America Runs on Dunkin’. Do You?

September 30th, 2009

America Runs on Dunkin' Donuts CoffeeThis catchy Dunkin’ Donuts slogan actually has a lot of truth to it. Most Americans rely on coffee to wake up and get their day started, and some people even need it to get through the afternoon. Are you one of them?

According to the National Coffee Association, more than 50% of Americans consume coffee on a daily basis and drink an average of 3 cups per day. Dunkin’ Donuts, arguably the most popular coffee franchise in America, helps to support this habit by serving nearly 1 billion cups of coffee each year. There’s no doubt that the coffee habit is alive and well, but unfortunately, many people are using it to mask a significant problem that they may not be aware of.

What America is Really Running on is Fumes

According to the averages from the National Sleep Foundation and a recent Gallup poll, Americans are working 45 hours per week, spending a total of 46 minutes per day commuting to and from work, and are getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night. In reality, many people are working longer and sleeping less than this data suggests. We’re busier and more stressed than ever, we’re exposed to growing levels of chemical and electromagnetic pollution on a daily basis, and we’re eating an unprecedented amount of processed food. As a result, many of us are suffering from chronic exhaustion and compromised health. Coffee just so happens to be a convenient, tasty, and effective way to compensate, but the results are only temporary and the consequences can be significant.

How Coffee Gets You Through the Day

Coffee is one of the most concentrated sources of caffeine available and directly stimulates the adrenal glands to produce a number of hormones and neurotransmitters that keep you alert and energized. This is actually the same physiological stress response that we’ve relied on throughout our evolution to overcome and avoid life threatening danger. Because the body must draw from it’s own resources to support this heightened physical capacity, it’s an expensive burden to the body. Much of the stress, excitement, and physical activity that we encounter and engage ourselves in on a consistent basis also invokes this response even though there’s no associated life threatening danger. As a result, the fast pace of modern life wears the body down and impairs its capacity to adequately handle stress and stimulation. This is known as adrenal fatigue and can lead to a number of additional health issues.

Whenever you feel exhausted, it’s a sign that your body has been pushed beyond it’s capacity and needs time to recover. When this type of fatigue is common and recovery is slow, it’s a strong indication of adrenal fatigue and the associated reduction in capacity to produce the hormones and neurotransmitters that are needed to cope with stress and feel energetic. This state has become so common that most people perceive it as normal, and without any thought, use stimulants like coffee to get through it. Doing this pushes the body beyond it’s reduced capacity and makes the problem even worse. It’s like whipping a tired horse. While the horse may respond by temporarily increasing it’s effort, it will soon become even more exhausted and will eventually collapse. Likewise, people who spend decades pushing their bodies like this often destroy their health in the process.

Additional Coffee Concerns

In addition to the stimulating effect of coffee that so many people rely on, there are some additional concerns that can push an already overwhelmed body over the edge.

As most people know, caffeine is a diuretic and increases the amount of water excreted from the body. Unfortunately, most people don’t drink enough water as it is and compound the problem by drinking coffee, soda, and other caffeinated beverages instead of water. This greatly increases the risk of chronic dehydration and the significant problems that it can cause. Since coffee can satisfy or even suppress appetite, it can also reduce the consumption of foods that provide the essential nutrients needed to recover from fatigue and support optimal funciton. This is a particularly important concern for people who mostly eat processed foods.

Coffee bean crops tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides and are grown in countries where it’s legal to use chemicals that have been outlawed in the United States. As a result, most brands of coffee are likely to contain a notable amount of dangerous chemical residues. In addition, many people load their coffee with unhealthy amounts of sugar, or even worse, dangerous artificial sweeteners like Nutrasweet, Equal, or Splenda.

According to Julia Ross, the author of The Mood Cure which is an excellent book about improving your mood through diet, the potential problems caused by caffeine reach even further. It’s a major cause of anxiety and studies have shown that people who regularly drink caffeine are more likely to suffer from chronic depression. Caffeine also inhibits the production of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that promotes happiness, and melatonin which is a hormone that’s essential for refreshing and restorative sleep. Ross also states that caffeine can deplete the body of important nutrients including the B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and zinc, can overstimulate and weaken the kidneys, pancreas, liver, stomach, intestines, heart, nervous system, and adrenal glands, can acidify the body’s pH level, and that it only takes two small cups of coffee to initiate these effects!

How to Enjoy Coffee as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

I know that many people are very attached to coffee and are unwilling to give it up. Fortunately, you don’t have to. I’m definitely not going to help you justify moderate coffee consumption as something that’s beneficial to your health, but in reasonable moderation, you can probably enjoy coffee on a fairly regular basis without it having too much of a negative impact. What’s most important is that you be honest with yourself and make sure that you’re choosing to drink coffee for the pure enjoyment of it, and maybe even for a small energy boost. If you’re using it regularly to wake yourself up, elevate your mood, or get through the day, then you’re doing yourself a disservice and it will likely catch up with you.

If you decide to continue drinking coffee, at least choose an organic source to avoid the pesticide issue and also be mindful of what you add to it. I’m not a coffee drinker and I unfortunately don’t know of any good brands of organic coffee to recommend. If anyone knows of a good brand, please share it with us by leaving a comment!

What to Do if You Rely on Coffee for Energy

The only reliable way to enjoy many years of balanced and lasting energy is to achieve and maintain optimal health. The first and most important step in doing so is to implement the foundational principles of a healthy lifestyle. Without this, anything that you do to increase your energy will be no better than compensating with a stimulant like coffee. If you’d like additional guidance on implementing a healthier lifestyle, my free course, 7 Simple Steps to a Leaner, Happier, and Healthier You, will provide you with plenty of information to help you get started.

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