Tips for Kicking Caffeine
Friday, July 23, 2010
Kim in Health & Healing, Nutrition & Diet, Supplements & Vitamins, Tips & Tricks

café crème, somewhere in France, 2007

All through high school, college, much of my career in advertising, leisurely brunches with friends, lazy Sundays, and adventurous travels, coffee was always my friend and close companion.  There were so many reasons I loved coffee.  I loved the flavor, treasured the ritual, adored the coffeehouse culture, and of course, appreciated the jolt of caffeine.  There was nothing like a hot cafe Americano with a splash of half and half on a cool fall morning, a full pot of French press on a lazy Saturday, an icy glass of cold press on a hot summer day, or a cup of dark roast after dinner.  If was staying away from home, and didn't have access to my own French press or espresso machine, I was scouring the sidewalks to find cup of the good stuff almost immediately after waking.  When I stayed with a friend down in my old college town, I would walk to the gas station before anywhere else was open to get my first cup of the day. Travels to France had me drinking café crème like each day was my last, and in Italy I frequently stopped in at cafes to stand at the counter with chattering locals and drink an espresso.  When I worked in Maui, I probably drank my body weight's worth of Hawaiian coffee beans. After being introduced to it by friends, I all but ritualistically worshipped Turkish brewed coffee, rather like sticky sweet dark gold.  And don't even get me started on how much coffee I drank on my first trip to Seattle, just before my health really went down the tubes.  

Can you tell I loved coffee?  

I've always struggled with moderation, and coffee was no exception. Looking back, I can see that I was totally  addicted to caffeine. Caffeine is a powerful drug - especially for those with pesky addictive personality traits (guilty, as charged).  To top it off, I had a constant supply of free coffee at work, so I didn't even break the bank fueling my habit. At my most addicted, I was up to around 6 or 7 cups a day, sometimes more. I just kept drinking....and drinking....and drinking....

As I got sicker from my then undiagnosed Lyme Disease and Candida issues, the caffeine helped me get the energy I needed to function. But eventually, I noticed the coffee was doing more harm than "good".  It caused my heart palpitations to flare, my already weak digestion was further irritated by the high acid content, and my then frequent diarrhea was becoming worse (I am unmeasurably grateful that is no longer an issue).  I was often jittery and anxious. Each sip of coffee would hit my stomach like a fiery brick and cause cramping and almost unbearable pain. I tried to cut back, but the withdrawal from not having enough caffeine was filled with headaches, dizziness, brain fog, and nausea. I was stuck between a rock and hard place - drink coffee and feel like crap, or not drink coffee and feel like crap. But it seemed easier to keep drinking than give it up, so that's what I did.

My symptoms finally got too bad to ignore - I was suffering a wide range of physical, emotional, psychological, and neurological issues - and I decided to take charge of my health.  The caffeine was the first thing to go in my self-motivated elimination diet, even before sugar and gluten and dairy.  The transition was really hard - the headaches, the brain fog, the lethargy, and the nausea felt almost unbearable (I've since learned that Herxing from Lyme treatment is WAY worse than caffeine withdrawal). I did my research and figured out ways to support my body while getting over the hump, and it helped. While the worst of it was over within a week or two, it took almost two months for me to really feel good in the mornings without caffeine. When I finally made it to the other side, I felt so much more clear, felt more in touch with my body, and was happy knowing that I wasn't dependent on anything. My digestion was better, my anxiety had lessened, and those pesky heart palpitations had reduced. Freedom! I was so proud.  Then I moved on to gluten, sugar, dairy, and all those other allergens and irritants.

I have now been free of coffee for almost 2 1/2 years.  Recently, I have started occasionally indulging in other caffeine-laden things like black tea, green tea, yerba mate, and chocolate, and I notice my tolerance for caffeine has certainly decreased. But I don't need these things, and I watch my symptoms to ensure that I"m not throwing my health into a tailspin.  I feel so much better living without caffeine.  

I recently found a bunch of stuff I had written for a coworker last year about how to wean off caffeine, and thought it seemed like a good thing to share. I fleshed it out a little, updating with things I've recently learned and other content I've found online. If you are looking to eliminate or reduce caffeine from your life, hopefully this will help. 

Peace and blessings!

 

Reasons to Reduce Caffeine

Withdrawal Symptoms of Caffeine

Symptoms usually begin within 12-24 hours, and can reach a peak within 20-48 hours.  In some individuals, symptoms may only last a few hours, in others, symptoms may last up to a week.  As your body detoxifies and adjusts to life without caffeine, you may suffer from some of the following withdrawal symptoms:

Quitting Caffeine Gradually

Replacements for Coffee

Quit the caffeine, but not the ritual!   There are lots of good substitutes for coffee.

Replacements for Soda

Relief from Withdrawal

Caffeine weakens adrenal and liver functions, and the acidifying effect that coffee has on the system can gradually exhaust the body’s general ability to expel toxins and maintain a acid-alkaline pH balance.  By reducing or eliminating caffeine, your body will start to purge built up toxins and restore full adrenal and liver function. There are lots of things you can do to help support your system and aid in detoxification, as well as reduce withdrawal systems. 

Lifestyle

Nourishing foods 

Supplements

I am not a doctor, so please make sure to check with your care provider before adding supplements. Some supplements may have side effects with your current medication, or you may not need certain vitamins/minerals.  While this is information I found through research, but should not take the place of professional medical advice.  

 

Sources

The article “Nutritional Program for Caffeine Detoxification,” by Elson M. Haas, MD, at http://www.healthy.net/asp/templates/article.asp?PageType=article&ID=2046

http://www.mothernature.com/Library/Bookshelf/Books/48/32.cfm

http://bastyrcenter.org/content/view/163/&page=

http://www.mycaffeineaddiction.com/top-10-coffee-alternatives-avoid-the-negative-effects-of-caffeine/

Article originally appeared on gluten-free, allergy-friendly, and whole foods recipes, resources, and tips (http://affairsofliving.com/).
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