Kicking the coffee habit….or just reducing it… ok, at least optimizing it;)

 

We all respond differently to coffee and caffeine.  Some people metabolize it better than others, some of us are addicted to it, some people replace eating food with it, for some of us it is destroying our blood sugar balance for the day causing huge ups and then downs, for some of us it is having too big of an impact on cortisol and our adrenals, and for some of us a cup is just fine. There are some health benefits to drinking a small amount of high quality  coffee but many of us overuse it or misuse it.

 If you are ready to get curious, or kick the habit for good, or even just for a bit here are some steps to making it a bit easier. I even included ways to work with coffee if you don’t want to give it up. Remember, we are all unique so what works for one person might not work for you.   Find what works for YOU and what your body needs to function its best

Possible Benefits of cutting coffee

Since we are all genetically and metabolically unique with different life stressors, digestion, and immune function, coffee affects us all differently.  For some people drinking a cup a day works just fine.  For other people, taking a break from coffee may help with sleep, digestion, hormone balance, liver detoxification,  blood sugar regulation, anxiety, and more. 

Drinking a cup of coffee can cause a rise in cortisol and epinephrine, our stress hormones, for some people (1).  This starts a cascade of events that cause a spike in blood sugar, which is the king of the endocrine system and affects all of our hormones.  This is especially  relevant at midlife for women as hormones drop (3).   

If you find yourself needing more than up cup a day, or getting headaches if you don’t have it, having a hard time sleeping, feeling fatigued, experiencing highs/lows throughout the day,  it might be a good idea to try a break or reduce your dependence for a bit and see what your body is actually asking for.   

Who might want to consider giving coffee a break? 

You may want to consider giving coffee a break if you-

  • feel like you need it to get going in the morning (maybe what you need is better sleep or improved circadian rhythm?)
  • feel wired and tired
  • are trying to balance your sex hormones (estrogen/progesterone) or dealing with midlife hormone issues (3)
  • if you have been stressed out for a long time and are in overdrive (go go go mode) or exhaustion (fatigue mode)
  • if you get revved up by caffeine more than others (depending on specific genetic variations you may process caffeine more poorly than others (2)
  • if you have any sleep problems (including falling to sleep, staying asleep, waking refreshed)
  • if you experience fatigue
  • if you experience anxiety
  • if you drink more than 2 cups in a day
  • if you depend on it to get through the day
  • if you have energy crashes or are curious about blood sugar
  • if you are curious what your body would be like without the dependence on this powerful medicine

If you want to try life with out coffee for a bit…………….

First off consider why you drink coffee, spend some time here first.  I think this is the most important part of successfully cutting back and is often overlooked.

Some people drink coffee for the caffeine, some people enjoy the morning ritual, or the flavor and smell,  some people feel comforted by the warm morning wake up drink, some people love going into the coffee shop for social reasons, or perhaps your cup of joe helps you poop, or ….. fill in the blank for you.  Is there a story around your coffee habit?

From there you can consider your exit strategy with the help of a proper replacement for YOU.

Experiment with different replacements. Be playful and open minded!

  1. If caffeine is your reason for drinking coffee you can slowly start cutting back on fully caffeinated coffee by adding in organic decaf or try reducing the number of cups each day.  Either way working gradually can prevent or reduce headaches. From there you can transition to a healthier option or even green tea which has many health benefits if you can tolerate some caffeine.   By breaking up with your dependency on caffeine you can listen to what your body needs and that might be rest, more sleep, better nutrition, less stress, better blood sugar balance, or a number of other things as your body shifts, your hormones adjust, and you go back to not needing it. 
  2. If it’s the morning ritual of making a cup of coffee you might want to start trying different kinds of  teas. Loose leaf tea is fun as you still get to scoop, pour, brew, smell, and enjoy. Most health food stores sell good quality loose leaf tea or it can be ordered online through Mountain Rose Herbs, for example.  Some bitter favorites for replacing coffee are roasted dandelion root, roasted chicory root, or reishi mushroom powder.  I love loose leaf green tea and love the morning ritual of making this.  Matcha involves a fun process while you whisk it that might feel good.  Each of these offers offer many additional health benefits and hit the spot.  Try some out and see.   
  3. If it is the flavor you love you can either try organic high quality decaf right away, go through the gradual decaf transition (start with a 1/4  decaf and move to full decaf), or try one of the herbal coffee replacements that are still super bitter like Ayurvedic Roast organic herbal coffee substitute , Four Stigmata, dandelion tea, or Rasa Koffee organic herbal coffee substitute.  
  4. If it’s the coffee shop you love, you are in luck.  Most coffee shops today sell many other great options. Most offer peppermint tea or even cinnamon or  rooibos which are naturally sweet, rich, and satisfying. Just steer clear of the “latte” teas (even Matcha lattes) as they are loaded with sugar when purchased at the coffee shop.
  5. If you are just looking for a hot drink in the morning there are endless options.  Some of my favorite morning tea options are raspberry leaf, nettles, rooibos, alfalfa, ginger, and peppermint.  Consider  organic to reduce toxins and increase flavor. Even a good quality loose leaf green tea or matcha tea have amazing health benefits if you can tolerate some caffeine. Golden Milk is another fabulous alternative and  You can find my recipes for that here.  Here you will find my recipe for a rich warming and spicy chai tea that my family loves, especially in the colder months.  And here is a favorite hot cacao elixir.   There are so many yummy options outside of coffee. 
  6. Drinking your coffee at 3pm to avoid an afternoon slump?  First off pay heed to your blood sugar and try having a protein rich snack just before that normal bonk time.  Tuning into blood sugar swings can be profound. And remember that it is not sugar that impacts blood sugar, it is stress, skipped meals, food sensitivities, toxins, insomnia, anything that your body perceives as stressful.  One afternoon alternative I enjoy is my cocoa elixir with a couple of brazil nuts, or a matcha latte with kale chips, water with cider vinegar, soda water with lemon, water with minerals, or a chunk of salmon with rice crackers.  Start being creative and thinking outside of the coffee bean.  

