I spent the entire first day at the International Wise Traditions Conference one year camped out in the room where Julia Ross was speaking.
I took boatloads of notes that day and have enough material for several blog posts which I will write up in the coming weeks.
Today, however, I want to specifically address Julia’s discussion about coffee.
Julia Ross’ take on coffee is different from other speakers I have listened to before, and I wanted to share her warning about it because I think it’s something most coffee drinkers have no idea about.
Julia says that her main objection is that people drink coffee it first thing in the morning when they get up and then they end up skipping breakfast because coffee is a strong appetite suppressant.
Not to mention that coffee reduces (not increases as popularly believed) blood flow to the brain by about 25%.
Why The Worst Time to Drink Coffee is First Thing in the Morning
Skipping breakfast is a big no-no and not just because it increases your chances of overeating especially starches and sugars later in the day.
Skipping your morning meal does a number on your body’s ability to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin which is derived from the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan, like all the amino acids, is contained in protein. Meat is the best source of tryptophan but only from animals roaming on pasture (corn contains almost NO tryptophan so don’t eat beef from corn fed cattle or eggs from primarily corn/soy fed chickens).
Protein (food) —–> Tryptophan (amino acid) —–> Serotonin (neurotransmitter) —–> Melatonin (hormone for restful sleep)
Serotonin is what helps you feel happy, calm, and self confident even in the face of stress. Moreover, ample serotonin is important for a restful night’s sleep as the body converts serotonin into melatonin at dusk. Inadequate melatonin results in insomnia problems.
Skipping breakfast in the morning short circuits the body’s ability to produce adequate serotonin throughout the day. While eating protein later in the day definitely helps, because none was consumed at breakfast, your body ends up playing serotonin catch up all day every day.
Julia says that we all need about 20-30 grams of protein 3X per day to fulfill our body’s requirement for amino acids in order to produce adequate neurotransmitters like serotonin. If you are already deficient in serotonin, supplementation may be required for a short time to regain neurological balance.
Long story short and this topic of neurotransmitters tends to get rather complicated, if you must drink coffee, then at the very least, wait until after breakfast to do it!
This way, the impact on your serotonin levels will not be as severe as drinking coffee first thing in the morning and skipping breakfast due to the appetite suppressing effects.
You may find that this one simple change alone will leave you feeling happier, more emotionally flexible, less stressed, and with increased ability to tackle whatever challenges you face each day with improved self confidence.
If you suspect that your serotonin levels are in the tank and you need neurotransmitter supplementation to help you with worry, anxiety, OCD thoughts or actions, depression, panic attacks, and/or chronic insomnia, Julia Ross recommends this dosage with the amino acid tryptophan:
- 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP – sources): 50 mg in the mid-afternoon and before bedtime.
- L-tryptophan (sources) : 500 mg in the mid-afternoon and again before bed especially if insomnia is a problem.
Note that 5-HTP is cheaper than L-tryptophan but some people get nausea from it, so switch to L-tryptophan if 5-HTP doesn’t work for you.
For children, start with a fraction of the dose above and only use L-tryptophan.
Raise the dosage as needed to eliminate low serotonin symptoms.
Once You’ve Got Your Serotonin Deficiency Under Control, Now What?
Once you’ve started eating breakfast again and put off your coffee until after you eat in the morning, you might perhaps feel motivated to try and get off coffee completely.
According to Julia Ross, people who crave chocolate, coffee, alcohol and even exercise are typically low in the neurotransmitter endorphin. Using supplementation of those amino acids that are precursors to endorphin may really help in trying to shake the coffee habit.
- Amino acid d-phenylalanine (DPA): 500 mg, 2-4X/day. Use DPA if you are addicted to coffee and also an anxious person.
- Amino acid d-phenylalanine (DPA) bound to the amino acid I-phenylalanine (LPA) – known in combination as DLPA: 500 mg, 2-3X/day. Use DLPA if you crave the energizing effects of coffee and are not typically an anxious person.
Do you think a deficiency of neurotransmitters might be the reason some folks love their coffee so much?
Are you game to try these approaches to help balance brain chemistry without the need to drink coffee first thing in the morning? Or will you switch to a noncaffeinated beverage like dandelion coffee? Please share your experience with all of us in the comments section.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist