Hooked on coffee? You are not alone. According to CNN, 90% of the US population consumes caffeine on a regular basis. This is a lot of people who can’t start their day without their coffee fix, and it’s not surprising. Caffeine is a stimulant that positively affects mood and alertness, allowing you to function with a clear head and the right amount of energy even though you only had a few hours of sleep the night before. However, studies have shown that most people consume more than the recommended daily limit of caffeine, especially because caffeine is present not only in coffee but also in teas, energy drinks and sweets. This is the reason why a caffeine detox could prove to be more challenging than you think.
Caffeine and Detox
Many detox programs include caffeine in the list of toxins and metabolites that need to be flushed out. Coffee, despite the myriad of benefits it can provide, is processed from beans that are heavily sprayed with chemicals. Caffeine, whether consumed from coffee, tea or energy drinks, has the potential to stimulate the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, which contributes to cell oxidation and damage. It has been found to decrease insulin sensitivity in some people, which could predispose them to certain types of diabetes. Too much caffeine consumption can also aggravate pre-existing heart and blood pressure conditions.
If you find yourself addicted to caffeine, chances are you are consuming more than the recommend 400 mg daily limit, and therefore more likely to experience common side effects like headaches, fatigue, anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, to name a few. If you want to avoid these side effects and effectively cut back on coffee consumption to a point where you are not fully dependent on it, a caffeine detox is a must.
Cold Turkey or Gradual Weaning: Which is best?
Experts say that quitting cold turkey could be more trouble than it’s worth. For one, withdrawal could be so severe that it interferes with your daily activities. Common withdrawal symptoms that are bound to manifest if you quit cold turkey include depression, insomnia, dizziness, nausea and fluctuations in body temperature. All these could interfere with your ability to work, which is not an attractive idea especially since withdrawal could take several days and even weeks.
The better option would be to taper consumption gradually, as recommended by Dr. Michael Kuhar of Emory University and some researchers at Johns Hopkins. According to Kuhar, weaning from caffeine should be done the same way as weaning from other drugs: slowly and gradually, since this is more manageable than going cold turkey. Experts recommend replacing coffee with tamer substitutes like green tea, which contains caffeine but is also full of antioxidants. You can also start by reducing your coffee intake by 1/3 and switching to decaf.
Use creamers to dilute your usual cup of strong black coffee. If you cannot find a natural creamer option in store, simply make your own coffee creamer with soy, coconut and other plant-based substitutes that will still taste good. If withdrawal is made more difficult because you crave the distinct smell and taste of a cup of strong, black Arabica, try caffeine-free herbal options that are a blend of herbs, nuts and dried fruit roasted to smell and taste like the real thing.
Gradual tapering of caffeine consumption gives you a greater chance of successfully removing your dependence on caffeine and the health risks that come with it. The good thing about going on a caffeine detox is that it allows you to enjoy coffee consumption in moderation, if and when you want to. This is great news for those who do not want to totally quit coffee altogether, but want to make healthier choices about their coffee consumption. So, whether you want to remove caffeine from your life for good, or you simply want to be free from caffeine dependence, a gradual detox can give you the results you need.