Kicking caffeine: You can do it!

Does it ever seem like coffee’s the only thing keeping you going? Ever wonder why one cup becomes two, becomes three…? It’s because keeping your adrenal glands hopped up on caffeine can push your body too far past its limits. Your body has no choice but to scavenge its own muscles for fuel, which leaves you feeling rundown and in need of another caffeine boost. Talk about a vicious cycle!

The good news is that when you kick the caffeine habit, your adrenals come back online in just a few days. No more afternoon slumps or scrounging for change to buy your afternoon buzz — and at $4 a mocha, your wallet will thank you.

There’s no question: Giving up caffeine is tough. But the withdrawal symptoms (mainly bad headaches) will dissipate after three or four days. And once you’re no longer caffeine-dependent, you’ll be amazed how great and how energized you feel. It’s a great accomplishment to shake that monkey off your back!

There are a couple of ways to do it:

Cold turkey or gradual wean?

There are a couple of ways to get caffeine out of your life, and it comes down to personal preference. If you’re the rip-the-band-aid-off sort of person, going cold turkey is the fastest way to give caffeine the boot. If you’re more the peel-slowly type, you can wean yourself by cutting your normal caffeine intake by one-third every two days. Obviously, that’s going to take longer, but the withdrawal symptoms won’t be as severe as cold turkey.

Keep withdrawal symptoms dialed down by starting your day with a piece of fruit and a brisk workout to perk you up. Still dragging? Remember to:

  • Drink lots of water
  • Eat good carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal
  • Get plenty of sleep — if you’re well-rested you won’t need a caffeine pick-me-up
  • Add cinnamon to your morning smoothie
  • Feverfew and gingko biloba can help with the headaches

Be sure to watch out for caffeine lurking in unexpected places: “decaf” coffee has 2 to 25 mg per cup. Tea (the stuff made with actual tea leaves) and chocolate have caffeine too, as do many energy drinks and soft drinks, so avoid those too.

Replace the ritual

Sometimes the act of brewing coffee is more important to your morning than actually drinking it, and it can be weird not to hold a warm mug in your hand in the morning. Giving up caffeine doesn’t mean giving up your morning ritual; herbal tea, plain hot water, and warm non-dairy milk all give you the feel of a steaming hot beverage in your hand. You can even keep using your coffee maker to brew loose-leaf herbal teas.

Coffee substitutes

 Giving up caffeine doesn’t have to mean the smell and taste of coffee are gone forever. You’ve got quite a few coffee substitutes to choose from, including:

  • Dandy Blend - Extracts of roasted barley, rye, chicory root, dandelion root, and beetroot.
  • Pero - a mix of malted barley, chicory and rye — is one of the best. It comes as a powder; you simply add hot water (along with non-dairy milk and/or stevia if you like).
  • Cafix - made of barley and chicory is also popular. 
  • Celestial Seasonings produces a coffee substitute called Roastaroma that comes as a tea bag.
  • Some people swear by roasted dandelion root as a coffee replacement. Traditional Medicinals makes one that comes as a tea bag.


That’s probably the main thing you need. Once you get past those first three or four days, it’s going to get a LOT easier, so hang in there!