Giving up caffeine can be a difficult task for many people, as it is a widely consumed stimulant found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, cola and chocolate. However, there are several natural remedies and tips that can help make the process easier and more successful. By following these tips, you can break your dependence on caffeine and in turn improve your overall health and well-being.
The caffeine content of different beverages can vary greatly depending on the serving size and the method of preparation. However, on average, the caffeine content of a 240ml brewed coffee is 95-200 mg of caffeine, 240ml of green tea contains 25-29 mg of caffeine, 240ml black tea contains 47-60 mg of caffeine, a 354ml cola soft drink contains 30-35 mg of caffeine, and energy drinks can have as much as 200 mg of caffeine per serving.
HOW CAFFEINE AFFECTS YOUR HEALTH
Caffeine is a stimulate that can have both positive and negative effects on your health. When consumed in moderate amounts, 1-2 cups per day, caffeine can increase alertness and concentration, and enhance physical performance. But when consumed in larger amounts, and for people who are sensitive to caffeine, it can cause insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns, anxiety and the jitters, increase heart rate and blood pressure, acid reflux and heart burn, nutrient deficiencies and decreased bone density, and caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
CAFFEINE DISRUPTS SLEEP + ENERGY LEVELS
Caffeine can disrupt sleep patterns, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Caffeine affects adenosine by blocking its receptors in the brain. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that builds up in the brain throughout the day, promoting feelings of sleepiness. Caffeine is a stimulant that mimics the structure of adenosine and binds to the same receptors. When caffeine binds to adenosine receptors, it blocks the effects of adenosine, which prevents feelings of sleepiness which can lead to sleep issues and insomnia. Additionally, caffeine can also increase the release of other neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, which can further enhance the stimulant effects of the caffeine in the brain. High caffeine consumption disrupting sleep can lead to feelings of fatigue and difficulty concentrating during the day.
CAFFEINE AFFECTS MOOD + INCREASES ANXIETY
Caffeine can exacerbate anxiety and increase feeling of restlessness in some individuals. Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, leading to the jitters and nervousness. It can also affect levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety. For people with anxiety disorders, consuming caffeine can worsen symptoms such as panic attacks. If you have an anxiety disorder, it is recommended that you avoid or limit your caffeine intake.
CAFFEINE + DIGESTION
Caffeine can also affect digestion. When caffeine is consumed in large amounts it can cause increased stomach acid production, which can lead to stomach discomfort, heartburn and indigestion. It can also cause the muscles in the digestive tract to contract more frequently, which can cause diarrhea. Additionally, caffeine can also cause dehydration, which can make constipation worse.
CAFFEINE DEPLETES CERTAIN NUTRIENTS
Caffeine can also affect the absorption of certain nutrients, such as iron, calcium, and zinc. Caffeine can cause nutrient depletion, especially if consumed in large amounts. Iron, calcium and zinc are essential minerals that our body needs to function properly. For example, iron is crucial for the production of red blood cells, healthy energy levels, and for transporting oxygen around the body. Calcium is needed for strong healthy bones and teeth, and zinc is vital for a strong functioning immune system. Caffeine can also increase the loss of certain vitamins, such as Vitamins B and C, through the urine.
CAFFEINE + BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS
Caffeine can temporarily cause an increase in blood sugar levels. This is because caffeine stimulates the release of epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), which in turn causes the liver to release stored glucose into the bloodstream. Blood sugar levels usually will return to normal within a few hours. However, it's worth noting that excessive caffeine intake can cause problems for people with diabetes, as it may make it harder to manage blood sugar levels.
CAFFEINE + ADRENAL HEALTH
Excessive caffeine intake can affect the health and functioning of the adrenal glands, which are responsible for producing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Caffeine, being a stimulant, can cause an increase in cortisol levels, which can lead to chronic stress and fatigue on the adrenal glands over time. Prolonged high levels of cortisol can cause adrenal fatigue and disrupt the body's natural hormonal balance, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. Additionally, excessive caffeine intake can also disrupt the body's natural circadian rhythm and disturb the normal patterns of cortisol release throughout the day, leading to further adrenal dysfunction.
CAFFEINE + FERTILITY
Caffeine intake can have an effect on fertility in both men and women. In women, high caffeine intake has been associated with decreased fertility and increased risk of miscarriage. Studies have suggested that consumption of more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day (about 2 cups of coffee) may reduce a woman's chances of falling pregnant. In men, high levels of caffeine intake may lead to a decrease in sperm count and motility. It is recommended that individuals who are trying to conceive should limit their caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2008 found that women who consumed more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day had a 26% lower chance of getting pregnant. Another study published in Fertility and Sterility in 2016 found that men who consumed more than 3 cups of coffee per day had a 29% lower sperm concentration and a 52% lower total sperm count, compared to men who consumed no coffee.
CAFFEINE + MENOPAUSE
Too much caffeine is not recommended for menopausal women as it can exacerbate certain symptoms associated with menopause. Caffeine acting as a stimulant, can lead to hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and anxiety. These symptoms can be more severe in menopausal women due to hormonal changes. Menopausal women need to be boosting their calcium intake through diet as they have a higher risk of osteoporosis. Consuming caffeine can deplete calcium levels and put menopausal women at a greater risk of poor bone health.
