Alicia Eler

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Got the caffeine blues?

tumblr_krru3gDW2P1qzzu9zAt one point, I was drinking a red eye coffee (that’s coffee with a shot of espresso) in the morning, and a shot or two of espresso in the afternoon. I’d also sneak in another cup of Joe sometime during the day. I was addicted to coffee, and everyone knew it. Without that first cup in the morning, I was a headachey, jittery jerk.

I couldn’t keep up this coffee-drinking pace, and that’s when I met Brenda, who doesn’t consume any caffeine at all. She helped me slowly reduce my caffeine intake until I was down to  one cup of green tea per day and then no caffeine at all. It was scary to realize just how dependent I was on caffeine. It really is a drug.

But every few months, the same thing happens: I start thinking about coffee again. This weekend I was at First Slice Cafe with my friend Keidra, and I remembered the rich taste of this do-gooder cafe’s organic coffee, and the nice kick it gave me.

Every time I find myself thinking about coffee, I try drinking it again. It’s tasty at first—the rich, roasted coffee beans dissolved into a thick brown liquid that’s perfect for these cool fall days. I get that kick again, feel great, run around and do twice as much work, and then crash hard. By the end of the day, I feel horrible—hungover, even. Plus, when I’m on caffeine, I have to go to the bathroom too much, I feel nervous and shaky, and then I realize just how dehydrated I am. I rush to drink more water, but it’s never enough.

Now if I drink coffee, it completely ruins my day.

I decided to learn more about coffee, particularly the whole “coffee is good for you” myths that we’re fed that, not surprisingly, by the companies that make coffee, so I ordered these two books:

Caffeine Blues: Wake Up To The Hidden Dangers of America’s #1 Drug

By Stephen Cherniske

The Truth about Caffeine: How Companies Deceive Us and What We Can Do About It

By Marina Kushner

Here’s an excerpt from a blog post on AliveFoods.com discussing Cherniske’s work that pretty much sums up what I experienced during my coffee detox:

Cherniske who well understands this, wrote: “Caffeine does not provide energy – only chemical stimulation. The perceived energy comes from the body’s struggle to adapt to increased blood levels of stress hormones… Using coffee for mood enhancement is a short-term blessing and a long-term curse. While the initial adrenal stimulation may provide a transient anti-fatigue ‘lift,’ caffeine’s ultimate mood effect is a letdown, either subtle or profound. Advertisers and coffee ‘institutes’ have kept this side of caffeine from public view… “While caffeine users may feel more alert, the experience is simply one of increased sensory and motor activity (dilated pupils, increased heart rate, and higher blood pressure). The quality of thought and recall is improved no more than the quality of music is improved when played at a higher volume or speed.” The energy we get from caffeine is similar to the “energy” a horse gets when whipped. It is not energy gained but power spent responding to an injury.

If we know this, why do we keep seeing those articles about the “positive” effects of coffee on the body, like this New York Times piece, and find organizations like Positively Coffee? The AliveFoods.com blog post answers that, too:

The effects of caffeine on the body are well researched, but you never hear about it in your newspaper. You never hear about it anywhere because the whole nation, if not the whole world, is addicted to caffeine. Doctors, journalists, scientists, writers, everyone drinks coffee. Those whose job is to inform us are usually heavy coffee drinkers.

As consumers, we need to be aware of this information. I’ll write again as I learn more about caffeine and its effects on our health.

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