We all remember that first cup of coffee; it tasted terrible. It was too hot, too bitter and too sweet but it offered the promise of alertness after a night of poor sleep. The wonderful thing about coffee is that it delivered on its promise every time; subsequently, you’ve never been able to walk away from it. If you’ve ever faced giving up on caffeinated coffee to lessen the symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease of the tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease you know well the craving that can develop. Why does this happen?
Two reasons: Scientists have known for many years that coffee stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine produces the euphoria and pleasant feelings that people often associate with their first cup of coffee in the morning. Many drugs that produce euphoria, such as cocaine, amphetamine and ecstasy, act upon dopamine in the brain. This action by coffee has always been an adequate explanation for why caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in the world.
Why You Really Crave Coffee
Can’t wake up in the morning? Grab a cup of coffee. Afternoon energy dip? Grab a cup of coffee. Need a brain boost or to kick a headache? Grab a cup of coffee. Need to poop? Grab a cup of coffee.
Coffee drinkers can relate. Your energy and “good feelings” are dictated by the amount of coffee you’ve had in a day—or haven’t had in a day, but is coffee a necessary nutrient? No. The reason you crave coffee is multi-folded.
Coffee Craving Reason 1: Your Adrenal (Stress) Hormones Need It
People who crave coffee are often low in catecholamines (hormones produced by the adrenal glands, including dopamine, epinephrine-adrenaline and norepinephrine). Since coffee stimulates these hormones, your adrenal glands tell your body that it needs more of them, which makes you crave coffee.
Did you know that a 12 oz. cup of coffee can spike cortisol levels by 30 percent? After you drink coffee, cortisol levels can remain elevated for up to 18 hours!
While cortisol is a natural and necessary stress hormone, when we elevate cortisol beyond what it can handle, we experience side effects like increased anxiety, weight gain, hormonal imbalances and disrupted sleep.
Coffee Craving Reason 2: Your Brain Needs It
Coffee contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of neurotransmitters – the feel-good chemicals in our brains. When our brains are depleted of these feel-good chemicals, we reach for drugs to feel better. Cigarettes, alcohol, sugar and even coffee are all psychoactive drugs (drugs that change our brain chemistry). The body absorbs amino acids from the protein we eat; however, if we have impaired gut health from drinking too much coffee we are unable to break down the amino acids in our food the same way.
Coffee Craving Reason 3: Your Gut Bugs Are Hungry
Coffee is the most cross-contaminated food with gluten—a food with one of the highest food intolerance statistics. Hello leaky gut (or bacterial overgrowth)! Instant or cheap coffee, like Starbucks, Keurig and Folger’s, are the types of coffee to avoid since they not only contain gluten-like substances, but are also cited as one of the moldiest foods we can consume. Coffee beans contain mycotoxins, which can cause poisoning when we ingest too much of them, as well as chronic health conditions. Although mycotoxins are also found in all sorts of other foods, when we drink coffee we may over consume these molds to our detriment. Not to mention, your gut bugs LOVE moldy foods. As we continue to feed our gut bugs, we may experience symptoms like constipation, bloating, skin breakouts, seasonal allergies and anxiety.