Caffeine, Detoxification, and the Healing Crisis

Days after quitting caffeine, I started coughing up and eliminating nasty amounts of toxic looking phlegm from my sinus and lungs. (sorry for the descriptors.) I had been suffering from sneezing, clear drippy nose and “allergy” or “cold” symptoms for a couple of months previous to this. So, while I was disappointed to be getting sick over the holidays, it felt like I was finally getting “something out” of my system that had been brewing for a long time.

I have searched many databases for evidence based articles linking caffeine and sinus and have only found articles related to caffeine and heart disease. Apparently there is no evidence based link. However, in searching Dr. Google for other peoples opinions on caffeine and sinus health, there is a relationship between the two. Caffeine diminishes adrenal health by deleting epinephrine and affecting cortisol levels. This in turn affects the immune system and inflammatory levels, which can lead to increased candida levels causing chronic sinusitis.

The body wants to be in homeostasis. This means, the body seeks balance. In its natural state, without drugs, the human body will naturally produce secretions to eliminate microbes and return to its state of best health. This is one of the basic tenets of Naturopathic Medicine. This can produce what is known as a healing crisis. Fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, vaginal discharge, phlegm – secretions of various kinds are produced to aid the body in returning to its natural state. It can feel pretty awful to be in a healing crisis, but if you are able to trust that the body is actually working towards a state of improved health rather than spiraling towards destruction, it can bring about an awesome recovery. (This is also often what modern medicine is appropriate,  when medications or other medical interventions are appropriate interventions. The differential between the safe healing crisis and the situation needing medical intervention is the job of a ND.)

I haven’t felt too awful with this current “sinus and bronchial infection.” Although I have had copious elimination of some nasty stuff, my energy, appetite and general mood have been pretty good. I have been able to lay low, watch TV, do castor oil packs for my lungs, make soups, drink Cold Care and Throat Coat teas, and take anti-fungal and lung herbs to support the elimination. Overall although I am sick in a classical sense, I feel a renewal taking place. And, I have finally been able to kick the caffeine and headaches while avoiding the fatigue by resting so much! I will need to continue to work on my adrenal health and decrease sugar intake as candida has been flagged as a potential long term issue by this detox experience.

Everyone will have a different experience, and a different potential for a healing crisis. Age, stress levels, number of years on caffeine, gender, diet and nutrition levels all play into the effect caffeine has on the body, and the resulting effect its elimination can inspire.

Exerpt from


Several years ago we noted a correlation between healthy adrenal glands and the absence of candidiasis, and formed the opinion that healthy adrenal glands help protect against candidiasis. We now realize that the other side of the coin is perhaps more important: Candida commonly impairs adrenal functioning, sometimes severely so.

Having made this latter observation, we wondered about the possible mechanism.  Initially we supposed that the Candida infection constituted an adrenal stressor, like any other infection.  We then saw a lady in whom candidiasis was a major cause of hypoadrenia, and noted that the amino acids that supported her adrenal glands best were taurine, cysteine, and glycine – all antioxidants.  Following up this clue we then ascertained that Candida and its toxins appeared to be exerting a direct cytotoxic effect on the adrenal glands via free-radical activity.

Another mechanism suggested by our testing is that of Candida-induced autoimmune damage to the adrenal glands.  Several studies do, in fact, implicate Candida as a major cause of autoimmunity since it can reduce suppressor T-cell activity.(3)  Further, it is possible that because of a similarity between the protein sequence of the cell walls of Candida and that of human cells, antibodies directed at Candida may cross-react with human cells.(5)  We also wonder whether the presence of Candida and its toxins within a tissue causes the body to regard that tissue as non-self and therefore to initiate autoimmune attack.

