Beating the coffee habit

By Raina Dawn Lutz

Are you a dedicated coffee drinker? Is coffee your religion?

Many of my family, friends and clients use coffee on a regular basis, and I was always surrounded by coffee when I was younger.

I even learned to make coffee for my parents at the tender age of 7.

We know it as a morning ritual and a pick-me-up, something we do with old or new friends.

I have found balance with coffee and so have my clients, and I want to share our secrets with you.

Why do we care so much about coffee?

Caffeine is a  stimulant, which is why most people drink it. It is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world. In the brain, it blocks the function of an inhibitory neurotransmitter (brain hormone) called Adenosine.

By blocking adenosine, caffeine increases activity in the brain and the release of other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. This reduces tiredness and makes us feel more alert.

There are numerous studies that show caffeine can lead to a short-term boost in brain function, including:

  • improved mood
  • reaction time
  • vigilance and general cognitive function.

But if people are prone to anxiety it can induce panic attacks and quickly raise blood pressure.

There are also studies showing that caffeine can also boost metabolism (calories burned) by 3-11% and there are many blogs and articles about the health benefits of coffee including its antioxidant content, cancer prevention and lowering risk of stroke.

As with all foods, there are pros and there are cons.

Moderation is key

But not many of us are good at doing something (especially a substance!) in true moderation. Plus, some of these "wake me up" effects are likely to be short-term. If you drink coffee every day, you eventually build a tolerance to it and the effects will be less powerful.

That means we need more and more of it to feel anything.

On its own, it's really not a terrible thing. It's when we over-do it that it's negative effects increase, or when we add lots of sugar, dairy creamers, sweeteners or flavour blends to turn it from a pretty natural product into a liver-stressing, digestion-overwhelming drink.

With a few shots of your typical flavoured sweetener, we could be adding ingredients like palm oil, milk by-products and sugar, sugar, sugar! (Our poor, poor livers.)

If we start drinking it daily, we can become essentially addicted. Caffeine withdrawal headaches are a real thing for many people trying to quit. If we get to a point where we can't start our day without coffee, that can also be a downside since we are now need to be awakened by substance, rather than our natural hormones.

The more substances we rely on, the more we'll continue to need them.

The Question of Decaf

Is decaf healthier? We have this idea that decaf is much healthier than regular coffee, but the chemicals used to do the de-caffeination process are questionable at best.

Since the use of toxic chemicals on food is not something that we holistic nutritionists' value or support, I would question our use of decaf. If you need it for the taste, just have regular coffee cut with hot water. If you need it for the ritual, think about making the switch to tea instead.

Ready to curb your caffeine addiction? Let's go!

Whatever you put in your coffee now, move to honey or coconut milk

Whether you are using milk, cream, skim milk, or Int'l Deelites, make the healthier move to start replacing these additives with a local honey and alternative creamer (if you need it.)

Some people find that they don't care much for cream once they've started making other changes with their coffee ritual. My fav alternative milks are coconut, almond, brown rice or hemp milk.

If you don't have time to make your own, just read the package and find the one with the least amount of ingredients.

Cut down one cup per week

Cut your intake slowly; it's really the easiest way to start making changes. If you have three cups a day, cut down to two cups a day; for the next week cut down to 1.

Replace the one you dropped with a green tea and eventually herbal tea or water

If you have three cups a day, on the week you cut down to two cups a day, add a cup of green tea after your second cup of coffee. It will give you a bit of caffeine but you'll still get to drink the hot drink for as long as you did with coffee, so it doesn't leave you feeling sad and without something to drink.

If instead, you went cold turkey, you may have to deal with the withdrawal headache — don't give in, it'll be over quickly. If you have cut coffee out slowly (less one cup per week as above) you may experience only a slight headache depending on how long you drank the substance for.

In any case, drinking herbal tea, green tea or lemon water upon rising will help with the drinking ritual and help your body out immensely.

Celebrate your good choices

It's all about making these choices that support us and making choices that are fun so that we keep our balance and not crave the treats all the time. Enjoy your morning ritual in moderation. If it feels good, do it!

Raina Dawn Lutz is a registered holistic nutritionist and kombucha brewer  who helps women to get the tools, motivation and excitement to eat well. She specializes in weight loss, digestive issues and anxiety. www.LutzNutrition.ca; [email protected]; office: 250-462-1025


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