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Java Jump!

8 Steaming Ways To Get Rid of Caffeine
Without Fatigue, Headache, or The Pangs of Addiction
By Verne Varona

 
 
 

"I don't have a problem with caffeine.
I have a problem without caffeine!"
- Anonymous

That delicious fragrant morning brew which makes you slightly friendlier and puts a bit of dance in your step might just be the underlying source of numerous physical and emotional complaints according to some top researchers and medical authors.

But wait a second…hold everything here. How can caffeine be bad?
Oh, give me a break. Is this more propaganda from some extremist plot designed to pry us away from everything we've grown to love, associate fond memories with and enjoy as a daily ritual?

Look around. Is there not a Starbucks, Seattle Coffee, Dunkin' Donuts, Peets or Coffee Bean on every other corner? How can something so pervasive and used for so many years suddenly be off limits?


Check this out: In America alone -

  • There are over 12,000 specialty coffee stores .1

  • These stores sell over 40 million expresso drinks weekly .2

  • Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, making the USA the leading world consumer .3

  • The Average Expresso Drive-Thru Business sells approximately 200-300 expresso and coffee-based drinks per day.3

  • The average coffee cup size is 9 ounces.3

  • 30 Million American adults drink specialty coffee beverages daily; which include a mocha, latte, express, café mocha, and cappuccino, frozen/iced coffee beverages. Specialty, in most cases indicates elevated caffeine amounts, sugar and varieties of milk, soymilk or artificial colors and flavorings.

Apparently, we're just not jiving around. Coffee has instilled itself into the fabric of Americana, running through our veins, fueling our economy, making tongues wag at exhausting speeds and activating the pulse of daily life.

Just short of shooting this stuff intravenously, I used to have a wild passion for plain old coffee with a generous dose of cream. I spent enough years learning about my personal connection between caffeine and headaches, fatigue, low back pain and poor sleep. Finally, I realized that I had to get off it as a daily addiction so that I could enjoy it randomly-without the neurosis of a daily fix. It wasn't easy, but I learned how. In this article I will share that information.

This article will explain how you can safely withdraw from caffeine and do so in a way as to not compromise your health, energy levels, pain sensitivity, or sleep quality.

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First: A Brief History of the Magical Bean

As the story goes, one day prior to 1000 A.D., a Calla tribe sheep herder from Ethiopia named Kaldi did what he did best beneath a punishing sun and endless pasture: tending his sheep. Astutely noticing that the sheep became hyperactive after eating red "cherries" from a certain plant in different pastures, he tried several and was soon running circles around his herd, singing in tongues and feeling like Rapture was on the way.

Another story relates that a monk who learned of Kaldi's discovery scolded him for "partaking of the devil's fruit." However the monks soon discovered that this fruit from the shiny green plant could help them stay awake for their prayers. This resulted in the first coffeehouse called, Monkbucks. Actually, that's not true. However, we all know that it became a popular drink, quickly-like most things caffeine related.

But, coffee was believed by some Christians to be 'the devil's drink.' Pope Vincent III heard this and decided to taste it before declaring it immoral. However, his love if its taste and effect was so instantaneous, he instead baptized it, saying, "coffee is so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it." Now there was a guy who knew the meaning of "spin."

The Turks were the first country to adopt it as a drink, often adding spices such as clove, cinnamon, cardamom and anise to their brew. Today, grown and enjoyed worldwide, coffee is one of the few crops that small farmers in third-world countries can profitably export.

What most consumers are in the dark about is that this innocent looking little cup sets their bodies up for a daily blood sugar rollercoaster of highs and lows, only to result in predictable exhaustion, poor sleep and a strong contributor to digestive acidity.

Dark Eye Circles As An Indicator Of Adrenal Stress?

But its lows warrant greater need for the stuff and this cycle eventually keeps people in fluctuating states between hi-energy and foot-dragging exhaustion. Eventually, the one organ system that suffers most is the adrenal glands. Chronic adrenal exhaustion is practically epidemic. .4

Adrenalin is responsible for that winning burst of energy and for compassionate individuals the ability to instinctively rescue people by lifting cars. Adrenalin is the origin of our "flight-or-fight" response. Supposedly, this response enabled our prehistoric ancestors to escape from mammoth-toothed predators.

