5 Tips for Getting Off Coffee

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Coffee is bad. Coffee is good. You can’t seem to get a clear answer from health gurus these days. We all love coffee and really really really want it to be good for us – or just not bad for us, at any rate. But there is no denying it – coffee is a drug and, what’s more, is the drug of choice for most of the adult population of the Western World. And there’s also no denying that the stuff is addictive.

While the pro-coffee supporters rally behind the beverage’s high antioxidant profile and seemingly long list of correlations with lower disease rates, the anti-coffee camp argues coffee increases stomach acid output, interferes with blood sugar levels and flushes B vitamins, minerals and vitamin C out of the body. Besides, they argue, there are myriad sources of antioxidants out there; you don’t need coffee for health reasons. Those with forms of chronic diarrhea, acid indigestion, high blood pressure or heart palpitations should avoid coffee altogether, they say. This drug is dangerous.

In his book Caffeine Blues, author Stephen Cherniske describes the complicated chain of biological events that occurs when one drinks a coffee, the end result of which is the release of adrenaline – that’s the “stress hormone” which triggers the “fight or flight” response. Being in “survival mode” doesn’t do you much good sitting at your desk or behind the wheel of your car (road rage anyone?). Keeping yourself artificially and constantly in this fight or flight mode leads to a state of adrenal exhaustion, characterized by the complete inability to handle stress, and can lead to even more dependence on stimulants (leading to yet more coffee consumption, as the cycle continues).

But whatever the experts are saying, the constant cycle of fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbance, irritability and depression may be starting to get to you. You may be telling yourself that it’s time to break up with coffee. But how? If you’re caught up in a cycle of adrenal fatigue, there’s no way that going cold turkey is going to do the trick.

What follows is a quick list of steps that can help to curb those coffee cravings.

Sleep Is Your Friend – You may be relying on coffee to get you up in the morning if you’re not getting enough sleep. Even if you’re getting your 8 hours per night, the quality of sleep is what’s important. Getting into the REM state is key and you will likely be tired and have difficulty getting up if you haven’t been able to get into that deep state of sleep. Ironically, people depending on coffee to get them through the day are often having their sleep disturbed by residual caffeine, particularly if you’re drinking it later in the day. Taking steps to ensure a full, restful nights sleep is had is vital.

Green Drinks – Coffee delivers a quick hit of minerals, even though its acidifying nature depletes minerals in the long run. Cravings for coffee may actually be cravings for magnesium or other trace minerals. Green drinks are a great way to sub in for these mineral hits and give back a lot of the stuff coffee was depleting. Chlorophyll, the green stuff that makes plants green, contains magnesium. Plus greens are a great source of B vitamins (see below) and trace minerals. Drink one glass of green drink per day first thing in the morning. A green drink can be any juiced green vegetable, like celery, cucumber, chard, kale, green peppers or romaine or you can get a greens supplement from a health food store (try to get a cold processed one). Greens will help to balance blood sugar and help remove cravings.

Get Your Bs – The fatigue that’s making you unable to function without your caffeine hit may be caused by B vitamin deficiency. B vitamins are what the body uses at the cellular level to create energy. Taking B vitamins won’t give you a quick hit the way coffee does, but they will combat fatigue. Pantothenic acid, vitamin B5, will also help to restore those burnt out adrenal glands.

Probiotics – Coffee has a negative effect on the good bacteria in your gut, so replenishing them is a good idea whether you’re kicking the habit or not. The good bacteria also are responsible for creating vitamins for us, including B vitamins, so getting more of the good guys in your digestive tract will help with energy levels. Whether you take a supplement or eat probiotic foods (like yogurt, kefir or lacto-fermented foods) is up to you.

Take It SlowDon’t try to jump from 5 cups a day to nothing all at once. Lessen caffeine exposure in definite steps over time. Swap out one cup per day with a different beverage. If you’re like me and you’re all about the taste, it might be easier for you to switch to decaf (choose a brand that uses the Swiss water decaffeinating process. Conventional decaf uses caustic chemicals to remove the caffeine which are still there in your cup after brewing). Decaf isn’t caffeine free, but it does have significantly less of the stuff. Others may find it easier to switch to green tea, which still has the caffeine but is counter-acted by the sedative effects of treonine. The following week, replace another cup per day with your new beverage of choice until you’re not drinking coffee at all. The next step would be to switch to grain coffees (not actually coffee at all, but imitates the flavor fairly well) or to herbal tea, both of which have no caffeine. Keep replacing your coffee and before you know it you’re off of coffee and maybe found yourself a healthy alternative.

If you decide to cut the coffee habit, these steps should get you well on your way. Another important step is to not give up. Once you’ve been at it for a week or so, coffee cravings are usually fleeting. Stick with your goals. You may find you want to have a cup of joe once in a while, but breaking the addiction is really essential to get on the road to true health.

Author by Doug DiPasquale

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