Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why coffee isn't helping to correct your fatigue

We see it way too often. Towns and cities full of people, waking up tired and going straight for the coffee. Many of us - like myself - love coffee for its aromas, its taste and the ritual of a morning coffee. Oh the ritual! The careful preparation, the feeling of warm mug in our hands, and the thorough enjoyment of each slow sip.

But too many people take these things for granted. Coffee has a purpose and that purpose is energy! It's to wake up. To be able to function! They walk around with their 16oz or larger cups filled with the hot brown liquid. Coffee pots containing 12 servings are gone by lunch time. And do they feel any better? The answer is usually no. They need it to get through the day. But what these people don't know is that their 10-person family-size serving of daily coffee can be acting against them.

First, this is way too much caffeine, but it never seems like it to a "chronic, high-dose" coffee-drinker. This is because our bodies become accustom to these levels of caffeine. One or two cups is no longer enough. Your body knows what you've been giving it. Try to cheap out, and you don't feel the same. The more you consume, the more you get used to it, and the more you need to function at the same level. To make matters more complicated, caffeine can actually intensify anxiety. Feeling anxious like Tweak from South Park? Yeah, your coffee is making that worse.

Yes, you can function on lots of caffeine. Maybe it really does get you through your day. But aren't you just burning through "false" energy? I mean, a little caffeine can be a great help, but what are you teaching your body? We don't have enough energy but we have to keep going! Keep pushing! Keep moving! Keep working and work harder! You've exhausted your system.

In my experience, many of us "type-A" personalities are at the most risk. We can power through anything - and we'll use what we need to to get the job done; to stay up studying, and to stay focused. But we're forgetting something key: Our energy building blocks. We keep burning through such a "Yang" energy - this quick, "hot", full-speed type energy - we need to also build our "Yin" side: the substance and matter. For example, where running and cardio are Yang, Tai Chi or Yoga would be Yin. You can even attend a Yin Yoga class. They're everywhere!

So how do we help build up our energy and actually help our bodies with recovery instead of  continuously burning through energy that we don't have in the first place?

1). Slowly wean down the coffee. Every few days have smaller and smaller amounts of coffee. This won't be fun, but you'll have less withdrawal effects compared with cold turkey. Get yourself down to 2 8oz cups per day.
Cut out caffeine cold turkey and have a week-long wash out period. Then you can start again with 1 cup (8oz) per day. Notice how differently and well you respond to just 1 cup of coffee, instead of 12.

2) Talk to your naturopathic doctor about which botanical formulas, or single herbs, would be best for you and what you're experiencing. Rehmannia and Rhodiola are two great herbs that act more Yin in the body.

3) Avoid other stimulants. Even something like Panax ginseng might be too stimulating if you're finding you burn out easily. Everyone is different, but these herbs are not to be taken lightly.

4) Start gentle exercising like Tai Chi or a gentle yoga (not power flow). Meditation makes a great addition to this.

5) Consider a B vitamin Complex. B vitamins are the building blocks of not just neurotransmitters like serotonin, but they also plug in as co-factors in the Kreb's cycle of energy production (remember that from high school? ATP production?). For anyone on acid reflux medication or on oral contraceptives, B vitamins can be depleted by these medications.

6) Get enough sleep. Seriously. For every night that you don't get enough sleep, you run a "sleep deficit". And your body will make sure that you repay every hour. If you don't, you suffer through the consequences (decreased concentration, adrenal fatigue, headaches and more).

Our schedules are busy. We have deadlines, places to go, things to get done. But if we neglect self-care, everything that we do to our bodies now will have an effect later. Remember to give back some time for yourself. Enjoy a cup o' Joe - just not the whole pot.