Ooohhhh coffee- the drink that fuels mothers.
You get a good cup of coffee and it puts you in turbo drive- your body surges with energy, you can knock out multiple loads of laundry, and zip around the kids at lightening speed, solving every request.
And you can write a mean blog post- the creative juices leak out your brainy brain when coffee is in the tank.
You also get tired…quick. There’s that coffee lag, or coffee crash. Your breath smells like a dragon turd. And your body could shake apart at any given moment.
Yes, there is a dark side to coffee, and I’m not talking about just serving it with no milk.
My Coffee Journey
I used to hate coffee. I would drink it only in baby sips when my friends would order a round at Waffle House. They would be gulping away and I’d be hunched over it, mixing a potion- stirring in multiple sugar packets and creamers…anything to get rid of the bitter! Then, after having (surprise!) twin girls by 20, coffee became, like most new mamas, a support system.
I couldn’t get up in the middle of the night, and make it to work at 5:30 am, without coffee.
I couldn’t stay awake later without coffee either.
It was awful.
As I became accustomed to the black stuff, I also developed the taste for it. Yes, I loved the pumpkin and peppermint creamers during the holidays, but eventually I could drink it straight. Yes, coffee and I had taken our relationship to the next level.
And so I continued my crazy coffee craze for YEARS…until I got pregnant with my son.
I vowed to give up coffee for the baby. And it was hard, but not that hard, because my little bean meant more than my coffee bean.
I had given up soda years before, so I expected the headaches, the lethargy, the drain for a few days while my system adjusted. My girls were big enough to understand mommy- and plus I was pregnant, so things were just all sorts of different.
There was a point I thought I wouldn’t go back…but then…my son was born.
And, I was TIRED.
Like, REALLY TIRED.
Breastfeeding him around the clock made my mornings really hard. I did okay the first few weeks, living on that post birthing high and the alternate reality schedule (you know what I’m talking about, that “new” anything-goes-schedule we get on with a newborn).
Yet, when we started back homeschooling, I found myself craving the cup…GIMME THE DAMN CUP!!!
And the cycle began again.
I tried to take it easy, drinking coffee while I breastfed (they say to drink caffeinated or alcoholic drinks during BF so that the baby gets their milk before it really hits your system), but I know that the caffeine carried over into our feedings. Pretty soon I was hitting two cups a day.
At the end of 2014, I was up to about 3 cups a day. And I knew this had gone too far.
Coffee Addiction & Breakup
Coffee was exhausting my adrenal glands. It was making me cranky when I didn’t have it. I would get the morning “sweats” from drinking and trying to blog. And I would crash by lunch.
Does this happen to you?
I decided that it was time to breakup. And coffee didn’t like that. I fought with myself for about a month- you know you have a problem when you are acting like a damn drug addict and saying that you “don’t have a problem” lol.
It’s also very confusing these days because a lot of people push the “coffee is good for you” mantra.
While, sure, the coffee bean may be, the creamer and the sugar and the non-organic coffee is not.
Oh, and if you are grabbing a Starbucks with whipped topping….nice try, but that is not healthy. It’s liquid crack in a cute cup.
I had listened to a lovely speaker, Jessica Godino, at the Wise Woman Herbal Conference in 2014. She said a lot of our stress is coming from exhausted adrenals. She talked about coffee, how to unwind stress, and offered up her herbal supplements instead.
*Luckily* for me, I got really sick around Christmas time last year, shortly after seeing her talk. I was so sick that I couldn’t even imagine coffee without wanting to puke. When I got over my flu, I decided that instead of crawling back to coffee, I was going to kick her out for good.
The Science-y stuff
Many of us who drink coffee are also trying to handle some sort of stress, whether that’s a new baby or an early rising job. The two root causes of stress are blood sugar issues and adrenal fatigue/exhaustion.
The way Jessica explained it to me was like this: In the morning, after rising, our body secretes cortizol to deal with the morning stress. It’s the hormone that gives us our rhythm to get the day going.
This is going to taper off after lunch time- as cortizol levels go down, our melatonin levels are going to rise, getting us ready for the end of the day and sleepy time.
[tweet]If you are drinking coffee to deal with stress, you may be exhausting your adrenals[/tweet] and making it hard for these natural chemicals to do their job. By reaching for adaptogens, you can get the energy boost you need in the morning, without having a crash. It will actually help you ease your way from cortizol to melatonin.
Got that? Okay, moving on.
Going All Natural
I decided to try some of the natural remedies I had written down from the conference. It worked!
The best part? It’s almost a year later and I don’t need coffee in my life anymore (and I’m not addicted to any substitutes either!).
I can wake up naturally with a glass of water, I don’t have a crash, I can handle stress better, and I don’t get headaches when I’m deprived of caffeine.
If you want to kick the habit, here are some things to keep in mind:
- You may experience withdrawal symptoms: Headaches, lethargy, and crankiness are all signs of withdrawal. If you work outside of the home, don’t start your “no-coffee” on Monday- yikes! Start on Saturday morning, and stay at home (or distract yourself with something happy, but not a load of caffeine!). Allow yourself room to come down from the coffee cloud.
- Cold turkey is best: You may be tempted to swing into full force again if you are only “cutting back”. Let yourself air out for a few months before you even think about having a cup “just because”.
Natural remedies to wean off coffee (and quit for good!):
- Siberian Ginseng: This magical herb got my attention when I heard about the feel good properties it holds. When used in a study in Russia on 500 factory workers, a few things happened- productivity went UP, mistakes went DOWN, there were fewer sick days, and everyone experienced overall HAPPINESS. Have 1-2 tsp in the morning in a smoothie or water as a coffee substitute.
- Ashwagandha: If coffee is helping you deal with stress, try this instead. It’s a great calming adaptogen, you can take it while pregnant, and it even helps with insomnia.
- Maca: This is a root from peru. It’s great for your adrenals, your reproductive organs, and gives you an energy boost. You wont get the crash that you would from coffee. Some people have reactions from maca, so take 1 tsp for starters to see how your body handles it.
- Tea: If you just need that hot cup of something in the morning (or afternoon), try green tea or holy basil tea instead! While holy basil is caffeine free, green tea has a quarter of the caffeine. Both are ACTUALLY healthy for you (skip the sugar!). For a really great green tea, jump on the matcha craze, but don’t abuse her power- matcha should be taken in small doses (1 tsp per 1 cup of water).
If you put in the effort, you can be coffee free too!
And can you ever enjoy a cup “just because”?
Sure! But I bet you wont like it very much lol.
I have had coffee only twice this year: once was because I was trying to break a headache with caffeine, and the other I was gifted $5 for Starbucks. I tell you- after having that liquid crack, I was walking around jittery as hell! I was thinking “How did I do this every day!?”
It reminded me that I don’t need coffee to feel complete.
And it feels damn good.
What has been your relationship with coffee? Share in the comments below!