Caffeine and the Adrenal Glands

The adrenal glands produce various hormones that are responsible for coordinating and monitoring a variety of physiological activities. The adrenal glands produce cortisol, DHEA, estrogen, testosterone, and a number of other hormones that allow your body to function. For example, the adrenal glands control the level of cortisol so that the body knows when to be active and when to rest. There are times when certain things, such as caffeine, keep the cortisol levels high preventing the body from resting when it should and preventing the adrenal glands from operating as they would. The adrenal glands also produce adrenaline, the hormone that helps the body respond when danger is near. Adrenaline raises the heart rate and blood pressure and releases energy stores for physical strength and endurance. When in the system, caffeine can over stimulate the central nervous system and the adrenal glands to the point that the body is flooded with excess adrenaline and affected by an unnecessarily fast heart rate and blood pressure.

Over stimulating the adrenal glands can result in fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, depression, suppression of the immune system, moodiness, skin problems and muscle and bone loss. This is because while the cortisol produced by the adrenal glands is good in the short term, however if high levels are sustained in the body, the adrenal glands and the body itself become tired and weaken. People sometimes turn to caffeine to counteract the weakness and fatigue, however, caffeine only helps to exacerbate the situation as it keeps the cycle going. The demands of modern day society on their own exert of lot of pressure on the body and on the adrenal glands. These demands, coupled with those that caffeine places on the adrenal glands, can wear out the adrenal glands and lead to a constant state of exhaustion.

A study conducted in the 1980s examined the impact caffeine has on the adrenal glands – the study focused on epinephrine and norepinephrine, both of which are produced by the glands. Previous studies had shown that caffeine increases the production of these hormones. Many of the study participants revealed that while caffeine helped them to feel energized, it left them feeling moody and with disrupted sleep patterns. Both mood and sleep are affected by the activities of the adrenal glands, thus, the study proves that caffeine has adverse effects on the body.

Psychological Effects Subjects apparently observed some differences in (1) energy (increase with caffeine); (2) sleep patterns (more difficult sleeping with caffeine); and (3) mood (more problems with caffeine). Eight of the eleven subjects observed some difference between the two weeks of caffeine and non-caffeine use. There was no obvious tolerance in the group who were regular caffeine users, although it would be difficult to document such effects in a panel of this small size. In a baseline survey conducted before the study, the researchers found that sixty-five percent of people who see a doctor because they are fatigued also consume three or more cups of coffee or tea a day.

These findings indicate that caffeine has adverse effects on the adrenal glands. As caffeine leads to long term exhaustion, it is important not to over stimulate them with caffeine.

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