Natural ways to overcome caffeine withdrawal
The benefits of cutting caffeine can't be overstated. Here's how to say goodbye to coffee — naturally — without losing your mind.
At a recent appointment, my naturopath delivered some devastating news. In an effort to maximize my health, she strongly advised that I give up caffeine.
After the initial shock had passed, I got to work researching ways to discredit her professional opinion. I scoured the internet, seeking studies that proved caffeine’s multifaceted benefits. After hours of research, I had no choice but to admit two things:
- I was hopelessly and potentially irrevocably addicted and;
- I could live – and thrive – without caffeine in my diet.
In fact, all the most credible studies revealed that cutting caffeine would indisputably lower my blood pressure, help me sleep, improve my mood, reduce my anxiety, boost my dental hygiene, enhance my heart health, reduce my risk of diabetes and – wait for it – give me more energy.
Like most addicts, I was skeptical. Surely these researchers weren’t qualified. But, as it turns out, they are. And I can now first-handedly confirm that cutting caffeine is all it’s cracked up to be.
But. Cutting it was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Initially, I opted to take it slow, gradually reducing my daily intake drop by drop. I hesitantly added one scoop of decaf Folgers to my French press for the first few mornings, and then – even more hesitantly – added two scoops on days four and five. A week of persistent headaches, irritability and lack of ability to focus, however, was enough to change my mind. Taking it slow was the excruciating equivalent of cutting off my arm with a spoon. Slow shmo. It was time to go cold turkey.
Cutting coffee gradually was the excruciating equivalent of cutting off my arm with a spoon.
Three more agonizing days later, I was home free. I made it through Hell, and survived to tell the tale. And tell the tale I will! Here’s a few natural tricks I used to help ease the life-rattling symptoms of caffeine withdrawal:
1. Whole foods and supplements
Swap out your morning cup of Joe for these healthful vitamins and minerals:
- Magnesium helps detox your liver and kidneys, which helps keep those withdrawal symptoms at bay. It also improves circulation to pump all that lingering caffeine out of your blood and speed up the cleansing process. Bananas, almonds and spinach are all great sources.
- Potassium plays a key role in balancing your fluid levels. It also keeps your brain, nerves, heart and muscles functioning. In other words, reach for some potassium if you find yourself nodding off in the middle of that important meeting. Broccoli, bananas, white beans, soy beans and lima beans are good sources.
- Calcium regulates blood pressure, which may fluctuate during withdrawal. Dairy is the best source, but vegan sources such as soy milk, legumes and dried fruit will work just as well!
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant that, in high doses, has proven effective in helping heroin addicts give up their drug. If it can get users through withdrawal, it can certainly do the same for you. Vitamin C is a great detoxifier that works as a natural stimulant to relax your nerves and boost your immunity, ultimately stabilizing your nervous system. Vitamin C is also a natural brain booster, so it’ll keep you from getting too unfocused – a common symptom of caffeine withdrawal. Citrus fruits such as pineapple and oranges are chock full of vitamin C.
- Zinc will stabilize your nervous system during the withdrawal process. Garlic, kidney beans and flax seeds all contain this healthful mineral.
- B Vitamins reverse nerve damage caused by caffeine by helping your body produce red blood cells. Reach for a B-complex vitamin, or healthy, local animal products such as eggs or wild salmon.
2. Essential oils
Lemon, ginger, peppermint, grapefruit and oregano are all excellent detoxifying oils. To cure a headache, reach for lavender, rosemary or eucalyptus. Irritable? Ylang ylang, jasmine and sandalwood are a few top picks. Use a diffuser to emit these scents into the air, or dilute with coconut oil and rub them directly on your temples.
Lemon, ginger, peppermint, grapefruit and oregano are all excellent detoxifying oils.
3. Fresh Air
It’s the ultimate cure-all! Take a brisk stroll, focusing on taking full, deep breaths. The activity, combined with the upsurge of oxygen (and ideally sunshine), will get your blood pumping and help you kick those nasty symptoms.
Another classic! It’s no secret that water flushes out our systems and purifies our bodies (add a squeeze of lemon for additional detoxifying properties). Drinking H2O will also boost your energy, combat your headache and help you poop! Tip: if you’re really having trouble “going”, drink warm water instead of cold. "The warm liquid acts as a vasodilator," says gastroenterologist Dr. Felice Schnoll-Sussman. "It widens blood vessels in the digestive system and helps increase blood flow and GI activity." Out with the old, in with the new!
5. Pressure point massage
I was particularly skeptical of this remedy – but it works. Locate the point on your palm halfway between your thumb and forefinger. Using your thumb on the opposite hand, press the point and massage deeply. With any luck, this DIY acupressure session will relieve those nasty withdrawal headaches.
Adaptogens are a group of herbal remedies that include ginseng, ginger, ashwagandha, Bacopa monnieri, and Rhodiola rosea. They ease the effects of stress and help re-establish a state of balance in your body – gently calming your mind and boosting your energy levels.
7. Hot yoga
Any type of workout will help you kick caffeine, but hot yoga is particularly adept. Because we house most of our toxins just below our skin, hot yoga literally pushes them out by helping us get our sweat on. The movements in yoga also deliver fresh, oxygenated blood to our entire bodies, flooding our systems with new, positive energies.
On a purely mental level, the meditation aspect of yoga can help rewire your brain not to need caffeine. “By voluntarily changing the rate, depth, and pattern of breathing, we can change the messages being sent from the body’s respiratory system to the brain,” explain Richard P. Brown, MD, and Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD, in their book, The Healing Power of the Breath. “In this way, breathing techniques provide a portal to the autonomic communication network through which we can, by changing our breathing patterns, send specific messages to the brain using the language of the body — a language the brain understands and to which it responds.”
Yoga can help rewire your brain not to need caffeine.
Believe it or not, all of these remedies work surprisingly well. While there’s no magic potion or treatment in the world powerful enough to make the process entirely pain-free, applying these tricks to my daily routine made saying goodbye to coffee more bearable than I could have imagined.
I sincerely hope they bring you the same relief!