Legal or not, coffee is an addictive drug that affects both your body and brain chemistry. Anyone who drinks coffee regularly and cannot go more than a couple of days without ‘really feeling like’ (needing) a cup is very likely addicted to it.
I was. I drank a cup or two a day most days of the week for many years. In researching all different effects drinking coffee can have on your health, I simply came up with too many reasons to find an alternative to coffee to continue drinking it.
There were two things that particularly surprised me with coffee replacement.
The first was how much calmer I felt, even only a couple of days after my last cup. The tension I’d often felt in my shoulders in the past, and would usually take breaks from writing for, was diminishing (and it seems to be continuing to do so even more, now caffeine free for several months since I first wrote this).
The second was how easy it was.
I don’t mean to lessen how difficult it can be for some people, particularly heavier users of coffee, to give up coffee. Medical literature has a long list of reported caffeine withdrawal symptoms. These include fatigue and low energy, irritability, difficulty concentrating, decreased alertness, tension and muscle stiffness, caffeine withdrawal headaches, and I’m sure there’s many more ways of saying – “I don’t feel that good without my caffeine hit”.
This page and the following posts it links to are about how to diminish and even avoid as many of the symptoms of coffee withdrawal as possible with a specific plan. If you’re ready to find your own alternative to coffee, I’d suggest there are three things that can help to make it happen with a minimum of stress or withdrawal symptoms.
3 Steps to Coffee Replacement
Step 1 – Understanding Caffeine Addiction
Admit that you are addicted to a drug called caffeine. That this drug is legal and socially acceptable in our society isn’t really relevant. Heroin hydrochloride was once legal and sold as cough medicine and the very destructive drug nicotine is still legal and making people cough.
I’m not suggesting of course that caffeine is as bad as heroin or nicotine, just that its addictive nature makes it, by definition, a drug. And a drug that may be having more serious consequences for many people than they currently realize.
If a person chooses not to use a substance like caffeine and yet they feel compelled to use it again in a short time regardless, then they are addicted to it. I don’t know about you but I don’t like any substance having that much control over me.
If you don’t believe you’re addicted to coffee and the caffeine in it then why not try the upcoming 10 Steps to Giving Up Coffee for a week or two and see if it improves your ability to relax and sense of wellbeing. If you choose you can always go back. At least you will have proven to yourself that you actually have a choice in the matter.
As for being a legal and socially acceptable drug, this really doesn’t change the nature of the drug and the effects it may be having on you, particularly on your digestive system.
We are fortunate that more and more people are demanding healthy coffee substitutes to drink and the caffeine-free options at restaurants and cafes are extensive. Additionally, most of the coffee alternatives I’ll suggest ahead are easy to take to work and when traveling.
Step 2 – Momentum and Motivation
Get some momentum on yourself and motivation as to why you want to replace coffee. This was key for me. Having a strong enough reason why.
At some level I probably knew that coffee wasn’t that good for me. But when I really looked deeply into just how damaging it can be, I found I just didn’t want to drink it anymore.
If you haven’t read the previous post on the 7 Digestive Problems with Coffee it’s worth taking a few minutes now for some extra motivation.
This article also lists 10 different ways coffee negatively affects your health including constantly elevating the stress hormone cortisol, depleting minerals in your body, decreasing insulin sensitivity and raising triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and homocysteine, all markers for an increased risk of heart disease.
Step 3 – Set a Start Time and Follow a Plan to Give Up Coffee
Plan a time to start and have your coffee replacements and the upcoming caffeine withdrawal remedies ready.
The physiological effects of the caffeine in coffee are well-documented, but in any addiction it’s also worth remembering the psychological power of habit and ritual. If you know that you drink coffee at a certain time and in certain situations it’s very important to have your replacements ready.
Starting on a weekend or other time away from work is a good idea too, as many of us are on autopilot at the start of the working day. Given this, you may find a cup of coffee in your hand at the same time as usual without even realizing what you’ve done.
On the other hand, if you start on a Saturday when most people are usually more aware of their day, you have two days of retraining the habit and for most people any withdrawal symptoms will be greatly diminished by Monday.
The 10 steps plan I used to give up coffee easily is detailed here. It uses the healthy coffee alternatives below and these two caffeine withdrawal remedies to make replacing coffee as simple as possible.
5 Healthier Coffee Alternatives
For people who want a healthy alternative to coffee but really like the taste of it, Teeccino has been a godsend. There have been substitutes for coffee in the past but it seems that the taste has never really been up to scratch.
My favorite flavors are Java and Maya Chocolate but there are around a dozen flavors in the Teeccino range at Amazon and some sound really good. The best value seems to be in the three packs. You keep the bags in the fridge and make them up as you would regular coffee grounds in a coffee machine, filter or french press.
There is a special method for using Teeccino to give up coffee gradually and really minimize caffeine withdrawal symptoms in the post on Extra Tips for Coffee Substitution. This would have to be one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to replace coffee.
2. Peppermint Tea
One of my personal favorite coffee replacements is a good peppermint tea. It has no caffeine but peppermint tea has a refreshing and invigorating energy to it that is perhaps more subtle, but definitely more easy to work with, than the jittery jolt of the strong caffeine in coffee.
A warm cup of peppermint tea can be a great coffee alternative for people who need something to get them going in the morning. There is much more on the powerful digestive benefits of peppermint tea, especially for bloating and stomach gas, here.
My favorite peppermint tea is Heather’s tummy tea in extra strong organic peppermint teabags. It’s very hard to go back to weaker teas after trying these.
3. Ginger Tea
Like peppermint tea, ginger tea is both energizing and great for improving digestion. It makes a great coffee alternative as a strong ginger tea can really wake you up if you’re tired and improve your mood if the day isn’t going that well.
My favorite brand with a real zing to it is Triple Leaf ginger tea. Another good blend for digestion in particular is Yogi ginger herbal tea. Ginger tea has traditionally been used to settle an upset stomach and can also help reduce bloating, IBS and flatulence.
4. Organic Green Tea
Green tea does have some caffeine in it, but it is much less than in coffee and various compounds in green tea can be very beneficial to our health. For some people, reducing their caffeine intake down by switching to organic green tea and its lower caffeine content can be a real help in replacing coffee.
Once you’ve made the switch to green tea and have got through the initial caffeine withdrawal symptoms, there are healthy decaffeinated green tea options. These don’t appear to have same issues normally associated with decaffeinated coffee as the decaffeination process is done in a different way.
Unfortunately, decaffeinated coffee can’t be recommended as the caffeine is only part of the problem. For some reason decaf coffee seems to provoke acidity in the stomach even more than regular coffee. More on this in a previous post on coffee and digestion.
5. Chamomile Tea
For anyone feeling a little tense as coffee lets go of its grip on them, chamomile tea can be a relaxing and soothing drink. Caffeine-free like ginger and peppermint tea, chamomile tea has been shown to help relaxation, reduce tension and improve sleep.
This tea is perhaps not the best for getting going first thing in the morning, but should you find yourself a bit stressed out later in the day, chamomile is a good tea to go for. Though there is no research I know of on this, it also seems to be good for caffeine withdrawal headaches.
Making the Switch
Finding a replacement for coffee that you like is much more effective than trying to stop cold turkey. These are my favorite healthy coffee alternatives and I believe switching to one of them or something similar is an important part of coffee replacement.