Are You Addicted to Coffee?
Scrolling through Instagram one day I came upon a meme about coffee. In all caps, the meme read, “ I AM SORRY FOR WHAT I SAID BEFORE COFFEE.” You may be one of those people who can’t quite get your day started without a cup of morning joe, or use your caffeine fix as an afternoon pick-me-up. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, over 50% of Americans over the age of 18 indulge in regular coffee drinking. Worldwide coffee alone is a $20 billion dollar industry, so needless to say, coffee lovers, you are not alone.
Recent studies have found that coffee drinking may be beneficial for your health. A 2014 journal article found that individuals who drank at least one cup per day (8 oz, black, with a small amount of milk or sugar) over a four year period had an 11% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Another 2001 study suggests that coffee consumption could protect against the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
This information is not provided in order to create a coffee craze, and as the old saying goes “too much of anything, good for nothing.”
Coffee containing caffeine is also known to cause insomnia, nervousness, anxiety and even an increased heart and breathing rate. Coffee may also be harmful to those with high blood pressure and increase the risk of osteoporosis. As with everything in life, moderation is key!
Have you ever tried to drop your coffee habit abruptly? If you experienced headaches, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, or depression during this period, you may have been having coffee withdrawals. Although not conventionally considered a serious addiction, you may have some caffeine dependence.
The brunt of the issue is that many Americans may be drinking coffee as a band-aid for mental or physical fatigue without delving into the root cause for these changes. Being attuned with your body and the changes it may be going through is important to maintaining health.
Five Reasons For Low Energy Levels:
Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is a common condition, especially amongst women. In this condition, the body lacks sufficient red blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the body’s various organs and tissues. Women lose blood during menstruation, making them at greater risk for iron deficiency anemia. Lack of adequate oxygen transport within the body can lead to symptoms of extreme fatigue, weakness, cold hands and feet, chest pain, palpitations, headache, dizziness, heavy periods, brittle nails and even hair loss. If you suspect that any of these symptoms correlate with your own, see your primary care doctor for blood work. Iron deficiency can be corrected, however, it is important that you know your levels before supplementing as you may risk complications due to iron overload. It is also important to know and address the root cause of your deficiency as merely supplementing will only fix the issue temporarily or possibly not at all.
Food sources: Beans, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, iron-fortified cereals, bread and pasta, peas, seafood, red meat, pork, poultry.
Blood Sugar Imbalance
Sometimes with a busy schedule, it may be hard to be consistent with meal timing and quality. You may find yourself skipping meals, eating fast food, or making up for skipped meals at dinner time. The harm in this pattern is inconsistent blood sugar levels. Blood sugar imbalance can lead you on a cycle of fatigue headaches, sugar cravings, weight gain, hunger and brain fog.
After a meal the pancreas releases the hormone insulin. Insulin allows the cells of the body to absorb the glucose provided from food for energy, reducing blood sugar. If foods that are eaten are high in simple carbohydrates the body will release a large amount of insulin in order to bring the body back into balance. This causes a large drop in blood sugar that can lead to sudden feelings of fatigue and brain fog. Has this ever happened to you after a high sugar snack or meal? Let’s just say our bodies have a quick way to let us know we aren’t doing ourselves any favors.
Tips: Balance is key! Eat meals and snacks that consist of protein, good fat, and carbohydrates. You will be fuller longer, have less cravings for unhealthy snacks, and maintain more energy! Meal and snack planning can help with this problem tremendously.
2. Water Intake
Water is so important to maintaining everyday health and is involved in every process of bodily function. In fact, the average adult loses about 6 pints (12 cups) of fluid a day in sweat, urine, bowel movements, and breathing! Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine can actually cause your body to excrete more water than normal, due to its diuretic effects. Many people are walking around chronically dehydrated and are unnecessarily paying the price.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition, healthy women who failed to replace 1.5% of their water weight experienced adverse changes in cognitive function, mood, and fatigue. Other symptoms of mild chronic dehydration may include a headache, constipation, joint pain, back pain, dry skin and even high blood pressure. These symptoms are pretty general and can be a component to many ailments. However, drink more water and see what changes you feel in your body.
Tip: Aim to take in at least ½ your weight (in oz) worth of water (Example: 150 lb woman intakes 75 oz of water daily). If you are nowhere near this, you can increase your water intake gradually adding an additional 8 oz to your average daily intake each week. Try to track your intake by using a reusable, BPA-free plastic or glass container with graduations (oz, ml etc.).
According to the National Sleep Foundation, women are more likely to struggle with insomnia, somnolence, and fatigue. Additionally, a poll taken showed that women ages 30-60 slept an average of six hours and 41 minutes on weeknights, which is lacking from the 7-9 hours of sleep recommended for adults. Sleep can be interrupted as a result of many factors including hormonal levels, daily stressors, or even poor sleep hygiene.
