Caffeine Free

Are you a slug in the morning without your cup or two of Starbuck’s
finest, Morning Thunder, or Market Spice blend? Is your favorite part of the day
sipping a cafe latte at your corner expresso shop? Would you die for a piece of
chocolate decadence?All of these contain caffeine as well as such common
American standbys as Pepsi, Anacin, Midol and NoDoz. It’s one thing to choose
to indulge in an occasional expresso. It’s another to depend on caffeine to get
you going in the morning or to move your bowels. We hope that this article will
help you to assess just how much caffeine you’re ingesting and to seriously
entertain the possibility of giving up caffeine completely, or at least of
decreasing your caffeine intake.

Caffeine is the most popular and widely consumed drug in the world.
According to legend, an Arab goatherd first noticed in 850 A.D. that his goats
frisked and frolicked all night after feeding on the berries of the evergreen
coffee plant. When he tried it himself, he found it to be extremely
stimulating. Though coffee was initially con- sidered a health hazard and
orthodox priests imposed severe penalties on its use, its popularity spread
rapidly. As of l976, it was estimated that over one billion kilograms of
coffee were consumed annually in the United States alone. This averages out to
l6 pounds of coffee per American per year! Despite what we mellow Seattleites
may think, caffeine intake is higher on the West Coast of the U.S. than the
East Coast (of course, it must be the Californians).

Though cocaine and the drug cartels are front page news, the red-blooded
American coffee break is rarely challenged. Coffee or tea are the drug of
choice even at Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve step meetings. We tend to
reserve the word “drug” for illegal narcotics or hallucinogens or for
prescription medications and to forget or ignore the most common drug of all-
caffeine. Most of us think pretty much exclusively of coffee and tea when we
consider caffeine consumption. The following list may be an eye-opener for
you.

Substance Mg of caffeine
Substance Mg of caffeine

Coffee (5 oz. cup) Prescription
Drugs

Brewed, drip 60-l80 per cup Cafergot
l00 per capsule

Brewed, percolator 40-l70 Darvon
32

Instant 30-l20
Fiorinal 40

Decaf, brewed 2-5

Decaf, instant l-5 Over the
Counter Drugs

Stimulants

Tea (5 oz. cup) No Doz
l00

US brands, brewed 20-90 Caffedrine
200

Imported, brewed 25-ll0

Instant tea 25-50 Menstrual
Drugs

Iced (l2 oz.) 67-76
Midol 33

Aqua-ban/plus l00/200

Chocolate and Cocoa

Cocoa (5 oz.) 2-20
Analgesics

Chocolate milk 2-7 Anacin,
max. strength 32

Milk chocolate (l oz.) l-l5 Excedrin
65

l pc. cake & frosting l6 Vanquish
33

Dark chocolate (l oz.) 5-35 Cope
32

Soft Drinks (l2 oz.) Cold Tablets

Coca-Cola 45
Dristan 16

Pepsi 4l
Coryban-D l0 30

Ginger ale, root beer 0 Kolephrin
65

Soda, seltzer 0
Triaminicin 30

(As cited in Are coffee, cold tablets and chocolate innocuous or is their
caffeine hazardous to your patients’ health
? Amer. J. Nursing, Apr. l986,
pp. 423-5.)

I love my lattes! Why should I give them up? Considerable research
has been done, particularly in recent years, on the hazardous health effects of
caffeine. Read this and see if it makes you want to reconsider your caffeine
habit.

Nervous system: Caffeine is indisputably a central nervous system
stimulant and crosses the blood/brain barrier quite readily. Ingestion of 85 to
250 mg of caffeine (about 2 cups of coffee) revs up your nervous system, may
allow you to think more clearly and rapidly, and reduces drowsiness and
fatigue. As the dosage increases, you may also experience nervousness,
restlessness, insomnia, tremors, and overall heightened sensitivity. A
fascinating American Journal of Psychiatry aricle called Anxiety or
Caffeinism: A Diagnostic Dilemma
recounts the story of a 37 year-old Army
colonel who complained of a two-year history of “chronic anxiety” including
shakiness, apprehension about job performance, butterflies in his stomach,
restless- ness, frequent episodes of diarrhea or loose stools, and difficulty
falling and re- maining asleep. Three medical workups had found nothing. The
fourth doctor, a psychiatrist, thought to ask him about his caffeine intake. He
reported drinking at least 8 to l4 cups of coffee a day (“My coffeepot is a
permanent fixture on my desk.”) He also frequently drank hot chocolate at
bedtime to relax and drank 3 to 4 cokes a day. His total caffeine intake was
approximately l800 mg. per day! All of his symptoms were relieved after
quitting caffeine and returned again when he briefly reintroduced the caffeine
as a challenge.

