What would America be without it’s coffee? After all, America runs on Dunkin’, right? It’s more than just a drink. It’s interwoven within our culture. It’s family, it’s a date, it’s social.
It’s also super addictive, and I’m here to tell you that coffee had me in a death grip. I wasn’t able to actually start my day without my venti cold brew from Starbucks. I became so dependent on it that in the evening, I was finding myself planning how I was going to get my cold brew in the morning before I had to teach, meet with clients, or do anything in the realm of productivity. The delightful people at my local Starbucks knew exactly how I liked my cold brew, extra almond milk with 2 packets of honey. If a new person was working, the old timers would be sure they added just the right amount of milk. They knew me by name and always had my drink ready for me.
My Coffee History: It’s a Love Hate Kinda Thing
I have been drinking coffee for as long as I can remember. I have always been a type A, go go go kinda woman. Even in middle school, I would stay up late into the evening studying or doing homework. I remember making pots of coffee after school and would sip away at them throughout the evening to fuel my brain through math and history homework. As high school approached and I eventually got my own driver’s license, I started to stop for a large coffee on my way to school, and another one after school. I remember sitting at the diner with my high school friends joking about nicknames for each of us. Mine was, you guessed it, “java girl”.
As far back as I can remember, coffee for me has never been a social thing…it was always a crutch. I needed it to study, to wake up, to focus, to simply think and get shit done. Starting my day without a cup of the good stuff was simply not an option. I was completely and utterly reliant on its magical powers.
Then in my early 30s, something changed. Whenever I drank the magic elixir, I started to feel jittery. I’d be on a caffeine high for about an hour, and then these waves of anxiety would start to wash over me. I couldn’t quite catch my breath, and I would start to sweat.
So, I experimented. Cutting coffee out completely simply wasn’t an option, so I decided to cut back. Instead of a venti, I would get a grande. It worked. The anxiety started to dissipate, and I was good at one grande cold brew a day. No sweats, no anxiety. After a few months, my symptoms returned. My body was trying to tell me something, and I just didn’t want to hear it.
Why Quit the Good Stuff?
Everyone knows the caffeine in coffee is a stimulant. If you’re like me, you are reliant on it’s stimulating effects to get you through the day. Here’s some stuff you may not know about coffee:
- The caffeine in coffee releases catecholamines, your body’s stress hormones. It also increases insulin production. Both stress hormones and insulin cause inflammation, and inflammation makes you feel lousy.
- A coffee habit decreases insulin sensitivity. This makes it hard for you body to appropriately respond to high blood sugar levels and having consistently high blood sugar levels can lead to arterial deterioration and an increased risk for the development of cardiovascular disease.
- Unfiltered coffee is loaded with good antioxidants. Unfortunately, it’s also loaded with diterpenes which are linked with increases levels of triglycerides, LDL and VLDL levels.
- The chlorogenic acids found in coffee have been shown to increase homocysteine levels, an indicator for an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Coffee is super acidic and can cause digestive discomfort, indigestion, heartburn, GERD and even dysbiosis (an imbalance in the good bacteria of your gut)
- Coffee is extremely addictive. The thought of taking on the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting coffee is overwhelming to anyone looking to quit their coffee habit.
- Coffee alone has some serious health effects, but when you add a ton of sugar or artificial sweeteners to your coffee, your negative health effects are increasing ten-fold. Not to mention, coffee is not an adequate breakfast replacement.
- 5-HIA, a component of the neurotransmitter serotonin, is found to be elevated in the urine of regular coffee drinkers, which means they may be at risk for lower serotonin production in the brain. Serotonin is the happy hormone and is responsible for so many bodily functions including sleep, bowel function, mood and energy levels. It’s such a vicious cycle. Coffee can disrupt sleep, cause anxiety and promote depression.
- Regular coffee drinkers tend to have elevated urinary levels of important electrolytes like magnesium, calcium and potassium. This can cause you to have an electrolyte imbalance which can potentially cause all kinds of systemic complications.
- Certain components in coffee can interfere with normal drug metabolism and detoxification in the liver. It can prevent certain medications, including levothyroxine (thyroid medication) and tricyclic antidepressants from being properly absorbed.
It’s always nice to know the science, but here’s what I know. Coffee stopped working for my body. I began to have physical side effects related to my coffee consumption, and if I wanted to feel better, I’d have to bite the bullet and say no to my daily cold brew.
