Let’s Talk Coffee

Coffee is kind of synonymous with Melbourne culture. They’re practically mutually exclusive concepts. Even other Naturopaths looked at me like I was bananas when I announced that I was two weeks coffee free! Full disclosure: I haven’t cut coffee out permanently. I break up with coffee intermittently throughout the year, based on my energy levels and mental health. I do find that reducing my coffee intake is the quickest way to decrease my restlessness, leaving me grounded and calm. This is because espresso coffee is one of the highest sources of caffeine, with the average Melbourne made coffee containing 100mg of caffeine. Yes, we like it strong in Australia - our coffee contains more caffeine than the standard in other countries like the US. Now, if you order a strong coffee, that’s a double shot of 200mg of caffeine in one keep-cup! Leaving work in the afternoon to grab another coffee? You do the maths! Energy drinks, chocolate, tea and some soft drinks also contain caffeine, which means that your caffeine intake isn’t limited to your coffee habit! Caffeine tolerance will be different for everyone, depending on your health and your ability to metabolise and detoxify caffeine.

What effect could your coffee habit be having on your body?

Stress & Anxiety

Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline and cortisol – two chemicals that heighten the fight or flight response and amplify our reactions to stressful situations. This can lead to shakiness, racing heart, heart palpitations and hyper-vigilance, leaving us jittery and on edge. Over time this can be depleting to the adrenal glands, leaving you wired but still tired. Cortisol should peak at about 8am in the morning, so delay your first coffee until after this time to avoid messing with your cortisol rhythm.

Nutrient Levels

Caffeine depletes important nutrients such as magnesium which is an incredibly important mineral for managing anxiety and maintaining a calm nervous system. Drinking coffee with meals also reduces absorption of vitamins such as vitamin C, the B complex vitamins, calcium and iron. Vitamin B6 is commonly depleted in anxiety and is needed for the manufacture of calming brain chemicals such as GABA. Separate your coffee from meals by an hour to allow your gut to digest and absorb these critical nutrients!

Sleep Quality

Caffeine inhibits the uptake of adenosine in the brain. Adenosine helps us to fall asleep and so excess caffeine will affect sleep onset and quality. Staying awake is usually the desired outcome for coffee consumption, but if you have trouble falling asleep at night, avoid all sources of caffeine after 2pm.

Skin Appearance

Caffeine is a diuretic – and a laxative for that matter. You might notice yourself dashing to the bathroom pretty soon after finishing a coffee. Hydration is a must if you want to avoid dull skin and prevent premature aging. Make sure you up your water intake if you drink coffee regularly.


Caffeine is irritating to the gut lining. It increases motility (causing that laxative effect) which can mean you don’t have a chance to digest everything properly. Caffeine can also suppress appetite and the secretion of digestive juices which affects the breakdown of food – something to be aware of if you suffer from bloating after you eat! It can also be a trigger for heartburn and reflux.

If any of these are problem areas for you, it might be time to think about cutting back your coffee intake. There’s no straight answer to what amount is ideal for health. I’m no purist so I’m not going to ask you to drop caffeine overnight! Experiment and be aware of how caffeine might be affecting you personally and go from there! There’s plenty of delicious caffeine-free alternatives out there. Feel like you’re totally dependent on caffeine to get through the day? There’s other ways to get your energy and vitality back! Make an appointment and let’s work it out together.

Alexandra McPhee