Why give coffee the heave ho?  It’s been your friend for a long time.  And got you through some tough times.  It gives you energy and makes you more alert.  Right?  Maybe not...

Caffeine can be good for us in certain situations.  Like if we are in perfect health, well rested and free from stress.  Our bodies can handle caffeine wonderfully then.  We get the desired effects of increased energy, a mood boost and an increased ability to stay awake.  Coffee exerts these effects by increasing adrenalin (our fight-or-flight hormone from our adrenal glands), cortisol (our stress-response hormone), dopamine (our feel-good neurotransmitter) and blocking adenosine (the neurotransmitter that makes us feel sleepy).

But who leads a life in perfect health, well rested and free from stress at all times?  I think I can safely say that none of us do.  Life throws us challenges and we get run down, overly busy and don’t eat as well as we should.  We may even get so stressed that we become anxious, suffer insomnia and just can’t relax even though we are exhausted.  We are already over-stimulated and we keep trying to give our adrenals a kick with coffee.  After a while it no longer works for us.  This is when coffee makes us more anxious, more fatigued and less able to sleep well.  It’s time to give coffee a break (and any other caffeine sources too).

5 days to caffeine free

Due to it’s ability to alter neurotransmitters, caffeine is a highly addictive drug (more about this here).  Getting off it can be quite difficult and many suffer terrible headaches, depression, fatigue and nausea as side effects.  Read on to find out the most painless way to kick this addiction in 5 days...

Day 1. 

Whatever level of caffeine you are currently having, simply halve it.  If you were having 4 coffees a day, have 2 today.  If you were having 2, drop it to 1.  If you’re only having one, make a half-strength coffee or make your normal coffee, drink half and tip the rest down the sink.  Throughout the rest of the day, drink as much green tea as you want.  If you are having other sources of caffeine, such as black tea and cola, halve these too.

Green tea contains about 1/4 of the amount of caffeine of a standard coffee and will help take the edge off your cravings.  It is also high in the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (or EGCG).  This antioxidant has anti-cancer and anti-ageing properties.  If you don’t like it, learn to like it.  It comes in many wonderful flavours and if you make it with 80-90 degree water and steep it for only 2 minutes it tastes best.  Try starting with an organic green tea with berries (read the packet and steer clear of any artificial flavourings).

Day 2. 

Halve your coffee intake again.  If you were on half a coffee yesterday, make a weak coffee and drink only half of it.  Again, drink green tea as needed for the rest of the day and halve other sources of caffeine too.  By now, you may be feeling some of the withdrawal symptoms mentioned earlier.  But they will be mild and you should be able to get through your day as normal.

Day 3. 

Halve your caffeine intake again.  If you were on half a weak coffee yesterday, have one cup of black tea in its place.  Drink green tea as needed and cease other sources of caffeine.  You may notice a mild headache or haziness but the side effects should not be severe.  Drink plenty of water.

Day 4. 

Continue as for days two & three if you are not onto only tea by now.  If you had only black tea yesterday, have only green tea today.

Day 5. 

Start to cut down your green tea intake, replacing it with herbal tea alternatives.  You have now broken your addiction and can expect to start seeing benefits soon.  Well done.

What are the benefits?

You should start to feel:

  • More energised on waking without needing that first coffee before you even speak to anyone
  • More stable energy levels throughout the day generally
  • More calm, less stressed and less anxious
  • Less palpitations
  • More hydrated - provided you are also drinking plenty of water your skin and lips will feel more hydrated and your mouth less dry

No more coffee!? What do I do now?

You may be feeling a lack of having that little ritual in your daily life.  You may feel like one life’s little pleasures has been taken away from you.  You may even feel like you can’t hang out with your friends anymore because meeting for coffee was a big part of your socialisation.  Well, let me introduce you to some new little pleasures to enjoy...

1. Roasted Dandelion Root Latte

Dandelion latte

Dandelion latte

This delicious drink is well known as a coffee replacement.  As an added bonus it also improves digestion, reduces bloating and helps keep you regular.  For all you coffee connoisseurs out there, I’m not going to lie, it doesn’t taste exactly like coffee.  It does however have a delicious nutty, slighty bitter, roasted aroma that has a charm of it’s own.  The flavour goes particularly well with warm Bonsoy milk (or almond milk), a touch of raw honey and cinnamon on top.  For you black coffee drinkers, you can also have the dandelion root tea black.  To make this delicious drink: simply brew 2 teaspoons of the roasted dandelion root in enough hot water to leave room for the amount of milk you plan to add.  Let steep for 3-5 minutes.  Add hot milk from the stove top or steamer or cold milk if you prefer.  For a twist try a dash of vanilla bean extract.

2. Chai Latte or Tea

Choose a caffeine free chai such as that from Chai Walli and brew with your choice of milk.  Add vanilla bean extract or cinnamon as desired. Or for a winter warming effect add a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger to the brew.  The spice blend in a good chai tea will help stimulate digestion so it is great enjoyed either before or after a meal and is a wonderful morning ritual.

3. Rooibos. 

This caffeine-free tea alternative is delicious with a dash of your favourite milk or milk-replacement or black with a wedge of lemon.  It’s a great replacement for that morning or mid afternoon cuppa if you are a black tea drinker.  The taste is slightly sweet and nutty with hints of vanilla.  It is rich in antioxidants and minerals making it beneficial for general health.

4. Golden Milk. 

This highly beneficial drink gets its golden colour from turmeric, which is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial and stimulates digestion.  This drink also contains black pepper and coconut oil, which greatly enhance the anti-inflammatory effect of turmeric.  To make it combine one cup of your milk of choice (coconut and almond or a blend of the 2 are delish) with ½-1 tsp organic turmeric paste, powder or fresh grated turmeric, a pinch of ground black peppercorns, ¼ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp honey/coconut sugar, 1 tsp coconut oil, vanilla bean paste or powder to taste.  Heat gently in a saucepan for about 5 minutes or until it reaches your desired temperature.  Do not boil.  Strain if using the fresh grated turmeric.

5. Herbal. 

When it comes to the world of herbal teas the possibilities are endless!  If you have no clue try some teas at your local cafe or teahouse, or better still, have your Naturopath make up a yummy blend that is personalised for you.  Pukka tea also has a great range of quality teas in bags to take with you to work.  When selecting a store bought herbal tea be sure to read the ingredients and steer clear of anything with artificial flavourings.

What next?

Before you know it you will be just as addicted (although not physically) to these alternatives and reaping the health benefits.  How long to stay off coffee?  Well 2-4 weeks may be enough for some but if you are experiencing a period of high stress, illness, fatigue or suffer anxiety or depression then maybe coffee just isn’t for you.  If you can enjoy the occasional coffee without feeling anxious or picking up the habit again, this is the ideal.  It’s all about finding out what works for you :)

 All the best on your health journey,