10 TOP TIPS FOR GIVING UP CAFFEINE + PREVENTING WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
- To give up caffeine, it is best to gradually reduce your intake over time. This can help minimize withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue. For example, if you drink 4 cups of coffee a day start by cutting back to 3 cups a day for a week. Then go down to 2 cups a day for the next week, then 1 cup a day for the following week. Going cold turkey will increase your likelihood of getting withdrawal symptoms and will lessen your chances of beating your caffeine addiction.
- Swap out one of your daily coffees for a green tea. Green tea contains some caffeine so this tea is better suited for day-time drinking, especially if you are sensitive to caffeine. Green tea contains L-theanine which is an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system which helps to mitigate caffeine’s stimulating effect, while still making you feel awake and alert. For those who are sensitive to caffeine try steeping your tea twice. A majority of the caffeine from your tea can be removed by pouring hot water over the leaves, and then leaving it for 30 seconds. Caffeine in tea is released during the first 30 seconds of steeping. Pour out the tea and then re-steep your tea with more hot water using the same leaves. Or try white tea, which comes from the same tea plant ‘camellia sinensis’ but it contains less caffeine. White tea possesses all the same wonderful health-promoting qualities as green tea. You could also try a caffeine-free green tea. Try our Bodhi Organic ViridiTEA or CognitiviTEA.
- Daily rituals are important for successfully kicking your coffee habit. Replace your caffeinated drinks with caffeine-free alternatives. If you love the ritual of sitting down with a warm drink in the morning, or cosying up at night after dinner with a cuppa, try a herbal tea. They’re caffeine-free and packed with health benefits. Some great herbal teas to try include, ginger (anti-inflammatory, boost circulation and digestion), peppermint (good for digestion), chamomile (calming, anti-inflammatory), licorice (adrenal health, anti-inflammatory), holy basil (adaptogen), rooibos (antioxidants, anti-inflammatory), and valerian and passionflower (calming, helps you sleep). Try our Bodhi Organic SereniTEA (CALMING, Chamomile + Lemon Balm), TranquiliTEA (SLEEP, Licorice, valarian + passionflower) or ZesTEA (Ginger + Lemongrass)
- Give up soft drinks and energy drinks altogether. Not only do most of them contain high levels of caffeine, but they’re packed with sugar and artificial additives that provide you with no nutritional value what-soever and are damaging to your health.If you feel like something fizzy kombucha or sparkling mineral water with a splash of juice are great alternatives to soft drinks and flavoured mineral water. Kombucha possesses the health benefits of tea (camellia sinensis) and that of fermented foods. Kombucha contains beneficial bacteria which encourage a healthy balance of gut microbiome.
- Keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Drops in blood sugar levels triggers the body to crave stimulates like caffeine. Making sure you have a wholesome breakfast and lunch with fibre and protein, then some healthy protein rich snacks on hand. This will help prevent mid-morning and afternoon drops in blood sugar levels and energy, which will reduce your caffeine cravings. There is a direct link between our mood and blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar levels fluctuate during the day so too will your mood and energy levels, and this can be a big contributing factor in people with anxiety and depression.
- If you love your coffee, just stick to just one. Given that caffeine can stay in your system for 8+ hours, don’t drink coffee or caffeine-containing beverages after 2pm so that it won’t disturb your sleep.
- Drinking decaffeinated coffee is another way to reduce your caffeine intake, however you should choose a water-filtered decaf coffee. This method is also known as the Swiss water method, which is free from potentially toxic chemical solvents, used in other methods of decaffeination. Decaf coffee has around 2-4mg of caffeine per cup. Or try roasted chicory root or dandelion root coffee, which has the added benefits of helping boost liver function.
- Carob is a great caffeine-free substitute for chocolate. Chocolate contains around 20mg of caffeine per 100g bar. Carob is also free from theobromine, which acts as a stimulant too. Carob is very versatile like chocolate and it can be used to make hot chocolate-like drinks, smoothies, cakes and brownies. Carob is also a source of calcium.
- The best natural remedies for relieving and preventing withdrawal headaches are drinking plenty of water, at least 2 ½ Litres daily, and take a magnesium supplement at a dosage of 200mg, 3 x day.
- Adaptogenic herbs are also very helpful for relieving caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Adaptogenic herbs help the body adapt to stress while bringing the body into a state of balance. They have a calming effect on the nervous system while improving energy levels. Some of the best adaptogens include Siberian and panax ginseng, ashwagadha, bacopa and rhodiola. Adaptogenic medicinal mushrooms such as chaga, cordyceps, Reishi and lion’s mane can also be very beneficial. You will find these adaptogenic herbs in our Bodhi Organic VitaliTEA and PositiviTEA. Some medicinal mushroom blends have a bitterness and flavour similar to coffee which makes them a good coffee alternative. Try our Bodhi Organic Hot ChocolaTEA made from organic raw cacao, medicinal mushrooms and adaptogenic herbs.
Written by Lisa Guy, Naturopath + Founder of Bodhi Organic Tea.