Now that you have started on a pathway to nourish your body and mind through the New Nutrition and supplementing as needed with vitamins and minerals you’re ready for the next step – and it shouldn’t be too difficult, (because the vitamins and minerals are giving your body’s metabolism a base from which to work.)
Caffeine – this word conjures up images of late night conversation, work, students staying up late studying for exams; because in our society caffeine is one of those “tolerated drugs” that nearly everyone uses. But at what price? Many complain of headaches, afternoon fatigue or nausea, stomach upset, insomnia, weakness, etc. (Some of the same vague symptoms that we have been talking about, right?) In fact, the long term use of caffeine has been linked to such diseases as nervousness or mental debility, pancreatic cancer and heart disease.
By cutting out caffeine you will be making the first move to stop the process of deterioration that you may experience as headaches, afternoon fatigue, anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia. You will halt the loss of vitamins and minerals that caffeine causes, and you will help avoid the chronic, long-term diseases that have been linked to caffeine. You should feel the results, which people usually report as a new feeling of calm and increased energy, by the end of the first week.
One of the first and biggest obstacles to overcoming an addiction is acknowledging you have one. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare lists caffeine as addictive, along with nicotine and heroin, and admits that if caffeine were a new drug, the manufacturer would have great difficulty in getting a license to sell it, and it would no doubt be available only by prescription.
Coffee drinkers experience the three distinct signs of addiction: tolerance for the drug, withdrawal symptoms when it is removed, and a craving after being deprived. The data increasingly shows that caffeine is implicated in several types of cancer, including leukemia and pancreatic cancer, one of the most common and most often fatal types. For men, it may be related to cancer of the prostate and intestine; for women to lung, larynx, breast, and ovarian cancer. Even drinking one or two cups a day increases the risk.
While most cystic breast tumors are not cancerous, women who have them may be more likely to develop breast cancer eventually; and coffee is clearly implicated in breast cysts. An Ohio State University study of women who completely eliminated caffeine from their diet found that within six months, 65 percent of them no longer had breast cysts.
The data on heart disease and coffee are just as damning. It is not surprising since we all experience some difference in heart rhythm after as little as two cups of coffee. Over a period of time, regular coffee drinkers are frequently subject to various cardiac irregularities. One study found a link between coffee and heart attacks. That may be partly because coffee drinkers are more likely to have high blood levels of cholesterol, which also increases the probability of heart disease.
Additionally, caffeine is implicated in high blood pressure – if you’re a borderline case, caffeine may tip the scale – and many other disorders, including peptic ulcer, diabetes, psychosis, and birth defects.
Caffeine is a stimulant that’s been around for thousands of years. Though it has been “domesticated,” in that it has become part of our everyday lives, when the stimulating qualities of coffee were first discovered, its use was restricted to religious ceremonies. In the Middle East it enabled Muslims to stay up all night praying and chanting. Caffeine – in the form of coffee – eventually became popular all over the world for the same reason it is held in high esteem today: its stimulating action.
Caffeine is a member of the drug family known as stimulants. All stimulants act on the body in a similar way. They encourage the body to release ephedrine and norepinephrine, the antistress hormones you’ve probably heard mentioned in relation to combating stress. With the release of the antistress hormone, the body feels the familiar sensations. The heart beats faster, the blood pressure rises, the stomach jumps, the bowels may react, and the blood vessels constrict.
While you may not be aware of what is happening internally, you are probably familiar with these sensations: a sense of energy, increased urine output, bowel movements, and cold extremities. These effects may be felt within minutes after taking caffeine and reach their peak in an hour to an hour and a half, finally tapering off after about three and a half hours. Some people feel the effects of caffeine for a much longer time.
Caffeine rushes through the body, affecting the brain, the central nervous system, the heart and circulatory system, the respiratory system, and the digestive tract. Caffeine has been linked with diseases and disorders in all these systems but its effects on energy and stress are what we will describe.
The main appeal of caffeine is its ability to give an energy boost. But the energy boost is actually deceptive. Caffeine doesn’t give you extra energy; it just forces the body to deplete its reserve of energy faster than it would otherwise. When caffeine is absorbed into the system, the body is stimulated, the mind feels more alert, fatigue is vanquished. A mug of coffee contains enough caffeine to raise the metabolism 10 to 25 percent, which is the equivalent of 10 milligrams of amphetamine. The body goes into over drive. But when the effects of the caffeine wear off in two and a half to three or four hours, the body feels the effects of having drawn on its energy reserves. It goes into a slump and feels more fatigued than ever. While caffeine may increase your ability to do exhausting work, whether long distance driving or assembly line manufacturing, it can also result in hand tremors and possible difficulties with eye-hand coordination. Worst of all, from the point of view of most people who depend on caffeine to improve their work performance, studies have shown that it can have an unpredictable effect on tasks involving choice and discrimination. In one study of college students it was discovered that those with a high consumption of caffeine had lower achievement and grades than those with a low caffeine intake. The implication is that if you are doing work that demands choice and discrimination, caffeine may not be giving you as much help as you think.
