Daily caffeine is normalized and embedded in our lives, but it's actually a very powerful drug with some serious effects on our brain, hormones, and lifestyle. Our bodies give us signs when it’s hurting more than helping, like anxiety, iritability, PMS, headaches, insomnia, gut troubles, puffiness, and skin issues. Instead of ignoring those biological signals, we should use them as indicators to take a break.
Whether you’re drinking 1 or 3 cups a day, here are 4 key ways to understand caffeine’s impact on your body—plus what happens when you wean off of it.
Caffeine + Energy
Why does caffeine make you feel energized?
Throughout the day, the body uses ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to create energy. A by-product of that process is adenosine, a central nervous system modulator that makes the body feel tired. When adenosine binds with brain receptors, brain activity slows, signaling to the body that it’s time to rest.
Caffeine is molecularly similar to adenosine and binds with adenosine receptors, which blocks your brain from receiving signals to feel tired. The effects usually last 4 to 6 hours, then your brain receptors are flooded with adenosine—leading to the crash.
Caffeine + The Brain
What happens to your brain when you drink caffeine? What happens when you withdraw?
When you drink caffeine regularly, your brain compensates by creating additional adenosine receptors. So when you stop adding caffeine into the equation, your brain will be flooded with adenosine and you’ll feel sleepy!
Many people also get headaches on the days they don’t drink coffee—that’s because caffeine constricts blood vessels, so when it’s not consumed, blood flow increases in the brain and causes headaches.
The good news is that all of these withdrawal symptoms last 7 to 12 days; that’s the period when the brain decreases its adenosine receptors.
Caffeine + Hormones
How does caffeine impact our stress and sex hormones?
Studies have linked coffee consumption to estrogen dominance, particularly for women. That imbalance can cause fatigue, brain fog, irritability, worsened PMS symptoms, and so much more in the long-term.
Caffeine triggers the release of ACTH (adrenocorticotropin releasing hormone), which can increase cortisol levels. Excess cortisol can dysregulate the HPA Axis, keeping it in a state of hyperactivity and triggering harmful biochemical, physiological, and behavioral effects. Caffeine also causes an excitation in the brain that stimulates the release of adrenaline from the adrenals.
The good news on the hormonal front is that after a week or so without caffeine, the HPA Axis can resume balance and regulate stress as usual.
Caffeine + Lymph
Is there a connection between caffeine and the lymphatic system?
While the direct effects of caffeine on the lymph are unclear, we feel like we can go out on a limb to consider a link between excess cortisol leading to the atrophy of lymphoid tissue and reduced immune system function.
In high-stress moments, cortisol reduces white blood cell flow and lymphatic drainage in order to avoid overwhelming any part of your body that might be in danger. In periods of prolonged stress, this prevents proper drainage and keeps toxins in the body.
Curious about going decaf and giving your energy, brain, hormones, and lymph a reset? Click here to get the tools you need to pause and power through.