If you still want your coffee……..

If you still want your 1 cup of coffee a day, there are a few ways to help make it work better for your body.  

  1. The pesticides on coffee can place an extra detox burden on your liver and damage your microbiome.  We need our liver to process everything including estrogen and this is more important at midlife.  Try organic coffee when you can. I love Purity
  2. Another way to keep coffee as an ally in midlife is to make sure you have some fat or protein before having your cup of coffee in the morning.  This will reduce the potential cortisol spike from drinking coffee on an empty stomach and the eventual blood sugar dysregulation that can follow (highs and crashes, what goes up must come down).   Did you know black coffee can cause a blood sugar spike in some people?  Curious if this is you? Try a continuous glucose monitor with me at The Energy Club. 
  3. Another option is turning your coffee into Bulletproof coffee.  This technique adds healthy fat maximizing the benefits of coffee and again helps with blood sugar regulation.  My favorite recipe is here but there are a ton online.
  4. And of course, consider what you are putting in your coffee.  Skip or reduce the sugar and choose a milk that works for your body (cashew, coconut, whole, etc).  And no matter what, avoid artificial sweeteners as these can throw many systems and organs off balance as most are toxic and your body cannot digest.  Stevia works for most people or coconut sugar for a less refined sugar option. 

 

Alternative ways to get an energy boost

There are lots of great ways to get a healthy energy boost during the day.  You may feel more energized just by reducing or eliminating caffeine alone, as your hormonal system will come back into balance.  However, adding booster foods can give you additional sustained energy without the highs and lows of caffeine. Booster foods include greens powders, ground flax and chia seeds, morning minerals and electrolytes, lemon water with cayenne, nutritional yeast, and more.  See my favorite booster here.   Another idea is just getting out for a 10 minute walk or do some invigorating breathing.  Get creative! 

If you are feeling low energy you may need to consider these other factors. 

 

Starting your day off right!

Try starting each day with a glass of lemon water or apple cider vinegar water first thing.  Adding a calming morning ritual such as deep breathing, meditation, or guided imagery can have deeply restorative and grounding affects.  This does not have to be complicated or long: 10 mindful breaths, 5 minutes meditating, focusing on 3 things you are grateful for, setting an intention for your day,  or simply lighting a candle. Sometimes just taking the time in the morning to slow down may be all we need to feel more awake and ready to face our day!

Click here to learn about one of our Seasonal Cleanses or Rebalance Groups and nourish yourself from the inside out!

Join me for THE HORMONE CLUB for women 40+ every winter

Join me for THe Energy Club every fall

Join me for the spring cleanse and liver love for balanced hormones and health

Enjoy your mornings and find what works for YOU!  Janel

Citations

  1. Pubmed. The effect of acute caffeine intake on insulin sensitivity and glycemic control in people with diabetes. PMID: 28935543
  2. Pubmed. Genetics of caffeine consumption and responses to caffeine. PMC4242593
  3. Pubmed. Caffeine and menopausal symptoms: what is the association? PMID: 25051286

Janel Ferrin Anderson Board certified nutrition consultant, Certified Functional nutritionist, Doctor of Natural Medicine

It is my mission to help people understand their body better, how it works, how it changes, how it is impacted by our world and how we can improve symptoms and function while preventing future health issues. I use science, education, food, lifestyle, herbs, and nutrients, to shift the body towards better function. I focus on midlife mountain women but am happy to work with anyone who wants to take charge of their health.

3 thoughts on “Kicking the coffee habit….or just reducing it… ok, at least optimizing it;)

Add yours

  1. These are great explanations and alternatives. I am going to experiment with some of these. Coffee in the morning for me isn’t essential, but I like it. I think I would like some of these other options too!

  2. Great article with practice (achievable!) tips. Thanks for the recipes and taking time to explain the whys and hows.

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