Caffeine and Hormonal Balance

I truly appreciate a perfectly brewed, artfully crafted organic espresso – these days this happens about once every couple of months.  I love the taste of coffee and the relaxing ritual of lingering over a matcha hemp milk latte while engrossed in thought-provoking conversation or some interesting reading material.  I can understand the appeal of this as a daily ritual.  While I have never had a daily attachment to caffeine in general, during the first year of my daughter’s life when sleep was at a premium, I gave serious thought to developing one.

Working with hormonal balance, I often advise people to decrease or come off coffee or caffeine completely.   For some people, this is incredibly challenging, and it is difficult to understand how even one cup/day, for some people can be an issue.    

Caffeine is an addictive CNS stimulant.  It works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain.  Adenosine is a neuromodulator, which inhibits the release of neurotransmitters.  When the receptors are blocked by caffeine, there is increase in central nervous system stimulation.  To take this one step further, the binding of caffeine to the adenosine receptors means that instead of slowing down, the brain/nerve cells fire up. The pituitary notices this increased action and sends hormones to tell the adrenal glands to increase production of adrenaline, activating a fight or flight energy. At the same time, caffeine slows down the reabsorption of dopamine, which is our pleasure neurotransmitter. With extra dopamine, you not only feel alert, but you feel really good.   Until, these levels drop, usually about 5 hours after ingestion.  No wonder it is hard to give up.

It is a challenge in terms of hormonal balance, because with daily coffee use, your body becomes used to this cycle, cortisol and dopamine levels are pushed beyond their natural limits of production and this is not sustainable, your nervous system becomes chronically stimulated, magnesium levels are depleted, and you are likely chronically dehydrated.

Giving your body a break from this cycle allows for an opportunity to restore adrenal and hormonal health, balance your brain chemistry, improve your liver function and achieve mood stability.  After the first few days, most people report stable more consistent energy levels.

Arousal effect of caffeine depends on adenosine A2A receptors in the shell of the nucleus accumbens. The Journal Of Neuroscience: The Official Journal Of The Society For Neuroscience [J Neurosci] 2011 Jul 6; Vol. 31 (27), pp. 10067-75.