Much of what we know about caffeine comes from early military research on stimulants purported to increase mental energy and stamina despite sleep deprivation and extreme environments. And in the case of mental energy, caffeine definitely works. Because it constricts blood vessels in the brain, caffeine throws the brain into overdrive, which sends a signal to your adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and starts a fight-or-flight cascade. This is why caffeine gives folks a jolt, or even the jitters.
Most people can handle this short-term. But long-term, day after day, ingesting caffeine is like “whipping a tired horse.” Your blood pressure and cholesterol go up, your risk for osteoporosis increases, and your blood sugar control is compromised. Plus, caffeine is extremely dehydrating. Caffeine dehydration is compounded by an adrenaline reaction that contributes to sodium depletion through excessive excretion of our most abundant mineral. Folks with adrenal fatigue typically crave salt. The first part of the fix is to ditch the caffeine.
Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it narrows the blood vessels, especially the tiny ones in the brain, kidneys, retina, and extremities, thus inhibiting optimal blood flow and oxygen delivery to tissues. Caffeine can also increase your risk of developing diabetes. Consuming caffeine along with carbohydrate-rich foods can double the immediate increase in blood sugar levels compared to consuming carbs alone.
Research on coffee does come up with some positives, but this has nothing to do with caffeine. Coffee’s benefits are all about the antioxidant content of the darkly pigmented beans.
Remedies to Combat Coffee Withdrawal
If you’re thinking about giving up your morning brew, you will likely get withdrawal headaches (from the rebound vasodilation—too much blood flow to the brain as the vasoconstricting effect wears off) for 3–10 days. During this time, stay extra-hydrated with water (the best drink), herbal teas, and bone broths. You can also chew on mint leaves, suck on ginger root, sprinkle cayenne pepper on everything (/ tsp. max per drink or meal serving), exercise more, or lie down in a dark room with an ice pack wrapped in a towel under the back of your neck. Here are some more tips to help you kick the caffeine habit.
1.Take Vitamins to Battle Caffeine Withdrawal & Improve Energy
B vitamins are wonderful for nourishing jangled nerves, so try taking a quality B complex with 1,000 mcg of methylated B (methylcobalamin) and about 50 mg each of the other numbered, water-soluble Bs. Take it twice daily, with food, but not after 4 p.m. Some folks find B vitamins overstimulating when taken too close to bedtime.
Choline, lecithin, and inositol (all “fatty” B vitamins) are also very helpful. I like to put a heaping tablespoon of lecithin on steel-cut oats, and add some nuts, seeds, and rehydrated dry fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots) for a nerve-soothing and filling breakfast.
Vitamin E is very supportive to the endocrine system, and most useful in the 400–800 IU range, especially if you are over age 40. The nervous system is connected to the endocrine system most vividly in the stress response, so both nerve and hormonal support will help you transition off caffeine.
2. Replace Coffee with Teas
My favorite herbal tea to sip when you’re quitting caffeine is chamomile. Contrary to popular belief, strongly brewed chamomile is actually a mild stimulant (as opposed to weakly brewed chamomile, which helps us relax at bedtime). So make a strong pot in the morning (5 teabags to 4 cups of hot water), put it into a thermos, and sip throughout the day. Chamomile is also an amazing nerve-nourishing plant that can help relieve the drowsiness and shakiness that accompanies caffeine withdrawal.
Caffeine withdrawal headaches are caused mostly via vasodilation, but they can also be exacerbated by reabsorption of toxins if caffeine withdrawal causes constipation. So it’s important to eat plenty of fiber-rich vegetables and fruits, along with whole grains and high-quality cold-pressed oils. Be sure to drink at least 8 cups of water daily. And use a light, senna-based herbal laxative if needed.
Once you’ve kicked your caffeine habit, it may be possible to use it very occasionally—if, say, you need to drive when tired or study for an exam. But remember that gentler methods of maintaining good energy levels—such as getting enough sleep—are always preferable. And if you find that you miss the “ritual” of the morning coffee, be assured that a robust tea, such as Rooibush or Roastaroma, can become equally satisfying over time.