Nutrients to Support the Body During Caffeine Addiction
Many people are dependent upon caffeine, in the form of coffee, energy drinks or colas to help them get through a busy day. In small amounts, coffee can assist in focusing at a task on hand and with being efficient, but for many it can become difficult to maintain moderation and only drink 4–6 ounces a day. In our modern-day culture, and especially in the United States, bigger often equates to better, so it’s quite common for many Americans to drink a 12 oz. cup of coffee in the morning, followed by a second cup mid-morning, and maybe even a soda or energy drink in the afternoon.
It is this over-consumption of caffeine that can have negative effects on multiple body parts & systems: kidney-related issues (weak adrenals), cardiovascular problems, blood sugar regulation, liver, stomach, intestines, nervous system-related issues just to name a few (Ross, 135).
In some instances, caffeine dependency can signify that someone has weak adrenal glands, important endocrine glands that are located above the kidneys which are responsible for producing steroid hormones. Over time, excess caffeine intake can over-stimulate the adrenals, which leads to further fatigue when the caffeine wears off. Many with adrenal fatigue will reach for the coffee throughout the day (sometimes coupled with sweets and other addicting foods), which may temporarily make them feel better, but will eventually weaken the adrenals even more.
Does Caffeine Intake Deplete Nutrients in the Body?
Caffeine can deplete the B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. While caffeine and excess intake can wreak havoc on many body systems and organs, a diet which supports the adrenals is a good first place to start if you’re considering trying to offset some of the negative effects of the caffeine.
Nutrients for Adrenal Support
Protein is composed of individual building blocks known as amino acids and is an important and needed macronutrient for many reasons in the body. Certain amino acids can be very helpful for those who would like to nutritionally support their bodies and minds while “coming off” of this addictive substance called caffeine. Individual amino acids can be used to make certain hormones and neurotransmitters, such as epinephrine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and thyroid hormone (Murray, 60).
Tyrosine is one amino acid that can be very helpful for those who are addicted to coffee. Tyrosine has been studied and found to be effective in reversing the physical and mental consequences of stress in military and other subjects (Ross, 61). For those with adrenal exhaustion (often many with caffeine addiction), tyrosine may be a useful nutrient in feeding the adrenals to allow them to produce their “fight or flight” chemicals. Tyrosine is also used in the brain to help stimulate dopamine, one type of catecholamine which helps us feel alert and energized. Tyrosine supplements or a diet containing good quality sources of protein (which I’ll recommend here), can provide the body with this amino acid.
Some good quality sources of protein that will provide tyrosine are:
- poultry (chicken, turkey)
- peanuts and almonds
- pumpkin and sunflower seeds
- beans (garbanzos, pinto, black)
* according to www.nutritiondata.com
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic-acid, is a water-soluble nutrient which functions as an antioxidant, helping to prevent free-radical damage.
Vitamin C is critical during the first phase of the body’s detoxification process (phase I). When the body is exposed to toxins, vitamin C is often required for the body to begin processing the toxins for elimination. Those consuming more than normal amounts of caffeine may be putting extra demands on their liver to properly metabolize the caffeine. Also, the adrenal glands have the highest content of vitamin C than any other tissue or gland in the body. Depletion of vitamin C can increase stress and stress often leads to an increased use of caffeine and coffee in particular, which can exhaust vitamin C nutrient stores (LaValle, 304).
Here are some vitamin C-rich foods:
- bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
* according to www.whfoods.com
Chlorophyll is found in all green plants and plays a critical role in converting light from the sun to energy, also known as photosynthesis. Fat-soluble chlorophyll, found in green vegetables and other plants can stimulate hemoglobin and red blood cell production (Murray, 141).
Chlorophyll derived from a diet rich in fresh green vegetables can be a great addition to the diet for someone “coming off” of coffee, particularly someone who may not be drinking organic coffee.
When choosing coffee, quality is an important thing to consider as coffee is a heavily pesticide-sprayed crop. Chlorophyllin, a form of chlorophyll that has been tested as an antimutagenic agent for more than 20 years, has been shown to be a potent mitochondrial antioxidant that not only protects mitochondria from their own auto-oxidation, but also protects mitochondria from a variety of external chemical, biological, and radiation insults (Life Extension, 332). While most of the research on chlorophyll has been done on chlorophyllin, the water soluble form (offered in a nutritional supplement form), here are some food sources which have other health benefits which are important (such as dietary fiber and various micronutrients). Over-consumption of coffee can also lead to an acidic state in the body so adding foods that are good sources of chlorophyll to the diet can also help to balance out the pH and promote an alkaline environment.
Some chlorophyll-rich foods are:
- bell peppers
For some, an occasional cup of coffee or even one daily cup can bring happiness and alertness to an individual while not causing any harm. However, for others just like an addiction to drugs, alcohol, and/or food one cup can easily turn into four cups causing more harm than good. If anxiety and sleeplessness are common issues for you, cutting back dramatically or even eliminating intake completely may be beneficial. Caffeine can be extremely dehydrating as well, so increasing the amount of water consumed is highly recommended. Lastly, for those who may be suffering from adrenal exhaustion, adequate sleep and stress-reduction techniques (such as meditation, exercise, deep breathing) may also be worth considering.
And if you’re planning a transition from coffee to green tea or another type of non-caffeinated beverage, check out this post, “My Favorite Coffee Alternatives” which you might find useful:
LaValle, James. Cracking the Metabolic Code. Basic Health Publications: Laguna Beach, 2004.
Life Extension. Disease Prevention and Treatment. Life Extension Media: Hollywood, 2003.
Murray, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Atria Books: New York, 2005.
Murray, Michael. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Three Rivers Press: New York, 1996.
Ross, Julia. The Mood Cure. Penguin Books: New York, 2002.
Wilson, James. Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Smart Publications: Petaluma, 2001.