Tip: Keep a sleep journal. Note how you feel when you wake in the morning (Ex. Do you feel groggy or refreshed?). Take note of how many times you wake during the night, and how long it takes you to fall back asleep. Take note of the time you usually wake during the night if this is an issue for you. This way if you make any interventions you can observe what worked for you. Make sure to talk to your health professional about your sleep patterns or before starting any herbal or supplemental therapy.
Natural approaches: Sleep schedule, relaxing bedtime ritual, exercise, Magnesium glycinate, L-theanine, GABA, Valerian, Passionflower, Chamomile, Melatonin. Use under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
As mothers, many women spend a lot of time caring for others, so they find it hard to carve out time to serve themselves. This self-care includes time for exercise. It’s too easy for exercise to fall low on the list of priorities when there is only so much time in a day. But one of my favorite sayings is, “You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
Exercise as a cure for fatigue may seem counterintuitive, but the research has been consistent. A study performed by the University of Georgia found that sedentary people who regularly complain of fatigue can increase energy levels by 20% and decrease fatigue by 65% by engaging in regular, low-intensity exercise.
Tip: If exercise is not a part of your normal regimen, start slow. Work your way up to 30 mins 4-5 times a week and so on. You can even incorporate walking into your lunch break or stroller stroll!
5. Thyroid Imbalance
Everyone is born with a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck called the thyroid. This gland is responsible for producing thyroid hormones that control and regulate your energy, metabolism, and just about every cellular function of your body. One of the common thyroid disorders includes hypothyroidism.
Women are at a higher risk of having hypothyroidism, it is especially common after childbirth and amongst middle-aged women. Hypothyroidism is many times the result of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common type of hypothyroidism in the United States, affecting about 14 million Americans. When this disease occurs, the body is basically attacking itself, and the immune system slowly destroys the thyroid gland, thus reducing or even halting function.
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, depression, constipation, weight gain, dry skin, dry hair, irregular menstruation, low libido, intolerance to cold and enlarged thyroid.
If you are experiencing the symptoms previously mentioned, your conventional doctor will run primarily TSH, T3, and T4. A functional medicine doctor or another integrative practitioner is more likely to dig a bit deeper and run more tests including; TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Thyroid peroxidase antibodies, Thyroglobulin antibodies, and Reverse T3.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
As you can see there are so many reasons that you may have fatigue or daily low energy. Remember your body does not suffer from a coffee deficiency! It is always worth it to listen to your body and dig a little deeper to find the root cause of your imbalance. I encourage you to really evaluate your coffee habit, energy levels, and to find ways to improve your life holistically. And as always, I am here for you.
Wishing you energy and balance!
Dr. Mary Ford, ND
Dr. Mary Ford, ND, earned her doctorate from the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine, and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. During her educational pursuits, she has acquired valuable knowledge pertaining to the inner-workings of the human body, along with methods to promote long-term states of health and wellness. As a naturopathic doctor, she is trained to optimize health through various modalities such as lifestyle management, diet and nutrition, botanical medicine, and supplementation. Her areas of focus include women’s health, weight management, and cardiometabolic disease.
Her passion is to empower members of the community to be advocates of their own health through education. Her philosophy includes teaching others how to take advantage of the healing power of nature. She aims to promote a holistic approach to health and wellness to women and their families across Sarasota and surrounding areas. Dr. Ford feels as if every woman can benefit from naturopathic medicine, and provides her services to support women in achieving individual health goals.
Dr. Ford currently works in Sarasota, Florida as a Naturopathic Consultant and she is a member of the Florida Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She is the owner of Restore Wellness, LLC a naturopathic wellness consulting business in Sarasota, FL.You can visit her website at www.restorewellness.net
Armstrong L., Ganio M., Casa D., Lee E., McDermott B., Klau J., Jimenez L., Le Bellego L., Chevillotte E., Lieberman H. (2012). Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women,”, Journal of Nutrition, 142(2), 382-388. doi:10.3945/jn.111.142000.
Ascherio A., Zhang S., Hernan M., Kawachi I., Colditz G., Speizer F., Willet W. (2001). Prospective study of caffeine consumption and risk of Parkinson’s disease in men and women, Ann Neurol, 50(1), 56-63. pmid: 11456310
Bhupathiraju S., Pan A., Manson J., Willett W., Van Dam R., Hu F. (2014). Changes in coffee intake and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes: three large cohorts of US men and women. Diabetologia, 57(7), 1346-13354. doi: 10.1007/s00125-014-3235-7
Puetz TW, O’Connor PJ, Dishman RK.(2006). Effects of chronic exercise on feelings of energy and fatigue: a quantitative synthesis. Psychology Bulletin, 132(6), 866-876. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.132.6.866.