How To Quit Caffeine: 6 Steps For Detoxing Without Withdrawal
Have you already had your morning cup of coffee?
And one after that?
And also one after lunch and one over a chat with a colleague?
Before you know it, you’ve had 4 (or more) and you’re not slowing down anytime soon. What’s more, there is a pile of work waiting for you at home, which you won’t be able to handle without more coffee…
This is how it all starts: the caffeine addiction. You enjoy the taste and appreciate the alertness that it bestows on you. And before long, coffee becomes your best friend (Well, yours and of 21 million other Americans).
If you are reading this, you have probably decided that it’s time for you and your friend to go your separate ways. Will it be easy? God, no. Caffeine addiction is strong, even though it’s not as deadly as many others.
That’s why before you even start this journey, it’s important for you to understand why you are doing this. To remind, here are the reasons to remove caffeine from your life:
- Caffeine raises your blood pressure with all the related cardiovascular health problem risks. With regular consumption and combined with the ability of caffeine to decrease insulin sensitivity, you are putting yourself under a risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Increased stress. Caffeine increases the production of stress hormones in your body. You will feel more alert and energetic, that’s for sure, but you will also be more prone to nervous breakdowns and other unpleasant consequences of high stress levels.
- Ever felt heartburn out of nowhere? It might be because of your coffee consumption. Caffeine often brings digestive discomfort, including heartburn. What’s even worse, it interferes with normal digestive processes and metabolism, leading to unwanted weight gain.
- If you take your coffee black, you decrease your calcium levels. If you add sugar and cream, you get all the consequences of higher sugar intake, including a higher Type 2 diabetes risk.
- Caffeine may interfere with normal detoxification processes in your body, making at least a part of the toxins stay inside.
- Sleep difficulties. The consumption of caffeine may reduce your ability to get a normal amount of good night sleep. And it doesn’t matter if you drink it in the morning or at night.
- Mood swings. A high level of caffeine in the body can affect your mood, plunging you into sadness after a moment of joy and vice versa. It also makes you more irritable.
- Headaches. The connection between caffeine and headaches can be as strong as caffeine causing severe migraines.
- Teeth problems. Besides the color of your enamel, caffeine can also cause tooth decay.
…and many more. And honestly, aren’t you tired of depending on this tiny cup of coffee to finish this report, live through this extra hour of work, get up half an hour earlier?
How to quit caffeine and minimize withdrawal symptoms
If you are dead serious about quitting caffeine, prepare yourself to quite a lengthy battle. There are fans of the “cold turkey” method, where you just stop drinking coffee and other caffeine-based beverages and just live through symptoms.
This is hardly the right choice for one simple reason – you already have a dependency. Getting off caffeine abruptly will be stressful for your body. Maybe even more stressful than consuming liters of coffee every day. Besides, trying to stop at once sounds like a non-sporty person trying to take up exercise: she spends hours in a gym on the first day, has excruciating muscle pain on the next day, and never returns to continue her program. Rinse and repeat once a year, mostly before bikini season.
Everything should be taken in a stride. Be smart about quitting coffee and you will have better chances of success.
Step 1: Set a schedule for reducing your caffeine consumption
Say, you are going to quit in 2 or 3 months. This sounds manageable. Over these weeks, set a time limit for your coffee consumption. The first week, try avoiding drinking coffee at night – after 7 PM or so.
You don’t need to stay alert at such a late hour (unless you have work to do at night and on a regular basis, in which case quitting will be a completely different story). The second week, move it to 6 PM.
Every week, move the time limit up until you have a single morning cup left. But that one is sacred, so you’ll need to take more time to stop having it anyway.
An alternative approach is to reduce the size of your cups by a quarter or so. However, if you drink different kinds of coffee at different times of day (compare the sizes of espresso and cappuccino caps), it will be hard to track the decrease and act systematically.
You could also try to slowly introduce decaf into your routine and then replace actual caffeine with decaf completely.
Step 2: Introduce more tea or another energy-boosting drink into your diet
Tea has numerous health benefits that are hardly inferior to those of coffee. What is especially important is that tea will keep you energetic for a longer period of time – even though it will take you longer to get there.
Having a cup of strong tea in the morning is likely to last you until lunch. By the way, tea is VERY diverse, so it’s impossible to not find one that you will like. Also, unlike coffee, it improves your digestion and speeds up metabolism, which brings weight-loss-related benefits.
Step 3: Drink plenty of liquids, preferably water, and give your body some help
Quitting caffeine is often associated with headaches, and headaches, in turn, can be treated by drinking plenty of water. While your body is removing what’s left of the caffeine in your body, you can support it by taking vitamins containing calcium and potassium.
Consider taking supplements that stimulate a bowel movement, which can be affected by caffeine withdrawal. The effect is temporary, however, so you won’t need to take those forever. Besides, with a gradual decrease in caffeine consumption, the possibility of headaches will be reduced to a minimum.
Step 4. Look for some alternatives
If tea doesn’t really work for you as an alternative to the energy-boosting properties of coffee, look for other options. There are brews that are neither tea nor coffee but that can work miracles nonetheless. Explore and test to find the right one for you.
Step 5. Look for fillers
One of the consequences of quitting coffee, a less severe one admittedly, is not being able to take coffee breaks. That’s how people often get back to drinking it.
Think ahead: what will you do instead of drinking that cappuccino with your colleagues? Don’t you have a mental dependency on your coffee at 4 PM to improve productivity? Aren’t you tricking your body into working by giving it a cup of reward?
Step 6: Have extra-healthy and energizing breakfasts
It is important to substitute the “pang” of morning coffee with something. Fruit can be a great source of such an alternative pang to start off your day.
The important thing is, you should understand that giving up coffee is good – just like giving up any unhealthy addiction. A lot of people manage to quit just by realizing that they are dependent – and getting angry because of that.
“I used to have a cup in the morning, two at work before I even started working, and 3 more during the day,” says Susan Johnson, an essay writing specialist based in New York. “And when it’s Starbucks, your addiction hits your pocket, too. Once I realized I depended on it, I got so mad at myself that I quit right there and then, cold turkey. Haven’t yet started again and hopefully will not.”
As is the case with other types of addiction, realizing the problem is the first and very major step to getting rid of it. The two main symptoms of caffeine withdrawal are headaches and lack of energy.
The first can be addressed with gradual caffeine withdrawal and consumption of liquids, and the second will go away naturally with time. Your body learns to depend on caffeine for energy and focus.
When you take its coffee away, it will naturally feel lost for some time – just like a child without a parent. But then it will start working on its own again. If only all addictions were so manageable!
All in all, determination is key. If you are serious about your health and wellbeing, you should consider giving up coffee or at least limit it to a fancy cappuccino with friends in a café once in a while.
Understanding all the coffee-related risks will give you strength for years to come.