Ok, y’all. I made the dreaded decaf switch almost 5 months ago and I’m just now finally getting around to telling you why. If that isn’t an expression of my relationship with this space right now, I don’t know what is.
But let’s do it. Let’s chat caffeine and anxiety and hormones and all that fun stuff.
I won’t spend too much time chatting about all the chaos that my health (or lack thereof) has been over the last twelve months. But let’s do a little recap: in May I left my 9-5 job and immediately jumped head first into 24-hour on-call to wrap up the project that would never die (but finally did die last month, yay! praises!). By June I was falling apart at the seams and by July I was a shell of the person I once knew. Or really a much larger, puffier, more exhausted, less joyful version of her. I. Was. A mess. My health had really been slowly unraveling since about this time last year, but when my routine and structure of 6am yoga and an office every day went out the window, so did any semblance of health my body was hanging onto.
I gave some more details in my last health update, and I’ll give even more in my upcoming series about how I’ve tried to heal all this, but for the purpose of this post, we just need to know: my cortisol was off the charts, my thyroid couldn’t keep up, and my body was showing it.
I was experiencing anxiety at an all-time level. It was truly paralyzing my life. I was living in fear because I couldn’t process anything past the present moment and I seemed to wake up with the panic already in my chest. And it wasn’t just a mental anxiety. I know what it’s like to be all up in your head. But I knew this was different. I could feel it in my bones that this was more than something meditation could fix.
I was exhausted. And not just tired-from-a-hard-week exhausted, truly it’s-hard-to-stay-standing-in-the-shower exhausted. I went from being a weapon in the gym, practicing hot yoga or sculpting in the studio 6-7 days a week to hardly being able to walk Gunner for 20 minutes.
The Caffeinated Science
Let’s chat cortisol, the stress hormone. Of course intended for fleeing from tigers and thinking on our feet in life or death situations, in appropriate amounts cortisol makes us alert and agile. The reason 85% of us reach for the cup of jo every morning is because the caffeine causes a production of cortisol, helping us feel energized and alert and ready for the day.
But in too high of doses, cortisol does the opposite of all the things it’s supposed to – it reduces brain function, slows metabolism and breaks down muscle. And we all know how that feels, when we’re burnt out from a long period of stress – gross and slow and lethargic.
Why I Gave Caffeine the Boot
Essentially, my hormones made me.
Because I had been working 80+ hours a week amidst leaving my job, launching a business and selling our home (and I admittedly was doing a very bad job at regulating it all), my cortisol was through the freakin’ roof. And therefore, my adrenals (the glands that produce cortisol) were burnt to their ends and my whole system was crashing.
This had multiple implications. The thing about our bodies is they’re amazingly intricate. So many systems relying on others, it’s a trickle-down-effect x1000. So my overactive adrenals were causing an underactive thyroid which was causing a slow metabolism and a severe lack of testosterone which meant a jacked up slew of sex hormones which meant horrible periods and energy and drive and all the things.
That is a gross oversimplification, but you get the point. It’s all connected. And we can trace it all back to my adrenals producing too much cortisol. So the natural answer is to reduce cortisol and things that cause its production. Enter: quit the caffeine.
Why I Chose Decaf
You’ll notice this blog post isn’t titled “Why I Gave Up Coffee.”
Because of my very late-in-life understanding of coffee’s pure perfection, until recently I still lived with the mentality that decaf coffee is a joke, coffee isn’t all that great anyways, you only drink it for the caffeine, why would you ever drink it without the caffeine? Lol. Jokes on me. I was such a decaf coffee hater, I definitely had to swallow my pride and admit defeat when I placed that decaf kcup Amazon prime order.
It is true that coffee has health benefits. The glorious beans are high in antioxidants which by this point we should all know are miracle workers that fight cancer and a million other things. They also contain lignans that have been proven to improve glucose regulation, decreasing risk of diabetes and liver failure.
But let’s be real, there’s one main reason I’m drinking decaf: I live for my morning cup of brew. I love my ritual (like I talked about in my Why And How I Love My 4:30 am Alarm post) of sipping coffee while I pour over the Word of God. And I love love truly love my bulletproof superfood creamer. (Basically, my cup of coffee is simply a vessel to experience my creamer.)
For me, giving up coffee was just not on the table. But giving up caffeine wasn’t all that hard.
Tips for Purchasing Decaf
Obviously, the whole and natural coffee bean contains caffeine, and it has to undergo some sort of treatment process to have the caffeine removed. The sad fact is, the extraction process that removes caffeine inevitably also removes some of the naturally occurring chemicals that give coffee its deliciousness. So, yes, it’s true, decaf is not as good as the real stuff.
BUT there are yummy, drool-worthy decaf options out there. And you might just have to experiment with a few until you find what you like.
We’re mega basic in our household and we use a Keurig for our morning cups. Which meant my hunt for decaf was limited to ones I could find in kcups. The first place I looked was of course Costco because that’s where I often buy our kcups in bulk. But they weren’t stocked with any decaf, so I took my search to Amazon and used the reviews to my leverage. There were plenty that weren’t revered too highly, but I found a couple that actually had some “Ok, finally a decaf that doesn’t make me hate myself” reviews.
Regardless of whether you switch to decaf or choose to keep rockin’ the caffeinated goods: CHOOSE ORGANIC. This is so so important. I’m not an organic snob. I promise, I’m really not. I know it can be pricey and tedious and mostly just pricey. So I don’t worry about buying organic on products I know I can eat safely, like bananas and avocados (where you’re not actually consuming the surface of the fruit that has been sprayed). But coffee beans, on the other hand, you’re literally drinking up every bit of any nasty chemicals they soaked up. And coffee is actually the #1 sprayed product in the world. So just do it. Choose organic. If you’re going to drink something every.single.day, just make the right choice.
Shop My Coffee Favorites
My absolute favorite organic, mycotoxin and mold-free, antioxidant-rich coffee: Purity Coffee. I haven't found any other coffee to compare to theirs when it comes to quality. They are very intentional in not only the sourcing but also the roasting of the beans to maximize nutrition & minimize those coffee-crash side effects.
You can use code MOLLIE for 20% off your first order, so I recommend stocking up!
I also highly recommend a scoop or two of grass-fed collagen in every cup of coffee. It supports your gut lining, it boosts your protein, and it stabilizes your blood sugar. Here is my favorite one.
And check out my favorite mugs, frother and more here.
Wuff, that post was longer than I expected. Hopefully helpful and at least a little fun. If you make the decaf switch, I’d love to hear about it! Share your experience in the comments or tag me on instagram @mollie.mason with your morning cup. Let’s show the world decaf can still be glorious. xx, molls