Additionally, Candida toxins interfere with acetyl coenzyme A activity,(3) which could inhibit the synthesis of adrenal steroids, and further, it is believed that Candida possesses receptor sites that can bind adrenal steroids thus competing with host cells, producing apparent adrenal insufficiency.(3)

Exerpt: CONQUERING CANDIDA by Sherridan L. Stock BSc(Hons) CBiol FBiol FZS FRES


15 thoughts on “Caffeine, Detoxification, and the Healing Crisis

  1. I am experiencing the exact same thing. I have given up coffee for the last 4 weeks and have had pretty bad sinus congestion and post nasal drip for the last 2 weeks. I gave up coffee to see if it would help improve my asthma symptoms. However it feels like inflammation is getting worse not better. In light of your post I will give it another month off the lovely black liquid to see if this is some kind of cleansing reaction. Thanks and good luck!

  2. I always feel mucus draining out of my head when I stop drinking coffee even for one day! It is bizarre because I never feel plugged up. This doesn’t seem to be the case with tea though, only coffee. My theory is that coffee has mold on it and it creates fungus in my body and the post nasal drip is a detox.

    • yes, that is curious! You could have a food sensitivity to coffee – it has a very different chemical profile than tea does. You could also try an organic coffee – lots of intense chemicals used in the coffee industry, in many nations that do not have strong pesticide regulations.

  3. Hello Dr. Wright,

    Background- I am a 46 uear old female. I started the wheat belly and paleo diet. I have been on it for about 4 weeks now. Also focusing on anti-inflamatory diet with a resent diagnosis of acute arthritis in my hips. For about the last three weeks usually after drinking coffee I have experienced a reaction of stuffy itchy nose, post nasal drip, stiff forehead, stuffy ears, and very bad chest congestion. Last night I talked myself into it being okay to indulge in a caffeine-free, sugar free hot chocolate. The results was a horriible sinus attack and the worst chest congestion that lasted 1 1/2 hours. Benadryl did not help. Important to note that I currently have a sinus infection and taking antibiotocs. Incidently, I have GERD reactions also after having cofffee- awful wet burps where I feel like drowning. I have seen an allergist who took a blood test to rule out a coffee (amd gluter) allergy. Both were negative. He couldn’t test me for caffeine however. I am scheduled to do a skin allergy test in a couple of weeks that will include caffeine allergy. (Also, while I am mentioning this reaction, I am also seeing a neurologist for syptoms of flashes of hot tingly hand and feet. An MRII showed a protruding disk and degenerative disk.. seeing a physical therapist as well- why donInmention these? It just seems like my body is turning against me… It is interferring with my life with frequent feeling of anxiety and depression. I found your article about detox very interesting. I am going through a detox with the paleo, wheat belly diet.. doesn’t seem to cause unbearable symptoms though. Any insight you can give me would be wonderful.

    Thank you

  4. Do you think it could be mold in the coffee pot? I drink organic, keep it in the freezer and still have these issues and then yesterday read about how bacteria growth is terrible in coffee pots…particularly Keurigs because it never empty’s out totally. I clean my Keurig regularly but read they need to be cleaned way more often then the insert suggests. The article said the water never gets hot enough to steralize the unit.

  5. Not sure if it’s coincidence or not but I haven’t been a coffee drinker my entire life. I started drinking coffee and started having sinusitis which I’ve never had before. I stopped the coffee and had immediate relief. Is it coffee in general or is it a batch of coffee that may have mold? I don’t know?
    Regardless I may have to stay off the coffee and stick to tea? I was using a fair trade organic coffee from Trader Joes morning blend.

    • That sounds like a definite reaction to coffee. I wouldnt trust Trader Joes to be good enough quality to make a real decision though. Find a small coffee roaster in your area that roasts their own coffee (with dates on it) and sample that, and see if you get the same reaction.

