the Caffeine Habit
You may have just
visited your health practitioner who told you to quit drinking coffee because
of the caffeine effects. Or your body has been giving you alarm signals that it
no longer tolerates caffeine like it used to when you were younger. But you love
that coffee habit! It's the morning brewing ritual. It's the aroma of the roasted
beans. And it's the caffeine jolt that makes waking up seem easier, not to mention
the headaches that can be severe when you miss your next cup of coffee. Don't
worry, there is an easy way to quit, some satisfying alternatives to replace that
roasted brew, and plenty of good reasons to do it now.
You can get off
of caffeine and its effects painlessly using a weaning process that gradually
reduces your caffeine intake while you rebuild your natural energy supply. The
solution is herbal coffee.
Like herbal tea that is caffeine-free and made from herbs that are brewed like
tea, caffeine-free herbal coffee is made from herbs, grains, fruits and nuts that
have been roasted, ground and brewed just like coffee. Herbal coffee is high in
potassium, an electrolyte mineral that stimulates nerve impulses, helps oxygenate
the brain, lowers blood pressure and enhances athletic performance. Herbal coffee
helps you rebuild your own natural energy supply by nutritionally supporting your
body's energy production. No more drug induced jolts that leave you with an energy
crash a few hours later!
Coffee has become a fixture in our lives because
of one thing. It is an excellent drug delivery system for caffeine. A coffee drinker
wants, expects, and has grown to require an energy lift. But let's look at this
more closely. Does caffeine deliver an energy lift? To answer that, we have to
define what is energy and what isn't. We know food delivers energy. Food supplies
calories in the form of carbohydrates, protein and fat which, when metabolized,
give the body glucose, vitamins and minerals that feed the brain and the muscles.
Without real metabolic energy, our bodies can't perform.
what do caffeine and coffee supply? They don't contain any nutrients so they aren't
feeding our brain and muscles. In fact, they don't give us energy at all. They
give us stress. Caffeine is a drug that stimulates the adrenal glands
to produce the classic "fight or flight" syndrome. Epinephrine, norepinephrine
and cortisol are released by the adrenals into the blood stream to shut down any
ancillary systems that require energy, like digestion and immune protection, so
that all the body's energy can be channeled into survival. This was great for
facing saber tooth tigers and other life threatening dangers, but what happens
when our bodies are kept in this emergency state day in and day out, all day long?
Well, imagine that your adrenal glands are like a bank account. The
answer to how long you can continue to make repeated withdrawals against your
reservoir of good health and longevity depends on your genetic inheritance and
other lifestyle habits. But you can be sure of one thing. Caffeine and caffeine
effects deplete energy, it doesn't supply it.
The Adrenal Glands and Stress Prevention
than 150 hormones including DHEA, testosterone, and estrogen are produced or metabolized
by the adrenal glands. These extraordinary glands are thus very important to good
health and longevity. If you're whipping them everyday with caffeine, expect your
aging process to accelerate especially as you hit your forties when hormone production
starts to decline. High levels of cortisol, which unfortunately can stay elevated
as long as 18 hours after a cup of coffee, will compromise your immune system
and interfere with your body's ability to fight off pathogens. And if you are
one of those coffee drinkers who can go right to sleep after a double shot of
espresso, ask yourself, why am I still waking up exhausted and reaching for another
cup of coffee? You may sleep, but caffeine interferes with you reaching the stage
of deep sleep called Stage Four sleep where your body does its essential rebuild
and repair work.
And how about the way you feel when driven by caffeine?
Remember the last time you or someone else flew off the handle when faced with
an everyday challenge? It would be interesting to know how many cups of coffee
preceded the meltdown, because caffeine lowers the brain's "stress threshold".
Events that we would normally handle with aplomb, suddenly become insurmountable.
Consider that most working adults consume 300 mg or more of caffeine
(20 oz of drip coffee) before lunch, often on an empty stomach. Research shows
conclusively that this can produce anxiety, irritability and in some individuals,
panic...exactly the opposite of what we need when facing life's inevitable delays
or conflicts. If you or your mate end the day stressed out and exhausted, depressed
and worried, remember that caffeine is the greatest cause of stress in our
Rebuild Your Natural Energy Supply
a coffee drinker quits caffeine, they miss that drug induced jolt that gave them
the sensation of having enough energy to get going. What they really need is a
true natural energy lift. Herbal coffee, unlike coffee beans, actually has calories
because it is made from herbs, grains, fruits and nuts that contain food nutrients.
The herbs in herbal coffees are naturally high in potassium. Potassium is added
to sports drinks to help athletes recover their energy after workouts. Herbal
coffee has twice the potassium as Gatorade® whose potassium is artificially added.
