I’ve embraced the scariness of this Halloween month by giving up coffee. At least coffee with caffeine in it, which to my way of thinking is real coffee.
Once, years ago, I used a 21-day elimination diet to figure out if any foods were at the root of my stomach problems, allergies, and general malaise. (And yes, some were, which you can read about here.) The diet, also, required giving up caffeine and alcohol for the duration.
Not having my morning coffee was definitely the most challenging part of the twenty-one days. No hot bitterness to wake up my senses. No caffeine-induced energy to brace me for my day. I dragged. Afternoons were dead zones. All I wanted to do was sleep.
Things improved slightly over the course of the twenty-one days.
But then, on the twenty-second day, I poured myself a half-cup of Peet’s Blend 101. It was soooo delicious. Almost immediately I felt like a little cloud that had been hovering over me lifted. Placebo? Probably. As I got ready for my day, I didn’t notice any other effects. No jitters. No stomach problems.
No real surge in energy, either.
About an hour and a half later, though, I was walking down the street. Let me rephrase that. I was practically skipping down the street. I think it was sunny, but it didn’t matter–I was shining. My face was uncontrollably stretched into a wide smile. I swore I could hear the angels singing.
I realized that coffee was evidence of a benevolent god and its love for us.
So why am I turning my back on this gift now?
Because I recently learned how caffeine actually energizes us. It works by binding to adenosine receptors in the brain. In case you don’t know, adenosine is an “inhibitory neurotransmitter”–which means it makes you feel tired and sleepy. This is necessary for quality sleep and rest. Usually, adenosine is balanced out by other “excitatory neurotransmitters.” But in the case of caffeine, it blocks adenosine from sending its signals, so that’s why you feel wide awake and energized after consuming it.
All good, right?
It is, except for one thing. Our brains are plastic. We change them with our thoughts and actions. So, as we block our adenosine receptors with caffeine, the brain believes we have a shortage of it. And what does it do to put things back in balance?
You got it. It creates more adenosine. Cue: the crash. (And most likely another cup of java to compensate.)
This describes the addiction cycle. Your usual amount no longer brings the same thrill. You develop a tolerance and you reach for more.
I didn’t want to live like that. Just like when I finally kicked my food cravings, I wanted to be free from the addiction cycle, and able to appreciate caffeine in all its glory.
There are just two steps. But watch out–the first one is a lulu.
- You have to give your brain a chance to bring your adenosine levels back into balance. That’s what I’m doing right now. Taking three weeks off of caffeine (and up to six for heavy coffee drinkers) should do it. I’m substituting with decaf and am steering clear of chocolate and caffeinated teas. (I know there may be trace amounts of caffeine in decaf, but I’m trying to be realistic here. I truly like that bitter taste in the morning.)
- Next is to bring it back into your life intermittently. The most effective way to do this is by having it for one to two days, then taking a break from it for one to two days. Repeat. Some people, though, drink it for a week, then take a week off. It’s all up to what works for you and your life.
I plan on enjoying coffee three or four days a week. (Caffeinated Bulletproof coffee is my favorite breakfast!) If this experiment works, I’ll get all of the wonderful mood-boosting and energy-enhancing benefits of it with none of the addictive symptoms or other negative effects.
What do you think? Is this something you’d be willing to experiment with?