Coffee

by Jane Keep, UK

My body is a great guide: take coffee and caffeine for instance – we simply didn’t get on.

Currently, coffee shops make up the fastest growing part of the restaurant business, and many people have a relationship with coffee: for instance, Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day as the leading consumers of coffee. It wasn’t the same for me. Coffee and I simply didn’t get on.

When I was growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, everyone around me would drink coffee. There were few posh coffee machines or roasted coffee beans – mostly instant coffee – and people around me would take what they could get. I thought, well, this must be something great – everyone drinks it, I will too. I began drinking coffee when I was in my late teens. Around that time I started to get regular cramping pains in my abdomen, diarrhoea, and I used to get a lot of palpitations, as well as getting sweaty and uncomfortable. I went to the doctors who had my abdominal pains investigated. I was coffee intolerant – it gave me intestinal cramps and made my heart race into palpitations –uncomfortably so.

Consequently, at age 20 I stopped drinking coffee, and all of the symptoms immediately reversed. I haven’t drunk a cup of coffee since. I did though, one day some years later, accidentally eat a chocolate that had a coffee bean in it. This time my reaction to coffee was stronger, and the pain in my abdomen and the palpitations were far worse. A strong reminder of why coffee and I never actually got on.

My point here is that our body is a most amazing guide to help us to navigate through our daily living choices – it knows so well what harms it and what nourishes it. By taking a single point of focus, such as which warm drinks feel harming and uncomfortable, and replacing them with drinks that nourish me, or are gentle for me, I have found a far gentler and more self-caring way of living and working. Using my body as a guide in this way, and listening to it, has supported me over time to gently review other dietary and lifestyle choices: these include the foods I eat, along with ensuring I get the rest and exercise that supports me.

313 thoughts on “Coffee

  1. Our bodies are our greatest friend… you know the one that is always there, never runs away when things get bad or ugly, listens, feels and responds to everything! I would have reactions similar to yours Jane when drinking coffee or eating chocolate… I would have diarrhoea and heart palpitations. I remember calling my Dad from work one day in my early 20’s crying because I felt so out of my body, like being on a high, that I just wanted it to stop.

  2. It is very interesting to read your blog Jane because I have had similar experiences with coffee. I thought, ‘wow, cool everyone is raving about coffee, it smells so good so it must taste great and I must try it’ but when I did it tasted horrible. I then added some sugar to mask the awful taste. My symptoms were very similar to yours but without the heart palpitations. Instead of the high or kick people say they get from drinking coffee I had the opposite effect, I got extremely lethargic, grumpy and felt I needed to lie down. I realised my body was reacting to the coffee, with pains in my stomach, discomfort and irritation, I acknowledge how awful it made me feel in general and I decided it was not worth it to put myself through that. To be honest a thought did pop into my head that I could train my body to get used to coffee but I am glad I didn’t go along with that idea and honored my body instead. I now understand how precious our bodies are and it gives us these symptoms because it is trying to communicate to us whatever we have consumed is not supportive or loving for our body. By listening to our body is the best support we can give ourselves and to bring more vitality and greater health to our lives. I know my body is the greatest guide for truth and to how loving my choices are.

  3. ‘My point here is that our body is a most amazing guide to help us to navigate through our daily living choices’ this is a great sentence to highlight because this will support so many people to feel empowered on so many levels because our body is truly amazing, intelligent, sacred and precious. In a world where many of us abuse it, it is time we start claiming back how powerful our bodies are, to listen, nurture and care for it is what will restore harmony to our world. How we treat our body impacts how we treat others and our environment. From my observation it is very clear that there is a colossal amount of abuse all around us and it is our choices that can change this and our bodies will guide us if we choose to listen.

  4. On returning to this blog it’s interesting that we have something in our world that is ingested by millions, yet it is something that our body in truth finds it hard to tolerate as it is not a natural substance for us to consume. I wonder how the world would be if we had one single day where no one had any coffee?

    1. Jane, I feel if we had one day where coffee was not available worldwide, we would have an awful lot of cranky and tired people with caffeine headaches.

    2. I think people would be very cranky and irritable for that day. But with that we may realise that we need the substance rather than loving it.

    3. I feel nervous just reading this comment Jane! I was thinking there will be so many car accidents and stressed people it will be like armageddon 😀 . I’m actually wondering why nobody has made the ‘no coffee’ horror movie yet. Perhaps it would be too disturbing…. Jokes aside, I used to love coffee and needed it to function for many years. Now I live without it fully aware of the fact that it was the cause of a lot of my exhaustion … not the cure. My first few weeks without coffee were certainly horrible though.

  5. I have never been much of a coffee drinker, through my life, but some years ago while staying over seas with friends who were great coffee drinkers I decided to do the same, and boy did I pay for it, I had forgotten how my stomach used to feel, so for my abuse I ended up with Gastritis, this was not listening to my body at all just to fit in. It took a couple of years for my stomach to completely heal.

  6. I never drank tea or coffee until I was 19 and began working shift work as I had no skills or support in developing a way of living that supported living well while working shift work, which is very possible without using any stimulants. I knew for a long time that coffee wasn’t good for me as every time I went without coffee I would always end up with a headache for 3 days. This definitely showed me that I was needing it.

  7. Jane, what you’ve brought attention to here in regards to our relationship with our bodies should be par for the course with our education today. Yet it is not.
    We neglect the voice of our bodies, at our own peril. Yet listen to our bodies and the messages and responses always given to us, and the true support we can give ourselves in life is tremendous. I’ve also been ‘listening’ and making such responsive changes for several years now, deeply inspired by the work of Universal Medicine, and I feel more vital and amazing than at any other point in my life. We are so deeply worth such loving care.

  8. Our body is so clever in how it can detect anything which it does not like and report it back quickly to us. Sometimes the messages are subtle and somethings they are very load and clear about.

  9. This is cool Jane. I started drinking coffee when I was only 6 or 7 years old as I watched the adults around me drink it and I somehow knew if would perk me up. I also remember that it seemed to make people feel much better and as I felt exhausted and unwell a lot I wanted to give it a try. Well it worked for me – I loved the taste and as I got older I loved going to coffee shops and having a morning coffee. I knew I couldn’t drink coffee past 10am if I wanted to be able to sleep at night but other than that coffee was my best friend.

    Fast forward to 5 years ago when I started to realise that coffee was impacting my health significantly. It was the hardest thing to give up. I felt depressed for weeks and so exhausted but in the end it was worth it. It was only when I gave my body a break from coffee that I was able to feel the true harm it caused. Now if I try to drink a decaf coffee I feel beyond terrible. My heart races and I feel completely disconnected from myself. Being aware of these reactions makes it easy to say no to coffee despite the fact that I love the taste.

  10. I one day about ten years ago decided to stop drinking coffee because I was looking for a way to love myself more and I knew coffee was bad for my body. I was drinking about 6 strong cups of coffee a day. As many people in the Netherlands do. Statistics show that Dutch people drink coffee in general about 6,5 million litres a day. That is loads of caffeine.
    I stopped and had 3 days of intense headache as I was very much addicted to it. After that I had no problem with it anymore. But what I noticed was that I could not go that fast anymore. Like normally I would go in a kind of stress in my movements, but that did not work anymore, I just could not. Also I noticed that normally with the coffee I was just going on through my day despite the fact that my body was telling me many times that it was enough. Now I felt how I dishonoured and abused my own body for so long to keep me running with caffeine. Now a days being at my work I can clearly observe what coffee does with people. Colleagues come in to work and may take every hour a new cup of coffee and how more they drink how more their body is hardening as you can hear how they put for example the telephone on the hook after a while they just smash it. And they get more impatient with clients and disconnected from their bodies.

  11. Coffee is such a strong drug that when I gave it up some 20 years ago I found that the withdrawal symptoms were so bad and lasted so long, 7 days, that I have never ever touched anything with even a hint of caffeine in it since.

  12. Our bodies are barometers for the truth that lives deep within them. They are marvellous instruments that will forever record all that we have lived that either matches the truth of who we are, or does not. And we, as the inhabitants of these great vehicles, in every moment have the choice as to whether we listen to these messages or override them.

  13. Coffee gave me ‘tummy ache’ and this awareness came to me in my teens. I dallied with it on and off several times in later years, but have not had it for about 10 years. The last time I had it was in decaffeinated form, and I disliked the lingering aftertaste on my breath so much it was easy to let it go. I feel the tummy ache was my bodies way of telling me that coffee disconnected me from my own essence, and I could feel energy getting in, into my lower energy centres, my tummy.

  14. I usually find that if I really crave something and have a lot of it, or stock pile it in my cupboards its a pretty sure sign its something I ought to have less of from a well being perspective! When do we ever stock pile leafy green vegetables for instance, in the ordinary way? So what does it show humanity that we consume so much coffee I wonder? Maybe the same thing, it rings alarm bells in me.

  15. ‘ Using my body as a guide in this way, and listening to it, has supported me over time to gently review other dietary and lifestyle choices.’ So simple and very true Jane, I also gave up coffee about 20 years ago as I was a shift worker and I believed I needed it to perk me up after shift work but then the downside was I had trouble getting to sleep. I also had shaking hands and a racy feeling through my body that felt really unsettling, when I finally gave coffee up the changes to my sleep routine was enormous. I could handle my shift work much better with out all the highs and lows. The body holds such great wisdom and will always guide what is best for us if we allow the space to listen and respond to the messages we are receiving.

  16. The perk up we get from a coffee only artificially elevates us for a short time. It then drops us and we find ourselves in that vicious circle of wanting more and then dropping again and again over and over.

  17. How excellent for you Jane that your body showed you so clearly your natural intolerance of coffee. The signs weren’t quite so obvious to me at the time so I overrode them for years and of course came to rely upon the caffeine hit. In fact I used it to run my body further into the ground. Not particularly a wise use of a food and a complete disregard of my body.

    1. So true Victoria and may I offer that this is usually the way with alcohol as well. None of my friends went yay, love the taste of that – I certainly didn’t. Yet you get used to it, build up the tolerance because you want to enjoy it to the point of then needing it to enjoy! It then becomes quite hard to enjoy without it, or in the case of coffee, it becomes quite hard to have the get up and go needed to function without it. The body is so smart!

  18. Dear Jane,
    The clarity that our body speaks with is quite amazing.
    To listen to what it has to say is the seemingly difficult thing. I know this has been the case for myself, until I began to learn to connect with my body and honor what I feel, so much of what it shared, I ignored.

  19. My eyes are still wide after reading that statistic… 400 million cups of coffee in America alone!… a day! Wow.
    That is saying a lot about how exhausted humanity is and how much we do not want to feel the effects of our daily choices. This is big.

  20. it is like the whole world has been seduced by a psychoactive drug and this has been normalized… with the consequent veil over the senses and awareness of society… Imagine if it simply was not available… What would happen on that day.

  21. A great reminder of how coffee actually affects the body. In truth we should call it a poison not drink as that is exactly what it is. I was curious so just looked up how many cups of coffee are drunk daily within the world. It is estimated around 2 billion cups are consumed every day!!!!!! 2 BILLION CUPS! They even hand out coffee in a well known supermarket chain in the UK where people do their shopping; so people are literally walking around the supermarket doing their shopping drinking coffee, it seems there is never a moment when we can be without it .. yet we still do not see this as an addiction!

  22. The realisation that my body offers me such amazingly loving and accurate feedback has been so supportive in my life. Starting to listen to the communication it offers has allowed me to choose a much more loving way of being in life and helped me to see that so many of the old habits I had were simply ways of compensating for other choices I had previously made that did not ‘agree’ with me in the first place. It was like taking medication to relieve the effects of other medication – without realising that I did not need any of it in the first place.

  23. Body wisdom is very profound , Would that we were all as wise as you were Jane and heeded it’s obvious signals.Truth is it’s never too late to change and welcome the body as a friend and counsellor.

  24. Wow America drinks 400 million cups of coffee per day, that’s a staggering amount. Many people can’t even start the day without their fix of a morning coffee, however hardly anyone actually asks them selves, what sort of choices are we making in our lives to be dependent on coffee to kick start our day.

  25. Our bodies are deeply sensitive, and yet we often do override their reactions to what we feed them. I was once addicted to coffee, and it wasn’t until I was prepared to address why I was needing to be propped up that I was able to let it go. Living on borrowed fuel is only a temporary relief, and can do a lot of damage longer term.

  26. Through our bodies there is a world of science, another universe in itself, that awaits to be explored and embraced where we can discover and understand the absolute and unending magnificence of who we are – simply through honoring the truth we feel in our bodies. For me this has been a relationship well-worth investing in.

  27. I remember once when my Dad was given a normal coffee instead of a decaf one after giving up coffee some years ago and his body responded very strongly, he had intense palpitations and felt like he was having a heart attack – a big message to me that coffee is not just the innocent drink we are led to believe.

    1. I’ve had similar experiences Meg – where I thought it was decaf but instead it was full strength. I ended up needing to leave my office and run up and down the drive way, back and forth, to stop the intense burst of nervous tension and energy. Not a nice feeling at all, and I was exhausted after the ‘high’ wore off.

      1. It’s funny how we call it a “high” when it leaves us feeling worse than ever! It’s a great example of our addiction to the highs and lows of life, instead of seeking a true and steady, consistent day to day rhythm.

  28. That is just so true. We can have all the theory in the world, but the body is the marker that brings us back to honesty. Coffee did what it is designed to do. Your body objected to that imposition – what a blessing in many ways.

  29. I wonder if having a coffee intolerance is a selective thing, or whether everyone is intolerant to it but the majority are too exhausted to feel the side-effects of it.

  30. Caffeine is a potent drug. I remember seeing a study where scientist gave spiders a whole range of drugs and took photographs of the resulting webs. The webs spiders spun after being given caffeine were completely haphazard, messy and in absolute disarray. When you consider the divine order and precision that a spider usually spins it’s web with this is quite a contrast.

    1. That is fascinating but makes perfect sense, that when we are out of rhythm or ahead of ourselves life becomes messy. I remember feeling the disturbance in my body when I drank coffee and yet it still took me a long time to actually get honest and admit I was addicted to this beverage.

  31. I love the smell of coffee but that does not entice me to have it as my body never felt quite well after drinking it, I would feel racy and nervous, thank full to my body I gave it up many years ago.

  32. A good point you are raising Jane, the problem nowadays is that we eat and drink so many things that are Interfering with the body, that most people don’t even know where to start to get a feeling which one of their food choices is causing what, but we have to start somewhere and work ourselves through it step by step.

    1. Good point Judith and I had a colleague say that the other day ‘where do I start – I know my body doesnt feel good, but I dont know where to start’. Ive found that by starting by simply being open to observe, to become more aware of our days, and for example before, during and after meals, bringing attention to the small choices we make in our day can be a start. Small steps even by starting with one meal a day can help. Some of the workplaces I work in they start with small simple practical programmes, e.g. like ‘hydration month’ and focus on that and drinking more water, or on ‘peeing on time’ (and not holding on to go the toilet during the working day), or stretching at lunchtime, and by starting with one simple thing it starts to build a deeper relationship with the body which then can start to show us more things.

      1. Yes Jane, that is my experience also, that when we just focus on one thing our body starts to reveal to us more and more and this way we can build one step at a time towards a healthier way of life.

  33. Yes, the body really is the marker of all truth. Recently I’ve started eating macadamias, and at first I ignored the mild flatulence I was experiencing and put it down to something else I had eaten. But after a few days in between of not eating them and then eating them again, I realised that in fact, it was the nuts that were no longer agreeing with my body. It’s awesome to be aware of such a thing, and yes, sometimes it can be annoying that a particular food that you love isn’t working for you anymore, but the plus side is that the more we listen and pay attention, the better we actually feel during the day and the less we want to sabotage that. Of course sometimes this take a while, as we (I) often like to make extra sure that it’s that food and not something else…so my experimentation sometimes drags out for some time…

  34. I love how simple you are making it here, if something is not right for our bodies, they will tell us, there’s no phd or degree or anything needed – we simply need to be aware of how we are feeling at all points in time.

    1. Meg that is a simple as it it, just to feel what our body is saying, but it is us who likes to complicate things and make it more than it needs to be. Rather than stop and feel we try the quick fixes like Caffeine.

  35. Wow I did a bit of a double take on 400 million cups, that is quite extraordinary and more so when you consider that’s just in the US alone. It is almost crazy how many people cannot get through a day without a hit of caffeine. It certainly makes you question how we are all living when we need to artificially create energy to get us through.

  36. Coffee is such a massive commodity. Where I live, you would find huge variety of canned coffee in vending machines on the street and in supermarkets all over the place – and of course there are many coffee shops. And if you go to a business meeting, there isn’t even a choice of tea or coffee – they just bring out coffee. Coffee is one of the most popular gifts people choose to send as a seasonal greeting or to say ‘thank you for coming to the funeral/wedding’ etc. What if everyone got very honest with their body one day and went ‘hang on, it actually doesn’t agree with me’, the impact would be massive. But the industry would keep supplying, as long as there’s demand from us.

  37. I hadn’t had caffeine for a few years when I had a cup of caffeinated tea, just before I was getting onto a plane. The effects were so clear, because I hadn’t had any for a while. I felt race yes, but it was such an unsettlement and discomfort in my whole body. I couldn’t sit still, nothing about me could be still. It was a very unpleasant experience and consequently I have never reached for caffeine again since. But like you say Jane, it’s our body here that needs to be celebrated for it’s very clear communication and of course my choice to listen and then honour it’s messages, for a long time I overroad those messages. But the greater the loving choices I am making the easier and easier it is to listen.

  38. When you live a life of self-abuse, coffee is the most wonderful discovery. It really helps you to get through without having to change a bit how you live. Not only makes your nervous system totally racy, hurting your body, it also helps cement a life style that hurts you.

    1. It is so true Eduardo, what you mentioned about consuming caffeine and how it helps cement a self-harming lifestyle. I have noticed that when I went back to drinking green tea after working night shift for awhile it negatively affected so many other aspects of my life like a snowball effect. I couldn’t concentrate or focus at work, was forgetful, got distracted all the time, could never truly rest and recuperate my body. The list goes on and on, and eventually one realizes just how harmful and powerful a drug caffeine truly is. It’s amazing the stuff is legal, really. But the lure of a quick fix as opposed to feeling what is needed is avoiding the responsibility to honour our bodies and seems to be all too tempting. The body is the one to suffer in the end though as continued caffeine consumption will only lead to it breaking down.

  39. We live in times where most people are exhausted, there is no true joy and vitality in their bodies so it makes perfect sense the huge business boom of stimulants that will get people through, and so we live a lie for as long as our bodies allow us to.

  40. I have a similar experience to you, when I drink anything with caffeine in it I get almost an instant urinary infection. The body is wise beyond our understanding.

  41. Our body always tells us the truth but so often we choose not to listen because our desire to fit in with the ‘norm’ is stronger than our true care, respect and responsibility for ourselves.

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