Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

How To Break The Caffeine Addiction! For Good!

by Kristen Suzanne in Bulletproof Coffee, green juice

Here is a common question that comes up when I’m chatting with people about the raw food lifestyle.

What If I’m Addicted to Caffeine?

No problem! Been there, done that, when it comes to caffeine. Boy, do I remember the days… working long hours, drinking 2 – 3(!) triple shot (espresso) soy cappuccinos. Yikes! I’m surprised my adrenal glands are even functioning any more. Better late than never though. I was determined to kick the addiction and I did just that… by doing all of the following tips and tricks. I like variety, so it was fun to change it up with the different options below. That helped to keep me distracted, too, and made it more enjoyable.

So… need some ideas for kicking the caffeine habit? Try any (or all!) of the following suggestions:

Drink fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning to give yourself some raw (sugar) energy instead of stimulated energy from caffeine.

Hot peppers – These awesome guys can work wonders for your caffeine addiction because they give you a real rush of endorphins. For the hard-core folks out there, think habanera peppers. If you find those too hot, then start with a milder red pepper and work your way up. The idea here is that it must be hot enough to release endorphins—the brain’s mechanism for dulling pain. The endorphins tackle two issues for you: 1) providing energy so you don’t miss the caffeine and 2) fighting headaches that may result from caffeine withdrawal. When I want a quick burst of energy, I just take a couple nibbles. Of course, be careful when handling hot peppers. Wash your hands when you’re done and don’t touch your face!  

Drink green juices, including wheat grass if you like, which some say can reduce cravings for coffee and caffeine. Add carrot juice, either straight or in the green juice. The carrot juice helps give you a little sugar increase which can help give you a little energy boost. That being said, my usual green juice recipe, using our Norwalk Juicer, is made up from (all organic): cucumbers, celery, romaine lettuce, cilantro, with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and sometimes fresh herbs make an appearance. If you don’t have a Norwalk Juicer and want to check out some other juicers I like, here you go.

Upgraded beans for Bulletproof Coffee made using our Technivorm Coffee Pot

Upgraded coffee beans

To help avoid severe withdrawal problems, consider migrating off gradually. You can start with half decaf (or just make the regular caffeine version with fewer coffee beans/ground when you’re making it at home (as in it’ll be more watered down than normal). Back in the day, one thing that helped me when I went to Starbucks was that I had them give me a small regular coffee, but had them put a quarter of it as hot water, and I increased that to half of the cup as hot water with the other half as coffee… and so on). And, of course, you can go half regular coffee with half decaf and eventually work your way to 100% decaf. Get organic and fair trade when possible… that’s very important. My favorite coffee beans right now are Bulletproof Exec’s Upgraded Beans.

Tea can rock the house. Both black tea and green tea are reputed to have a number of beneficial health properties, along with a more subtle caffeine boost than coffee. So, it’s a great way to enjoy a hot beverage with a little caffeine as you transition away from toxic, (often)-pesticide-ridden-caffeine-filled coffee. And, finally, you can have herbal tea as a goal beverage when you’re ready to eliminate all the caffeine in your diet (My favorite sources are: Traditional Medicinals and Mountain Rose Herbs). Enjoy it sweetened with a touch of raw honey (or a little organic maple syrup – not raw) or toss in a tablespoon of goji berries. Those make for an awesome treat at the end of the cup when they’re nice, plump and warm.

If cola, Mt. Dew, Red Bull, etc., is your brand of poison, you’ll get a triple-whammy benefit by weaning yourself off of these antithesis-of-health beverages. You’ll be eliminating not only caffeine, but also 1) a fairly disgusting quantity of sugar (or artificial sweeteners, which bring their own host of problems); and 2) the carbonic and phosphoric acids that are bad for your blood, leach calcium from your bones, and dissolve the enamel in your teeth. As with coffee, it may be easier to reduce your quantity gradually, such as by ordering a medium instead of a large (etc.), or pouring out the contents of a can when you’re 2/3 of the way through it. Another great idea is to gradually cut your fountain drinks with soda water, when available at self-serve fountains (it’s usually dispensed by a little hard-to-see plastic tab that may or may not be labeled). This won’t help reduce the acidity, but it will help you taper off your caffeine levels without denying yourself the refreshing and cleansing fizz—what I like to call “Throat Draino.” Caffeine is much more addictive than bubbles, so once you’ve kicked your chemical addiction to caffeine, it will be much easier to phase out carbonated beverages entirely.

