Coffee can be one of the most unpleasantly challenging things we remove during a cleanse. Many people consider this to be some type of strange torture, needlessly recommended by health advocates to make the process of cleansing even more potentially difficult – like, come on, how bad could it be?
Well, the answer may be surprising, and the science is something you should know about if you consume coffee regularly or are considering cutting if out of your life for a while.
Do You Really Love Coffee…?
“I love the smell, the taste, the warmth, the ritual…”.
These are common remarks regular coffee drinkers use to rebut the idea of giving up this magical black liquid for a bit of time. But let’s face it, if you are one of these people, you aren’t drinking decaf.
Just as beer aficionados and wine connoisseurs can eloquently describe the hops, the tannins, and the balance of their favorite beverages, at the end of the day, if you give them non-alcoholic versions, all of a sudden they start loving a good ol’ scotch or vodka drink.
So let’s be honest. People don’t just love coffee, they love the way the high dosage of caffeine in their coffee makes them feel, think and perform. And there is nothing wrong with that. But just like alcohol, too much too regularly can lead to more problems than benefits.
But fear not! There are some much healthier and cleanse friendly ways to get those effects we love without the downsides.
Caffeine Science – Skip If You Do Not Want To Nerd Out.
The structure of a caffeine molecule looks very much like a natural chemical produced by the body called adenosine, which gives caffeine the ability to bind to the body’s adenosine receptors. Adenosine molecules are responsible for making us feel sleepy or relaxed by slowing down cellular activity and causing our blood vessels to expand.
When adenosine receptors are occupied by caffeine molecules, the body does not recognize the natural adenosine we produce, which leads to an increase in nerve cell activity and a constriction of blood vessels, since the relaxing effects of adenosine are not able to counteract those processes.
Once this occurs, the pituitary gland releases hormones that signal the production of adrenaline, our fight or flight hormone, because it assumes there is some sort of emergency. This is why anxiety is a common side effect of too much caffeine.
Adrenaline constricts blood flow, directing it toward the muscles and increases tension in preparation for something dangerous to happen. This is why people will commonly feel cold hands and feet after having too much coffee.
Caffeine’s stimulating effect, or the “boost” of energy you get when you drink caffeine is not actually the caffeine producing that effect, it’s the adrenaline that was released by the caffeine’s inhibition of adenosine.
Caffeine also inhibits the reabsorption of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that activates the pleasure centers in certain parts of the brain, meaning the dopamine your brain produces stays in your body longer. This inability to reabsorb the dopamine to normal levels gives us a kind of artificial high or sense of just plain old feeling good. Other much more addictive substances that operate the same way are cocaine and heroin.
Once the pleasant effects induced by the caffeine wear off, you can face fatigue, headaches due to increased blood flow to the brain which puts pressure on nerves, and depression from the reabsorption of dopamine. Over time it also depletes serotonin which affects sleep levels and mood. At this point, the quickest ways to stop those negative sensations is to – you guessed it – have more caffeine!
This is why many people start to fall into an addictive relationship with coffee. By creating alertness through blocking adenosine reception, then becoming energized with adrenaline, then feeling pleasure because of high levels of dopamine, coffee can become someone’s go-to, feel-good high energy drug quite easily.
Why Is Coffee Off The Menu During A Cleanse?
Caffeine artificially jacks up the body – already knew that, so what? How is that going to affect my cleanse? Well the answer to that lies not as much in the jacking up, it’s in the calming down.
The effects of caffeine may only be physically felt for a few hours, but the chemical stays in your body much longer. As night rolls in, adenosine reception is especially important for deep sleep. Your brain signals a kind of night shift cleaning crew to get to work right before you go into deep sleep. Electrical signals known as slow waves appear just before a pulse of fluid washes through the brain, presumably removing toxins associated with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Deep sleep is also when your body repairs muscles, organs and other cells and removes unwanted byproducts from the body, ready to be eliminated upon awakening.
In a nutshell, it is when much of the real “cleansing” happens.
Caffeine is also a diuretic, increasing urination putting stress on our major organs of detoxification, the liver and kidneys. During a cleanse we are focusing on hydration, and artificially increased urination is not hydration’s friend.
Lastly, one of the most important reasons is because some of the incredible and beneficial aspects of doing a cleanse are not only the physical improvements, but the mental and emotional development that has the opportunity to occur at a rapid pace as well.
One of my intentions every time I do a cleanse is to break old habits and become free from the need for external inputs to determine a positive outputs. A cleanse is a chance to experience that we don’t need chemicals, our comfortable routines or even food to feel happy and achieve our goals. If fact, most of the things we think we rely on the path towards happiness and success are often the things standing in our way, or at least bumping us around on on the journey.
Tips to Prevent, Reduce or Eliminate Caffeine Withdrawal Effects
Ok, so you’re in to give no coffee a shot on your cleanse. Let’s talk about what to do to make that as gentle as possible. Here are some tips if you are experiencing any of the below:
Low Energy, Depressed or Irritable
- Try taking 500 – 2000 mg per day of L-Tyrosine or DL-Phenylalanine. Both of these are precursors to dopamine, which can massively help with positive mood and good energy. Experiment with both as everyone converts them differently. I would say L-Tyrosine is more commonly used in my experience. Do not take these much later than lunch time as they can keep some people up at night much like caffeine.
- Take 200 – 500 mg of 5 HTP (daytime) or 500 – 1500 mg of L-Tryptophan (night time) to boost serotonin production.
- Drink .75 – 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. Drink more if needed.
- Some people claim topically applying peppermint oil to the forehead or temples reduces or removes their headache.
- Get acupuncture or acupressure.
- Sleep it off.
- If really needed, take an OTC pain reliever like Advil or Tylenol.
Can’t Sleep or Don’t Feel Rested
- Take 500 – 1500 mg of L-Tryptophan 1-2 hours before you want to fall asleep.
- Take 200 mg of L-Theanine before bed.
- Drink valerian tea in the evening.
- Take 500 – 1500 mg of Magnesium for deeper sleep 1 – 2 hours before bed.
- ***Don’t experiment with these all at once, as each of these individually can produce fairly strong effects in some people.
Want/Need To Ween of The Coffee To Reduce Effects
Switch to Green Tea. It has a fraction of the caffeine and also contains L- Theanine, which works synergistically with caffeine to create alertness and focus with a much milder side effects. Buddhist monks discovered green tea helped the prolong focus and reduce drowsiness during meditation – especially the 4am practices!
Green tea is also loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients and is considered one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.
**Warning** If you feel like you have a caffeine or coffee habit, try to go completely without any caffeine, even green tea, for at least 2 weeks. If you are an occasional or non-coffee drinker, switching to green tea is a great go to choice, and possibly a permanent, healthier switch!
There is nothing inherently bad about coffee or caffeine, unless we begin to overuse it or rely on it. You don’t need to suffer through the effects of removing caffeine from your life for a while. Experiment with the tips in this article if you are having any trouble putting it aside. Use your cleanse as a chance to break free from this habit, reset your body and brain, and prove to yourself that your body and mind can create all the focus and energy you need to achieve your goals.