I want to start by saying, I absolutely love coffee.
I always have, and I always will.
But I can't drink it anymore.
I didn't quit coffee because I don't like it, on the contrary I had to quit coffee, because I loved it, too much.
Coffee has been part of all of my extraordinary achievements, it is how I love to start my day, it gets me excited about life, makes me want to dance around the house, and get an epic amount of work done, and I also know I won't be having another coffee again in my lifetime.
I love coffee so much that I would get excited going to bed at night because I know that the sooner I go to sleep, the sooner I get to wake up and have a delicious coffee.
I have been addicted to coffee for decades.
I have not been able to start my day without it.
I have brought my own coffee and stove top percolator to sleep overs, or hiking trips when I have not trusted that there will be good coffee for me to drink.
The thought of not having a strong coffee to start my day has sometimes sent me into a panic.
I have known for a really long time that I need to stop drinking coffee but have not been able to stop, not even for one day!
That is called addiction.
Addicted to coffee
When I think of being addicted to something; food, sugar, sex, cigarettes, drugs, you name it, I know its an addiction when it enters my mind and there is a clear change in my state of relaxation, where I have to have that thing, now!
I can't let the thought of the coffee go. (Or the chocolate..)
It almost feels like the desire of wanting the coffee has possessed me and I am not able to clearly and rationally make a decision to choose not to.
This would happen to me almost every single day.
I would have my first morning coffee (which was fantastic), and then around mid morning I would start thinking about my second coffee, even though every single day after I have a second coffee I feel a bit ill, a bit more tired, my stomach hurts and I regret having it!
And then I would play the dehydration/rehydration game of trying to drink lots of water to make up for all the fluid that had been pulled out of my body.
Only to repeat this whole process again the next day (sometimes with a third coffee thrown into the mix).
A very clear sign of dehydration is headaches.
Of course (and especially through a Chinese Medicine diagnostic lens) headaches can be attributed to many different patterns of disharmony in the body, but have you noticed that as soon as someone says they have a headache, somebody will reply with "have you had enough water to drink today?"
We all know headache/dehydration connection.
I have suffered headaches for years.
One particularly bad patch in my life was when I had a non-stop tension headache that did not go away for 4 years (and still comes and goes to this day).
There was a lot going on for me during that time, and the biggest factor I believe for the headaches was severe blood deficiency (anaemia) from cutting meat and good quality animal proteins out of my diet, as well as too much coffee, alcohol, carbohydrates (hello vegetarianism and toast!) and of course god old sugar.
Below is the telling of this tale...
I remember listening to a Heavenly Qi podcast episode many years ago, where phi said "coffee hijacks all of your minerals" and I have always pondered this statement.
I believe (and I realise this is purely anecdotal) that my coffee drinking habit was severely depleting my minerals, especially zinc.
Why do I say this?
Because on days when I would have not 2 but 3 strong stove top coffees, the following day I would develop a large white spot on one of my fingernails.
My current understanding of white spots on fingernails is zinc deficiency (but I am very open to being corrected on this).
It is very well known that coffee is a strong diuretic; meaning it pulls fluids out of the body. (Just notice how often you need to urinate when you have a strong daily coffee habit).
In basic biology we learn that minerals follow water in and out of cells.
For example, people stranded out at sea can die if they consume too much sea water because the salt content of the sea water is higher than the salt content inside their cells; the excess salt in the sea water pulls fluid out of their cells to the point that the cells shrink and cannot recover.
Ironically these people will die from dehydration.
So drinking excessive coffee pulls fluid out of the body, and minerals from the body follow that water out of the body leading to mineral deficiencies.
Currently I am partaking in a six month mentorship with one of the most extraordinary Acupuncturists alive today; Ann Cecil Sterman.
Her message for good health and disease prevention usually circled around one key lifestyle factor:
The first response I get from people when I bring up hydration is "oh I drink 2-3 litres of water a day", or I drink plenty of water" or "I have three coffees a day but I drink heaps of water."
I get it, we have been hammered to believe that hydration is about how much water we drink per day. (And the "8 glasses of water a day" campaign has been very successful at planting this idea into the human psyche.)
