I recently undertook an experiment to quit coffee for 30 days. I am up to day 28. I have been a coffee drinker for 20 years, and there has barely been a day I didn’t have a coffee during that time. But throughout most of that time, I had this underlying feeling that coffee probably isn’t the best thing I could be drinking. I have felt I’d likely benefit by not drinking it at all.
I’ve never been a heavy coffee drinker-usually only 2 cups a day, but sometimes (when I was extra tired) 3 cups. But I know I am sensitive to the stuff, so 2-3 was enough for me to feel like it’s probably not the best thing for me.The first week was rough. I have tried to quit coffee many times before, but it never felt like ’the right time’ to quit. I joined a ‘quit coffee’ Facebook group. I learned a lot from those who were further along in their journey. I learned how it took many people 6 months or more to reach some kind of balance after drinking coffee for decades. But every single one of those people has said they will NEVER go back to it. They say the health benefits they have experienced since quitting far outweighed the feeling of deprivation from not having it.
On the whole, we worship coffee. We have catchphrases like ‘Don’t talk to me until I have my morning coffee’. We see slogans on coffee mugs which say ‘It’s Monday, but coffee can handle it’ or ‘It’s coffee o’clock!’Then we hear ourselves sometimes saying ‘I have a headache, I think I am having coffee withdrawal (goes and gets a coffee).Those who drink coffee daily know what I am talking about. It’s almost akin to a religion. It’s the most socially acceptable drug in the world.
But did you know that coffee changes the structure of your brain? Coffee blocks specific receptor sites; therefore, your brain makes more and more of these receptor sites to compensate. This is why if you have ever quit coffee cold turkey and felt that debilitating crash, it’s because all those receptor sites are suddenly wide open telling your body you are SO TIRED!Did you also know that studies have shown it shrinks the pineal gland in long term users? This has implications for melatonin production, thus having a knock-on affect on sleep quality. This, in turn, has a knock-on impact on your immune system-therefore, probably shortening your life span? On the flip side, we’re told that coffee has health benefits.
But what we’re not told is that the health benefits only apply to how wisely we ‘use’ coffee. For example, the time of day you have it, how much you have, how your unique genetic makeup metabolises it. For some people, coffee will never be good for them no matter what the ‘health studies’ are telling us. A healthier approach would be to have regular breaks from drinking coffee-eg one week off, three weeks on. That routine is unthinkable for most who enjoy their coffee daily.
My results so far from quitting for 30 days? One thing I have noticed in a big way is how present I feel when I teach my Body Balance classes. I feel like I can be myself more, not take myself so seriously and laugh more and therefore connect with the class better. It’s not always easy getting up in front of a class week in and week out and remembering everything you’re meant to teach. Delivering it in a way that sits well with the class, and creating a good experience for them is the aim. But since quitting coffee, I feel like I am providing that experience better. On an objective level, my sleep quality has improved by 8% (I have been tracking my sleep for over a year now with an app).I am generally less hungry. Annoying muscle twitches have gone (coffee is known to deplete magnesium).And, I think I am generally less reactive to life and am more proactive.
On the downside (and sorry if this is too much information) constipation has been a really really uncomfortable side effect! This is just a further indication of how my nervous system and digestion has been affected through long term coffee usage. So, some gut/digestive tract healing is likely required as well as extra attention to fibre intake.I’m not saying I will never drink coffee again, but I do think it is something we should use responsibly.
One book I would recommend to learn more about it is called ‘Caffeine Blues’ by Stephen Cherniske. It’s an eye-opener to this cult called ‘coffee’. So, would you take a 30-day challenge and quit coffee to find out what it might do for you? You won’t know unless you try!!