So herbal coffee gives the body a natural energy lift that is produced by the
body's own natural energy systems.
Caffeine, on the other hand, forces
the liver to release glucose into the blood stream. This produces a temporary
blood sugar high that is often followed by a blood sugar low when the body reacts
by producing insulin to store the excess sugar as fat. With herbal coffee, you
can avoid this metabolic stress and enjoy a steady energy state produced by complex
carbohydrates and potassium.
Some people find their natural energy returns
easily but others suffer from some energy lows during the first few weeks after
quitting coffee. Allow yourself to feel more tired than usual. Your body is giving
you some important signals you may have been ignoring for some time as you continued
to seek energy from caffeine. That tired feeling is temporary but you may find
you need to catch up on some much needed sleep. Herbal tonics that help rebuild
adrenal health and detoxify the body can help you restore your natural energy
more quickly. Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and Panax
Ginseng (Panax ginseng or quinquefolius) traditionally combined with licorice
are considered adrenal tonics. Both are classified as adaptogens, herbs that strengthen
the immune system, the nervous system and the glandular system. Other adaptogens
which can be of help to weakened adrenals are astragalus, schizandra
berries, ashwaganda and wild yam. You might also consider some
herbs to help detoxify the liver, kidneys and bowels. Herbs such as milk thistle,
burdock root, parsley, uva ursi and psyllium seeds
can strengthen and support taxed systems of elimination that have been exhausted
by too much caffeine. Remember to drink more water - at least 8 cups per day -
during this detoxification period.
Nutritional supplements that support
adrenal health are the B vitamins and in particular pantothenic acid
(B-5). If you need an additional energy boost during your recovery, try a bioenergetic
nutritional supplement that has Co-Q10, alpha ketoglutaric acid,
chromium, and potassium and magnesium aspartate. You'll find
it gives you a real energy boost by increasing metabolic efficiency rather than
stimulating the nervous system. This approach can be likened to feeding the horse
rather than whipping it.
Beware of products parading as energy uppers
that simply contain more harmful stimulants. Many of them depend on caffeine from
lesser known sources such as guarana, kola nut, and yerba matÃ©, or ephedrine
from Ma Huang.
Some heavy coffee drinkers experience "brain fog" in
the first month or so of quitting caffeine. Good nutrition along with a bioenergetic
supplement coupled with some herbal extracts including gotu kola and gingko
biloba will help you clear that fog and restore your normal brain clarity.
not just switch to decaf coffee you may ask? Decaf still contains approximately
7 mg of caffeine per 6 oz cup, enough to give healthy adrenal glands a good jolt.
Decaf still has all the coffee acids and oils that may be giving you problems
with your digestion or liver. In fact, since decaf is made from stronger flavored
but highly acidic robusta beans, it tends to be even more caustic than regular
coffee, which is usually made primarily from the higher grade arabica beans. Scientific
studies have shown that decaf raises blood cholesterol levels faster and higher
than regular coffee!
The acid issue is also significant. A steady diet
of highly acidic foods and beverages can strain the body's alkaline balance. In
order to neutralize dietary acids, our bodies use calcium as a buffering agent.
Coffee thus creates a "double-whammy" by using up available calcium and at the
same time causing increased excretion of calcium in the urine. The net result
is that coffee drinkers rapidly deplete their calcium reserves and are at increased
risk for osteoporosis. This can be a devastating problem for post-menopausal women
and is also a significant factor in men's health.
If that wasn't bad
enough, most decaf coffee is still being processed with toxic solvents such as
methylene chloride. While most of the chemical is washed off the beans after the
decaffeination process, it is impossible to remove it all, and significant residue
has been found in the final product. Even the Swiss water process exposes the
beans to a very hot water bath that removes much of the flavor along with most
of the caffeine, leaves behind the oils and acids, and requires a chemical solvent
to speed up the process. The fact remains that the finest decaf still carries
significant health risks.
Caffeine and Your Body
you need additional motivation, keep in mind the following health problems that
can be exacerbated by caffeine.
Problems: Caffeine increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure,
and can contribute to the development of heart disease. Both decaf and regular
coffee increase your cholesterol and homocysteine, the biochemical that science
has linked to increased risk for heart attack. Caffeine is also linked to coronary
vasospasms, the cause for 20% of all fatal heart attacks which kill otherwise
perfectly healthy people.
Caffeine stimulates the excretion of stress hormones which can produce increased
levels of anxiety, irritability, muscular tension and pain, indigestion, insomnia,
and decreased immunity. Increased levels of stress from caffeine can keep you
from being able to make healthy responses to the normal daily stress everyone
is subjected to in their lives.
