Side Effects of Coffee and Ways to Wean off of it Naturally
Coffee is really a phenomenom around the world. There are so many different ways to prepare it, and there can be so many different ingredients that different cultures or areas incorporate into it. In this way it really does seem like coffee can be for everyone.
Coffee is the drink prepared from roasted coffee beans, and has a high caffeine content. Some people may drink it out of habit, some because they enjoy the taste, and others for the stimulating effects the caffeine gives them. It can be made with a jazzve, in a percolator, in a coffee maker or espresso machine. Coffee can be drunk hot or cold, and also incorporated into other beverages, whether they be alcohol based or not. It can also be included in many desserts such as tiramisu, and even in some foods.
Some prefer it black and plain, while others fill it up with both sugar and milk (or cream), and you can of course incorporate different flavours such as hazelnut, vanilla, almond, caramel or different spices like cardamom. There are coffee shops around the world that specialize in coffee, making sure to offer a wide variety of both beans and flavours, in order to suit everyone’s preferences. You can also buy it for the home, and you can buy the beans themselves to grind and keep as fresh as possible, or the grinded powder in coarse or fine forms.
Some people go for a cup first thing in the morning as a “wake up” strategy, while others drink it consistently throughout the day or after meals. Many people talk about how after a certain time it is “off limits” due to its stimulating effects that can keep you awake at night. Many people talk about coffee withdrawal symptoms, or joke about how they cannot function until they have had their first morning cup. Regular coffee drinking reports headaches, fatigue, grumpiness, drowsiness, irritability and more when they cannot (or choose not to) have their regular amount of coffee.
What effect does coffee actually have on the body? As it is a central nervous system stimulant, while it can, in the short term, keep you awake, alert, and feeling more energetic, it increases and sustains high cortisol levels – a stress hormone, it can lead to under active adrenals, a depletion of the B vitamins and vitamin C.
Caffeine, along with alcohol and nicotine, also causes the stomach to empty prematurely, which is why many people opt for a cup of coffee, a cigarette, or even some alcohol after a meal – in a way to “lighten their load”. However, that premature emptying means the food being emptied did not have enough time to be properly digested.
Caffeine also acts as both a diuretic and also has a laxative effect, which means that even if you are drinking eight to ten glasses of water daily, you could still, depending on your coffee intake, be in a state of dehydration. Bowel movements may also be seen regular, but as coffee can have a laxative effect, it may be a false truth and can be masking an inadequate intake of fibre.
For many people who consume coffee regularly, it can also cause a rapid heart beat, high blood pressure, restlessness, nausea, as well as insomnia. As it causes high levels of cortisol, it keeps our adrenal glands active, which deal with our responses to stress, and can in turn cause underactive adrenals, which would actually result from overactive adrenals as they have become exhausted. If you are prone to anxiety, nervousness, and any sort of sleep disorders, caffeine can exacerbate the already existing issues. It is a similar case for people who experience high blood pressure.
For many people who experience the above mentioned side effects and want to either stop drinking coffee all together or at the very least reduce the amount they do consume, there are usually two ways suggested.
The first is often stopping the habit “cold turkey”. This means waking up the next morning with the decision made to stop drinking coffee and understanding that even when you crave it, or want the short-term appealing benefits, you do your best to refrain.
The second option is much more realistic and a little more sympathetic! This option is gradually decreasing your intake of coffee, and replacing it with better stimulants and healthier options, to the point where you gradually “need” coffee itself less and less.
What this means is that you have still made the decision to consume no coffee (eventually) and can even give yourself a timeline to achieve this goal. For the first week, if you are prone to drinking multiple cups of coffee a day, you reduce the actual times you drink it, and always replace it with another beverage. This can be tea, berry or lemon-infused water, or any other option that has no or little (compared to coffee) caffeine. After the first week of successfully reducing the times you drink coffee throughout the day, you can then focus on reducing the amount you drink for the following week, again replacing it with different beverages.
During this time, it is also important to understand what “type” of coffee drinker you are. Do you drink it out of habit? Do you like it because of the stimulating effects? Do you like it after your meals? Or is it a mostly social drink you meet friends for?
Understanding why you drink coffee is key to eliminating it from your diet. If you prefer to drink it after meals, consider making your meals lighter to avoid the feeling of being too full and therefore “craving” to quicken up your digestion process. If it is out of habit, aim to replace it with a healthier alternative to drink throughout the day. If you drink it mostly in social settings – with colleagues or friends, try to suggest different places to meet rather than cafes, where you would be more tempted. If it is for the stimulating effect, incorporate herbal alternatives that can offer similar effects, but which are better in the long-term as well as for your health.
By understanding why you drink coffee, and making the goal to reduce it in order to lessen the side-effects that can come with drinking it or drinking too much, you can still feel awake, alert, energized, and stimulated, coffee-free!
Photos couretsy of @songofstyle, Pinterest