Caffeine: The Diet Killer
The fatigue you experience as your body realigns its metabolism following caffeine ingestion may be largely the result of low blood sugar. We’ll examine this problem in detail during the sugar week. For now it’s important for you to know that low blood sugar masked by caffeine ingestion, in addition to taxing the body’s energy reserves, can be a trap for dieters.
Many dieters depend on caffeine to depress their appetites, and it’s true that this is one of its effects. But in the long run, drinking a lot of coffee makes dieters more vulnerable to attacks of hunger resulting from low blood sugar.
One of the effects of caffeine is to release hormones that force the body to release stored glycogen from the liver in the form of glucose. You experience this as a boost in energy as the glucose flows into the bloodstream and the body is stimulated to release insulin. The flood of insulin depresses the level of glucose, but as this level plummets, the body reacts with a low, or a slump. The increased blood sugar that was giving you that rush of energy is depressed now to even lower levels and you feel tired, irritable, and most troublesome for dieters, famished.
From a practical standpoint, it’s these hunger attacks that always seem to drive dieters to break down and have a chocolate eclair, which does enormous harm from a physiological as well as a psychological standpoint. The body cries out for a snack to get that blood sugar up again, and most people receive this message as a desperate plea for something sweet. If you indulge, the cycle continues. Therefore, coffee, instead of being a crutch for dieters, is in fact a trap. If you want to raise your metabolism to lose weight, you would do better to eat a good breakfast. Studies have shown that a good balanced breakfast increases your metabolism by about 14 percent!
Caffeine and Stress
We know some of you still aren’t convinced that you can give up coffee. How can you get through your stressful days?, you ask. Let us emphasize that by taking caffeine you are only adding to your problem and contributing to a feeling of being generally run down. This is the way it works:
Every time we drink a cup of coffee, or have a soda with caffeine in it, or a cup of tea, we are stimulating our adrenal glands to release the antistress hormones. Coffee also causes an immediate, temporary, rise in blood sugar. Both these biochemical reactions make us feel better temporarily. We find it’s easier to deal with the kids, or the boss, or a busy schedule, or a work deadline, or any of the 101 minor irritations and strains that are part and parcel of our daily lives. And the more stress in our lives we perceive, the more likely we’ll reach for a cup of coffee.
But metabolically there’s no free lunch. In actuality, what we are forcing the body to do is deplete its reserves of antistress hormones. Because we’ve been using external stimulants to switch on our adrenal glands, and have not been relying on internal triggers, the adrenals become exhausted. We start feeling run down, worn out, exhausted, overwhelmed, and unable to cope. And what makes it seem like we can cope? As the TV commercials will be glad to tell you, it’s another cup of coffee.
This is a major reason why it is so difficult to give up caffeine, and why we, as a nation, are so strongly addicted to it. When we don’t have caffeine, our bodies don’t produce naturally the catecholamines that make it easier to get through the day, to cope with city traffic, difficult children, and job pressures. We have lost the ability to respond internally to stress without a stimulant.
Once we deny ourselves the caffeine, not only do we feel terrible, we begin experiencing withdrawal; this makes us feel even worse. That’s why our will to give up caffeine so often fails when we try to get through a day, or a week, without it.
This is where nutritional supplements are helpful, particularly those vitamins and minerals known as antioxidants. They seem to increase naturally your ability to cope with stress and therefore make it easier to give up your addictions.
If you haven’t started taking these supplements as suggested in the last lesson, do so when you give up coffee.
Cold Turkey or Step-by-Step?
Many ask if they can just taper off their caffeine consumption before quitting completely. Though some experts recommend a gradual tapering off, we’ve found the cold turkey method to be far preferable. Most people who have tried the gradual approach find it more difficult because it is harder to know when to draw the line. Were two cups a day acceptable if they cut down from six? Or should they try for one? As long as they had just two cups, did it really matter if they had one more after dinner as long as they were lingering with friends in a nice restaurant? When the process of quitting becomes one of constant decision making, resolve is inevitably weakened.
There’s also a physiological reason for quitting cold turkey. It’s just too difficult to see the effects of eliminating caffeine from your diet if you are still consuming even a small amount. You’ll still have those energy swings and perhaps many of your vague symptoms under these conditions, and you’ll have less incentive to stick with your resolution to quit completely. Moreover, the lingering physical effects of caffeine will weaken your determination. Caffeine has been shown to cause depression and fatigue. This makes any self-improvement program more difficult to stick with, and, especially at the beginning of the Miracle Makeover, we think you should make things as easy for yourself as you can.
What Do I Drink Instead?
The very best substitute for coffee and tea is herbal tea, and many who give up caffeine become connoisseurs. Fortunately, there are many kinds of herbal tea on the market these days, and they’re easy to find.
Two other drinks, Pero and Postum, are popular with some people as substitutes for coffee, and they may be worth a try. Both are made from grain and are available in some grocery and most health food stores. Whatever you substitute for a morning, evening or coffee break drink, it’s important that you drink it unsweetened. Next week you’re going to be working on sugar, and if you develop the habit of drinking five cups of herb tea with five teaspoons of sugar or honey per day, you’ll be working against yourself. There’s no point in acquiring a taste for sweet herb tea one week only to have to eliminate it the next. So right from the beginning, drink these substitute beverages plain, without sugar, honey, or sugar substitutes. You can, however, add a slice of lemon or orange or even a small bit of fruit juice if you like.
