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4/3/11

On Eliminating Caffeine (a tale from last year)

Note: This was a blog entry I wrote in May of 2010 for another person's blog, and it slipped through the cracks and never got published. Since I'm traveling right now and don't have much to post, I thought I'd share these old thoughts with you in case someone finds them useful.  


Several weeks ago, I decided to phase out caffeine. I needed to take a break. Although I am not a heavy coffee drinker, I do drink coffee occasionally. And I drink endless, endless cups of PG Tips. It is my favorite – my lover who never leaves me. Because it is tea, I feel justified in drinking it at all hours of night and day.



After a recent move and tons of subsequent life shifts, my body was, for lack of a better term, freaking out, and I needed to boost my immunity and balance everything out. Eliminating caffeine was an important part of this, particularly because as women, caffeine affects our hormone levels and our lunar cycles – a KEY element in feeling healthy and balanced.

Caffeine can inhibit our blood’s absorption of iron – which should be especially noted during your period, since this is a time when iron is most valuable to the female body. Inhibiting access to iron can leave us feeling stripped of nutrients and can make our PMS symptoms worse than they need to be – from crankiness to cramps and beyond.

So, I began to phase out my beloved drinks.


Easier said than done.

Let’s also recognize that most people have a ritual with their caffeine (like we do with most drugs). For me, one of my rituals was preparing my tea before I sat down at my computer every day. Another was stopping by my honey’s house and drinking coffee on his back porch in the sun before we both started work. Both of these rituals were remarkably pleasant, and it was hard to give them up in my head.

Additionally, one might ask why not just keep my rituals, but drink mint tea instead? And this is where I struggled most – I craved that dark, robust, deeper flavor of black tea or coffee. Each of them seemed to warm me in an earthier depth than any herbal tea ever could. Herbal tea is less earthy. Even when warm, it reminds me of flowers, of wind, of sunshine. (I love this, too, but not for my morning rituals – especially in February/March, when this was all going on). There was a distinct connection between these drinks and these rituals. They went hand-in-hand.
Over the next few weeks, however, I managed to slowly distance myself from my addiction to caffeine as well as from my attachment to my rituals. Here are some things that worked for me:


Interim transition to Yerba Mate

Although Yerba Mate still has caffeine, it has other xanthines in it as well, and is supposed to be a “cleaner” buzz than that from coffee (less jittery, etc.). According to Wikipedia, “Mate contains three xanthines: caffeine, theobromine and theophylline, the main xanthine being caffeine. Caffeine content varies between 0.7% and 1.7% of dry weight[14] (compared with 0.3–0.9% for tea leaves, 2.5-7.5% in guarana, and up to 3.2% for ground coffee)[15]; theobromine content varies from 0.3-0.9%; theophylline is present in small quantities, or can be completely absent.[16] A substance previously called "mateine" is a synonym for caffeine (like theine and guaranine)[17]
Studies of mate, though very limited, have shown preliminary evidence that the mate xanthine cocktail is different from other plants containing caffeine most significantly in its effects on muscle tissue, as opposed to those on the central nervous system, which are similar to those of other natural stimulants. The three xanthines present in mate have been shown to have a relaxing effect on smooth muscle tissue, and a stimulating effect on myocardial (heart) tissue.”

Truthfully, I enjoy the Mate buzz. I really do. And just as truthfully, I am not that into the taste. It’s fine – I don’t hate it, but it doesn’t move me and connect with my soul like black tea does. My favorite way to prepare Yerba Mate is to brew the tea and then stir in a teaspoon of cacao powder. Add your choice of sweetener and your choice of milk, and voila! A delicious morning cocktail. The chocolate makes all the difference for me. I used the Yerba Mate as an in-between zone before I completely phased out the caffeine.

Noticing My Cravings

I tried to pay close attention to my cravings and think about them more. For me, this meant noticing the moment that I wanted tea or coffee, and sort of talking myself through it. Not surprisingly, as I worked through the cravings, they tended to last for only a few minutes, and were much more easily surmountable than they had been initially.

Consciousness is KEY in health.


Barley Coffee/DandyBlend

My favorite tool during this detox was DandyBlend – a healthy, herbal-based coffee substitute. (Thank you to my own mama for turning me onto this).  There are a few different barley coffees on the market, but Dandy Blend is the only one that incorporates dandelion root for added health benefits.

This stuff is delicious! And best of all, it is deep brown in color and robust in flavor. Just like tea or coffee. So aside from having something warm to drink, it also satisfied my associative cravings for that deep flavor that I got from my caffeinated beverages. I brewed it hot and added a bit of sweetener and milk.

Dandelion root is used in various forms for health support, particularly in liver cleansing and detox. You can read a little bit about the benefits here:

For many people, dandelions are simply a yard pest. However, dandelions are very rich in nutrients. Traditionally, the roots and leaves of the plant have been used as medicines for breast maladies, bloating, digestive disorders, aching joints, fevers, and skin disorders. The leaves of the plant are very rich in vitamins, including A, C, D, and B-complex. They also have high levels of minerals like iron, magnesium, zinc potassium, manganese, copper, choline, calcium, boron, and silicon. The most active ingredient in dandelions, eudesmanolide and germacranolide, are found only in dandelions.”

Water

As with any health regimen, detox, or cleanse, I tried to drink more water than usual. This helped to flush my system and also curb cravings for other liquids.

After about 2 weeks of DandyBlend (which followed about 1.5 weeks of Yerba Mate), I found that my caffeine cravings were nearly gone, and held much less power over me. Additionally, enough time had passed to where my “rituals” seemed further away and less important, thereby making them easier to let go. The negative side effects that I had been experiencing from caffeine left my system entirely after about 4 weeks. I felt my hormones level out and begin to re-balance.
At this point, I am back to drinking caffeine if I want it. But having broken the daily ritual and addiction cycle, I crave it less and only drink it occasionally. Having cleansed my system also heightened my sensitivity to it again, so I am more cautious of how much I drink. I still drink DandyBlend when I am experiencing a ritual craving more than a caffeine craving, and I still love it.

7 comments:

  1. This was a great post. I would be reading along and think "Oh, I should tell her about Mate" but you already knew. Then I thought "I should tell her about DandyBlend" but you were already on it. Then I thought "I wonder if she's drinking enough water" you were already there.

    That whole thing made me giggle. I'm really glad that you have moved through your caffeine problems. I take it very easy on myself with the coffee and drink nettle tea in the morning instead. It has a taste sort os similar to mate- not anywhere near as deep as black tea, though. I get such a mineral buzz off of it that I don't crave coffee afterwards.

    Happy Travels!
    Claire

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  2. wonderful read, thanks for sharing! I hope you are enjoying your travels.

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  3. i can't live if living is with out coffee. i kinda want to marry it and have it's babies. and then drink them. mmmmm, boy do i love mate, too!

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  4. Super informative post Sadie! I'm so curious to try DandyBlend now.

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  5. Oh Sadie, I feel super-guilty here sipping my filter coffee now. But I have cut down, I choose Green Tea most of the time - it does still have caffeine in it but it is full of antioxidents too

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  6. This is inspiring me to round out my caffeine-alternatives in the cupboard... I am super sensitive to caffeine so I have never gone far down the road of Addiction there, ha ha, but I still love the taste of something dark and roasty. Thanks for sharing this info- I don't think many women realize how strongly caffeine affects our cycles. I guess it can REALLY make for a nasty menopause if you enter into it as a caffeine addict, too. (-:

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  7. this is a great post and it popped up at the perfect moment for me to read it. I have had an ongoing love/hate relationship w caffeine. I feel it not only affects my hormone but also my anxiety levels... eek, I've been doing a yerba mate transition and it's ok but adding cocoa powder will probably help w the taste. thanks for the tip.
    xo m

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Thank you for commenting! Even if I don't reply, I read and appreciate every single one of you. xo