For the fourth time in my life, I’m trying to cut out caffeine and all I can say is hold me. Somebody. Anybody. The headaches, the tiredness, feeling so irritable you are this close to giving Michael Douglas in Falling Down a run for his money. The joys of caffeine withdrawal.
So, why am I doing this to myself? As well as being a sucker for self-punishment, it’s that time of year when we are all vowing to be a bit healthier, to drink more water and turn ourselves into Gisele, all within the space of January, and I’m as guilty of this as the next person. Also, as you may recall from my golden milk recipe post, coffee has been exacerbating my anxiety in the last year or so. Even though I used to drink up to 6 cups a day – insert beating heart emoji – these days all it takes is that second cup and my heart is aflutter…and not in a good way.
Of course, there are lots of reported benefits of drinking coffee, including a widely publicised study stating that drinking three to five cups of coffee per day could cut your risk of dying from heart disease by 21%. There’s also the small matter of the WHO officially removing coffee from its list of carcinogenic food in 2016. And, of course, there’s the alertness. How I miss the alertness.
The health benefits of coffee don’t mean we should all be guzzling it 24/7 though because, for every study that finds that coffee is the secret to eternal youth, there is another one claiming coffee will lead to your imminent demise. Even though I am practically salivating at the prospect of my morning cup of coffee tomorrow (my sole caffeine kick these days), when faced with palpitations and insomnia, my days as a committed coffee nut are numbered. All good things must come to an end and all that.
The problem is, caffeine is a drug and it’s harder to kick than a bad boyfriend. Whether you can’t pass a day without coffee, Coke, Red Bull, or just good old tea, I’m willing to bet my ponytail that you’ll find it hard to cut down or cut out caffeine completely, so for this Wellness Wednesday I wanted to share some tips for a less painful caffeine detox.
- Weaning works better than cold turkey
I’ve tried cold turkey and ended up sobbing ‘please kill me’ on the bathroom floor. Instead, to ease yourself into the wonderful world of caffeine withdrawal, I recommend that you wean yourself slowly off your beverage of choice. Depending on how much you drink, you can do things like only finishing half of your second cup of Joe in the morning, asking the barista for a single shot in your coffee or making every post-2pm cup of tea a decaf one. Start small and gradually work your way down to one cup a day.
- Dive into the world of decaf.
Water bores me to tears but I start every day with a steaming pint glass of lemon in hot water. It’s the greatest non-caffeinated jolt to your system first thing in the morning. If like me you’re allergic to plain H20, the good news is there has never been as many healthier options that don’t include caffeine. You can of course go for decaf tea and coffee but I just think staining your teeth without getting the caffeine kick is pointless. Since I started to wean myself off coffee, I discovered golden milk and it’s definitely been a big factor in helping me cut down to one coffee a day. I wrote about my turmeric latte addiction over here and included my recipe (a child could make it) so give it a go. If turmeric or matcha don’t float your boat, some of my other favourites include Rooibos (with vanilla, if you’ve got a sweet tooth), Melissa Wood Health’s energising smoothie is the business if you’re not a big breakfast person or try my energising beetroot smoothie recipe. Be warned though, if you plan on making green tea your beverage of choice, green tea actually contains caffeine.
- Snack smart
When you quit caffeine, you’ll feel like Christian Bale in The Machinist so, before you know it, you’re undoing all your good work by running to Starbucks for a shot of Colombian or, even worse, scoffing a whole cake on your own just to get that sugary burst of energy. Caffeine suppresses your appetite so an unexpected side effect of cutting down or quitting altogether could be that you’re hungry more often and craving an instant pick-me-up. To stop yourself from a daily junk food binge, anticipate these slumps in energy and have healthy snacks ready to roll. Coffee is full of antioxidants so snack on blueberries, goji berries or pecans to get your fix of antioxidants. Try these raw coconut cashew cookies or these delicious banana breakfast bars which are full of slow energy releasing oats and seeds.
Greetings from Captain Obvious! You’re going to feel terrible when you kick caffeine so you really don’t want to add the misery of not sleeping to the mix. This is the perfect time to finally work on your sleep routine. As I mentioned in my Wellness Hacks For The January Blues post, I’m making sleep a priority in 2018 and finally putting all those tips we read about into practice. This means setting aside 8 solid hours for sleeping, no more midnight smartphone scrolling through gossip sites and starting a new pre-bedtime routine to start to slowly unwind and encourage sleep. If you want to find out more about the impact caffeine has on sleep, listen to the Fresh Air podcast episode Why We Sleep.
- Check your B vitamins and iron
Again with the tiredness! Caffeine actually inhibits your body’s absorption of iron and vitamin B12, which in turn can make you feel inexplicably tired. Before you know it you’re ordering another espresso and so the cycle continues. This could be a good time to start a vitamin B supplement, include more foods rich in B vitamins in your diet – milk, cottage cheese, fortified soy products – or to check with your doctor about vitamin B12 shots (only if you need them, of course). Along with getting a proper night’s sleep, boosting your B12 intake is one way to curb the brutal tiredness you’ll experience once you switch to decaf life.
If you’re looking for more ways to look after your health and wellbeing this month – and beyond – check out my post on Wellness Hacks for the January Blues.