Is Coffee Your Crack?

Coffee can make you feel amazing, or it can drop you flat like an evil boyfriend.

Maybe you’re fine with it, and you can take it or leave it.  No drumming headaches or withdrawal anxiety for you.  I’m jealous.

For the rest of us, it’s a dark lord.

Somehow the dark stuff inched its way back into my life this past year. It was a stressful time – I had deadlines, too much new in my life – and gradually the morning dark stuff found its way into my yerba mate teacup.

My husband’s a pusher; raised by coffee drinking Norwegians, he sees no problem with drinking it all day instead of water. He brings aromatic blends home from far away lands, literally, and he presses them with a French Press, adding coconut creamer for his diary-avoiding nutritionista wife.

What began with an innocent cup on Christmas morning progressed into a holiday splurge, then came and went a few times this year.   Three months ago.  I gave in to the devil, and began waking up with a pounder of a headache that only coffee could cure.

My new daily habit was a serious addiction, and I couldn’t function without a cup to open my eyes.

As a nutrition coach, I’ve avoided it for years  knowing how it affects me, but leading health experts all over the globe differ widely on this issue.  Some say coffee’s okay, even highly beneficial.  (Dr. Oz seems to be a huge fan.) Others claim it’s your personal ruin and recommend abstaining. (TDL’s own Donna Gates is one.)

Coffee’s known to increase concentration and contains antioxidants that fight free radicals.  It can stop certain types of headaches in their tracks by restricting blood flow through contracting blood vessels.  According to The Harvard Study author, Frank Hu, M.D., it contains minerals and antioxidants that can help prevent diabetes.  Dr. Oz says it helps prevent colon cancer, and that up to 6 cups a day is just fine.

Psychology Today says scientists have known for many years that coffee stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.   Dopamine produces the euphoria and pleasant feelings that people get from their first cup of coffee in the morning, like some other drugs you may have heard of; cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy all act upon dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine’s a reward system, and you and I love feeling good and being rewarded. You need to reach for more and more of the stuff (at least I did) to keep feeling good. Full-blown addiction can occur because your body adjusts, making coffee more important to your life and creating the need for more reward.  Sound familiar?

Coffee can also inhibit essential minerals, create anxiety and stress, and raise your blood pressure.   It can play a part in fibrocystic breasts, PMS and osteoporosis.

Your unique bio-individuality applies to your coffee as well as your diet.  Some people can drink it all day, without inflammation, jitters or snapping at their significant other. They’re usually the ones who can physically take it or leave it, and don’t suffer from being addicted. Others just can’t.

Maybe your 95-year-old great grandmother has been drinking a cup every day of her life.  But maybe you feel a whole lot more balanced and happy without it. Just like with your food, it’s all about choices and how you feel.  It’s not about your best friend, husband, girl or granny. And it’s not about any health expert you choose to listen to.

As for me, I wish I could drink it. I wish it were good for me, but it isn’t.  It’s a bad drug for my body and I’ve moved on.

I’m the one at the coffee shop sipping her green tea, calmly lusting after your espresso.

Share your comments with me below. I’d love to hear from you.

With love and sunshine,



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Holli Thompson is the founder of and creator of the popular virtual program, Cleanse with Style. She is a media personality, author, speaker, and nutrition coach and currently writing a book due to be published in early 2013.

Holli is a former VP for Chanel and met her husband while working in Paris, the inspiration for her blog, “The Pommes Frites and Red Wine Diet.”

Join Holli on Facebook here.

Follow her on twitter here @nutrition

  • factory girl

    I am a french presser that loves my daily coffee. I don’t get headaches or any of the symptoms you describe. I heard that coffee was bad for you a few years back so I decided to give it up and see what happened. Well, for the first 3 days I was dead tired, but that’s it. Kind of on a 5 second delay. But never any headaches or anything traumatic. So… I went back. It is my crack. Apparently my kapha disposition can handle it. There is a threshold however. If I drink a lot in one day, I kinda crash and burn. Adrenal fatigue, so I learned my lesson with the amounts. 

    • Holli Thompson

       You sound like my husband:) Kapha too. I’m glad you’re tuning in to your body, and listening to your own style.

    • Meshell

      I’m in a similar boat.  I can take it or leave it, however I usually take it.  I’m a ritualistic person, so it’s more about the ritual and the emotions that come up when I enjoy a fresh cuppa.  Mind you, I’ve since switched to PG Tips all day and on the weekends enjoy fresh espresso from the bf’s coffee machine.  I don’t really get a high off coffee anymore.  I get a little less present when I drink espresso, but that’s nothing deep, conscious breaths won’t fix.

  • Ema

    I have never tried coffee and I never plan to. I mean, I have had a sip but I don’t like the taste and the smell. I don’t know how would affect my body and I will never found out. But I am healthy and happy individual without coffee. Anyone for whom coffee is good, go for it.