Drink cold-pressed coffee, made with a Toddy Maker. This isn’t Raw and it still has caffeine, but it’s less acidic than regularly brewed coffee, so it’s a start (I’m all about the baby steps!). In the scheme of things, this is better than regular coffee. Use this as a stepping stone on your way to eliminating coffee from your life.

Drink Teeccino®, which is herbal coffee (or my new favorite, the super popular Dandy Blend). YUM! My husband and I have become huge fans of this during the past year. For my husband, it was love at first sip. For me, although I really enjoyed it and would drink it here and there years ago when I first stumbled upon it, it wasn’t (at the time) the perfect coffee replacement to me. Then again, I was such a hard core coffee lover, I didn’t think anything would ever compare to the real thing. That being said, here I am, loving Teeccino – big time! I can’t imagine not having it. In fact, I don’t know what I was thinking years ago by not thinking this was an awesome coffee replacement. Not only does it taste great, but it’s not acidic and safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding. It’s high in potassium, helps restore alkalinity, and the chicory root can help improve digestion. We usually get the Maya Caffe (organic) because it’s the most coffee-like in flavor, but I do enjoy their flavored varieties, too.
We love it plain (black), and we also enjoy it with Raw nut milk or other non-dairy milk for a nice creamy experience. It’s brewed similarly to coffee, using a coffee pot, but recently they launched a new product: Teeccino – “tee” bag style. Now, I can take it with me to restaurants and enjoy it (or Starbucks and just get a cup of hot water there to steep my tee bag). Teeccino is much better for your health than regular (or decaf) coffee, and can help transition you away from coffee. I’ve even brewed coffee mixed with Teeccino for some of my coffee addict friends to reduce the caffeine and help them transition. They love it.

Make a beverage (or food) with raw chocolate powder. Raw chocolate has only small amounts of caffeine, but it has a stimulating effect from Theobromine. Many people love raw chocolate for the feel good, natural buzz they get when consuming it. There are many ways to enjoy this: 1) blend warm water with Raw chocolate and a sweetener such as raw agave nectar (or use a raw nut milk and blend until warm for a hot chocolate type drink). 2) You can also make chocolate nut milk by adding raw chocolate powder and a couple of pitted dates to it to the next batch of raw vegan nut milk you prepare. 3) Make other Raw food recipes. Raw chocolate is satiating, delicious, gives you energy, and is full of anti-oxidants.

REST & ADEQUATE SLEEP! I can’t emphasize enough that getting enough sleep at night (and rest) is one of the big keys for helping to maintain great energy levels so you don’t feel the need to reach for caffeine. I realize that it’s not always possible to do this in our hectic lives, but TRY! Your health is worth it.

Set a schedule for yourself. Decide a plan of attack for eliminating coffee from your diet and write it on your calendar. Try the different methods outlined above for ease and success, and enjoy the healthy transition. You’ll be so glad you did it. Remember, part of the addiction is the experience associated with consumption (such as going to a cafe or wrapping your hands around a big, warm mug), so look for surrogates—ways to replicate the experience without the caffeine. Find new places and new cafes and wrap your hands around a big mug of green smoothie, warm herbal tea, or yummy Teeccino.

Updated thoughts: Now that I’ve broken the caffeine addiction, I can enjoy a cup here and there (when not pregnant or breastfeeding) and not feel guilty about it, or worry about it for that matter. I keep it organic when possible. Usually decaf. There are some things that give you a psychological edge… a spiritual uplift that can be worth their weight in health gold. If having a cup of organic, fresh brewed coffee is that for you, then so be it. It would be my recommendation that it’s not something you consume tons of… keep it in moderation or as a treat – and try some of the other options I mentioned above to help reduce the dependance. Personally, I love my new relationships with Teeccino and herbal teas – thankfully, in spite of it being bumpy at first. Although the heart break was severe when I initially said good-bye to coffee/caffeine, my experience now is much healthier and balanced. 

Moreover, I have concerns about coffee production and the environment, which I haven’t looked into a whole lot yet, but I’ve seen snippets here and there about its problems. I plan on diving into that soon and seeing how bad it is (I’ll be reporting on this over at Green Mommy Blog). I have heard that shade-grown, organic, fair-trade is at least better (for health and environment), but I don’t know how much. 

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