Don't get me wrong, most of our body is made up of water, but it is also made up of a beautiful balance of salts and minerals for that water to actually get inside your cells.
Ann talks to her patients (and her students) about the importance of eating wet foods, and trying to limit the amount of drying foods in the diet.
When we consume liquids/wet meals that have got lots of minimality contained in them (think a slow cooked vegetable soup, a bone broth, or a lamb stew), not only are we ingesting the fluid, but also the richness of the minimality that we need for all of our daily physical functions as well.
Drinking 3 litres of water a day could be great for a certain type of person, but litres and litres of plain water will need to be filtered by the kidneys, and that person may just find that they are urinating copious amounts of clear urine all day.
When people are severely dehydrated, drinking water sometimes is not enough, they need perfectly balanced electrolytes to maintain the chemical balance of their cells.
Some examples of dry foods/habits that dehydrate the body include:
Drinking hot coffee on an empty stomach
Eating really dry foods: toast, dried fruits, crackers, chips, overly dried and salted foods
Eating a diet free from good quality saturated fats (we need these to maintain the building blocks and hormones of the body).
Eating foods that are too hot and spicy: chillies, alcohol, onion and garlic.
How does a Chinese Medicine practitioner assess the states of fluid in a patient?
We look at the tongue. If the tongue is very dry with lots and lots of fine cracks in the first third of the tongue body we know that fluids have been damaged over time.
We feel the pulse: especially the moderate level of the stomach pulse if it is particularly thin, thready and/or tight we know that fluids are under duress.
How was I able to kick the habit?
With great difficulty!
I knew deep down in my soul that coffee and I needed to part ways, and I had been struggling to muster up the willpower to do this for years!
I also knew that if ever there was a time for me to do this, it would be while I was partaking in this amazing mentorship, supported by 80 like-minded healers who would have my back and support the transition.
Something that became very apparent after day 2 or 3 of no coffee was how utterly exhausted I was. I realised that I had been living on adrenaline for a very long time, and coffee was masking my deep adrenal fatigue.
Without coffee I felt so incredibly grumpy, everything was boring, nothing felt inspired or uplifting and many days I could barely keep my eyes open and needed to crawl back into bed for 4 more hours of sleep.
I tried to create a soft cushion of coffee replacement to have in the mornings instead; I tried superfood mushroom elixirs, plain black tea with milk, bone broth, strong sacred cacao but nothing is the same as coffee (note, I have not quit caffeine...... I just needed to quit coffee).
After about 4 weeks of this zombie existence I decided to go and get my iron panel tested, and as it turns out my iron storage was almost at the bottom of the barrel.
Years of pushing myself was part of the reason my need for coffee was so strong. Of course I hated the feeling of being tired without coffee, my body was so depleted!
So I had an iron infusion, which took another 2 weeks to take effect, and then it was like I magically came back to life.
I had the energy to reply to emails, dream into projects, manage my full days of treating clients, entertain the thought of returning to the gym, and felt the glow of inspiration return to my heart.
Quite possibly this rebirth into life may have returned without the iron infusion, but I have never been the most patient person when it comes to me getting on top of things in my world.
I realise that an iron infusion is a short term boost and not at all a holistic solution to depleted health.
But, it did give me the mojo I needed to commit to new habits to support my energy, adrenals and health long term.
All of this happened back in February of this year, and Im pretty damn proud of myself that I have been able to stick it out.
I kind of knew that if I slipped back and had a coffee again, I would not stop. And I really did not want to let myself down like that.
Slowly I have felt my adrenal health repairing; I have been having deeper sleep, more sustained energy, and a heightened sense of permission to rest when I need it.
I think the big take away really though, was slowly uncoupling my deep desire to be so productive all the time as a way to bolster my feeling of self worth.
It is ok to not be in fifth gear all the time creating and achieving things on my list.
That's how you burn out!
I hope this article has met you with the encouragement you need in your own life to take the power back over a bad habit or addiction that has been undermining you.
You can do it!
Love Karina x