Caffeine is the most common mood altering drug in the world. It is estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of adults and children in North America habitually consume caffeine. About 15% of the general population report having stopped caffeine use completely, citing concern about health and unpleasant side effects. In the United States, the average per capita daily intake among adult caffeine consumers is 280 mg (the equivalents of 17 ounces of brewed coffee or 84 ounces of soft drink.) Studies show that 30 milligrams or less of caffeine can alter self-reports of mood and affect behavior and 100 mg per day can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon abstinence.
If coffee is your beverage of choice, here are some reasons to consider switching to an alternative:
- Sleep Regularity – Your body restores itself through sleep, and the increased amounts of adrenaline and cortisol in your system from coffee may affect your sleep patterns, interrupting your body’s ability to fix and maintain proper health
- Liver Health- Your liver uses enzymes to break down coffee. These enzymes are normally used to process other chemicals in the blood stream, and so the enzymes can not perform their normal function when more than 2 cups of coffee aren’t consumed.
- Energy Balance- Drinking coffee takes your body’s normal distribution of energy and condenses it into the three to four hours after consumption. This leaves causes most people to “crash,” and feel fatigued, reaching for another cup of caffeine.
- Total body Health- Coffee has an acidic and astringent effect on the body which prevents optimal absorption and assimilation of nutrients and fluids in the digestive tract. This may lead to a depletion in the body’s magnesium and stomach issues such as ulcers.
- Coffee contains toxins- Coffee has volatile oils (as seen from the film on the surface of the beverage) that leads to a disturbance in the function of the blood vessels. Non-organic coffee also contains pesticides which accumulate toxins in the body.
- Calcium- Coffee and other forms of caffeine deplete calcium levels leading to health problems such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
If you are not sure coffee is affecting your health, here are some signs that you may have a dependence on caffeine:
Upon not drinking your usual amount of caffeine you experience these side effects:
- Headache – (often described as being gradual in development and diffuse, and sometimes throbbing and severe)
- Fatigue – (e.g., fatigue, tiredness, lethargy, sluggishness)
- Sleepiness/drowsiness – (e.g., sleepy, drowsy, yawning)
- Difficulty concentrating – (e.g., muzzy)
- Work difficulty – (e.g., decreased motivation for tasks/work)
- Irritability – (e.g., irritable, cross, miserable, decreased well-being/contentedness)
- Depression – (e.g., depressed mood)
- Anxiety – (e.g., anxious, nervous)
- Flu-like symptoms – (e.g., nausea/vomiting, muscle aches/stiffness, hot and cold spells, heavy feelings in arms or legs)
- Impairment in psychomotor, vigilance and cognitive performances
Don’t worry, there is hope and we are always here to help. If you fall into one of the 90 percent of the individuals listed above, you are in good company. Here are some of the most highly recommended ways to stop drinking coffee and other forms of caffeine that may be harmful to your health:
- Taper off gradually- Don’t try to quit “cold turkey.” While this may work for some people, most people will experience the side effects listed above, leading a person to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms by going back to caffeine. Most recommend a planed gradual taper such as writing down each day over a two week period. Then write down the amount of caffeine consumed each day. On day one write down the amount of caffeine you are used to drinking each day, then cut down that amount by half every five days, until your intake is zero. Another option is to decrease one cup each week for a more gradual taper.
- Consider energy alternatives- Herbs and supplements can provide energy that was once supplied by caffeine. Using Ginseng and B-Vitamins appropriately can be a great and healthy way to boost energy levels without risk of side effects or withdrawal symptoms.
- Distract yourself- If your body is used to the intake of caffeine throughout the day, you may want to consider having juice or water on hand to replace the desire to drink caffeinated beverages. Gum is also a great distraction.
- Exercise- In addition to being a distraction, exercise also will release endorphins and adrenaline, helping with energy levels through out the day, and assisting with getting back into the natural sleep patterns.
- Be Patient with yourself- It takes 21-30 days to break a habit, so patience is the key. Take naps when appropriate and safe headache relief assistance when needed.
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Sustain Community Acupuncture offers wellness for all, naturally. Located in San Diego between the Hillcrest and North park Neighborhoods, Sustain Community Acupuncture offers affordable Acupuncture, Herbal Therapy and Medical Massage. For questions about this article or for a consultation please call 619.358.9508 or contact us here.