Blood pressure: Blood pressure becomes elevated within 2 hours
after caffeine ingestion and remains high for up to 3 hours.For those who
ingest caffeine throughout the day, this means your blood pressure is
continually higher than it should be.

Heart disease: Several studies have found that people who drink 6
or more cups of coffee a day are nearly twice as likely to suffer from a heart
attack and those drinking l to 5 cups a day increase their risk by a factor of
l.6.

Peptic ulcer: Since caffeine-containing beverages, coffee in
particular, are known to be acidic, caffeine ingestion may cause or aggravate
ulcers and the accompanying symptoms of heartburn and acid indigestion.

Psychiatric illness: When decaffeinated coffee was substituted for
regular coffee for 3 weeks on a psychiatric ward, hostility, suspicion,
anxiety, and irritability decreased, then returned again when caffeinated
coffee was reintroduced.

Fibrocystic breasts (Benign breast disease): In l979 two studies
by Minton described impressive improvement in breast pain, tenderness, and
swelling when women eliminated all caffeine from their diets from l to 6
months. We have heard the same feedback from many patients, although some women
do continue to have painful breasts even though their diet is caffeine-free and
need other natural treat-ment to free them from their discomfort.

Caffeine in pregnancy: Heavy coffee drinking has been associated in
various studies with low birthweight and there may be a correlation with an
increased incidence of birth defects.

Cancer: Coffee has been implicated in kidney, bladder, pancreatic,
breast, ovarian, and colon cancer. Although further research is necessary, our
feeling is “Why take a chance?”

Coffee and homeopathy: Another incentive for our patients to give
up caffeine is that the oils in the coffee antidote (deactivate) homeopathic
remedies. This is true of caffeinated and water-processed decaf. Though a few
of our patients continue to drink black tea (which is safe with homeopathy),
most take the opportunity as an excuse to eliminate caffeine entirely and tell
us they feel much better after doing so.

If I do decide to quit, will I get headaches? We’ve helped many of
our patients through caffeine withdrawal and can promise you that your
headaches, if you get them, will only last 3 to 4 days. They are not always
directly associated with a high amount of caffeine. Some people who only drink
two cups of coffee a day may still get withdrawal headaches. You can either
cold turkey caffeine and take a pain reliever such as Tylenol, if necessary, or
you can taper off caffeine gradually by

cutting your coffee or tea with decaf, progressively decreasing the amount of
caffeine.

How will I get up in the morning without my hit of coffee? If you
give yourself a few days to a couple weeks, you’ll find that you
have much more productive energy, and less jazzed, wired, artifical energy than
when you were relying on caffeine as a wake-me-upper. If you need to, start
your day with a cold shower, some invigorating deep breathing or a shoulder
stand to bring blood to your head, or take a run around the block to get the
circulation going. You’ll soon find that, assuming the rest of you is balanced,
you will awake alert and refreshed.

How can I keep my energy up throughout the day without caffeine?
Not only will you find it easier to get up in the morning and feel good once
you’ve kicked the caffeine habit, but you’ll discover a calmer, lighter, more
relaxed yet vital you. Once you’re free of caffeine, you may find the desire to
let go of other addictions such as smoking, and may also have less of an
interest in meats, sweets, and alcohol. When our patients come in for the first
visit and we inform them that they need to give up coffee for their homeopathic
remedy to work, they most often respond, “Oh, that’s one of the reasons I came
here. I want an excuse to cut out caffeine.”

What is there to drink if I can’t have my expresso? We have to be
honest and say that there’s probably nothing that tastes quite like coffee, so
you might as well give up finding an identical substitute. However, there are
very tasty toasted grain beverages such as Inka, Caffix, and Pero, Postum (our
favorite), and, of course,

many different flavors of herb tea, all of which are much healthier for you
than caffeine. Give them a try and you’ll probably find at least one flavor
you really enjoy. (Be careful to select the totally decaffeinated herb teas.)

I just can’t imagine life after coffee. What about decaf? Decaf
coffee removes about 95% of the caffeine, which is a great improvement.
Water-processed decaf is probably your best alternative unless you are under
homoepathic treatment, in which case, as mentioned above, it will interfere
with the remedies.

What if I just can’t quit? Hypnosis, parts therapy, visualization,
detoxifica- tion diets, fasting and cleansing, and supportive nutritional
supplements are all therapies whch we find helpful to relieve people of their
caffeine habits. By getting in touch with your inner strength and resolve and
by satisying you desire for caffeine in deeper, more meaningful ways, you can
become free of caffeine behind and feel better than you ever imagined!

Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and
homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic
Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of
The Patient’s Guide to
Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD
and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206)
774-5599.

Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW Written by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW

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