Kick the caffeine habit and kick up your energy level
By Caroline MacDougall
6:10 PM EDT, June 10, 2009
It's the common complaint you hear uttered by friends, family and co-workers throughout the day: "I just can't get going without my cup of coffee!" Although we hope to boost our energy levels when reaching for a cup of coffee, in truth we're actually inducing a state of stress.
Caffeine drives the adrenal glands to produce stress hormones that can remain in the bloodstream up to 18 hours after consumption.
These hormones produce the "fight or flight" response that nature designed to help save our lives when every bit of energy is required to survive an impending disaster, such as an attack by an enemy. In today's world, where we're more often sitting at a desk, driving, or eating a meal, caffeine can put us into a chronic state of stress with no way to burn off the extra fuel and hormones.
Caffeine-induced stress can produce mood swings and insomnia, increase muscle tension, impair digestion and nutrition, restrict blood circulation to the brain, elevate blood pressure, create blood sugar swings, and accelerate the heart rate.
Yet the lines at the local coffee bar still stretch out the door with people desperate for their next caffeine "fix." In addition, while your adrenal glands are busy pumping out cortisol to send energy to the muscles and divert energy from the digestive and immune systems, there's a very important hormone they aren't making: DHEA. It turns out that the adrenals have to reduce their production of the most important anti-aging hormone your body requires for youth and longevity in order to produce the stress hormones that ultimately weaken your immune system and impair your health.
DHEA is the mother hormone for all the sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, and it also increases your brain's seratonin levels naturally. So if you've been feeling down in the dumps and your lover no longer interests you, check out how much caffeine you're consuming daily in that coffee mug of yours!
It turns out that a "cup" of coffee is not your normal 8-ounce cup, but a mere 5-ounce cup. So when you read that a couple of cups of coffee a day shouldn't be any problem to your health, think of one 10-ounce mug. When you add to that the statistics for caffeine content in a cup of coffee brewed at popular coffee bars, you'll find out that you can expect up to 300 mg in that 10-ounce serving, not the 150 mg you might find in a cup of coffee from your own coffeemaker.
Decaf coffee drinkers who think they've switched to a healthier choice will be surprised to find out that a Stanford University study showed that decaf coffee raises the cholesterol higher and faster than regular coffee. A cup of decaf coffee still contains around 7 mg of caffeine. Plus, the beans chosen for decaf coffee have a higher acidic content than regular coffee to compensate for flavor loss during the decaffeination process.
You may be wondering what alternatives exist. Stephen Cherniske, M.S., author of "Caffeine Blues" (Warner 1998), recommends switching to caffeine-free herbal coffee over a 2-week period. Herbal coffee, made from carob, chicory, barley, dates, figs and almonds can be brewed right in your coffee maker.
It's not as hard as you might think to ease yourself off of caffeine. If you use a 2-week weaning program, by slowly reducing the amount of caffeine you consume daily, you can avoid withdrawal headaches and help your adrenal glands recover. You may be surprised to find in two to three months that you feel better than you've felt since you were a kid and once again have an abundance of energy and enthusiasm for life!
KICK THE CAFFEINE HABIT
Caffeine withdrawal headaches can be incapacitating. Often they're accompanied by fatigue as your body starts to recuperate from its former caffeine-driven pace. Caffeine constricts blood vessels in the brain and decreases circulation. When caffeine is not present, the sudden increased circulation causes headaches.
To slowly wean yourself off of caffeine, start by making a pot of coffee by mixing of your normal coffee with caffeine-free herbal coffee. Gradually reduce the percentage of your coffee in each pot until you're drinking 100 percent herbal coffee.
You should be able to avoid the headaches and also gradually adjust your body to less reliance on stimulants.
Try these herbal tonics to help rebuild adrenal health and detoxify the body (speak to a holistic practitioner for dosages and directions on how to use them): Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) Panax Ginseng (Panax ginseng or quinquefolius) Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)) Milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
Some serious coffee drinkers experience "brain fog" in the first month or so after quitting caffeine. Good nutrition along with a bio-energetic supplement, coupled with some herbal extracts including gotu kola and gingko biloba can help you clear that "fog" and restore your normal brain clarity.
Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.