like that on your shoulders.
2. Coffee Causes Inflammation
One of the consequences of raising the stress hormones in your body is that you experience inflammation. Studies have shown that men and women drinking coffee (decaf or regular) showed a larger amount of inflammatory markers in their system than those who didn't. That was from as little as one cup a day. The inflammation inside your body may be invisible for the time being, but a great deal of inflammation over time can lead to obesity, arthritis, and cancer. It can also seriously worsen conditions like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Doctors say they have witnessed less inflammation in patients who have kicked coffee to the curb.
3. Coffee Can Cause Indigestion And Stomach Pains
If you didn't know already, coffee is super acidic. Any foods or beverages you consume that have a high level of acid, rather than alkaline, can cause a hypersecretion of gastric acids in your system, which could give you a stomachache, heartburn, and acid reflux. All that acid irritates the lining in your stomach and, if the damage continues over a long period of time, it could unnaturally speed up the process of gastric emptying, which can lead to injury of the intestinal tissue.
4. You'll Probably Sleep Better At Night
As much as we love coffee, it's a safe bet to say most of us value our sleep even more. What many people don't realize, though, is that it's very difficult to have satisfying night's sleep if you're dependent on coffee. Studies conducted at Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders and Research Center in Michigan and Wayne State College of Medicine show that even having one cup of joe six hours before hitting the hay can rob you of at more than one hour of precious sleep.
Even though you may not feel the effects for this long, caffeine stays in your system for several hours at the very least, meaning it's all too common for your sleep to be seriously disrupted by that second innocent latte you had in the afternoon. (And it stays in your system even longer if you're on The Pill, by the way.)
5. Coffee Can Exacerbate Anxiety To A Whole New Level
This was my biggest reason for giving up coffee. After just one cup in the a.m., I would feel more on edge within seconds. I used to think it was a small price to pay for being productive, but I eventually realized it was making my anxiety worse than ever before. Coffee is a pretty strong stimulant (which is why you feel like conquering the world after an espresso), so it gives you the jitters while also reducing the levels of serotonin in your brain, which can lead to depressive and anxious thoughts.
Many people, including myself, have experienced how much more calm and collected they feel after they've given up coffee. It won't cure anxiety, but it can definitely help you avoid the extra feelings of worry that caffeine tends to bring you.
6. Your Body Will Learn To Run On Its Own Energy
One of the reasons we love coffee so much is that it gives us the jolt of energy we need to get things done. But by relying so heavily on the caffeine rush coffee gives us, our body's natural way of energizing us doesn't get put into use. It tricks us into thinking we've got energy, but we really don't because the caffeine is driving us. That's why you feel so sluggish until you get a coffee in your hands.
If you give up coffee, you might initially feel tired and ultra cranky, but over time your body will readjust. You won't need the caffeine to get you going in the morning. In fact, you might find that you have more energy than ever before when your body isn't waiting on an outside substance to wake up.
7. Your Afternoon Crash Won't Be Nearly As Bad
Most of us experience a subtle late afternoon slump due to the body's core temperature naturally dropping. But coffee drinkers have a worse crash than anyone else, because the caffeine has finally left the body and the adrenaline has suddenly fallen away. Without having coffee in your system, you can fight the dip by taking a brisk walk outside or having a healthy snack, but those simple antidotes probably won't work as well if you're addicted to the stimulant effect of coffee.
8. You Don't Have To Give Up The Ritual
If you're one of those people who loves the ritual of drinking coffee more than anything else, fret not. You don't have to give up the warm, cozy feeling of enjoying a hot beverage in the morning with your friends. Order a chai latte or request an oolong green tea with honey. If you like to make your own morning drink, buy some rooibos tea bags, which comes in all sorts of flavors, even salted caramel. Pour some steamed milk into it and, voila! You've got yourself a lovely cup of tea that will make you forget about your coffee fling entirely.
9. You Actually Don't Need Coffee As Much As You Think You Do
Take it from an ex-addict who was convinced that life without coffee wasn't a life worth living. Sure, coffee may wake you up and give you the motivation to organize your closet, but don't think for a second that you couldn't be productive without it. We convince ourselves that we need caffeine to sift through our morning emails or deal with that weird co-worker, but there are so many other ways you can pump yourself up that don't come with the side effects.
You could exercise in the morning, take some time to meditate, or simply make a habit of sleeping a full eight hours a night. You might be surprised at how much more energy these small habits give you in lieu of coffee. At the very least, give it a shot. You don't really have much to lose, besides that shot of espresso.
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