Do You Have A Caffeine Addiction? If So, You May Have This Health Issue.

caffeine addiction

10 cups a day … 

That’s how much coffee he used to drink. He told me it was because it made him feel “less stressed, and more relaxed”.

Now as you probably know, coffee is a stimulant and you’d think after 10 of them, that this client would be feeling pretty jacked up.

But funnily enough, he was telling the truth. Coffee was making him feel less stressed, and calmer. 

Is this something you might have experienced too?

“It helps me keep going and function”

That was a comment from a 2015 workshop client. 

Without her 6 cups of strong instant coffee a day, she struggled to function. And by the end of workshop day one this lady was actually trembling, mildly discoherent, sweating, and by all accounts, she needed caffeine.

Now, regardless of whether your coffee desire is at this level or not, you may be experiencing some of the following:

… You need coffee to function
… Or it relieves feelings of stress and anxiety?
… Perhaps it actually helps you to sleep and without it you can’t
… Maybe it’s something you need constantly to feel awake, alive or with energy

So what’s going on?

Is it a caffeine addiction?

If you’re experiencing any of those symptoms, there is a chance you’re self-medicating adrenal fatigue or some degree of adrenal depletion.

What Is Adrenal Fatigue?

Let’s keep our labels to a minimum and simply call this adrenal dysfunction – To solve our coffee addiction we need to avoid getting caught up in Internet health hype.

Your adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They make a range of hormones, primarily cortisol, adrenalin, noradrenalin and aldosterone.

Now, all of these hormones have their own functions on a day-to-day basis which range from fluid retention, digestion, metabolism of fuels and libido to name a few. Your entire body relies on healthy balanced adrenal hormones for optimal health and function.

These hormones are secreted in larger amounts during stress.
The more stress … more hormones.

Adrenal dysfunction occurs when we are no longer releasing the optimal levels of these hormones and this can happen in a number of ways including viruses/illness, chronic long-term stress, acute short-term stress and certain medications.

But let’s get a little more correct here …

It’s not stress as such … it’s when we exceed our stress tolerance.

Some people can spend their whole life under pressure but never end up with stress related health issues while someone else might become affected only after a single stress event.

It all depends on your tolerance for stress, the maximum threshold.

We all have our own tolerance levels for stress, when we exceed it we’re asking our adrenal glands to respond beyond their desired capacity and they get a bit worn out.

It’s this depletion that explains our caffeine addiction and cravings.

Let’s Take A Look At Cortisol

Here’s a rough graph of what cortisol looks like through the day (Don’t shame my drawing skills). The blue line represents normal cortisol levels.

cortisol chart


At 8am our cortisol is at it’s highest peak and then slowly decrease through the day. By nighttime, cortisol is at it’s lowest – but still not at zero. 

The red line represents low cortisol.

Low cortisol can bring with it a range of symptoms like: tiredness, poor digestion, abnormal stress response, anxiety, nausea, vertigo, hair-loss, insomnia, constipation, low sex drive … the list goes on.

So What Does Coffee Have To Do With This?

The caffeine in coffee (and other beverages) elevates adrenalin and cortisol.

So the caffeine in coffee pushes that red line up closer to optimal cortisol levels on our graph.

The more coffee someone drinks and the more relief it gives them, are big clues that there could be an underlying adrenal problem.

It might look like caffeine addiction on the surface, but underneath it’s the only way they know how to feel normal while their body is out of balance.

The guy who was drinking 10 cups of coffee a day was experiencing one of the classic signs of low cortisol, which was anxiety. Remember, he used coffee to alleviate the feeling of stress. He used to feel anxious and stressed and a cup of coffee took that feeling away, but he had to keep topping it up all day long.

The lady using coffee to function - she also had classic (but severe) adrenal symptoms. Her symptoms and health conditions were numerous and coffee was allowing her (in part) to get on with her day.

I remember another client who was drinking around 2 litres of diet coke a day. I specifically told her not to go cold turkey – at that point, we didn’t know what symptoms she was ‘medicating’.

But despite what I said, she went cold turkey.

And the next week in my office, she was virtually sitting in my office rocking in a corner. Now, that might sound comical, but she literally couldn’t make eye contact and she could not bring herself to interact in conversation. She wanted to be left alone for the hour while I talked to her friend.

Before You Freak Out About Caffeine Addiction …

I’m not just talking about your one latte on the way to work because it’s a comforting habit you’ve developed. I’m talking about needing coffee to function. And if you don’t have it, you lose a degree of ‘normal’ function.

And I’m also not referring to you if you CAN function without it, but you simply prefer to be jacked up by coffee all day. In other words, your body works perfectly well without it.

Is Caffeine Making You Normal? 

Just by reading this article there’s a chance you’ve already made a guess. But here’s a wee way you can tell.

  • You drink more than 2-3 cups of caffeine beverages a day
  • AND drinking those beverages makes you feel more “normal”
  • AND not drinking them would make you experience physical symptoms of some sort, like anxiety, stress, tiredness, brain-fog, trouble sleeping.

What To Do If You’re A ‘Coffee Addict’ Like This

Is it bad to medicate with coffee?

Yes. If you’re like the people I described it is bad. 

However, that all depends on what you want out of life. You could keep medicating with caffeine, and you’ll live a general functional life – but will it be a thriving life full of energy and vitality? Probably not.

Will things get worse? Possibly.

Masking any health issue ultimately lets that health issue continue, and in the case of adrenal depletion, every time you give in to your caffeine addiction you’re still putting your body in a state of stress.

Caffeine equals cortisol spike.

Your tired glands need to recover.

Here’s where to start recovering from this type of caffeine addiction:

  1. Depending on the volume, never go cold turkey. Always wean yourself off caffeine and choose a length of time that minimizes discomfort. It’s very much like coming off a prescription medication over time. But by the same token, don’t piss around and take all year – be mindful and dedicated.
  2. I know you though. I know you want to be brave and all motivated – but DON’T GO COLD TURKEY. Everyone’s body is different, and I’d really hate it if you were the person who ended up getting really messed up by going cold turkey.
  3. Whatever stressors are in your life; start clearing them now. There is a chance you had some stress and you’re now depleted, but there could also be a chance the stressor is still present, or you have others. You may need to seek help to identify all stressors on the body. You need to clear stressors in order to heal the adrenal glands.
  4. Start your day with breakfast instead of coffee. Try two different types, try a high carb breakfast of unrefined whole-grains (or starchy veg) and also try a high fat breakfast (eggs or bacon in butter for example). Assess which one gives you the most sustainable energy. Start the day with that. Then coffee.
  5. Seek assistance from people like myself who can test adrenal function and help the body heal with adrenal healing nutrition, herbal support, lifestyle, exercise and mindset tools.

And finally, understand that this is not a caffeine addiction. At some point you realised that caffeine was stopping you from feeling like crap. It just might be self-medicating a health condition that you might not know you have.