Caffeine has been getting a lot of poor press lately—honestly, for a good reason. These days, it seems like everyone relies on caffeine to not only thrive but to survive. It’s the thing the majority of Americans put in their mouths first in the morning and probably again in the afternoon to get through the workday.
But what if people realized that what was “giving them energy” was actually the thing that was making them more tired. And not just a little sleepier here and there, but that can’t-remember-what-I-was-going-to-do-or-say-kind-of-fatigue? The kind of fatigue that sucks all the zest, excitement, and motivation out of life. I know what you’re thinking: is she crazy? My morning cup of coffee is what gives me a zest for life! I get it, but I want you to hear me out. If you have been feeling exhausted when you wake up in the morning and throughout your day, I need you to read this article. We’re talking about the crazy connection between adrenal fatigue and caffeine.
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Before we get into caffeine, it’s important to talk a bit about adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue is a 21st-century syndrome, according to author and AF expert James Wilson. He couldn’t be more correct. It seems like everyone and their best friend, mother, aunt, and kid’s teacher has adrenal fatigue. It’s the syndrome that leaves us feeling completely defeated and depleted. Unfortunately, it affects women more than men and is often dismissed by doctors because we can’t see it on a test result until we enter full-blown adrenal insufficiency. But why wait until our adrenals can no longer produce vital energy hormones? Why not just address it when we know the signs and symptoms are impacting us?
Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
- Chronic fatigue
- Poor mood, sadness, anxiety, depression
- Low libido
- Slow healing time
- Dull skin
- Sluggishness after a meal
- Afternoon slump
- Hair loss
- Period and PMS issues
- Lack of motivation
- Cravings for salty foods
- And of course…dependency on stimulants
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Adrenal fatigue or your dependence on caffeine?
The Connection Between Adrenal Fatigue and Caffeine
Caffeine can be both the cause and effect of adrenal fatigue. Here’s why.
At the root of adrenal fatigue is HPA axis dysfunction. You can think of your HPA axis as your body’s stress system. And when there is too much firing and wiring for stress, it downregulates trying to protect your body. Leaving you feeling tired, among other symptoms mentioned above.
While HPA axis dysfunction can be caused by stress in relationships, work, family, home etc.—it can also be caused by things we put in our bodies, like caffeine.
I hate to break it to you, but we should probably get this out of the way: caffeine does not give you more energy. It just blocks the receptors that signal to our brains that we are tired.
When we put caffeine into our bodies, especially when it’s not combined with healthy fat, protein, and fiber, we shoot cortisol levels through the roof. Cortisol is our stress hormone and is often all out of whack in people with adrenal fatigue.
So whether you drink black coffee first thing in the morning before breakfast or rely on it throughout the day to keep you from falling asleep, it is causing a stress response in the body. And the more often you do this to your body; your adrenal glands take the brunt of it.
Enter adrenal fatigue.
The syndrome that says, “hey, body, you’re depleted, and you need rest—not more caffeine.” But all we hear is, “I need energy; where is my coffee?”
It’s the death circle. Going round and round until you heal from the root.
And that real healing often means getting serious about your relationship to caffeine.
Giving your adrenals a caffeine break is one of the best things you can do to get real energy back.
I know that giving up caffeine can be hard—it’s the top-used drug in the world. But there are practical tips for weaning and getting your real, vibrant energy back.
5 Tips for Getting Over Adrenal Fatigue & Caffeine
1 – Try an Alternative
There are a ton of coffee and caffeine alternatives out there. Now, if you’re a coffee drinker or espresso gal, don’t immediately think “decaf!” Research shows that decaf has more toxicity than regular (which is still a lot for most conventional brands). The method used to eliminate the caffeine creates more chemicals and toxicity. The last thing our bodies need when trying to heal. We wrote a whole article on caffeine and coffee alternatives that you can check out here.
I mention our superfood powder that is loaded with electrolytes, B vitamins, antioxidants, and energizing foods for a natural boost. This powder is a refreshing game-changer. And we’ll be touching on it more in tip number 5.
