How to Make Your Coffee Habit Work FOR You

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

It’s no secret that coffee is one controversial little beverage.  About 98% of my clients come to me with a pretty serious coffee habit, and of those over 3/4 are bona-fied addicted.

So what’s the big deal, you ask?  Coffee never killed anyone, right?

Well, let’s clear a few things up.

Caffeine is a highly addictive substance that can contribute to a whole host of health problems when consumed in excess (over 1 cup a day).  The most severe of these concerns include:

  • Disrupted absorption of key vitamins and minerals
  • Increased risk of miscarriage and low-weight baby if consumed by pregnant women
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Anxiety
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Stress
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Weight gain

Basically, when you drink coffee, the neurons in your brain start firing uncontrollably.  This, in turn, causes your adrenals to produce adrenalin, which is what gives you that rush of energy.  Adrenalin is what puts your body and mind into a “fight or flight” mode — essentially, the biological equivalent of being chased by a bear.  This may help you power through your morning meetings, but it is certainly not doing your body any favors.  Not only are you more likely to experience higher stress levels, anxiety, and poor sleep, but you are also setting yourself up for inevitable withdrawal symptoms in the afternoon (hello fatigue, irritability, and cravings).

All of this equals a pretty intense roller coaster to put your body through!  And I promise you, in the long run, it’s totally not worth the short-lived boost of energy.

But fret not! Unless you’re pregnant, have anxiety, or suffer from chronic fatigue or sleep issues, you don’t need to get off the coffee completely! By following the steps below, you can make coffee work for you, and not against you, and you can take full advantage of it’s benefits (like decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia and lower risk of stroke).

Step One: Break the Addiction

This means weaning yourself down to the point where you can take a couple days off of coffee altogether and not experience any withdrawal symptoms.  It’s the addiction to caffeine that causes the biggest problems for your adrenals, stress, fatigue, and anxiety levels, so breaking the addiction is key.  To do this:

  • Gradually replace 1 cup a day with black tea, then green tea, then herbal tea.
  • Gradually get yourself down to one cup a day
  • Skip a day a few times a week (or just have green tea or yerba mate those days)

Like magic, your addiction will be broken!  But as with any other drug (and make no mistake, caffeine is a DRUG), breaking an addiction takes time.  So be patient with yourself and take it one week at a time! I’ve had clients break a coffee addiction in one week, and others that have taken months.  Depending on the severity of your addiction (evidenced by your symptoms of withdrawal like headaches, irritability, and fatigue), this step may take longer.

Step Two: Time Your Coffee Right

Once you’re down to one cup a day, the key is to have that cup at the right time of day.  Drinking that venti on an empty stomach on your way to work is disastrous for your digestive system, your pH levels, and your adrenals.  So make sure you sip your coffee with  or after a meal (preferably breakfast) and not on an empty stomach.

To counteract the sleep disturbing effects of caffeine, make sure to switch to herbal tea after 3pm!  This gives the caffeine enough time to get out of your system, so you can sleep like a champ at night.

Step Three: Dress Up Your Coffee Like a Pro

What you put in your coffee can make it or break it in terms of the health benefit to harm ratio.  Here’s how:

Add coconut oil:  Have you heard of this new trend?  Well it’s pretty amazing and grounded solidly in nutritional wisdom.  Coconut oil helps to slow down the jittery adrenal effect of coffee, and maximizes the clean, healthy energy you get from your morning cup.  But here’s what’s even cooler! By giving your body a dose of healthy fats, you unlock your own fat burning potential and speed up your metabolism.  This means less cravings, and more healthy weight loss!  Pretty awesome, right?  Add 1-2 tbsp of virgin organic coconut oil to your morning cup and stir or blend.

Use non-dairy milk: Adding dairy milk to your coffee increases your risk of cancer, and exposes you to harmful hormones and antibiotics, which messes with everything.  The best part is, there’s a non-dairy milk for everyone! If you like skim, try organic rice milk, which is the lightest of the bunch.  Into 1%? Go for organic almond milk.  Love 2% or cream?  Shoot for organic coconut milk, which is the thickest and creamiest of the lot.  Just steer clear of soy milk whenever possible, since the estrogenic effect can be harmful.

Sweeten smartly: Adding sugar to caffeine is like sprinkling some crack on top of speed.  Both are super addictive, and both wreak havoc on your body.  And guess what? Artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Nutrasweet are even worse!  If you like your coffee sweet, try stevia or agave instead.

{Image: Pinterest}
4 Comments
  • Jill
    November 12, 2014

    Another beautifully written article by Natasha. Filled with invaluable advice and healthy alternatives. Thanks for the real wake up call!

  • Barry
    November 12, 2014

    Good tips! Do you have any recommendations on cold brewed coffee vs. standard (hot) brew.

    I’m a big advocate of cold brewing for the simple reason that it tastes infinitely better. But I think this option would also suit people well who get stomach problems. Cold brew coffee is much less acidic so is easier on the belly. And, did I mention, it tastes amazing?

    I mix a little water and honey in my cup, micorwave for 10 seconds to make a simple syrup then add coconut creamer and the cold brew coffee.

    It’s so good and my belly stays quiet.

    • Natasha Uspensky, CHHC
      November 14, 2014

      Barry, that’s such a great point!
      Cold brew is definitely a healthier alternative, as it lessens the acidity and decreases toxins in the coffee. That’s why it’s easier on your stomach!
      Try adding some coconut oil as well to get even more health benefits!

      Thanks for reading!
      xo
      Natasha

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