If you follow me on Instagram and/or facebook then you may have seen me announcing in my stories that I no longer drink coffee/tea – which if you know me personally, is a big deal, because up until 3 months ago, coffee was my “life”. I was certainly a coffee snob, my coffee of choice being a smooth flat white and it all began back in 2006 when I trained and worked as a Barista for a cafe chain, DOME, in Western Australia. Outside of what I am doing now, working as a barista and making (and drinking) coffee’s all day was one of the best jobs I ever had, especially when a certain café was perched on the edge of the beach looking out over the clear blue sea.
So, what led to this renouncement? And before we continue this is not “coffee is bad for you” lecture, but a coming to a deeper understanding of how certain foods/substances affect the body, in particular the female body, and for me, arriving at a place where I had to choose between being aligned with how I desired to feel vs staying in the cycle of feeling tired, buzzy and irritable and believing that I had no choice.
It began back in October 2021, when one morning I was standing in front of our coffee machine, bleary eyed and waiting impatiently for the coffee to pour. I quickly topped it up with hot water, a dash of oat milk and drank the whole mug without breathing. From the moment I woke up, before my feet even hit the ground, my mind was on “coffee” and I would gasp for it until I had it in my hands. It had gotten to the point where that first cup of coffee did nothing but hush my body’s need for caffeine, as this was usually around 7am. I would then have another coffee, the same way, 2 hours later, and then I would have another one, maybe 3 hours after the second one, and in between the coffee, I would never feel “awake”, I would crash mid afternoon and would feel jittery, irritable and tired within half an hour of having the coffee, which every time promised the elusive feeling of “fulfilment” and “awareness” but never delivered. Around drinking coffee I was eating well, I was never having coffee instead of food but it had gotten to the point where my body could no longer process the caffeine ( I switched to tea for a bit, but still felt the same), it wasn’t having the desired effect and it was wreaking havoc on my blood sugar levels and natural levels of cortisol which weren’t rising and falling as they should. I was never feeling “awake” but permanently fried.
BUTTTT, Who am I if I don’t drink coffee (or tea/caffeine)? My identification with being a coffee drinker was what kept me drinking coffee even though it didn’t feel good in my body. Do you ever notice, as a coffee/tea drinker, that if you meet someone who doesn’t drink coffee or tea you want to ask “why”, you may even judge them, secretly (or not so secretly ) want to convert them and you may even stare at them like they are some sort of sub species of human. Whether you realise it or not, it’s because you identify with being a coffee drinker, a tea drinker, and so on, so when someone doesn’t do that said thing, especially when it comes with such a BIG social and cultural identity tag, you almost take it as a personal affront, that by them not engaging in a behaviour that is so reinforced in our society they are somehow rocking the very fabric of our existence! So when I realised my “mind” was holding on to the story of “but you love coffee, you NEED coffee, it’s all about the coffee, tired mums drink coffee, it’s so hip, you belong when you drink coffee” It was easier to see that even though the habit was ingrained, it was not actually benefiting me anymore, my body had been telling me for some time that it was time to let it go and all I had to do was stop believing in the story, and fuelling the identity.
So, why was my body struggling with caffeine? There are few parts to this, and I’ll summarise; caffeine when consumed over long periods of time begins to build up in the body, and for the female body it can disrupt hormones for a full 24 hours. Caffeine can inhibit the absorption of certain nutrients that our body needs in order to support our hormones, caffeine affects our blood sugar and as our sensitivity to insulin fluctuates over the course of the month it can increase PMS symptoms and for women with hormonal imbalances caffeine can compound these problems (such as PMS, digestive issues, cystic breasts/ovaries and fibroids – you can read more here https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2079614/ ) and for MY body and hormone levels at the moment, metabolising caffeine just isn’t something it can do with harmony – and I was, and am, looking to restore harmony to my hormones while breastfeeding, welcoming the return of my cycle and level up my health. I had to make a choice. I chose long term ease over short term discomfort. Essentially if you are currently experiencing any symptoms of hormone imbalance/ and or signs that your body can’t process caffeine, then removing it from your diet is a strong move to make for overall health, and you may find that you can re-introduce it in smaller quantities when you have restored balance to your body, but honestly, I don’t miss it and my life isn’t less enjoyable, fact it’s opened me up to trying new nourishing drinks that are more supportive of my health and hormone goals.
I stopped drinking coffee about a month before Christmas, and yes, I experienced all the headaches, irritability and intense coffee cravings but once I got past those first few days it was like the clouds parted and I could see again. I slept better (and I still wake up for children, so that’s saying something) I no longer wake up feeling tired. I experience the natural ebb and flow of my cortisol throughout the day, and I no longer experience the 3pm slump, I have more consistent energy and my mind feels clearer. I had my first period after nearly 3 years (post birth/still breastfeeding) and it was the best period I have ever had. I also experience less stress and anger as an emotional response. My skin has improved (my liver is much happier on no caffeine) and my overall hydration is much better. I feel more connected, more in tune and more aware of my body, and I feel a deeper level of trust in myself, I was able to do this, for my body, for her. I chose me in this.
Is there a good time to wean yourself off coffee/caffeine? If you’ve felt inspired and relate to how I was feeling, then reducing/eliminating coffee/caffeine during your ovulatory phase is a good time as you will have the most amount of natural energy (remember ovulation is your inner summer). I switched my morning cup of coffee to ceremonial grade matcha green tea, which although it contains caffeine does not have same effect on cortisol, the nervous system or hormones (you can read more here https://livewellzone.com/matcha-for-hormone-balance/) and I felt more nourished knowing that I wasn’t creating more issues within my body.
So this all circles back to you, you are the solution to all of your health challenges. No one could have done that for me, I had to recognise within myself that I was doing something that was out of alignment with my body. I had to make a choice. And that’s all it ever comes down too. Let me know how it goes if you decide to give it a go!