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Caffeine Blues

Coffee is one of those beverages that has always received mixed reviews.

At one time, it was everybody’s favorite breakfast item to criticize, saying that it was too stimulating and hard on your adrenals, so you should swap it for a green juice or tea.

More recent years people have come up and argued the contrary and said that it’s actually full of antioxidants and all sorts of other nutritional components that actually make any small side effects from the caffeine negligible.

Some people will go as far to say that dark roast black coffee is very good for you, and will cite a number of studies arguing that dark coffee is good for the following conditions:

  • – Type 2 diabetes
  • – Parkinson’s disease
  • 
– Alzheimer’s disease
  • 
– Prostate cancer
  • – Liver cancer
  • 
– Kidney cancer
  • 
– Etc.

Now in a moment I will give you what I believe is a more balanced view on coffee.

But first, let me be clear that I absolutely LOVE coffee. I totally understand the love affair that the world has with coffee, and other caffeinated beverages, like tea.

But for me coffee has always been a love/hate relationship.

I love caffeine and its immediate effects on my body. However, I also know that I’m very caffeine sensitive and I know the short and long-term effects of caffeine’s effects on my body.

If I consume coffee one or two days in a row, I will inevitably get headaches as a result. I will also get depressed and lack energy a day or two after I stop coffee.

If I keep drinking coffee and make it a habit (I have done that at times in the past), I personally experience the following symptoms:

  • – Irritability
  • 
– Clouded thinking in the morning until I have coffee again
  • – Regular migraine headaches
  • – Back pain
  • 
– Bouts of irregular feelings of depression

I know that I am more sensitive to caffeine than most people. Therefore, I treat coffee with respect. I don’t underestimate its effects as a drug and I stay away for the most part.

But as I said, I love coffee and the feeling of caffeine in general. So once in a while, I can’t resist having a cup of tea or coffee and go ahead and have one.

When I do, I like the immediate effects. But I know there will be some consequences.

I have found that if I don’t consume caffeine more than a couple of times a month (say 2-3) then I can manage with it.

There are times, for example when traveling, when using a little bit of a boost is not a bad idea.

After all, certain circumstances in life are unnatural to begin with, like traveling across multiple time zones in minutes or hours.

But what’s important is that I treat coffee for what it is:

Not a beverage like fruit juice or green juice, or even an innocent breakfast beverage: a drug!

Just a little bit of research into the effects coffee has on the human body quickly brings to mind the effects of any other type of stimulating drug.

Many books have been written on the subject of caffeine and coffee specifically not being good for the human body. They list a number of side effects and conditions:

  • – Energy swings or periods of fatigue during the day
  • – Mood swings or periods of depression
  •  -Headaches
  • – Gastrointestinal distress, cramping, and diarrhea
  • – Constipation and/or dependence on caffeine for bowel movement
  • – Tension or stiffness in the neck, shoulders, hands, legs or stomach
  • – Premenstrual syndrome, menstrual irregularity, cramps, sore breasts
  • – Insomnia
  • – Anxiety
  • – Irritability, including inappropriate fits of anger
  • – Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • – Light-headness/dizziness
  • – Waking up feeling tired
  • – Generalized pain (back, stomach, muscles)
  • – High blood pressure
  • – Ulcers
  • – Anemia
  • – Shortness of breath
  • – Difficulty in concentration
  • – Ringing in ears
- Coldness in extremities

Of course, not every coffee drinker will immediately, or possibly even ever experience all of these symptoms. Some of these more intense side effects would only occur at a sustained level of consumption. Which in the western world isn’t that far from the norm.

For some people however, they notice very acute symptoms after drinking coffee or caffeine.

Some other people are sensitive to the high levels of caffeine in coffee, but can drink green tea every day.

Others seem to process caffeine better and do well with a certain amount of coffee per day, like a cup of espresso or a cup or two of dark coffee.

Everybody seems to have a little bit different tolerance level for coffee and/or caffeine, ranging from can’t-have-a-drop to multiple cups of coffee or tea everyday with seemingly little to no negative effect.

I believe this is mostly due to different people’s individual makeup and ability to process caffeine via the liver.

Caffeine being a drug has its side effects as well as potential benefits.
But nobody likes to talk about the side effects. It’s just not popular to question America’s most popular drug!

I feel some people can have at least a certain amount of caffeine in their life, whether it be from tea, coffee, or a bit of chocolate. Yet at the same time, for certain people, it’s likely that their healthy amount is next to no caffeine.

But I want to hear from you. Do you consume any form of caffeine? Do you consider yourself sensitive to caffeine? Have you quit coffee or caffeine?

Let us know in the comments below!

Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.


Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.