I am a coffee lover – dark, black, strong, sometimes sweet. I am the girl who will get out of bed for a french press. I have known for some time though that I will need to break the addiction – for detoxification, for adrenal fatigue, for hormone health, for fertility. And, I have finally decided that its time to start weaning myself from the dream bean. I know my skin will improve in hydration and texture, that my energy levels will improve (after I get through the caffeine withdrawal) and that my body will thank me in the long run. Coffee is a strong, complex mix of chemicals, and eventually any constant chemical exposure must play its toll.
I don’t intend to become completely abstinent! I just want to break my daily reliance on the drug. I want to become someone who savors the delicate flavors of organic green tea on sunny mornings. I will know a gen mai from a jasmine or sencha, and my cells will bathe in the anti-cancer catechins from the green tea flavonoids. However, I am not there yet. This week I am weaning to “half-caf,” and then to decaf (french press.) I will still have occasional, even weekly hits of delicious (full strength) coffee. I am also using a black/green tea mix to break the coffee habit while also slowly weaning off caffeine.
In her NDNR (Naturopathic Doctors New and Review) article Managing Caffeine Withdrawal in the Patient Undergoing Detoxification (V. 7 Issue 12 p. 8-9) Dr. Erica Peirson ND recommends supplementing Magnesium Citrate, a B Vitamin Complex and Adrenal Botanicals while weaning off caffeine. She also explains how caffeine works as a CNS stimulant. “Blocking adenosine receptors in the brain is a primary way that caffeine acts as a stimulant given its structural similarity to adenosine, Adensoine is not a neurotransmitter but a neuromodulator. Adenosine receptors inhibit the release of neurotransmitters. The release of neurotransmitters is increased when adenosine receptors are blocked by caffeine, resulting in central nervous system stimulation.” She then goes on to explain that the headaches associated with caffeine withdrawal are in part from increased sensitivity of these same receptors leading to dilation of blood vessels and hypotension.
To take the biochemistry of caffeine one step further, the binding of caffeine to the adenosine receptors means instead of slowing down, the brain/nerve cells fire up. The pituitary notices this increased action and sends hormones to tell the adrenal glands to increase production of adrenaline, giving you a boost of fight or flight energy. At the same time, caffeine slows down resorption of dopamine which is our pleasure neurotransmitter. With extra dopamine, you not only feel alert, but you feel good!
All of this is great occasionally – but I know that years and years of this cycle cant possibly be good for me. I am dehydrated, magnesium deficient, and my adrenaline and dopamine levels are pushed beyond their natural limits of production. Stepping off the caffeine / coffee platform will give my body the opportunity to restore adrenal health, balance my brain chemistry, and a great side effect will be improved liver detoxification leading to improved skin texture and color. Its not going to be all fun – I am sure I will be more tired than usual, need more rest, and I may even be a little grumpy as my dopamine deficiency gets exposed. At least its winter in Maine, and I can tuck in early!
Arousal effect of caffeine depends on adenosine A2A receptors in the shell of the nucleus accumbens. The Journal Of Neuroscience: The Official Journal Of The Society For Neuroscience [J Neurosci] 2011 Jul 6; Vol. 31 (27), pp. 10067-75.