I remember thinking at a young age that coffee was an adult beverage. It was something to aspire to drink when I got older. There were a few times in high school where I actually fixed coffee in the morning because I didn’t get enough sleep. I learned through society that the caffeine in it would help wake me up. I drank sodas, but not a lot in high school, or even college. There were times when Stick and I would pull all-nighters in high school on the weekend to work on term papers. What did we use to get us through the night? Jolt Cola. I can’t even remember what that stuff tasted like. All I remember is I only drank it for those all-nighters. Their slogan was “All the sugar, twice the caffeine.” Coke has 35mg caffeine in a 12 ounce can, or at least it does now. That would have set the caffeine levels in Jolt at 70mg. Did we really need the Jolt Cola? Not really. Did we really need to stay up all night. Not really. I look back at it now as a right of passage in my teenage years.
In college, I would visit one of my uncles and his family on the Big Island. Then there were my trips to Moloka`i. Time with my family usually means sleep deprivation. During those trips, I constantly woke up tired and dragging. This is where I cultivated my taste for coffee. I always had a cup as soon as I woke up. It was easy since someone was always up before me and there it was waiting in the pot. I had easy access to it at work, too. I worked in an office on campus and my boss had to have his coffee everyday. One day I had more than one cup. I believe it was after a long night of working on a project and presentation with a classmate that was due the next day. I had at least 4 cups. Not the HUMUNGOUS cups we have these days, but a regular 8 ounce size mug. So that was at least 32 oz of coffee. One 8 ounce mug of coffee has about 108mg of caffeine. That’s 38mg more than the Jolt Cola! Did I know this back then? No. All I knew is caffeine is what adults consumed to get through their day when sleep deprived. I paid for that over indulgence in caffeine. I had started on a 5th cup and I started having heart palpitations. I literally felt like my heart was about to jump out of my chest. That 5th cup got poured out fast. I learned my lesson. For the moment.
I got back into the regular caffeine habit when I moved to Kentucky. I worked second shift and there were a few double shifts that sent me back to the caffeine. Did the caffeine ever really help? Not really, but it was such a habit and ingrained thought that it would, that I kept using it. Finally in 2000, when I switched doctors, my new doctor told me I had to give it up in order to manage my Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I pouted and whined about it of course. Who likes being told by anyone they can’t have something? No one, right? However, after a few months went by, I found I wasn’t as edgy as I was even when sleep deprived. The caffeine really does something to our bodies and our moods.
When I was dealing with the idiopathic neuropathy in my left foot and my podiatrist had me on Lyrica, I was left feeling groggy all the time. One week I succumbed to the thought that caffeine would help. It really didn’t, but I went for it again the next day and the day after that. On that third day, I wound up in the nurse’s office at work asking her to take my blood pressure. I was feeling dizzy and light-headed like my blood pressure had spiked. Sure enough it had. I pretty much knew the caffeine was the culprit and let the nurse know. I stopped the caffeine and she monitored my blood pressure for the next week just to make sure.
Surely caffeine can’t be that bad if it is naturally occurring in some of our foods, right? Well, only if it is naturally occurring in those foods and we aren’t going overboard. Look at the drinks that are out now that are marketed as “energy” drinks. Many of them have twice the amount of caffeine as coffee per ounce. We weren’t meant to have that much caffeine. If we were, it would be naturally occurring in higher amounts, but the food and drink industry has latched on to this societal thought that caffeine will help us function and through advertisers has made us think the more the better. In reality, that much caffeine is wrecking our bodies and our adrenal system. It interacts negatively with medications we are prescribed and makes us worse physically and mentally. “But, I get so sleepy in the afternoon, I need caffeine.” Stop eating all the processed and refined foods and you won’t have that problem. I used to get the 2pm sleepies. I just wanted to crash. Since I’ve changed my diet, I don’t have that problem anymore. If I need a nap, it’s usually from doing too much physically than my body can handle.
Take a look at this list to see how much caffeine you are consuming in your drinks. Make sure you note the miligrams per ounce. It’s astonishing how much we are really getting. Our society is infused with caffeine is everywhere we turn. McDonald’s has their new cafe drinks to compete with Starbucks. Here in Louisville, we have also have Heine Bros. and Java Brewing Company, along with other smaller coffee shops. Most restaurants have specialty coffee drinks to go with their dessert menu. There are energy drinks being marketed all the time. Not only are they loaded with caffeine, but they are loaded with some type of sugar, most likely HFCS. I hear from people all the time about how they can’t give up caffeine. “I can’t function without it.” Is it they truly can’t function without it or they believe they can’t function without it because we’ve learned we need it to function? We’ve become slaves to the idea that caffeine is great for giving us energy. In truth, you can get more quality energy from your food than from caffeine. A combination of whole grains, fruits, nuts or other protein, and vegetables will power you through your day without having to refill every time your cup is emptied. With a good hearty breakfast, I don’t need anything until lunch time.
Break those chains and become caffeine-free if you dare!