  6. I suffer from congestion a lot cuz of my blood vessels being inflamed inside my nose been under hospital and they could not figure out why . But before I had a problem I used to take caffeine tablets to keep me going through out the day as was always busy but was advised to cut them down as was taking about 16 a day so I just stopped them instead and from then on I have had problems with my blood pressure my nose my back killing me and acid reflux and rickets disease so I thought to myself what the hell I was going to start taking caffeine tablets again and since I have only just started and only having 4 a day my back pain has improved and my nose and sleeping have but not how is was before but going to increase my intake of caffeine as have looked on how much is safe to take and is says 10 g of caffeine can be dangerous as cuz at the moment I am only having 200mg and one coffee a day so could easily double that’s and still be safe

    • Hey I have had minimum 1 energy drink a day for the past 6 years and just 3 weeks ago have quit and my body went into a massive meltdown.

      Sinus issues of not breathing
      Monday sinus issues of not breathing pressure in the head
      Tuesday the pressure started to build more and more when my sinuses started to feel like that was swelling or blocking up yet there is no discharge or mucus or anything you want to call that stuff

      But the big kicker was Tuesday night lying in bed watching TV am I fight and flight mechanism kicks in when the wife talk to me normal my anxiety skyrocket through the roof I’m not person with anxiety I’m not a person that finds it hard to breathe

      Yeah Tuesday night a lie there a start finding it hard to breathe through my nose so I start breathing through my mouth I start researching breathing techniques to try and control my anxiety have finally the night ends with me hugging my wife and crying myself to sleep

      I wake up Wednesday morning everything’s fine garden chemist that day chemist prescribing with paracetamol and Nurofen in one paramax or something like that and explains to me that I’m having full blown withdrawal symptoms so I take that for the next 3 days and I have a doctors appointment on the Saturday following and the doctor prescribed me with no dose

      No dose is 100 milligrams of caffeine tablet interesting thing is I take the nodoz on the Saturday around lunch time half an hour after starting to get a slight headache and pressure build up in my head and sinuses within 1 hour of taking the no dose the issues are all gone

      So I take nodoz 1 to 2 a day which is about 200mg but what I’ve been told through research and speaking to chemists and speaking to my doctor his I have been on a caffeine driven lifestyle for the past 6 years and now I’m telling my boy I don’t want it they’re my body is telling me get stuffed so basically what do I do next

      So for me now step by step I will start with 1 no dose in the morning around 9 and another no dough if possible around 1 in the afternoon this will go for the next two weeks and then I will try to go one week of one and three quarters and then one two and then if possible break down to one week of 1 to 2 weeks of 1 and a half tablets a day and then onwards until down to 9 and the only caffeine I have is there a cup of tea or a glass or bottle of Coke

      How did you go

  7. Simple answer is caffeine is a drug – over time the body gets used to getting it and goes into withdrawel if deprived. – so a very gradual reduction in the quantity (tapering off) is what needs to be done. This will probably take 3+ months.

  8. Intense stress from lockdowns culminating in another stressful event approximately six months ago damaged my health. Suddenly I seem to have developed a dustmite allergy or something else. Itchy eyes – pressure behind the eyes – a feeling of suction behind the upper eyes, which has created a sunken, skeletal look. I’m grieving for my lost youthful appearance. On top of this a feeling of my browbone growing larger (could this be a cortisol flight-or-fight mechanism?) Sometimes I battle feelings of nausea or the feeling of being about to faint when I’m trying to sleep.

    I’m a middle aged woman in the habit of consuming 100g of dark chocolate, two cups of black tea and one or two cups of green tea daily. Recently I’ve enjoyed a cup of fresh coffee and this is when I noticed my symptoms escalate. Today I feel mildly feverish and nauseous with an ache down one side of my throat and bad breath.

    My own research into chronic sinus infections leads me to conclude that the stress response itself creates problems outside of caffeine, by contracting muscles and blocking tubes. A eustachian tube dysfunction exercise video on YouTube cleared an earache I was suffering from, much to my relief. In another video, a woman talks about treating her chronic sinus infection by changing her neck posture and performing chiropractic exercises.

    I suspect that chronic sinus and throat infections may be causes by many things simultaneously. This article has given me pause for thought. I suspect that coffee has worsened my symptoms so I’ll abstain for a while. Perhaps I consume too much caffeine.

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