When we continually stimulate our adrenal glands to produce this discharge of adrenalin, we put our bodies into deficiency and irregular blood sugar patterns. It's important to remember that Caffeine does not provide energy-only chemical stimulation.

In Chinese folk medicine diagnosis, it has been said that the thin tissue beneath the eyes, an area we informally call our 'eye bags,' relates to the kidneys and the adrenals. I once had a Chinese teacher of medical diagnosis who would take me out for tea and show me how to determine who had adrenal exhaustion, by discretely pointing his finger at nearly consumers. Since that time, I've counseled thousands of people and rarely miss being able to tell if someone is taking excessive amounts of caffeine or suffers from adrenal exhaustion.

The eye, from the inside corners becomes darker as it fades into the eye bag. Sometimes, this is associated with a lack of sleep, which makes sense, because the organs that suffer the most from sleep irregularity are the adrenal glands.

In his book, Herbal Defense, author Ralph T. Golan explains:

"Caffeine forces your glands to secrete when they don't have much left to give, and they have to keep digging deeper and deeper, making you more and more tired over time. And over the years, it takes more and more coffee to get the same result. Some people reach the point of drinking half a dozen or more cups of coffee to get the same result and it's barely keeping them awake. That's severe adrenal depletion."

However, you may just be knee-deep in Java denial; assuming that you don't drink nearly enough to become addicted to it, but common patterns may indicate you actually are.

Careful research conducted by the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reveals that low-to- moderate caffeine intake (as little as one 14-oz. mug daily) can immediately produce withdrawal symptoms." (5)

This is because caffeine is essentially, a drug. Despite its questionable inclusion in your beloved chocolate bars, hot chocolate, "pick-me-up" drinks (ex: Red Bull), popular soft drinks and colas, caffeine's presence seem to be ubiquitous.

The problem with addiction is, in words borrowed from George Ohsawa, that we are enslaved. Our attachment to this daily stimulant is false and counter-productive to taking real care of our health. For occasional enjoyment, not a problem. As a daily medication is when it becomes a problem.

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What Caffeine Does To Your Body

There is an old saying I'm fond of that harks back to a macrobiotic principle: "Every front has a back and the bigger the front, the bigger the back." It doesn't take a Ph.D to see that there might be negative drawbacks to all of this displaced neuron activity that temporarily makes you feel alive and vital.

In fact, uncontrolled neuron firing from caffeine stimulation creates an internal emergency situation that stimulates the pituitary gland, housed in the brain, to secrete a hormone called, ACTH. This hormone signals the adrenal glands to begin furiously pumping out stress hormones-another side effect of caffeine. Therefore, enough caffeine can keep your body in a state of chronic stress.

Five minutes after you've downed that morning Java, the caffeine begins to stimulate your central nervous system, releasing stress hormones and creating an internal emergency response. If you're facing a life-threatening situation, this can be useful, but if you're at a desk, playing with your kid or reading a paper, you may begin feeling agitated, anxious, hungry and eventually exhausted. In this condition, you're usually temped to eat more sweet food or take more coffee…and the cycle continues until burn-out.

Equally important is that caffeine stimulates the production of norepinephrine, another stress hormone that acts directly on the brain and nervous system. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are two hormones responsible for increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and that "emergency response" feeling. (6)

Caffeine can also have a detrimental effect on blood sugar. When caffeine is ingested, the nervous system is stimulated. Adrenaline is released and, in turn, the liver begins to emit stored blood sugar. Insulin is then released, and blood sugar drops below normal-a common seizure trigger for people with epilepsy.

It is important for people with epilepsy to know that caffeine can be an ingredient in medications, including some antihistamines and decongestants.

According to Barnet Meltzer, MD,(7) caffeine over-stimulates the nerves and glands, draining the adrenal system, damaging the thyroid, and triggering heart arrhythmias. In female and male menopause, caffeine plays a definite role: Breast cysts and lumps are common in women, while men suffer from caffeine-induced prostate problems.

Continuous adrenal exhaustion can dissipate sexual strength for both men and women. Muscles become weak. Blood circulation and nerve sensitivity becomes impaired. These are critical factors in sexual strength.

The Wageningen Centre for Food Science in the Netherlands sponsored a study in 2002. (8)
Researchers discovered that drinking any kind of coffee elevated patient homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an prime marker for heart and artery disease. Filtered coffee is less harmful than French press or boiled, but still raises homocysteine significantly. It's not just the caffeine, but also the toxic alkaloids, cafestol and kahweol.

