Quitting Coffee: The Case for Natural Energy

by Kate on July 10, 2013

in Health, Healthy Eating, Healthy Living

quitting-caffeineQuitting coffee and other forms of caffeine has been one of my biggest challenges during my pregnancy. It’s also been one of the most rewarding. Despite the fatigue of pregnancy, I actually feel like I have MORE energy when I wake up in the morning now that I’m no longer on the caffeine train. I haven’t been perfect. I have, on occasion, indulged in a chai latte or a cup of decaf.  But for the most part, I’m just rocking my natural energy day to day.

Why Is It So Difficult to Quit Caffeine?

It’s tough to quit caffeine. For many people, a morning cup of coffee isn’t just a chemical dependency, it’s a religion. Without a really strong reason to quit, it won’t occur to most people to even try.  So many of us trudge along day to day, unknowingly suffering from the many side effects of caffeine withdrawal.  That difficulty you have waking up in the morning? That afternoon slump that always hits after lunch?  Those could easily be due to caffeine withdrawal. Studies have found that as little as one cup of coffee can trigger a withdrawal reaction several hours later.  In order to avoid or ease these withdrawal reactions, most of just us take another coffee break, perpetuating the cycle. Plus, articles on the benefits of caffeine come out as often as articles warning of the dangers of caffeine. So where’s the motivation to quit?

Is Regular Caffeine Consumption Dangerous? Does it Have Benefits?

Reading the above section, you probably thought, “well so why can’t I just keep drinking coffee? If I can consume it frequently enough to avoid a withdrawal reaction, then what’s the problem?”

Drinking more than a couple cups of coffee–or over 600 mg of caffeine a day–can be dangerous to your health. It can cause a number of serious problems that can absolutely interfere with your everyday life:

  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Anxiety and other nervous system issues
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping, insomnia, restlessness, or issues with passing in and out of consciousness
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Flushed face
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Hallucinations and other nervous system symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Jitteriness
  • Muscle twitching/spasms or convulsions
  • Nausea
  • Respiratory problems
  • Vomiting
  • And yes, even death in extreme cases!

But, given those many negative effects, caffeine in moderate doses (up to 300 mg per day, or 1-2 cups of coffee) has been shown to provide a number of benefits, including better memory and cognitive abilities, pain relief, improved stamina during exercise, protection against Alzheimers, and it even may help prevent certain cancers! Moderate caffeine intake has been linked to all kinds of other benefits as well. Given this information, why bother quitting at all?

I think ultimately it comes down to knowing yourself and your body well enough to determine if caffeine is having positive or negative effects for you. And that’s no easy task. If you’ve been drinking coffee for years, you may not even be able to recognize the negative effects it’s having because they’ve become so integrated into your everyday life.  Frankly, when I read the benefits of caffeine consumption my first thought is “Yeah, well I’m sure Speed in moderate doses would have similar effects.” But you don’t see many people advocating for regular, “moderate” Speed consumption.  I think it’s important to remember that caffeine is an addictive substance–and also a highly profitable substance that has been heavily marketed to you for years.  So before you jump to say “Nah, I’m fine, I drink a moderate amount and don’t have any problems,” it might not be a bad idea to try going off caffeine few months to see if you like how you feel without it.

How to Quit Caffeine: Goodbye Coffee, Tea, and Soda

If you want to try quitting caffeine, be prepared for some headaches and fatigue. In fact, you may even come down with a cold, or experience other detox symptoms as your nervous system readjusts to normal functioning.

Honestly, there’s really no easy way to quit caffeine. Withdrawal symptoms are pretty inevitable. When I stopped drinking it, I was only drinking 1 cup of tea a day, so you’d think I wouldn’t have any problems. But oh no, I had headaches and exhaustion all the same.

I think the best thing you can do to support your body while you go off caffeine is make sure you’re getting plenty of energy-rich B vitamins from real food sources. Vitamins are okay, but your body absorbs nutrients from food much more efficiently. So try to eat plenty of bright fruits and leafy green veggies.  And definitely drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated will keep you from wanting something else to sip on (like coffee) and will hasten along the detox process.

You could try weaning off of caffeine, but frankly I do better going cold turkey. Telling me to wean off caffeine is like telling a cocaine addict to wean off coke…if I have any at all, then I’m not going to quit.

Have you tried going off caffeine? How did you feel? Were you able to stick with it? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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*In the spirit of full disclosure, links to products in this post may be affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you decide to purchase any of the products I recommend. Know that I only recommend products that I have used and love myself.

*I am not a doctor, a nurse, or any kind of health practitioner. I’m just a gal with a pretty keen intuitive sense, great research abilities, and curiosity that is easily peaked. Please understand that my advice is really just another opinion and it’s for you (and your doctor) to decide the best course for your health and well-being.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Emma February 3, 2014 at 5:52 pm

I cut out caffeine & I too noticed that my energy levels actually improved! No more mid-afternoon slump, no more feeling like I was in a fog by the end of the day… and I wasn’t even drinking coffee, just an absurd amount of green tea!

The thing that really seemed to help with the transition was switching to fresh veggie juice in the morning. I juice carrots, ginger, cucumber, and lemons or limes the night before and that’s what I drink when I wake up. It gives me a boost that I don’t come crashing down from!

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