Caffeine, Adrenal Glands and Stress

by Kara Bauer Patient Expert

Many Americans religiously depend on caffeine to get them through their day. Unfortunately, most don't realize the impact coffee and caffeinated sodas can have on their adrenal glands, which ultimately manage the body's ability to stay balanced when stress arises.

The adrenals are two small glands located above each kidney. In addition to secreting hormones that regulate the body"�s use of food intake, helping suppress inflammation and regulating blood pressure, the adrenals also assist in the management of stress whether physical, emotional or psychological.

When the adrenal glands become exhausted, their ability to resist further stress greatly decreases. Although excessive stress is the ultimate cause of adrenal fatigue, a high sugar diet, caffeine and smoking can all contribute to their exhaustion. In relation to stimulants, the adrenal glands are forced to work harder to produce more adrenaline, putting the body into a "fight or flight" response, which over time can completely drain them and impair their ability to do their job.

Some of the symptoms of adrenal exhaustion include persistent fatigue, sleep problems, dark circles under the eyes, excessive perspiration, depression/anxiety, low blood sugar, weight gain, digestive problems, mood swings, sweet cravings, lack of libido, compromised immune system and a decreased tolerance to stress.

For those that consume coffee, many don't realize the amount of caffeine they are ingesting from just one cup of coffee. A standard cup in the coffee industry is about 6 ounces, which can contain up to 148 milligrams of caffeine. However, most don't drink a standard cup size. A coffee mug or tall Starbucks cup size is usually closer to 12-14 ounces, more than doubling the amount of caffeine consumed. With one cup of coffee per day of this size, there is some degree of mental and physical addiction and with two cups, you could be consuming more than 600 milligrams of caffeine, which is classified as addiction.

When a person is under stress, their ability to detoxify even a little bit of caffeine lessens, an issue that is especially detrimental for women who have an overall harder time detoxifying caffeine then men.

Some might think that decaffeinated coffee is the answer for those that enjoy the experience and taste of coffee. However, even decaffeinated coffee can contain small amounts of caffeine not eliminated during the extraction process, which can still be aggravating for those with exhausted adrenal glands. Coffee of this nature can also contain chemical residues from production as well as cause stomach upset, high cholesterol, blood sugar fluctuations and other health problems with long time use.

So what can you expect if you choose to eliminate caffeine from your diet tomorrow? Most people undergo a period of withdrawal, as is common with any addiction, which usually lasts about two weeks but also depends greatly on the individual. During this period you're likely to experience headaches, mood swings, and tiredness. However, once your body has been weaned off of the addiction and your adrenals recover, you can expect to feel more awake and energetic than you did during your days of consuming caffeine. Sufficient sleep, the elimination of sugar and processed foods, and a clean diet will further support your adrenals and improve your ability to handle stress on all levels.

-Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Hidden Dangers of America's #1 Drug by Stephen Chimske.
-Could it be Adrenal Fatigue? by Institute of Integrative Nutrition

Kara Bauer
Meet Our Writer
Kara Bauer

Kara wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.