Okay first, don't worry! I'm not going to go through all the cons when it comes to coffee, because if you enjoy drinking coffee and you're feeling good, then keep doing you!
Also, I live in Montreal, and with the best cafes all around me, I don't think I can fully quit.
How It Started...
At one point in the year 2020, I was having up to 3 coffees a day...if there was an opportunity for a 4th one, I would probably have that too: I would have 2 coffees casually before breakfast because I'm normally not hungry until later in the morning or noon, and then my third coffee would be in the afternoon. On the surface, I was feeling good with this coffee routine...until I wasn't.
Listening to Our Bodies Can Be Tricky Sometimes
Our bodies are always communicating with us. Sometimes in a whisper, sometimes a bit louder, and sometimes with a bunch of different symptoms that seem to be unrelated to each other(hint: they're always related to each other and always linked to a root cause or reason for the communication). In the study of Holistic Nutrition, symptoms are all communications from our bodies, and not all symptoms are physical in nature, such as a headache or a stomach ache. Some symptoms can be mental or emotional, like mood swings, symptoms of anxiety or depression, and drops or fluctuations in energy levels. These can all be communications from the body that something is out of balance and needs paying attention to. Sometimes the symptoms are obvious and apparent right away, and other times they're so subtle and we don't notice until our bodies are screaming at us! For me and my 3 + coffees a day, it's pretty clear now that my body was screaming at me (sometimes even health practitioners need help seeing what's right in front of them).
I Prefer to Have My Coffee Before Meals, Not After and Always with Cream + Real Maple Syrup
Something that I learned early on in my Holistic Nutrition studies is the effects of coffee on the digestive process. Because of the high acidity of coffee, it can falsely trigger the valve on the lower end of the stomach to open up and release the contents of the stomach into the next phase of digestion. The problem with this is that if the valve opens up sooner than it's supposed to through the natural digestive process, the food in the stomach doesn't fully breakdown the way it's supposed to, which can result in digestive difficulties down the intestinal tract, and ultimately affecting the way our nutrients get absorbed (note: the goal is always for our nutrients to actually get absorbed into the cells because that's what's giving us energy). So long story short, I have been drinking my morning coffee before having my breakfast(about 20 minutes before) so as to not interrupt this process, and any other time I was having a coffee throughout the day, I would make sure it wasn't at the same time as a meal.
I also don't drink my coffee black! I add a little bit of full fat cream(35% whipping cream) or coconut cream for a dairy-free option and a little bit of real maple syrup as my sweetner. This is because higher fat creams and dairy products are ideal for blood sugar balance and real maple syrup is a natural sugar that supports the body in managing blood sugar levels(but it has to be REAL maple syrup to get this effect, not just "syrup").
I Was Feeling Good With My Coffee Routine, Until I Wasn't...
I said it before, and I'll say it again: listening to our bodies can be tricky sometimes. This is because we're multi-faceted human beings, and not all of our symptoms are physical in nature, and not all of them are obvious or LOUD! For me, I was having my 2 coffees before breakfast, and I didn't have any feelings of dizziness or nausea(which are indications of blood sugar imbalance when happening before a meal). But when I really started listening and observing, I was starting to notice:
crashes in energy levels in the afternoons
more frequent migraines and headaches
feeling unusually hungry around dinner time
more cravings for salty + carbohydrate dense foods (chips, popcorn, cheesy pastas, etc).
shorter and lighter menstrual cycles *this was a big clue for me that I wasn't getting enough nutrients!
These are all symptoms of imbalanced hormones and blood sugar levels(helloooo it's my area of expertise, but sometimes it's hard to piece together our own symptoms right away). And something that started to stand out for me was that it wasn't necessarily that the coffee was creating these symptoms(although coffee is pretty dehydrating among other things, so there's that), but it was the number of times I was reaching for a coffee in the day instead of a proper nutrient-dense meal. And without the specific nutrients our hormonal and blood sugar managing systems need, they become imbalanced.
How Its All Related to Blood Sugar and Hormonal Balance
There are specific nutrients that are key to blood sugar balance, and to remind you, I was having 3-4 coffees a day, which doesn't leave much time in between coffees to get these nutrients in. For example, a major nutrient needed for our hormones in general as well as stable blood sugar levels is protein. About 20g of protein in each meal everyday (that's about a piece of chicken the size of the palm of your hand for reference) is ideal for long term blood sugar balance. Another category of foods needed for hormonal balance are healthy fats. These are foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil to name a few. Again, I wasn't leaving enough time in the day to incorporate these nutrients, and therefore, I was starting to experience symptoms that come about when enough of the right nutrients aren't present to keep these systems in balance. Not to mention, coffee contributes to an acidic internal environment, which creates more cravings for coffee and sweet treats. So with every coffee, I was perpetuating the cycle.
I'm Learning to Listen to My Body Better Now. Here's How...
I'm not quitting coffee all together, but I am trying to be more mindful with my consumption.
I'm starting my morning with a hot water + fresh lemon juice: this morning beverage not only starts our day off on a hydrating and alkalizing note, but it tends to shift our cravings away from caffeine, sugar and carbohydrates.
I'm keeping it to one coffee in the morning and more water and no-caf coffees in the afternoons: being more mindful about how I'm feeling these days, having just the one coffee in the morning is enough, and in the afternoons, when I feel like having a cozy drink, I make myself a dandelion coffee or mushroom elixir. Here are some brands I use that I like:
I'm having my breakfasts earlier in the day: if I have my breakfast earlier(instead of waiting until noon like I was doing before), it allows for more time in the day to get in the right nutrients my body needs for blood sugar balance and my hormonal health.
I'm paying attention to my hunger cues in the afternoon instead of reaching for another coffee: this is a big one! How often do you pay attention and actually listen to your hunger cues? Now that I'm paying attention more, I'm finding I'm actually hungry in the afternoons and I legitimately don't need another coffee.
I'm aiming for more nutrient-dense meals, especially paying attention to proteins and healthy fats for my hormones: the most important nutrients for our hormone health are proteins and fats, and because I was often having a coffee instead of a meal in the afternoons, my body was giving me signals of deficiency in these nutrients. Now I'm focusing on stocking my fridge and cabinets with quick proteins (eggs, left-over chicken from dinner, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, chickpeas, etc) and healthy fats (avocados, good oils such olive oil, etc), so I can put together a plate with all the nutrients I need to keep me going for the afternoon.