Monday, March 4, 2013

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Break My Addiction to Coffee?

"How can I break my addiction to coffee? What are some healthier alternatives that will still provide energy?"

Ginny Lyons, RN, Responds: 

Start by elimination. Coffee has caffeine and if you are addicted as you say, your consumption must be high.

Hot chocolate, green tea, cranberry, apple, grapefruit or V-8 juice are alternatives, providing you watch the sugar and sodium content. A breakfast of cereal, fruit and yogurt can give you energy and that needed morning kick start.

Remember when decreasing and eliminating caffeine that you can experience temporary side effects such as headaches, jitters, fatigue, and nervousness. These will decrease as the body gets used to and accepts caffeine withdrawal.

Good luck. Reduce your caffeine intake, and I am sure you will feel a lot healthier.

– Ginny Lyons

Beth Nicastro, Corporate Nurse Educator, Adds:

Eight out of 10 adults are habitual coffee drinkers.

Caffeine, a compound in coffee, is considered a mildly addictive stimulant by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It increases alertness, improves cognitive function and produces slight increases in blood pressure and heart rate. People who stop drinking coffee frequently experience headaches, fatigue, decreased alertness, irritability and depression within 12 to 24 hours.

The health benefits are currently under scientific debate. For some patients, caffeine is not advised due to one’s medication use or personal medical history.

Caffeine’s effects vary from person to person. Some people note an energy boost while others may feel jittery and nervous.

Many herbs and teas provide natural alternatives to caffeine. In addition to energy enhancement, they may benefit overall wellness, according to natural health expert, Andrew Weil, M.D. Since natural stimulants may cause side effects, a physician’s guidance is recommended prior to their use.

When a person complains of not enough energy, it is key to look at ones’s diet. Is it high in carbohydrates and simple sugars? Are you getting enough protein? These things can lead to blood sugar crashes.

It is recommended to have 3 moderate sized meals with snacks as needed (usually in the afternoon) which includes a protein with all meals and snack to keep blood sugars regular and prevent fluctuations, which can cause fatigue.

Having some protein at breakfast is a must for maintaining energy in the morning, with or without coffee.

Snack ideas can be as simple as a yogurt, apple and peanut butter, veggies and hummus, handful of nuts, string cheese and crackers. These are all good carb/protein snack choices.

Taking a B Complex vitamin with B12 can help to keep your energy levels steady throughout the day.

If you have specific physical symptoms, it is advisable to see your healthcare provider and nutritionist for individual direction and advice. When speaking to your provider, report your medication use, caffeine intake, a complete diet history and any allergies. 

– Beth Nicastro

About Our Experts

Ginny Lyons, RN

Ginny Lyons, RN is a coordinator for Catholic Health's women's service line, WomenCare, a nurse clinician in women's health, a community health educator and a public health speaker for Catholic Health on wellness and prevention seminars.

Beth Nicastro, Nurse Practitioner

Beth Nicastro, PNP-BC, is a women's health community coordinator/educator. She also sees patients as a nurse practitioner at East Aurora Pediatrics.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

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