If you’re a fan of 30 Rock, you may recall the episode (#210) in which network page Kenneth tastes coffee for the first time, becomes instantly addicted to caffeine and briefly goes comically crazy from it, referring to it as the “devil’s liquid.” Now I wouldn’t go so far as to say caffeine is the devil’s spawn, but I will say it has no nutritional value and tends to be steeped in pesticides. It’s also rather pricey, particularly if you hit Starbucks few times a week. Among my other issues with the stuff: caffeine is an addictive, powerful stimulant that raises blood pressure, dehydrates organs, weakens the immune system and robs your energy because it stimulates stress hormones and interferes with the body’s natural rhythms. Though it may sound extreme, I believe that most people should get coffee and caffeine out of their daily lives, particularly if they’re stressed, exhausted or are having trouble sleeping.
So how hooked are you? If you need a cup of coffee in order to function or “get going” in the morning, then you may need to rethink your relationship with caffeine. If you’re looking to cut down, keep in mind that caffeine is not just in coffee. It lurks in sodas, soft drinks, tea, some herbal teas, chocolate and even some medications, for example Anacin and Excedrin, so read the labels. There’s even a little caffeine in decaffeinated coffee, so don’t think of it caffeine hall pass.
When you’re ready to quit, the good news is that you don’t have to go cold turkey, nor should you. The best way to do it is to taper off in small increments so as not to trigger the junkie-like withdrawal symptoms many people struggle with. The mission is to slowly dial down the caffeine so your body can acclimate over time. Here’s a relatively painless strategy to try when you’re ready to unhook from the caffeine drip:
- Day 1: Today, have your usual amount of coffee.
- Day 2 – Day 5: Blend your coffee 50%-50% with decaf (preferably certified organic). Drink that for three days.
- Day 6: Have 25% regular coffee, 75% decaf for one day.
- Day 7: Start drinking pure decaf.
- Bonus Plan: Care to take it a step further? Then try this idea one patient came up with to help break his $80 a week Starbucks habit. First, he followed my 1-week decaffeinating plan outlined above. Next, after he’d been weaned off of the caffeine, he added two more weeks to his program to kick coffee altogether. For Week 2, he continued on pure organic decaf. On Week 3, he began blending his decaf with a roasted grain beverage called Kaffree Roma, starting with a 50% -50% blend, then down to 25% decaf +75% Roma and going then to all Roma on Day 7 of the 3rd week. Eventually, he dropped the Roma as well and no longer “needs” coffee, decaf or coffee substitutes.