Dependency and withdrawal — detoxing from caffeine
by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
“I don’t have a problem with caffeine — I have a problem without
For some women, this statement (or something similar) is a rueful acknowledgment
that they simply can’t get through the day without a pick-me-up from their
favorite beverage. For lots of people caffeine intake does not cause problems, but
there are several reasons why someone might want to end her love affair with caffeine.
Perhaps you think it makes you jittery, or your practitioner has recommended you
cut back or give it up. You may have tried to quit caffeine before and found yourself
with a pounding headache.
Read more about caffeine:
But while caffeine in moderation
is relatively benign, you might just feel that kicking the habit (or simply cutting
back) would improve your health. If you have had trouble with insomnia, adrenal imbalance, or
anxiety — all of which
can be exacerbated by caffeine — or even if you have some indefinable sense
that you’d be better off without it, you may want to consider undergoing a
Let’s learn more about how caffeine works in the body, then explore some simple
ways to make the detoxification process
go more smoothly for you.
Breaking up with caffeine is hard to do — here’s why
To detox or not — the caffeine addiction quiz
Wondering if you even need to quit? Some women can drink coffee every day of their
adult life with no problem. Others tolerate caffeine well for years, only to find
it causes symptoms as they approach menopause. And still others find that any amount
of caffeine triggers more severe concerns.
Consider the following questions, and trust your inner guidance.
- Do you use caffeine to facilitate a physical activity (waking up, exercising, having
a bowel movement, concentrating)?
- Do you have to have caffeine in the morning? Could you substitute hot water with
lemon or herbal tea?
- Do you crash or have caffeine/sugar cravings in the afternoon/early evening?
- Do you grow irritable, get a headache, or feel disembodied if you miss your caffeine
- Do you have difficulty falling asleep at night and waking up refreshed?
- Do you need caffeine to heighten the effects of other substances, such as nicotine,
alcohol, or sugar?
- Do you feel your social routines would suffer if you went caffeine-free?
- Does a life without caffeine seem impossible to you?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, consider examining your attachment
For certain groups of women, even moderate caffeine dependency can cause problems,
so you may also want to consider quitting if you’re:
- a woman who suffers from
adrenal burn-out (a rapidly growing group)
- a woman who is
insulin resistant and who isn’t getting enough energy from good food
- a slow detoxifier, meaning that it takes
you longer to recover from encounters with toxins.
So the last and most relevant question for you to answer is: How do I respond to
caffeine? (For further guidance, see our article on the
pros and cons of caffeine.)
Most of us understand that caffeine is habit-forming, but we may not think about
what it means to be addicted to it. Part of why caffeine is so hard to give up is
that we may develop a strong dependency on it for a number of physiological, psychological,
and emotional reasons.
- Physiological. Caffeine has measurable physical effects
in the body, increasing our pulse, heart rate, and respiration, making us feel “more
- Psychological. Research shows that caffeine improves concentration
and task performance. Caffeine also helps people feel more “social”
and at ease, and we love to share the caffeine ritual with friends.
- Emotional. Perhaps the strongest aspect of our dependency
on caffeine relates to its mood-lifting effects. We look forward to the times of
day when we consume caffeine as treasured, oasis-like moments.
Many of us develop deep-seated patterns specific to our caffeine consumption. Some
people always drink coffee right before an important meeting. Others like to knock
back a caffeinated drink after lunch because it helps them stay on-task at work.
And some avid exercisers regularly consume caffeine before working out.
As if these factors weren’t enough, over time, many women find that their
response to caffeine changes so that, ultimately, they aren’t in charge anymore
— their body needs that caffeine to feel “normal” or
have energy. And if they try to ignore the desire for caffeine, they find themselves
experiencing withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms
are often uncomfortable enough to cause some to surrender to the confines of caffeine
dependency. But if you’ve reached a decision to cut back or eliminate caffeine
from your life, there are some simple, effective ways to meet your goal while easing
the discomforts of withdrawal.
Our Personal Program is a great place to start
The Personal Program promotes natural hormonal balance with nutritional supplements,
our exclusive endocrine support formula, dietary and lifestyle guidance, and optional
phone consultations with our Nurse–Educators. It is a convenient, at-home
version of what we recommend to all our patients at the clinic.
If you have questions, don't hesitate to call us toll-free at
1-800-798-7902. We're here to listen and help.
Related to this article:
References & further reading on caffeine
Last Modified Date: 04/18/2011
Principal Author: Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP