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.

343 thoughts on “Coffee

  1. I didn’t used to believe in my body having any sort of intelligence. i just thought it did what I told it too and that was that. It’s taken some years and some very impactful health conditions to realise that in fact, my body is talking to me all the time, and I’ve just found ways of avoiding listening to it or putting it down to other factors. These days I hear it loud and clear and my sensitivity and awareness is increasing all the time as a result. I’m really enjoying having so much more understanding around what goes on for me.

  2. With food intolerances and allergies on the rise listening to our bodies and making the appropriate adjustments is the wisest thing we can do to care for ourselves in both the short and long term.

  3. In a small town near where I live, there are cafes popping up everywhere, this shows the high demand for coffee and the consumption of coffee is huge. This makes me wonder how people feel after drinking numerous cups of coffee every day, maybe racy, tired and not themselves?

  4. My body speaks as loudly as yours Jane. I used to think that was a curse, but now I realise its actually a blessing. It lets me know when food or drinks are bad for me, and it lets me know when I am being unloving or unkind to myself. I would much rather know than not know, as then I can change.

    1. I agree Heather, I would much rather know. To not know is to be at the mercy of an outside force, but this is a decision we have made to consume something that is affecting the rhythm and flow of our bodies. It is in our best interest to listen, to pay attention and to act according to the message.

    2. I agree Heather. I’m constantly amazed and appreciative that the body is so sensitive, and can and does show us everything – the ripple effect of every daily life choice. Once we get to know the ‘language’ of the body it is such a blessing to have that guide consistently with us. Its also super helpful when we are experimenting new ways of living, new daily rhythms, new foods etc as we can tell from the body what works and what does not support us.

  5. Coffee shops march to total world domination continues… I was driving in the countryside and another Starbucks popped up literally in the middle of nowhere. Yes I’ve seen them in towns and cities, yes they are becoming connected to garages and pit stops, but this one looked like it had replaced a country pub or restaurant. It was a new sign of the times….

    1. I agree Simon – there are now many ‘drive-in’ coffee shops along our roads too so you don’t need to leave the car to get a coffee. Maybe one day we will have a world without coffee drinking – which could mean a lot of empty shops in the high streets.

  6. Can you believe the explosion in coffee, I mean I remember years ago people drinking it but not the quantities they are now. I remember not drinking coffee at first because of the taste but then starting to drink it and being put off again from the tummy feeling but then starting again and now stopping again. I love chatting to people but don’t like the taste or the feeling of coffee. From where I stand it’s looking more and more out of control on the coffee front and I am pretty close to the industry even though I don’t drink the product. People say to me very frequently how addicted they are and how they can’t function without of coffee. There needs to be more conversations around it’s affects and how we are more and more regularly using it.

  7. We are mainly good overriding the initial adverse reaction against a substance, be that coffee, alcohol or a cigarette and often stubbornly get over and used to it so we fit into ‘normalcy’.

    1. I agree Gabriele – and that applies not just to food and drink but to many things that we normalise in life – e.g. its normal to be exhausted, it’s normal to struggle through life.

  8. The rise in coffee consumption is telling of another rise – and that is the sheer exhaustion the majority of humanity are in. Coffee is the go-to substance as the perk-up substitute for not giving ourselves what our bodies truly need – deep, rejuvenating rest instead of being in a constant relentless momentum to get somewhere, be someone, in order to tick the ultimate box that can never really be ticked anyway.

  9. I agree Jane, our body is a great guide to all things in life. It constantly communicates to us and when we listen there is so much we can learn about food, exercise, sleep, work, etc. and our relationship with ourselves and with people.

  10. I agree – our sensitivities are beautiful and powerful guide for us to navigate through our daily choices. When we consider something to be ‘normal’ it can be hard for us to accept our own reaction to it – as to what food/drink doesn’t agree with our own body, how much is too much etc. and we may even force our body and try getting used to it. There’s a strong belief that says ‘everything in moderation’ and that we should be able to eat anything and if we have any reaction then it should be cured, which is very dishonouring of our body.

    1. Yes Fumiyo ‘everything in moderation’ is often a phrase I hear about life, daily living choices, and foods in particular – which feels like a justification to have everything/something – no matter what the impact on the body – so long as it is ‘in moderation’. But who set the bar for ‘in moderation’? does that mean Six coffees or five? does that mean one apple or three?

  11. I used to be addicted to coffee and really felt the withdrawal effects when I stopped drinking it some years ago. The few times I did have a coffee after not drinking it for months, I was really shocked by how it made my heart race and how uncomfortable I felt. I must say I really dont miss it.

    1. One of the things Ive observed recently when talking with others about food and drink choices is that some people (and I know I used to do this with alcohol) say that they don’t like the taste or the effect of something e.g. coffee or alcohol, yet they’ve learned to get used to it so that they can continue to drink it. It’s interesting that we would do that and override the signs that are loud and clear from our body that something isn’t right about that drink/beverage.

  12. I find my body has similar reactions to some foods but when I am living in a rushed way I can override these feelings to the point of not being able to notice them. This then keeps me in the cycle of reaching for certain foods and staying racey and not feeling the reactions of them.

  13. Listening to the body, accepting what it says to us, accepting it as our greatest tool to confirm truth, welcoming the feedback it gives us regarding our choices is the only true way of learning.

  14. If we all took the time to listen to our bodes and become more honest about the messages we were constantly receiving, I am sure we would see a decline in the amount of coffee, alcohol and sugar intake worldwide.

    1. Absolutely agree Anna – I’m sure we would see a decline not only in food and beverages, but also in pass-times, sports, and other activities that we undertake in life, as there are many things that are not true for our body (e.g. years ago I did kick boxing for a few years – but my body screamed out time and time again that it was not true for me to do kick boxing, and in the end I stopped doing it as it was damaging me in so many ways – aches, pains, bruises, broken toes, hardening and tension in my muscles etc).

  15. I still remember my first taste of coffee in our farmhouse… There was such a ritual to grinding the beans, and putting them in the old perculator… And this amazing smell that came out… And then I my gosh the extraordinarily disgusting taste… Which I incredibly became used to

    1. It’s interesting about how things smell so seductively delicious and sometimes even taste so delicious – and yet how the body always tell the truth in the way it responds or reacts to that substance/food. I loved the smell of coffee – but my body reacted so strongly to it I knew never to drink it after my first cup of coffee.

  16. Creating the environment from which to listen to our bodies means we hear the conversation so much better. There is no question you can feel the rhythm of your heartbeat change when you drink a stimulant, the point is what does it give you that means you will put up with that physiological change at the expense of your body’s natural rhythm?

  17. Lately I have found that my body is very much more responsive to foods, and particularly picking up on anything that my body is reacting to, it is as if my body is shouting louder to get my attention, and I am now listening very intently.

    1. I’m with you there Sally – my body is also shouting louder – and the impact of not listening is greater – the stakes are high when we choose to over ride our body.

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