I am an ex-barista and coffee lover. Working at a family-owned business with a conscience, I was surrounded daily by fair-trade, organic coffee from around the world. It was delicious! Eventually, this turned into a habit; a ritual of sorts. I loved waking up in the morning to brew a French press. But, what I didn’t know at the time was how much the coffee was affecting my body. Although I loved the morning ritual, I wasn't paying attention to my body.
This post covers tips on using symptoms as a guidepost, exactly what coffee is, and the impact caffeine has on our lymph system and estrogen levels. It's a long one, so brew yourself some tea and stick around for awhile.
Coffee's Affect On Our Lymph System And Why I Gave Up The Daily Ritual. (+ 6 Coffee Alternatives)
Using symptoms as a guidepost for healing
Our bodies are always highlighting where healing is out of whack through symptoms. Symptoms are not to be masked through medication, but brought to the surface to deal with.
When I drink coffee, my digestion is whack. I feel anxious, and not only that, but I get a case of being hangry if I didn't eat a large meal prior to consuming any coffee. Considering just how much caffeine limits the lymphatic system, think about my body processing food without the ability to push the toxins out and away --- ouch!
Last summer, in an effort to challenge myself, I took a 'detox' from coffee. Over the course of a month, I drank only Yerba Mate Dark Roast Herbal "Coffee". It quelled my taste palate, yet I was still able to maintain my daily ritual. I ended up drinking coffee after 30 days and have been ever since. That was until a couple months ago...
There came a point this summer where I didn’t want to be spending money on something that harmed my body on a daily, chronic basis. My body knew what was up! That’s why she was responding the way she did towards the coffee, like:
- upset stomach and digestion
- increased heart rate
- shaky hands and arms
- blood sugar dips, resulting in (h)angry tendencies
- anxious energy within my body and mind that lasted for hours
I would have the jitters and anxiety from doing normal tasks like answering emails, which I began to realize wasn't normal. If you're anything like me when you drink coffee, I know you've dealt with these experiences as well!
What is coffee, anyway?
Caffeine is a drug. And, this is a fact:
It's important to remember that the caffeine in coffee is a powerful substance. It can stimulate the central nervous system, increase heartbeat and metabolic rate, increase the secretion of stomach acid, and step up kidney and bladder action. It's also well known for its annoying ability to affect sleep. The article goes on to say that in higher doses, caffeine can cause "coffee nerves"—a wide assortment of symptoms including anxiety, irritability, headaches, light-headedness, nausea, and diarrhea. (Source)
Caffeine also activates the flight or fight response, throwing our adrenals into overdrive. Not. Good.
As you read above, I didn't need to consult a professional, scientific source about the effects coffee has on my body. My body was already telling me! Pay attention to your body - it will tell you everything you need to know about a supplement, food, or drink being good for you.
Caffeine's impact on our lymphatic system
To simplify a complex system with our bodies,
"The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials." (Source).
This is a very important system that spreads throughout our body from our armpits, breasts and heart down to our pelvic region and legs. Lymph nodes are everywhere! They are also what help us fight infections, which is why your lymph nodes in your neck may be inflamed when you have the flu.
When we drink coffee, we input a substance into our body that affects the ability for the lymphatic flow, which creates congestion and nowhere for toxins to go. Coffee creates constriction, which creates congestion, which thus turns into a toxic buildup within our system. Caffeine has been linked to fibrocystic breast disorder, endometriosis, fibroids and the like, so if you are a women, this is especially important for your reproductive organs and breasts.
How caffeine affects breast health
Coffee negatively impacts our breast health. Our breasts are tied very closely to our lymphatic system. Our lymphatic system is always warding off infections, but sometimes different products clog it up, including aluminum based deodorants. (For the love of your breasts, PLEASE ditch your conventional deodorants and snag something all natural. Yes, you may sweat more, but that is what the body is designed to do to push out toxins!)
The lymph system flows slower than blood, so caffeine may have an even bigger negative affect on toxicity build up. Caffeine may also cause muscle contraction around lymph vessels, preventing the natural flow of the lymph.
According to LiveStrong:
"Although blocked lymph may be the result of muscle contraction around lymph vessels or nerve compression, caffeine may play a role in causing those muscles to contract. Caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor, or a chemical that causes the capillaries to cramp and tighten, preventing adequate blood flow to the area. When this occurs, it affects surrounding muscles and tissues. Constriction occurs in the tissues surrounding the lymph nodes and vessels, restricting drainage of lymph fluid."
Essentially caffeine causes constriction which causes the restriction of the lymph system to drain, causing a toxic build up. We want to prevent as much toxic build up as possible to invite natural healing into our bodies.
Caffeine + Estrogen
Additionally, consuming caffeine may have a negative affect on the hormone estrogen.
Estrogen "plays an essential role in the growth and development of female secondary sexual characteristics such as breasts, pubic and armpit hair, endometrium, regulation of the menstrual cycle and the reproductive system. During the menstrual cycle, estrogen acts to produce an environment suitable for fertilization, implantation, and nutrition of the early embryo." (Source).
Estrogen is a hormone you want to have balanced in your body. Without balance, your body starts to tilt into imbalance, which can lead to lots of other conditions.
Your body is meant to live in harmony with your lifestyle, so it's up to you to choose health and natural healing.
But, I thought coffee was good for you?