How I Quit:
I’d love to tell you that the day I realized coffee and I were no longer friends, I simply quit…but that would be a straight up lie. I fought giving up coffee until the bitter end. For months I would play this game, drinking my cold brew and thinking that today would be the day I wouldn’t experience shortness of breath, anxiety and profuse sweating. But, alas, that day never came.
Last week, my body forced me to make a decision, and I chose to quit coffee for good. To be 100% transparent, I have not totally quit caffeine all together, but the cold brew had to go. Tea is my new best friend, specifically matcha tea. The benefits of matcha tea might be in a future blog post, but here are just some of the benefits of matcha:
- high in antioxidants
- improves mental focus + clarity
- detoxifying properties
- good for hair skin + nails!
- contains an amino acid known as L-Theanine which promotes the production of alpha waves in the brain
- induces relaxation without the inherent drowsiness caused by other “downers”
In the morning, I replaced my cold brew with an adaptogenic matcha that I make at home, loaded with herbs including tocos, chaga and cordycep mushrooms, marine collagen and just a dab of raw honey. It’s absolutely divine.
My Matcha Recipe:
1 tsp matcha (whisked)
1 tbsp tocos
1/2 tsp cordycep mushroom powder
1/2 tsp chaga mushroom powder
2 scoops vital proteins marine collagen
1 tsp raw honey
splash unsweetened coconut milk
6-8 oz hot filtered water
Tips for Quitting:
Replacing my coffee habit with a matcha tea really helped in the coffee withdrawal process. Matcha still has a little bit of caffeine, so it eased my symptoms. Having said that, I’m not going to lie and say it was easy. Honestly, it wasn’t so much the physical symptoms of withdrawal as it was realizing just how habitual it was for me to get a coffee. I had to really understand that I don’t need coffee to function. I’m totally capable of showing up for life without my cold brew.
Here’s some helpful tips that really worked for me:
- Pick a day and just do it. Stop talking about it and just do it. Mark it on your calendar, tell your friends, get some accountability going. I am not a person that works well with slowly weaning off something. I’m a rip the bandaid kinda girl. But, do you, boo. If you want to slowly wean off, go for it…but just do it.
- Replace the ritual of making coffee with making a cup of tea. I already talked about how I replaced my cold brew with matcha tea, but if matcha isn’t your thing, try chai, or earl grey. Tea will still give you a low dose of caffeine without all the jitters of coffee. It will also replace that morning ritual of brewing your coffee. Added bonus: the smell of tea is great aromatherapy.
- In my matcha recipe above, I talk about adding herbs to my tea. If you’re new to the world of herbs and have no idea where to start, I suggest getting some ashwagandha and add 1 tsp to your tea. Ashwagandha is a fantastic ayurvedic herb that helps to relieve stress and anxiety. It can really help alleviate coffee withdrawals.
- Get on yo’ mat. I know I’m a little partial, but do some yoga! Yoga helps me to really connect to my mind and body and to come into alignment with my purpose. The physical practice helps energize me without the need for caffeine or any other external force.
- Drink a boatload of water. It will decrease any headaches you experience and will increase your energy. There’s no magical amount of water to drink, just drink more than you do know and stop when you feel like you’ve had enough.
- Switch to herbal tea in the afternoon. I love a matcha or even earl grey in the morning, but cutting out caffeine after 12 pm has really helped improve my sleep patterns. I have been going to bed earlier and getting up earlier.
- Consider avoiding coffee shops for at least a week. For me, after a couple days I was okay going back to Starbucks to do my writing and work. I simply replaced my usual cold brew order with a black tea. But I know for others, a coffee shop might be a big trigger, so do you.
I really hope this blog post helps you get off the coffee, if that’s something you are considering doing. I would love to hear about your experience kicking the good stuff, feel free to comment below, you never know how your experience could help others.
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Tuomilehto J, Hu G, Bidel S, et al. 2004. “Coffee Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Among Middle-aged Finnish Men and Women.” JAMA 291: 1213-9.
Moisey LL, Kacker S, Bickerton AC, Robinson LE, Graham TE. 2008. “Caffeinated coffee consumption impairs blood glucose homeostasis in response to high and low glycemic index meals in healthy men.” Am J Clin Nutr 87 (5): 1254-1261
Lane JD, Feinglos MN, Surwit, RS. 2008. “Caffeine Increases Ambulatory Glucose and Postprandial Responses in Coffee Drinkers With Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care. 31(2): 221-222