Why Too Much Caffeine Can Cause Adrenal Fatigue Problems


Does caffeine cause adrenal insufficiency? First of all, let’s discuss the benefits of coffee for the body. Coffee has been shown to decrease the risk of Type II diabetes mellitus, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, certain cancers, heart rhythm problems and strokes. Coffee has many beneficial antioxidant properties when consumed in moderation. Caffeine has also shown to enhance physical performance as well as concentration. Many claim that it decreases pain perception during exercise as well.

The Adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys and are an integral part of the endocrine system. They are responsible for producing major hormones such as Cortisol (released in response to stress) and adrenaline (fight or flight response). When the adrenal glands become impaired or weak, a person may exhibit signs of low blood glucose, low blood pressure and exhaustion. The adrenals are considered to be a bank for stored inherited energy to be used when needed. Yet when excessive amounts are overdrawn, one ends up with a negative energy balance, and exhaustion ensues.

Most people do not realize that their first cup of coffee in the morning starts their rollercoaster of energy ups and downs throughout the day. Once the first cup is consumed, minutes later the caffeine initiates uncontrolled neuron firing in the brain. This overactive neuron activity triggers the pituitary gland to produce a hormone that travels to and communicates with the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, the fight-or-flight response hormone. This is the “high” that caffeine gives a person. But once this “high” wears off, one starts to feel tired and sluggish so they pour themselves another cup or coffee or grab a soda for some more caffeine to start the process over. The more caffeine one consumes, the more the adrenals pump out adrenaline and deplete their supply. So the person consumes larger doses of caffeine to obtain their “high” thereby depleting their adrenaline stores farther. Soon the adrenals are completely depleted that the person no longer responds to caffeine. This is the point where one will experience withdrawal symptoms should they decide to abruptly stop their caffeine consumption.

Other negative effects of caffeine on the body include indigestion due to the amount of acid in coffee and the stomach secreting more acid where the body likes a more alkaline environment. Coffee can inhibit the absorption of many nutrients and even cause excretion of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and other trace elements that are important for women which lead to the increased risk of osteoporosis. Caffeine should be avoided in pregnancy because it crosses the placenta and studies show higher incidence of infertility, miscarriage and low-birth weight when caffeine is consumed during pregnancy. Caffeine tends to aggravate PMS and fibrocystic breast diseases along with hot flashes and hormonal fluctuations in menopausal women. It is also a natural diuretic which is an irritant to the bladder and to men with enlarged prostate glands.

So, do the benefits outweigh the risks of caffeine? Is a cup of coffee a day actually good for us? Unfortunately, there is research to support both sides. Regardless, caffeine is a drug, plain and simple. It has some significant side effects and mild benefits. One should decide what is more important to them, that needed “high” right away or their health down the road. Hopefully, the information provided will help you decide what is best for your health.

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About Author

Stephanie Harter

I am a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. I worked as an ICU RN for 10 years before going back to school to obtain a Masters in Nurse Anesthesia from which I graduated in 2010. I recently obtained my certification as a Certified Nutrition and Wellness consultant and Personal Trainer through the AFPA. I am also an NPC Figure Competitor. See my profile page for more information!


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    Great article! I’ve been drinking gallons of coffee during military service and continued during employment on a 12 hour rotating shift job for another 20 years. I now drink approximately 24-32 oz of coffee a day (usually most first thing in morning). I suppose my adrenal glands are certainly pooped out. Regardless, this article encourages me to reduce my intake.

    • ShapeFit

      Hi Mr. Kim – You can test your adrenal hormones and cortisol which uses saliva and is very accurate. You can find test kits online.

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