I never thought coffee was something I’d give up. Not for a month, certainly not for life.
But when I did my first Vice Detox of 2015, it was the prong of my trio (which also including alcohol and sugar) that I missed the least. The withdrawal was short and fairly straight forward—two days of mild headaches—whereas my body’s response to detoxing sugar was longer, more violent and varied.
Because of what the experience taught me about my cravings, I’ve mostly kept caffeine out of my life. I drink green tea most days, but not all. And sometimes on weekends or over vacation when I really want to indulge my taste buds, I’ll have an espresso or almond milk latte.
When I started the 4 Weeks to Wellness Program, which kicks off with a week-long mini vice detox, I was surprised by how many people were most dreading giving up coffee. When it was over, I was also shocked by how many people surprised themselves by deciding, like me, to stick with it.
Coffee is a polarizing ingredient in the wellness world, seen as a drug by some and a superfood by others. As I write about in The Wellness Project book, your tolerance really comes down to how well you metabolize it, which varies from person to person and can be affected by a number of variables (hormonal birth control being a biggie).
So I’m always surprised that so many elimination diet, detox and “cleanse” protocols don’t include coffee on the list (I’m looking at you Whole30).
Even if it wasn’t necessarily on your resolution list this year, I think everyone can benefit from going caffeine-free for a short period of time. If you suffer from hormonal imbalances (PCOS, endometriosis, thyroid issues) or symptoms of such (bad skin, unpredictable digestion), coffee might be a below-the-radar culprit or contributor.
Should You Give Up Coffee?
What many don’t acknowledge about coffee in particular (not caffeine in general) is that it’s a mild endocrine disruptor.
Coffee competes for precious enzyme resources in the liver that are also needed to process estrogen during the detoxification process. This is one reason why women taking hormone replacement drugs (like birth control pills) metabolize caffeine more slowly and can feel its effects longer.
This doesn’t do our skin any favors, but it also affects other aspects of our delicate endocrine system.
When estrogen levels are elevated, as can happen when your liver isn’t efficiently sorting the excess and eliminating properly, it creates a chain reaction through other parts of the body, especially the thyroid.
“Estrogen dominance” can cause hypothyroidism. It’s also associated with painful periods, scary PMS, ovarian cysts, and balloon-in-the-belly level bloating.
Ladies. Please consider giving your coffee break a break?
How do you Go About Quitting Caffeine?
To avoid head-pounding withdrawal symptoms, I don’t recommend going cold turkey.
Instead, replace your morning java infusion with a single cup of green tea, a low-caffeine, high antioxidant option for a few days. If you’re highly dependent on coffee (like 3+ cups per day), try taking a full week to downgrade. Start with two days of just 1 cup in the morning, followed by 2 days of only black tea, followed by 2 days of only green tea. Then, boom. Eliminate caffeine completely with one of the below options.
Emotionally, there’s a lot to be said for what a warm cup of something can do for the routine of starting your day. But I also want to talk about the benefit that warming up your insides has on the digestive system.
If you’ve become reliant on coffee to go to the bathroom in the morning, don’t stress.
Especially if you’re drinking smoothies or eating overnight oats straight from the fridge, it helps to first try sipping on something warm.
Cold foods slow down the digestive process, while warm foods tend to be easier on your GI tract.
Read on for some of my go-to warm caffeine-free beverages that can help you kick your coffee habit and still enjoy a treat in the morning.
With health and hedonism,
THE BEST CAFFEINE FREE COFFEE SUBSTITUTES AND ALTERNATIVES
Mushroom Elixir: For those who miss the taste of coffee, Four Stigmatic’s various mushroom powders are an interesting alternative. It’s not a dead ringer for the flavor, but it has a lovely earthy quality and looks just like coffee. It also is a superfood that touts lots of other nutrients. Just dump in a cup and add water. Easy. The Lion’s Mane variety is caffeine-free and great for focus. Beware that the mushroom coffee actually contains coffee!
Teeccino: Another option that imitates coffee, but comes in an easy-to-use tea bag is this tea brand. If you’re sensitive to gluten, make sure you buy a flavor that isn’t made from barley like the Dandelion Dark Roast.
Caffeine-Free Chai Tea Lattes. If you’re more of a tea guy or gal anyway, you will love these chai tea lattes, which have all the spices in the usual Starbucks order but none of the actual, um, tea. They are a little more involved, so you can also see the option below.
Bombay Fog. The London Fog is a classic tea latte that uses Earl Grey and steamed milk. It’s incredibly easy and can be replicated with caffeine-free English Breakfast tea, or for a fun spin, Caffeine-Free Rooibos Chai tea bags and Warm Almond Milk!
Golden Milk Lattes: These take a little more time in the morning, but can be quickly whipped up on the stove from a premade mixture of spices. The turmeric acts as an antinflammatory for your system, while ginger is a well-known salve for any digestive issues that ail you. An easy hack is this ginger tea plus a splash of unsweetened almond or coconut milk. You can also follow the recipe for golden milk chia pudding in The Wellness Project and skip the chia seeds for a simple latte!
Bone Broth: not only is it incredibly warming, but the collagen and glutamine also help heal your gut lining. There’s a fabulous recipe for Slow Cooker Ginger Chicken Broth in The Wellness Project Book. For instructions in an instapot, click here. For a beef version, see here. If you want to buy bone broth, Kettle and Fire makes a good (if expensive) one and I think it still pales in comparison to homemade. If you live in NYC, visit Brodo!
Warm Water with Fresh Lemon Juice: Just add 1/2 lemon to 8 ounces of hot water. Lemon juice acts as a solvent for toxins, helping your liver flush all the junk it accumulated overnight and usher it out of your body. This is especially good for if you’re just starting your caffeine or full vice detox and want some extra help getting through the withdrawal symptoms!
Cacao Lattes: The dark, chocolate flavor of raw cacao really hits that earthy spot in the same way at mushroom elixirs. So far, Sunwink is my favorite brand. They also have other non-caffeinated options!
Detox Drink Recipes: If you don’t mind a more involved homemade option, I have recipes for green immune drinks, detox smoothies, and many more!
Have you ever tried giving up coffee? Do you feel better without it? What warm concoction is in your cup in the morning? Tell me in the comments!
For a helping hand kicking caffeine, the 4 Weeks to Wellness Program will be back for a new session next month and Early Bird Pricing is still available!