Kew Beach Naturopathic Clinic

Putting the "care" back in healthcare

4 Steps to Break your Caffeine Addiction

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By Kate Whimster, ND

Originally published on Kate’s blog


Are you an Addict?

Have you ever noticed how many people seem addicted to coffee or other caffeinated drinks? You may be one of them! Caffeine is today’s most socially acceptable and encouraged drug! In 2013, nearly two thirds of Canadians (65%) drank coffee within the last day and over three quarters (78%) drank coffee within the past week. The average coffee intake per day was over three cups!

Many people are dependent on caffeine to regulate energy and fight fatigue, so they don’t know what they feel like without it! One true sign of addiction is that you MUST have that substance to function, and coffee definitely fits that description for many!

Step 1: Calculate your Caffeine

First, figure out how much caffeine you are drinking per day using a website like Caffeine Informer. For example, if you are drinking two Tim Horton’s medium cups of coffee per day, that is 196mg caffeine per serving, or a total of 392mg caffeine per day total.

Step 2: Choose a Substitute

The best way to change a habit is to replace it with something comparable first.  So, simply replace coffee or your caffeinated drink of choice with lower-caffeine or caffeine-free substitute you enjoy. Suggested coffee substitutes:

  • Matcha green tea (1 tsp powder) = 70mg caffeine
  • Green/white/oolong/kukicha/kombucha tea (1 cup/8oz) = 25mg caffeine
  • Herbal caffeine substitutes (eg: Bambu, Teeccino, Dandy Blend) = 0mg caffeine

Step 3: Taper Down

While you may want to quit caffeine all at once, you are more likely to be successful if you taper down gradually.  An easy way to do this is to mix your caffeinated beverage with gradually increasing amounts of a lower-caffeine or caffeine-free substitute, continuing to drink the same number of cups (use a scoop or tablespoon to measure). Here is a sample two-week schedule to taper down from coffee (or another caffeinated beverage):

Day 1-3: ¾ cup regular coffee + ¼ cup coffee substitute

Day 4-6: 2/3 cup regular coffee + 1/3 cup coffee substitute

Day 7-9: ½ cup regular coffee + ½ cup coffee substitute

Day 10-12: ¼ cup regular coffee + ¾ cup coffee substitute

Beyond: Taper to zero coffee over a few days

Step 4: Dealing with Withdrawal

It is normal to experience some withdrawal symptoms initially, such as headaches, anxiety, fatigue, cravings, and even body aches. These will usually resolve within 3-5 days and you can minimize these effects by:

  • Drinking lots of water to ensure adequate hydration
  • Getting enough quality sleep (so go to bed a bit earlier during this time!)
  • Exercising regularly, which helps your liver detoxify substances like caffeine
  • Doing some simple breathing exercises, like deep breathing

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