There is also a concern that caffeine depletes the body of B vitamins. This group of vitamins is necessary for brain and nervous system function, as well as for energy conversion. Dr. Michael Murray, an author (9) and naturopathic physician in Seattle, states that caffeine can interfere with iron absorption, which could potentially lead to weakening condition of anemia. This is a condition where you suddenly have too few oxygen-carrying red blood cells, a major contributor to fatigue, as well as shortness of breath.

Caffeine is also known to elevate blood-cholesterol levels, irritate stomach and bladder and possibly instigate prostate and breast problems. (10) Excess caffeine can also produce, irregular hart beat, insomnia, PMS, tremors and depression.

Beyond all the negative symptoms that some people experience, the bottom line is that the unanimous opinion based on endless caffeine research agrees that it is definitely physically addictive because it is a mood-altering central nervous system stimulant. In essence, it manipulates the same neuro-chemical channels occurring with the use of amphetamines, cocaine and heroin.

1. The Coffee/Caffeine Withdrawal Strategy

There are two ways to do this:

a) Cold Turkey - Stop all caffeine immediately, make sure you can take off work for a couple of days, get some rest, and deal with some potentially painful headaches, lethargy and low-level depression-in many cases.

b) The Gradual Elimination Method. This is a bit more involved, but it works and by this method you can avoid most of the side effects that makes caffeine addiction so difficult

Let's say that you're drinking about 2 cups of coffee daily. In this case, it's best to reduce your caffeine gradually, as you take care of other factors (see other suggestions, below) that will help make this transition one with less drama, pain and fatigue.

The way I've found to effectively do all this is by taking 1/3 less the amount of caffeine you've been taking for 2 to 3 day periods before reducing to the next increment.

For the first two days, these two cups become 1-2/3's cup. The following two days, you begin taking 1-1/3 cups of coffee. You continue doing this until you are down to 2/3's of a cup. At that point, you then switch to black tea, made weak and take this for three days, or reduce one more third of coffee and then replace it with a non-caffeinate hot beverage. The key is to reduce very gradually and in the meanwhile make sure that you're getting rest, minerals, eating regularly and getting some daily exercise.

2. Eat Frequently. Don't Go Longer Than 3-1/2 Hours Without Eating.

One of the most important things to remember is that caffeine messes with your blood sugar. Therefore, it's important to find other ways to regulate sugar levels. Not eating for long periods of time sends your blood sugar to alarmingly low levels. At this point, the urgent craving for caffeine is practically a survival issue; you have to have it. One of the best ways to insure regulated blood sugar is by eating frequently. This can also be a good strategy for reducing sweet cravings and the urge to overeat.


3. Eat 1 to 1-1/2 cups of whole grain foods daily.

The reason for this is that whole grain, cooked with water and a pinch of salt, when eaten with a small amount of vegetables, or a tsp. or two of nuts as a condiment, helps normalized bowel function, blood sugar and the need for complex-carbohydrate. This could amount to 3/4 of a cup of oatmeal for breakfast and maybe 1/2 cup of brown rice for dinner, or more. By whole grain, I am referring to brown rice, oats, barley, quinoa, millet, etc.

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4. Make Sure To Get Adequate Sleep.

I once heard a quote that claimed, "Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation." For some, sadly, this may be true. The old saw that 'getting an hour of sleep before mid-night is worth two after,' makes some sense according to circadian rhythms and the release of melatonin, which occurs sometime after 1 am in the human body. Good sleep is the first line of defense in strengthening your immune system. Since, you're body is learning to run on less stimulants, you have to restore your natural energy.

Rest will help accelerate this process. If you get up to go to the bathroom at night, make sure to not have soup, tea or any amount of plentiful liquids with dinner and do not go to bed for 3 hours until after the dinner meal. This allows your body to rest without disturbing sleep for bathroom visits, as well as not keeping your body in a digesting state when it should be at rest.

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5. Keep Active.

It's vital to keep your circulation moving. It may be a bit challenging, but consistent movement will, by itself, generate energy for you. Of course, we're not talking about jumping to conclusions, side-stepping responsibility or pushing your luck-just good old fashioned real exercise: brisk walking, biking, hiking, light jogging with cushioned shoe support, or stationary biking.