2 – Movement After Meals
Feeling sluggish after a meal can sometimes be normal—but if a nap beckons you after every single meal, that is not so normal. One of the reasons for this can be because you’re consuming an unbalanced meal. Maybe processed sugars, too many simple carbohydrates, or not enough healthy fat, fiber, and high-quality protein. A meal that’s not balanced creates unbalanced blood sugar. A blood sugar spike inevitably leads to a blood sugar crash and cues the couch starting to sweet talk you.
So while a balanced meal is number one, taking a walk or gentle movement/yoga after a meal can be beneficial for digestion and blood sugar balance. Plus, it gets blood and oxygen circulating as well as happy mood chemicals—a recipe for more energy and zest for life.
3 – Prioritize Bedtime
How you feel in the morning is largely determined by how you spent the night before. If you are one of those people (hi, guilty) that loves to have alone time at night (especially as a mom), then this part is especially important for you.
I used to be exhausted after putting my kids to bed. But it seemed to be the only time I could spend with myself, so I would push past the exhaustion until suddenly I was tired but wired. Insomnia kicked in, and I couldn’t fall asleep if I tried. How ironic, considering I was so close to falling asleep at lunch.
Prioritizing Bedtime means sometimes going to bed way earlier than what you think is normal. 8 o’clock rolls around, and you could fall asleep soundly—do it. I urge you to. This will be the deepest sleep of the night and the most important time to get quality shut-eye for the body to heal and reset.
Prioritizing Bedtime means going to bed earlier than you think. It means winding down earlier than you think. Shutting off screens, the TV, and your phone, and reading a book or taking a bath. It means letting your body get into a state of relaxation before throwing yourself under the covers.
Getting a good night’s sleep means you are less likely to need caffeine in the morning. How can you prioritize your Bedtime?
4 – Take Adaptogens
Adaptogens are herbs that help us adapt to stress: physical, mental, emotional, and environmental. They are also hormone balances, which lends itself to energy production! Adaptogens are some of the best herbs for calming down the mind and body, creating clarity, dispelling brain fog, and helping the body heal.
For our bodies to not feel like they need caffeine, we have to give them a little extra support. And this is where adaptogens come in. Not only are they incredible alternatives to caffeine in the sense that they work on a physiological and mental level, but they also can be creatively added to morning elixirs for a satisfactory alternative.
Adaptogens saved me when I was healing from adrenal fatigue. So when we sought out to create our supplement line, I made sure to add the best adaptogens to our supplements.
In our Beauty Collagen Complex, a vanilla-honey hormone and gut healing powder, I added ashwagandha and Schisandra. These are two of my favorite adaptogens. Not only do they give you energy, boost libido, and clear stress—they also provide mental and emotional support for a healing journey!
In our Organic Immunity Greens I made sure to include some of the top adaptogenic mushrooms like reishi and chaga. Adding these supplements to your daily routine will help to cut caffeine consumption and gain natural energy.
5 – Hydrate
Proper hydration is one of the most important steps to take to get out of the vicious cycle of adrenal fatigue and caffeine.
A lot of times, low energy has a lot to do with dehydration. Most people, unknowingly, are chronically dehydrated. When our bodies don’t have enough water, our organs and cells don’t function properly. Cue low energy, fatigue, and caffeine dependence.
Drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces of water per day is essential for energy. The key here is that the water needs to be properly mineralized. Most of us are drinking dead water. And no amount of dead water will ever hydrate us. We can drink all the water in the world, but if it doesn’t have essential minerals and electrolytes, the point is mute.
This was something that totally changed the adrenal fatigue healing game for me. This information was why we created our Hydration Superfood Energy powder. It’s loaded with B vitamins (for energy production), antioxidants (to fight inflammation), and electrolytes (to properly and deeply hydrate).
I made it a delicious and refreshing strawberry kiwi flavor because I was once the person who couldn’t drink water. Sprite was my middle name. But now, this powder is irresistible and provides me with energy, electrolytes, and nutrients so that I not only feel vibrant on the inside but also look vibrant on the outside.
I hope these steps help you understand the connection between caffeine and adrenal fatigue. Now that you have practical tips for healing and getting over the caffeine chokehold, what next step will you take? Let me know in the comments below.
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