If you’re accustomed to drinking carbonated beverages, with or without caffeine, this is the week to stop. Many kinds contain caffeine, but even if your favorite brand doesn’t , it’s still not doing you any good. If you drink sweetened soda, you’re getting up to six teaspoons of sugar in every eight-ounce serving! If you drink the artificially sweetened kind, you’re dependent on that sweet taste, and you may be at risk because of the sweetener itself. As long as you’re going to be working on sugar next week, begin now by stocking up on substitutes for carbonated beverages. When you buy your herb tea, pick up some club soda or seltzer or a soda siphon so you can make your own seltzer. Mix the seltzer with a dash of fruit juice, or add a slice of lemon for a refreshing, flavorful healthy substitute for a can of soda.
Buy these beverages before you begin your caffeine-free week. The preparation itself will commit you to making the change. If you find yourself on a cold morning with no herbal tea or other substitute and there’s a can of coffee staring you in the face, you’ll find it difficult to resist.
Every addiction has triggers that will spur you to indulge – people, places, things or events which you associate with the addiction and make it difficult to avoid it. In order to kick caffeine successfully, you need to recognize what triggers encourage you to use it. This might seem like a meaningless exercise at first. After all, you may tell yourself, “I’ll just give it up and that will be that.” But if you take this approach, you’ll probably find yourself in a situation where you have to make an on-the-spot decision, and these moments are the most dangerous kind.
Take a few minutes and think of each time you have a cup of coffee, tea, drink of cola or even a chocolate bar. What time of day is it? Are you alone? Do you tend to drink coffee before a meeting, during a meeting, just during coffee breaks, or after meals? Do you have a chocolate bar as a reward in the middle of the afternoon? Do you begin the day by having coffee or tea with your spouse and/or end it the same way? Make a quick list of all your triggers.
Once you know the triggers, decide how you’re going to avoid them. If you usually have coffee or tea in restaurants, tuck some herbal tea bags in your pocket as substitutes. If you want to join your colleagues in an afternoon coffee break, make sure herbal tea is in your desk. If you are used to having a chocolate bar in the afternoon, have a piece of fruit each day instead.
Recruit your Helpers
You’ll find your Makeover is much easier at every point of the way if you recruit helpers. This Course should serve as a major helper. If you feel your resolve on caffeine weakening, for example, go back and read the beginning of this lesson and remind yourself of all the damage that caffeine is doing to your body.
Enlist the people in your life to help you give up caffeine. Explain to your colleagues at work that you can’t consume any caffeine, that your body has become intolerant to it. You can also use that excuse at restaurants. If your spouse drinks coffee or tea, perhaps you can convince him or her to join you in abstaining . Many people tell us that though they begin the Miracle Makeover alone, their spouses often join them when they see the results their mates are enjoying. It’s much easier to begin the day with herbal tea, especially the first week, if you don’t have someone across the table from you drinking coffee. But even if your spouse won’t join you, explain why you’re giving up caffeine and ask him or her to be supportive.
Keeping on Track
Once you’ve gone through caffeine withdrawal, (lethargy and headache the first day), the worst is over. There are two things, however, we suggest you do throughout the week to keep yourself on track.
1. Pay Attention to How You Feel. This is important. Most of us are so busy with work and recreation and the details of our lives that we pay little attention to how we actually feel. In the course of the Miracle Makeover, it’s crucial that you develop the habit of noticing how you feel. Then, as you eliminate your bad habits, you’ll get the positive reinforcement of feeling better as a reward, and you’ll be aware of your newly achieved vitality.
Begin this habit the first week. Notice how withdrawal feels. Notice how you feel at the end of the first two days. Do you have more energy? Fewer headaches? Do you sleep better? Wake up more alert? Pay attention so you can appreciate the progress you’re making and stick to the makeover.
2. Talk to Yourself. We do this all the time and we encourage you to do it too. Tell yourself that you’re making progress. Remind yourself that you’re feeling better. Remind yourself that you’re moving closer to your goal. Talk to yourself throughout the day about how you’re going to avoid triggers and make substitutes. Monitoring yourself in this way can be very beneficial and can get you over some rough periods.
If you do have a relapse, take it in stride and don’t be discouraged. I sometimes give my body a test if I go back to a bit of sugar or caffeine. I pay careful attention to how these things make me feel, and decide all over again that the brief pleasure isn’t worth the after-effects. If you do have some caffeine, notice how it affects you, not just immediately but also that evening and next morning. That way your relapse won’t be wasted; abstaining totally can be a device to strengthen your resolve. And it won’t be impossible to quit, no matter how much you rely on it, no matter how many cups a day you drink, because now you have the good Lord on your side. Remember to look up to Him, leaving your burdens at the foot of His cross and asking Him to help you with any feelings of withdrawal you may have. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10: 31. Our bodies are to be dedicated to God’s service and He shows us the correct view of health, strength and life itself. Romans 12:1-3.