    • Holli Thompson

       Ema, I’d say your body is talking to you loud and clear. 🙂 Good for you, maybe it’s that intuitive on everything else?

      • Ema

        I hope it is. 🙂

  • Aprylisa

    Me too. Love the smell, taste, texture – all of the coffee. And it makes me blast off  like a rocket and fall like a rock.  I’ll be happy with my lovely smooth riding buzz and toast you with the green tea!

    • Holli Thompson

       Love that, Aprylisa! Yes, that’s me too. Cheers!

  • I love coffee, the smell, taste, how it gets me moving in the morning…
    BUT only ONE cup in the morning, no more than 12oz or so…otherwise I major anxiety, jitters, the works. 

    I’ve tried weaning myself off of it, substituting it for black tea or green tea. But alas, I come back to coffee.

    • Holli Thompson

      It happens to the best of us, Amy!! Good luck with your journey:) 

  • Cheryl

    I love love love the taste of coffee… and I don’t notice any kind of immediate caffeine reaction when I do/don’t drink it….I can usually take it or leave it chemically… but… i’ve had my adrenal function tested and my doc said no more coffee for me…
    on top of that, i’ve noticed over the past few years that whenever i find myself CRAVING the stuff, and especially when i succumb to the cravings, it’s usually right about the time that my body is shutting down/getting sick in some way.  It’s a major signal to me – and absolutely fascinating!

  • Renata

    I gave up coffee for 6 years and was a faithfull green tea drinker until this past month – I woke up one morning and my body said “I want a coffee” – so I listened to what my body needed and wanted and I’m so glad I did – Its helped my low blood pressure and the headaches I get with the change in barometric pressure!  The one thing I do feel is that I need to add more water – I’m feeling more dehydrated at times – but overall, I’m glad the coffee is back in my life!!!

  • Terri

    I love coffee – but I have been happy when I’ve gotten off it.  Problem is – my body becomes addicted and I don’t even know it.  I hate the process of getting off it – but it is so nice to feel un encumbered by it.  The “coffee is good” arguement is that there are antioxidants and health benefits that could be achieved by other means (we don’t like).  Eat some brocoli!  Same as for red wine – health benefits – or drink unsweetened grape juice.

    Coffee is a stimulant – and can affect our nervous system just as sugar can.  Help me thru the headache and downer week after quitting – and I’m there.

    • Holli Thompson

       Hi Terri,
      I found that increasing my exercise helped for those couple of “down”days, (coming off the dopamine) and then I was fine.. Pick a time when you can be quiet and just go there, you know? You can do this:) Good luck, and let me know.

  • CLove

    I too have been on a love/hate relationship with the Coffee culprit. I was doing so good off of it, and drinking Matcha Tea Lattes, until I gave in to one small cup at work… Now I’m on a cup a day. I don’t have headaches when I don’t drink it (thank God!), but boy do I get cranky and feel like a Zombie at work without it. A new system I find useful is to switch it up, one day coffee, one day matcha. I have even gone as far as creating Raw Concoctions, such as hot water with raw Cacao Powder and Maca with a little Raw Almond Milk and Stevia. It’s a constant battle. On the days I drink the coffee I make sure to drink more water and green juices or salads, to have alkalinize my body. 🙂 Teccino is always a good substitue!

  • Ashling574

    No worries about any of thise for me. I’m allergic to caffine, hahahaha

  • This post was perfect! I actually stopped drinking coffee this week.  I’m about 5 days down.  I have replaced with Green Tea.  While I do know has caffeine as you explain here, not nearly the same effects of coffee.  And while I will admit, it hasn’t been a fun withdrawal process, in my head, I feel better.   This post could not come at a better time. THANK YOU! 

  • Elizabeth Atkins

    Thanks Holli,

    I so needed this today! Somehow I give up the brown stuff for months, YEARS even, and it keeps sneaky it’s way back in. ( My husband orders something called a “Quad”, 5 SHOTS at Starbucks EVERY day and brings me back a TALL DECAF mocha which I LOVE and look forward to every morning!).

    We don’t really have other vices and so I rationalize this one,  but I have anxiety and stress now and I think this Dark Brown Daily Sugar Bomb has something to do with it.

    Anyway today happened to be my FIRST day without a mocha in a long time. Enter Green Drink and Chia Seeds!

    But, I was dragging so much this afternoon that I thought seriously about an afternoon mocha until I read your timely post.

    As a fellow nutritionist and IINer,  I should know better! What I have to come to terms with is that even though I LOVE my mochas, they don’t love me!

    Thank you for the reminder!

  • Rob from facebook

    Sounds like my experience… I am just getting off of coffee. I loved your writing.