To say the least, these past few weeks have been rather intense! As I write this we are currently amongst the first official week (here in Canada) with the COVID-19 shut down, on top of that, I decided that it was time I give up caffeine and sugar to help with some persistent hormonal/ adrenal issues I’ve been facing. I should note, I decided it was time to give up caffeine well before the shutdown happened – so in this case, my mind had been set and there was no turning back!
My Journey with Caffeine
My journey with caffeine was rather “healthy” for the first 19 years of my life. I would occasionally have a caffeinated tea in the morning, or mid day, but felt no symptoms what so ever if I didn’t have it. It wasn’t until my first year of university did I begin drinking coffee. At first it was a nice boost to help me be more awake amongst my partying and studying (yes I definitely had those days 😉 ), however it slowly became a full frontal addiction. By the end of second year of university, I was drinking a pot a day. I literally couldn’t imagine what it would be like to function without caffeine.
However, everything changed in my 4th year of uni when I became horribly anxious. I had read that minimizing caffeine could help reduce anxiety, so I gave it up cold turkey. My withdrawal symptoms were intense, but at the time I’d do just about anything to help me feel better. Once I got over the withdrawal, I began to LOVE not having to rely on caffeine. I felt energized, alert, and calm all day long. I vowed I would never go back to my old coffee obsessed ways.
Things changed again, when I met my boyfriend, 4 years ago and he introduced me to the delicious highly stimulating beverage called “Yerba Maté.” Yerba Maté is a caffeinated tea originating from South America, that has a bitter yet silky sweet taste to it. About 2 years into drinking Maté, I really began to fall in love with (and addicted to) the drink. I realized that my addiction to caffeine had taken to a new form, instead of coffee, mate was my drug of choice. I couldn’t imagine going a morning without it. My intake also slowly began to rise. At first it was 1 cup and then some how it reached its way up to 3-4 cups a day!
As I started to tune into my body, and take a look at my relationship to this highly addictive (yet delicious) caffeinated beverage, I knew my consumption patterns needed to change!
Here’s Why I Chose to Give up Caffeine:
- Sleep issues: I would wake up every night somewhere between 2-4am and often not fall back asleep again. I would lie in bed awake for a while and then around 4:30 usually gave up and chose to get out of bed (and drink tea)
- Adrenal issues: I felt my adrenals in overdrive, my cortisol levels were all over the place, and my stress and anxiety were getting worse
- I wanted my “pure energy” back: I realized that back when I wasn’t drinking caffeine I felt amazing! I had a steady stream of energy all day and was not constantly going through highs and lows I was often facing- causing me to reach for another cup of tea
- There are genetic variations with caffeine metabolism: I believe my liver to be a “slow metabolizer” when it comes to caffeine. This indicates I am low in the CYP1A2 gene which is also involved in metabolizing estrogen. About 50% of the population are considered to be slow caffeine metabolizers. For those of us whom this is the case for, when our livers are burdened with metabolizing caffeine, they have to work double time to flush out excess estrogen. This explains a lot of the PMS symptoms I would often experience
I’m writing this as I’m almost 2 weeks into my caffeine and (mostly) sugar free journey! I went through a full 6 days of intense withdrawals, however I can whole heartedly say I am feeling MUCH better! Below are a few tips I’ve learned while giving up caffeine (for the second time)!
Tips for Giving Up Caffeine:
- Drink a glass of water upon rising
- Make yourself a delicious caffeine-FREE drink when you would otherwise would have had your caffeinated one! For me this has been a “Creamy Dandy Blend” beverage
- Drink herbal tea throughout the day: My go to’s are Woash Wellness, “Me Time” and “Immunity.” I also have a cup (or 2) of chamomile tea every evening
- Keep your blood sugars balanced and your body nutrified! This means 3 meals a day that contain tons of veggies, along with proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats!
- Enjoy an afternoon snack you love! Apples with almond butter were my saving grace. This snack helped me get over my afternoon slumps, and gave me an energy boost to get through the rest of the day!
- Be prepared to feel the symptoms: not meaning to scared you but I certainly felt withdrawal symptoms in full effect! Even though I knew what to expect, they still caught me off guard. Some of these symptoms included; headaches, fatigue, mood swings, depression, irritability, increased anxiety, and brain fog. If you’re experiencing any sort of symptoms associated to caffeine deprivation, remind yourself, it’s just the withdrawal and you will be OK!
- Get into nature: nature has been medicine for me these past weeks. Walking in the forest or on the beach, can really help to lift your spirits during times of exhaustion, numbness, or craving
- Be kind to yourself! During this time always keep in mind the amazing work you’re doing for your body. Giving up caffeine is no laughing matter, and the more love and compassion you have for yourself, the better you’ll feel!
- Tell Others: this way people can offer you support, compassion, and some grace during the times. I was so grateful to all the people who reached out to my Instagram stories to encourage me along the way and to my incredibly patient boyfriend for bearing with me on my VERY grumpy and difficult withdrawal days!
- Cold turkey? For me, going off maté cold turkey (with the exception of 1 “treat day” so far) has been the answer. However, I have had a touch of cacao powder in the mornings (in my Dandy beverage) and enjoyed decaf french press coffee (which still contains a touch of caffeine) a few of the days I was feeling extra tired. HOWEVER, I also want to note that some people prefer to start more gradually by minimizing their intake overtime, for example cutting back from 3 cups to 2 cups to 1, followed by half calf, then decaf, and finally completely herbal. Give a few different things a try and see what works the best for you!
On a final note, I want to remind everyone that it’s important to know that it takes a minimum of 2 weeks for your liver to fully detoxify caffeine. If you’re deciding to give up caffeine, hang in there for at least 2 weeks, and then reassess how you’re feeling! As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions or support. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on how things are going for me and my caffeine/ low sugar life 🙂