November 18, 2015
Last year, after dealing with some persistent and nagging health issues, I elected to do a 21 day cleanse. For three weeks I eliminated a laundry list of items from my (almost) daily routine; from gluten and dairy, to alcohol and caffeine, I was able to feel a lot better than I had felt in some time. Soon after, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, and I was set on a new path to treating and taking care of myself, which included remaining (mostly) gluten free, getting more rest and reducing stress where and when possible, and taking a handful of pills and supplements. Quite a few of you participated in the 21 day cleanse alongside me, and many more of you didn’t. Without a doubt, one item on the elimination list prevented more people from joining the challenge, and caused more grief and longing to those who did participate, than any other, and that was ditching their daily dose of coffee. Between screams of abject horror at the thought of even considering eliminating coffee from their daily routine, to the horrible tension headaches those of us on the cleanse experienced in that first week, as the ring leader of this crazy experiment, it boggled my mind how dependent so many of us were on the rich substance.
I’ll admit that for several months after the cleanse, I maintained a caffeine-free existence, drinking primarily Swiss water method decaffeinated coffee, a process that strips the beans of 99% of their caffeine, and even steering clear of iced tea. But over the last few months, I’ve come to have a pretty regular and yet stable relationship with caffeinated beverages. From coffee to tea, I can drink caffeine with semi-regularity, yet I have never gone back to that feeling of dependency in order to function. I can go a day or two with zero caffeine at all, and suffer no withdrawal headaches, and I no longer require it to “wake up” each morning. Since I get a lot of questions about how I made the switch from CoffeeMate spiked coffee co-dependence, to my healthier current state, I thought I’d offer a few tips that have helped me out along the way. And keep in mind that when I use the word “health” I’m also referring to environmental health, since environmental impact is something to consider when looking at how enthusiastically we consume our coffee. Plus, did you read the latest study that linked daily coffee consumption to longevity, with some quantity qualifications of course. Another reason to continue to say yes to the beans, from a reasonable point of view.
1. Don’t use caffeine and coffee as a substitute for proper sleep. This should go without saying, but yet it’s worth repeating because so many of my fellow women, especially mothers, make room for a whole host of plans and agendas, all while functioning at minimally optimal sleep levels. For years I consistently went with 5-6 hours of sleep a night, but since my diagnosis I’ve made it a priority to get proper sleep, and what do you know, I realized that I needed an IV drip of coffee a lot less! Don’t rely on the bean for your energy, rather make sleep and regular exercise a priority, and you can start to enjoy coffee as more than a means to an end.
2. Allow your body to wake up naturally, and stop drinking coffee first thing in the morning. This easy read from Time explains the science behind it, but basically, by drinking coffee early in the morning, you are interfering with your body’s normal cortisol production, and are also dulling the boosting effects of caffeine. Science says optimal caffeine consumption occurs between 10 a.m. and noon, and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
3. Watch your intake. Coffee is good, but too much coffee can interfere with sleep and create anxiety. Studies show that between 200-400 mg per day can help with cognitive function with no shakes. Although since we all metabolize caffeine differently, it’s worth experimenting a bit on your own to determine just how much, is too much of a good thing.
4. Flavor it with a myriad of other healthier alternatives. There is coffee drinking beyond lacing it with artificial non-dairy creamers and heaping teaspoons of sugar. When friends and readers ask how I was able to ditch CoffeeMate, I told them that I simply started drinking good coffee. Coffee that’s in fact so good, you’d happily drink it black. But for those of us who still enjoy a bit of creamy richness with our cup, consider the myriad of other more health-conscious options. Coconut milk, bullet coffee creamer, almond milk creamer like this one by Califia Farms (which I hear is delicious and I’m trying to get my hand on), and good ol’ half & half with a dash of maple syrup.
5. Don’t shun the decaf! If you’ve either successfully weaned yourself off the IV caffeine drip, and just miss the taste and ritual of drinking coffee, or you’re simply trying to cut back, definitely consider decaf! Look for companies who make their coffee with the natural water method versus using chemical solvents. This French Roast organic decaf by San Francisco Bay is an excellent option.
7. Use environmentally friendly OneCups for your Keurig. I actually discovered San Francisco Bay coffee thanks to my husband. As I’ve written, we ditched our Keurig at home last year and have since been brewing with a Chemex. But our office still held onto a Keurig for its convenience and ease of use, especially amidst an office full of guys too busy to brew multiple pots of fresh coffee each day. Unbeknownst to me, my husband searched for biodegradable, environmentally friendly pods, and happily discovered San Francisco Bay because of its stellar reviews. All of San Francisco Bays OneCup coffee varieties are packaged in this environmentally friendly way, and I say with utmost honesty, taste better than any other k-cup I’ve ever tried.
8. Seek companies which use sustainable and ethical practices to grow their beans. Shade farming for example (as opposed to clear cutting for full sun) creates healthy soil content, protects the environment for a myriad of animals and birds, fights global warming, and truly creates a better coffee bean. All of San Francisco Bay’s coffee is grown using this method. You may not always be able to pick and choose the sourcing practices of your local restaurants or even coffee shops, but you can be selective about what you bring home, which is why it’s always worth taking a look at the company practices of the beans you bring home.
I hope these few tips give you something to consider if you’re trying to break the addictive caffeine cycle, and reestablish a healthier relationship based off enjoyment rather than dependence. I love my morning cup of coffee now, and love even more that I can easily move between decaf and caffeinated, coffee one day or herbal tea the next. Even more so, I love seeking out different blends and flavors now, for the sheer enjoyment of the cup, rather than just to get a fix. Let me know if you’ve got questions, and hopefully I’ll have answers.
**This post was sponsored by San Francisco Bay Coffee, but all opinions are my own. I love working with brands that have values that align with my own, and I appreciate you supporting the businesses that help support this blog.