To Bean or not to Bean – Coffee?
Can Coffee Make You Tired?
Caffeine is the most common psychotropic drug in use. It’s legal and it is oh so good. We drink coffee to battle fatigue, a quick energy boost, and oddly, to relax. But does it really do what we think it does? There is information coming out praising coffee and caffeine in general as being helpful against Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease, but does that really mean that it’s healthy?
Ask anyone why they like coffee and they may say they like the taste, but more likely they will tell you how it makes them feel. Like any other drug, we drink coffee because it feels good. It wakes us up, clears our minds and relaxes us. It’s how we get going in the morning, get past the mid-day slump or burn the midnight oil. It’s a personal and social ritual and it’s available everywhere. But when you pull back the curtain, there is a little different story. To really understand why caffeine doesn’t work, let’s take a look at how it affects the body.
Caffeine works in two ways to make us more alert. It blocks receptors in the brain for a neurotransmitter called Adenosine and it stimulates the production of cortisol and adrenaline. Adenosine tells us that we are sleepy and cortisol and adrenaline are part of our fight/flight reaction so blocking one and stimulating the other really does do a great job of waking us up.
Here’s the problem; the body adapts. We start making more Adenosine receptors which means you need more and more caffeine to block them. It’s also been found that in more regular coffee drinkers the cortisol and adrenaline response lessens. That could either mean that a tolerance has been created for that response or the adrenal glands are simply getting worn out. Either way it means that more coffee is required for the same response.
If you thought that was bad news, caffeine withdrawal can start within 4 hours of that last yummy coffee. Ever wonder why you wake up grumpy and just can’t motivate until that first cup? Your brain is screaming for coffee! In fact, while we may think we are drinking coffee to be alert, what we are really doing is seeking withdrawal relief. That’s right, coffee makes us tire, but like any good drug, more is the antidote to it’s own symptoms. Our baseline energy level becomes low to the point that coffee or other caffeinated drinks may not even be able to get us up the level we would be at in a life without coffee.
If you are asking yourself, “Why am I tired all the time?” or “Why do I need coffee to function?” it may be for the simple reason that you regularly drink coffee, tea, or “energy drinks”. You may be able to solve your energy problem by simply tapering down your caffeine consumption to zero and letting your body’s own energy producing systems recover and work for you. If that fails, it’s time to look a little deeper.
There are many systems of the body that contribute to our energy level. In addition to having good sleep, a healthy diet and regular exercise, our brains and body need plenty of oxygen and a well regulated supply of sugar. That means we need healthy blood and the brain, adrenal glands and pancreas all have to be working well together. Poor digestion or food intolerances caused by leaky gut can also sap our energy. A thorough Functional Medicine evaluation can determine which systems of your body need support and the steps needed to live an energetic life beyond the bean.