Sugar Swings: Diabetics and hypoglycemics should avoid caffeine because it
stimulates a temporary surge in blood sugar which is then followed by an overproduction
of insulin that causes a blood sugar crash within hours. If you're trying to lose
weight, this rollercoaster will actually cause weight gain since insulin's message
to the body is to store excess sugar as fat and the appetite becomes increased
once the blood sugar is low.
Problems: Many people experience a burning sensation in their stomach after
drinking coffee because coffee increases the secretion of hydrochloric acid leading
to an increased risk for ulcers. Coffee, including decaf, reduces the pressure
on the valve between the esophagus and the stomach so that the highly acidic contents
of the stomach pass up to the esophagus leading to heartburn and gastro-esophageal
reflux disease. With our culture's high consumption of coffee, its no wonder the
best selling over-the-counter drugs are the so-called antacids.
Deficiencies: Caffeine inhibits the absorption of some nutrients and causes
the urinary excretion of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and trace minerals,
all essential elements necessary for good health.
Health Problems: Dr. Milton Krisiloff, M.D. has found that in the majority
of cases, men can significantly reduce their risk for urinary and prostate problems
by making dietary changes that include eliminating coffee and caffeine.
- Female Health
Problems: Fibrocystic breast disease, PMS, osteoporosis, infertility problems,
miscarriage, low birth weight infants, and menopausal problems such as hot flashes
are all exacerbated by caffeine consumption. Women on birth control pills are
particularly at risk since they have a decreased ability to detoxify caffeine.
Exhaustion: Caffeine consumption leads to eventual adrenal exhaustion that
can leave you vulnerable to a variety of health disorders related to inflammation,
autoimmunity, depression and other mood imbalances.
Many people find in their forties that they can no longer tolerate the same level
of caffeine consumption as they could in their twenties and thirties. The production
of DHEA, melatonin, and other vital hormones start to decline and caffeine speeds
up that downhill drop. Conversely, cortisol, a stress hormone, increases in productions
as we age and caffeine increases cortisol levels in the blood for up to 18 hours.
Caffeine dehydrates the body and contributes to the aging of the skin and kidneys.
It has been shown to inhibit DNA repair and slow the ability of the liver to detoxify
you're interested in a more comprehensive and in-depth look at caffeine and it's
effects on the body and mind, read Caffeine Blues by Stephen Cherniske,
M.S. published by Warner Books.
Quitting Coffee the Pain-free Way
withdrawal headaches can be incapacitating. Often they are accompanied by fatigue
as your body starts to recuperate from its former caffeine-driven pace. It may
interest you to know why you get a headache when you skip your morning cup. Caffeine,
you see, acts a as powerful vasoconstrictor in the brain. That is, it constricts
blood vessels in the brain and decreases circulation! When caffeine is not present,
the sudden increased circulation causes headaches. While this keeps millions of
people addicted to the caffeine habit, the good news is that you can avoid this
pitfall by slowly weaning yourself off caffeine over a two to three week period.
Start by mixing your normal coffee 3/4 to 1/4 herbal coffee. Gradually reduce
the percentage of your coffee over a two-three week period until you are drinking
100% herbal coffee. You should be able to avoid the headaches and also gradually
adjust your body to less reliance on stimulants.
Herbal coffee is versatile;
you can brew it in drip coffee makers, percolators, French presses, and even espresso
machines. Like coffee, you can get a variety of different flavors of herbal coffee.
So no matter what method or flavor you prefer, you'll still be able to keep your
same brewing ritual and enjoy the aroma and flavor of a rich, deep roasted brew.
the Gift of Good Health
many coffee drinkers have discovered, you never know the myriad ways that coffee
and caffeine effects are affecting you until you quit. Your body is like a sophisticated
laboratory that specializes in one thing: you. If you listen carefully, it will
tell you exactly what it needs. But it is hard to hear its signals if it is stressed
out by stimulants. You may be experiencing pains and discomforts you would never
imagine were caused by caffeine until they miraculously disappear after you quit
coffee. The body's reaction to the toxicity of coffee can vary so greatly that
you have to discover how it is uniquely affecting you. Look for improvements in
your skin, digestion, sleep, mood, and energy among others. Don't be surprised
if three months after quitting coffee, you discover you feel better than you've
felt in years and your energy supply stays steady all day long. Then, if you have
an occasional late night when you need that extra alertness to keep you going,
use caffeine like any drug should be used - on occasion but never habitually.
Caroline MacDougall is the founder of Teeccino,
an herbal coffee company endorsed by many of the world's most famous natural health
Throughout this website, statements are made pertaining to the properties
and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products. These statements
have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and
these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat,
cure or prevent any disease.