If you do a quick search about coffee, you'll find lots of articles that tout coffee as a superfood (I'm looking at you, SELF, which references a study that coffee lowers depression; yet, doesn't talk about the effects of caffeine on estrogen which you think would be important for them to focus on, since their target market is women...).
This is why it's so important to do your own research and use your own body as your main adviser.
An even deeper search leads you to an article about coffee as as superfood by TelegraphUK which outlines a few studies on coffee and how their results can be skewed (or, have been skewed!). Although science is amazing and helps us understand greatly the mysteries of life, we only can control an experiment to a certain degree, which is why we must tune into our own bodies for answers.
For example, if you take a look at this study on the effects of coffee consumption and type 2 diabetes, you'll see the conclusion reads:
Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee was associated with reduced diabetes risk.
YAY! So, if you have diabetes, then you're free to drink as much coffee as you want because science has proven it can reduce your risk of it!
Unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated than that. The problem is that the reduced diabetes risk is positively associated with drinking coffee, but it doesn't take into consideration the other lifestyle choices these study participants practice. It's difficult to track every aspect of someone's life for a study, so it makes sense that scientists try to focus on one specific cause and outcome.
There is so much conflicting research about what coffee does, how it positively benefits and negatively impacts the body. I could dedicate the rest of this blog to exploring this. For more information about the complexities of caffeine and hormones, check out this blog post by Precision Nutrition.
Using your body as your health adviser
Here's the thing.
You do not need to read tons of scientific studies if you want to figure out if something works for you or not. All you need to do is listen to your body. Symptoms show up as a guidepost. Our bodies are naturally lovely and healthy and perfectly operating. Our job it to listen, make changes, and experiment until we find out what makes our bodies feel GOOD.
I encourage you to pay attention to how you feel when you drink coffee. Does it make you anxious? Does it stimulate your digestion, forcing a bowel movement right after you drink it? Does it spike your blood sugar, leaving you feenin' for any snack you can find?
If yes, your body is telling you exactly what's up.
Make sure you listen.
My Top 5 benefits from quitting coffee
- Reduced anxiety
- Strengthened digestion
- Reduced hangriness
- Less physical shaking
- Stability in body: it feels content and calm
So, I'm thinking about reducing my coffee intake. Now what?
Reducing, or eliminating coffee is a lifestyle choice. It might feel difficult, or it might feel really easy, depending on your attachment (either emotional or physical). It's important to focus on how your body feels when you drink coffee. Let me reiterate: it's not normal to depend on coffee to wake you up. If you're thinking about reducing your coffee intake, I suggest a few things:
- Get enough sleep: figure out the amount of sleep your body needs per night, then give into it. We live in a culture that's all about getting things done faster and quicker, while putting our wellbeing to the side. You have permission to go to sleep early if that's what your body needs.
- Choose to put your health first: you may have a long day at work, but cutting out the caffeine habit can inspire you to take more care about what you're putting in your body. It's a ripple effect!
- Replace the ritual: drinking coffee is a major ritual in the US, Australia, Turkey, and Europe not to mention Mexico and other coffee-producing countries. Instead of making coffee in the morning, switch up your ritual with something similar, but satisfying enough where you're not craving coffee. Here are some of my suggestions.
6 Coffee Alternatives
- White Tea: White tea generally tends to have less caffeine. Look for an organic version as tea is one of the crops sprayed with the most pesticide and tends to be the most sensitive to pesticides as well.
- Warm Water & Lemon, or My Rehydrating Morning Ritual Recipe
- ACV + Water or Spicy ACV Tea: Warm up some water, or drink room temp water (cold water puts out your digestive 'fire'). Add a splash of ACV.
- Fresh Ginger Tea: Thinly slice up some organic ginger root, place in a pot with filtered water and bring to a boil, then turn down to medium. Drink promptly after the water begins to turn a nice, deep copper color from the ginger. Add honey to taste. Grab the recipe here.
- Kombucha: Mmm, my favorite fermented drink! It offers up lots of probiotics for healthy digestion. This is one of my personal favorites for replacing my coffee with. Although kombucha is typically made with green and black teas, the caffeine content is much lower and makes my body feel yummy with all the vitamins, enzymes, and minerals it provides.
- Herbal Coffee: if you can't quite quit the coffee ritual / taste, then herbal coffee could be a nice choice. Yerba Mate Herbal Coffee is known to have a less stimulating effect, although it does have caffeine. I recommend trying it out to see how your body reacts to it.
As always, pay attention to how your body reacts to different food products you consume. Does it make you feel good, does it make you feel yuck? Your body will tell you exactly what's up and what you need: all you need to do is intentionally pay attention to what it's saying.
Generally, we should create a life full of ease and abundance where we don't have to opt towards the coffee to give us energy. What say you? Are you going to give up your coffee habit for alternatives to caffeine?
Resources for your further research
- Women diagnosed with breast cancer had a lower rate of survival depending on the amount of coffee they drank! http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2476127
- Is Caffeine Bad for the Lymphatic System? http://www.livestrong.com/article/554952-how-bad-is-caffeine-for-the-lymphatic-system/
- 10 Reasons To Quit Your Coffee! http://drhyman.com/blog/2012/06/13/ten-reasons-to-quit-your-coffee/
- Ditch that morning coffee! Caffeine is a powerful stimulant but most people do not realise it is a drug http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1343621/Ditch-morning-coffee-Caffeine-powerful-stimulant-people-dont-realise-drug.html#ixzz3jIJsS7PU
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