Daily exercise will also help move blood through the kidney and act as a detoxifier. Most important, daily exercise will strengthen your will.


6. Take A Multi-Mineral and Multi-Vitamin Supplement

It may be helpful (can't really harm) to take, for a period of 3 to 4 weeks, 6 days weekly, a supplement. A food-based multi-mineral and vitamin supplement will up your nutrient levels and make this transition easier by offering added nutritional support. Popular US brands of food-based supplements are Mega-Foods, New Chapter, Rainbow Light and others.


7. Get Used To, "Calm"

This may sound strange, but one of the first things you'll notice when you get off caffeine is that you have more energy, yet feel calmer. This can be a very unfamiliar feeling for someone used to being pumped up every day.

Something else worth mentioning is that running around and having an edge to your energy doesn't always mean that you get things done. It might appear that you're running around and getting a lot of things done, but often we mistake activity for productivity. We may have lots of energy, but we may also be so scattered that nothing, when you really add things up, gets done on time or thoroughly, because your energy might be too fragmented.

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8. Replace the Ritual, Replace the Beverage

It might seem insignificant, but our lives contain constant threads of rituals: Saturday or Sunday worship, Sunday morning pancakes, backyard weekend BBQ's, the morning paper, holiday decorations, birthdays, 4th of July fireworks, Monday night football, weekly card games, etc., The list can be generalized as well as personalized, depending on our ethnicity, religion, occupation, country of origin, personality and other factors.

Rituals can be a way of marking time and another way to imbue our lives with reverence, whether we wear special clothes for some rituals, speak in certain ways, or do unique physical actions (handy to know if you want to start your own religion). The regularity of doing something familiar that we become better at doing, is a part of everyone's lives. The ritual of AM coffee is as American as apple pie, and something every waitress will assumptively ask about 3 seconds after you sit in their section of the restaurant, approaching your table with a coffee pot in each hand: "Regular or Decaf?"

We need to replace this ritual. This means using another beverage that we can find soothing, warm and which has a familiar taste. For me, since I used to take my coffee with cream, I've replaced this with a beverage that most health food stores carry called Rice Dream. I use a very small amount as my 'cream' addition when I have a hot beverage, which may be several times weekly, if at all. My hot beverage of choice might be any number of the non-caffeinated "grain coffee" substitutes available at a natural foods market. Roma, Pero, Dandelion Blend, Tecchino, etc.

These are coffees made from roasted and ground grain (usually barley or rye) that have a full, coffee-like taste. For others, just having a hot tea will provide the same satisfaction after the caffeine urge has gone. There are also many non-caffeinated tea's available.

Make it an surprising adventure to try several different teas or grain coffee to decide on regular use.

"Never, never, ever again?"

Getting off of caffeine means to eliminate your addiction. It doesn't mean that you can never have caffeine, again. The important thing is to seize control of your health and be your own best advocate for a healthier you.

After a period of time off caffeine, where you no longer crave it or feel you need it, you may enjoy a cup now and then, but this is still navigating some murky waters for some with an addictive mindset.

You may discover, with a renewed sensitivity, that caffeine after such a period of time away, makes your head spin and your tongue wag at about 987 words a minute. The first time, among many, that I stopped coffee for a good period lasted about 6 months. Then, on vacation, a hotel waiter brought me a cup by mistake.

Big mistake. Just as I was about to refuse it, that fragrant coffee bouquet hit my senses and I literally inhaled it.

I sped around for hours wondering how I ever drank it with such frequency. While I enjoy it now and then, I'm happy to be away from its addictive allure. I feel better; look better and even, t-a-l-k s-l-o-w-e-r.

Foot notes

1 http://www.e-importz.com/Support/specialty_coffee.htm
2 Business Week - September, 2006
3 The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and:
http://www.e-importz.com/Support/specialty_coffee.htm
4 Stephen Cherniske in his book, Caffeine Blues.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid
7 Food Swings by Brian Meltzer, MD
8 Am. J. Clin. Nutr. vol. 76, 2003
9 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Getting Well Naturally, by Michael Murray
10 How To Use Herbs And Nutrients To Stay Well, by Mark Mayell


Verne Varona is the author of, "Nature's Cancer-Fighting Foods." He resides in Florida and lectures throughout the US and western Europe. He can be reached at: vv@vernevarona.com
Posted: March 2008
 

 

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