How I Handle Life Without Caffeine (and How You Can Too)
My coworkers look at me incredulous. My friends shake their heads, a lack of comprehension and slight flash of pity flashes across their faces.
I'm the girl who gets cake pops at Starbucks and chamomile tea on coffee dates. You'll find no bright matcha photos on my Instagram or creamer and coffee grounds in my kitchen. I've been caffeine free for over five years.
It wasn't always this way. Growing up, I loved coffee ice cream. In college, exhausted from cramming for a test freshman year, my orientation assistant bought me my first mocha latte. It was SO good. But, I immediately wanted more and often experienced shakiness and heart racing with even two cups.
Everyone thinks they're invincible in college, so I used caffeine as my fuel no matter the side effects. Sophomore year, I ate an entire container of chocolate covered coffee beans and ended up with my head against a freezing pole outside because it hurt so badly. Did I stop consuming caffeine? Nope.
Until junior year, I drank coffee pretty regularly (mostly decaf, but it still has caffeine!) until I went abroad to France and instead of soda machines there was coffee machines everywhere. It was amazing but what started out as a dependence on my two euro café chocolate turned into an addiction to power through an academically rigorous semester. I was having as much as six cups a day. I was shaking, my heart was racing, and I couldn't focus. I quit right then.
I've been caffeine clean ever since. What I learned is that, most people can tolerate coffee to some degree but caffeine is actuallydetrimental for people with autoimmune.
Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, also known as the "stress hormone". Cortisol is a good motivator--it keeps us aware of our surroundings, alert, and let's us burn the midnight oil. But those with autoimmune, especially dysautonomia (hello!), can experience negative side effects from too much cortisol including shakes, flares, stomach pain, migraines, and more. Furthermore, continued use of caffeine can result in adrenal fatigue which can cause insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and more.
With all of these symptoms, caffeine simply isn't worth it for me.
What does no caffeine mean? No coffee including decaf. No matcha. No green tea, or black tea, or any tea that's not naturally decaffeinated. I know! The horror! It's crazy right? It helps that Nick is a no caffeine person too but honestly, I rarely miss it.
If you want to try a life without caffeine, see my below for answers to the five most common questions on going caffeine free.
5 Most Common Questions on Going Caffeine Free
Question One: How Do I Jump Start My Morning?
Solution One: Jump rope! (just kidding) But, kind of not. Get your body moving. Stretch, do a quick ab routine, or hit the gym. Do back bends on your roof (also kidding, but it makes a cool photo right?). Not only is moving in the morning proven to wake you up but it will help you sustain energy throughout the day. I also play music and drink hot water with collagen and apple cider vinegar which is much friendlier on your stomach than coffee and signals the start of my day.
Question Two: How Do I Avoid An Energy Slump?
Solution Two: It is so hard to break the automatic, "I need coffee" when you feel your energy waning. Caffeine is a way of providing quick stimulation to feel awake and alert but that can fade quickly or provide to much of a shock to the system for someone like me. Here's a few ways to avoid the energy slump without reaching for that second cup:
- Take a Walk: Get up and move, even if it's for five minutes. Taking a walk will help your muscles warm up and push them to an active state which has a positive affect on your mind too.
- Turn on Music: Music is incredibly powerful, whether that's calming down or motivating you to keep going. Turn on your favorite playlist that motivates you and you'll feel yourself perk up.
- Try Chia: Chia seeds take a bit to get used to but sprinkling them on your salad or making a chia seed pudding can have major energy benefits by fighting adrenal fatigue, regulating glands, and combatting inflammation.
- Peppermint Oil: Whether peppermint tea or inhaling some peppermint essential oil, the minty smell will definitely wake you up and make you more alert.
Question Three: What Do I Do When Someone Asks Me To Go Out For Coffee?
Solution Three: Go out for coffee. I hear this one a lot and I promise, any coffee shop you go to (unless it is ridiculously hipster) will have other options. Tea, kombucha, even water. Don't exclude yourself from an outing surrounding coffee because there's always an option. If you want to avoid the terror of your coffee mate finding out you're not a coffee drinker, just tell them you're in the mood to change it up or are coming down from too much caffeine.
Question Four: I'm Afraid of the Withdrawal Symptoms
Solution Four: This one is the hardest. I would not recommend stopping immediately. Here's an simple way to ease off:
- Order One Less: Do you drink 2-3 cups a day? Trying just drinking 2 for a whole week. Then move to one. Then a half. You'll slowly wean yourself off instead of giving yourself terrible headaches.
- Switch to Decaf: Decaffeinated coffee or tea actually still contains caffeine, simply less than the caffeinated kind. Switching to decaf will still provide you with enough caffeine to avoid withdrawal symptoms in most cases but allow your body to adjust to less caffeine intake.
- Add a New Craving: We love habits and coffee is queen among them. We crave it when we wake up in the morning, needing it to start our day. Start a new habit by training the body to crave something else in the morning whether that's tea, a giant glass of water, a croissant, or anything you'll be excited about having. My body craves hot water with collagen and apple cider vinegar now, but it did take a few months to get there.
Question Five: What do I do to help me stay regular?
Solution Five: Many people rely on their morning coffee for their morning trip to the bathroom. If you're worried about staying regular, try replacing your coffee with one of the following:
- Aloe Juice: Use a little bit of aloe juice in water, tea, or juice (start with two tablespoons then work your way up) to help, especially if you're constipated.
- Probiotics: Add a probiotic daily to your routine to help you avoid stomach issues and balance out your gut flora.
- Magnesium (500 mg): Most Americans are actually deficient in magnesium. I've started taking a supplement before bed and within 20 minutes of waking up will be ready to go. It's been really helpful at allowing me to stay regular.
Have you tried to live a life without caffeine? Have another tip? Let me know in the comments!