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What do you do when your body doesn’t agree with coffee?

Coffee is a peculiar thing.

Some love it, some hate it. Some start their day with it, others can’t make it through a day without it. 

It can be cheap and incredibly unpleasant or it could be made in a way that resembles art. 

For some it is all about the brewing method, for others it is all about the ratio between milk and espresso. No matter what your relationship with coffee is, how and when you drink it, what roast, whether it is organic or fair trade — we all have one thing in common when we sip away on that cup. It’s the intake of caffeine. 

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I am no coffee connoisseur, but I would say that I certainly know a good coffee from a bad one and I prefer to have good ones (to be precise, a flat white, medium roast, organic if possible, no sugar).

When my options aren’t good, I opt out instead and when my options are good, I’ll walk an extra mile for it. I love coffee for the taste, the ritual of making it and how it simply bring people together. 

I don’t drink coffee to fuel me, neither do I drink coffee for a certain image (yes, some people drink coffee for public perception) and definitely don’t drink it to keep me awake, because I love good sleep way too much. 

The unfortunate thing is, as much as I love coffee — my body (or more specifically my endocrine system) don’t like or tolerate it at all. 

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Women metabolise caffeine differently than men — and certain women, like me, are even slower at breaking down caffeine due to their genetic make up. 

The result? A liver that needs to work much harder than its capacity that gets ‘behind schedule’ with all its other duties. Like detoxing the rest of your body from the gazillion toxins that we are exposed to daily, without even knowing.

Have you ever experienced a backlog of work? Well, that was my liver. Constantly in arrears with metabolising caffeine and unable to do its daily chores to keep me well.

In January 2017 I finally connected these dots about coffee and my hormonal imbalance, better known as PCOS. I asked for help from a friend who also happens to be a holistic health coach (with a history of PCOS) and she confirmed my concern. I knew there is only one way to find out — to go cold turkey on my coffee habit and see if my suspicion holds truth. 

What followed mesmerised me.

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After 10 years of having irregular menstrual cycles (sometimes once in 6 months), my cycle started to regulate. Not perfectly, because caffeine isn’t the only false instrument in this mystical hormone symphony, but without a doubt I could see significant change. 

Not only did my cycles love me for it, but my afternoon anxiety disappeared all of a sudden. 

After more than 6 months of not touching a coffee, I tried one again and felt so disorientated that I actually called off my work and meetings that day. It wasn’t a good sight, or a good feeling. Clearly, the impact was real. 

Now don’t get me wrong here, I still love coffee and I really do have my days where I wish my genetics away, but in order to flourish and feel well, I have to carefully consider when and how I expose my body to caffeine. 

It really helped me to understand the science behind it, and I personally find a lot of wisdom from Alisa Vitti, founder of Flo Living. She even goes as far as to say that (all) women shouldn’t be drinking coffee at all. 

You can’t unlearn what you learn, and for me, my truth is that caffeine doesn’t serve my wellbeing, whether I like it or not. 

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Do I still sneak in a coffee now and again? I do. I am currently trying to figure out if there is a way to still have a coffee here and there without setting off a domino effect on my hormones. Do I want to be completely coffee-free? Yes, I do – because I know I feel my best without it. But the struggle is real, because once you’ve fallen in love with a good cup of coffee, it is hard to fall out if it again. 

On a final note —

Currently I only treat myself with a cup over the weekend and if I happen to be going to the mother city, my latest favourite is the newly opened Pauline’s in Sea Point. For those of you who can have coffee, please do yourself a favour and go have one on me. 

Feel free to get in touch with me if you find yourself in a similar situation. I know it can be a frowned upon conversation to have, but that is exactly why I open up about it — so that other women can see the light before they hit the caffeine tunnel.

This post was contributed by Marize Albertyn, founder of sheisvisual, a creative studio that tells visual & tactile stories through design & thoughtful curation. She also has one of the most beautiful instagram pages in the world. All photography in this post by Marize.