Caffeine Blues, Hidden Dangers of America's #1 Drug

Stephen Cherniske, M.S.: Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Hidden Dangers of America's #1 Drug (Warner Books 1998)

From the back cover of the book:

"Nearly 80 percent of all Americans - even doctors and journalists - are hooked on caffeine, this country's #1 addiction. A natural component of coffee, tea, and chocolate - and added to drugs, soft drinks, candy, and many other products, this powerful drug can affect brain function, hormone balance, and sleep patterns, while increasing your risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, ulcers, PMS, stroke, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
"Now for the first time, one of the most accomplished nutritional biochemists and medical writers in his field reveals the truth about caffeine and helps you kick the habit forever."

- Stephen Cherniske, Caffeine Blues

This book extensively details the way caffeine found in coffee, many teas - including green tea - chocolate, soft drinks and medications systematically breaks down your health. It is an extensive piece of work by an American doctor and a nutritionist, Stephen Cherniske, and extends to 451 pages of analysis.

From personal experience I can say that having drunk up to 10-cups of strong filter coffee a day as a teenager during exam weeks and having now, at the age of 32, quit all forms of caffeine completely: life is infinitely better without caffeine! I would never have believed the change to be so profound. My moods are more balanced, as soon as I get out of bed my energy levels are high, and I have no desire for morning coffee anymore. If I get less sleep one night - and as long as I haven't drank alcohol - I can go through a whole day without feeling tired. I don't get energy slumps during the day either. One strange effect was that work days seem to go faster, and weekends slower! The reason, I figured, is that I can concentrate better. My mind also feels sharper and remembering things easier. "... you will never know the full effect the drug is having on you until you experience what life is like caffeine free."
(p. 114, Caffeine Blues)

caffeine blues, stephen cherniske
Decaffeinated Green Tea! (Image by Timi Gustafson)

Jump to Chapter:
Benefits of Quitting Coffee
Why Is Caffeine Harmful?
Why Do I Like Caffeine?
Vague Anxiety, Worries, Discomfort and Background Stress Caused by Caffeine
How to Be Free of Caffeine and Restore Your Natural Energy Levels
The Hard Truth About Soft Drinks/ Dangerous Levels of Caffeine and Sugar
How Soon Can I Feel the Benefits of Quitting Caffeine?
Politics of Coffee

Caffeine and Hormones

One of the major implications to women's health is the effect caffeine has on hormones: I personally know that coffee makes my menstrual pain much worse.

But scientists have also recently found that drinking caffeine contributes to smaller breast size: Telegraph newspaper reports: "Drinking too much coffee could shrink women's breasts":

"'Drinking coffee can have a major effect on breast size', said Helena Jernstrom, from Lund University in Sweden, who led the study."

And now to book review itself... It is a huge book and I won't be able to cover it very extensively - I will try to give you a general idea and pick out some of the more interesting points.

Jump to top of article
Jump to Chapter:
Caffeine and Hormones
Why Is Caffeine Harmful?
Why Do I Like Caffeine?
Vague Anxiety, Worries, Discomfort and Background Stress Caused by Caffeine
How to Be Free of Caffeine and Restore Your Natural Energy Levels
The Hard Truth About Soft Drinks/ Dangerous Levels of Caffeine and Sugar
How Soon Can I Feel the Benefits of Quitting Caffeine?
Politics of Coffee

Benefits of Quitting Coffee

Benefits of quitting coffee/ caffeine are myriad, and for me - although I didn't know to expect it at all - quitting caffeine has been one of the best achievements of my life. Having said that, quitting wasn't that difficult. After all, I gave myself two years to do it! Here is my account on the benefits: Benefits of Quitting Caffeine.

Stephen Cherniske includes some testimonials in his 'Caffeine Blues' but mostly the book focuses on the dangers of caffeine. Although reading the book provides plenty of inspiration to quit, the extent of the huge benefits of being caffeine-free only become apparent once you experience it yourself. I highly recommend you try. Here are some tasters:

"Invariably what surprised my patients was the profound difference they felt. As sleep improves, you would expect an increase in energy, but the ripple effect of benefits also included decreased pain, better mood, decreased reliance on prescription and over-the-counter drugs, enhanced immune function, and improvements in memory and learning. Most important, patients reported 'feeling themselves' again." (p. 130, Caffeine Blues)

"One client who kicked the caffeine habit recently told me: 'It's as though a cloud has been lifted from my body and mind. I had no idea that I was such an angry and frustrated person.' That's because cortisol has a powerful effect on personality [and caffeine elevates cortisol levels]."
(p. 61-62, Caffeine Blues)

Jump to top of article
Jump to Chapter:
Caffeine and Hormones
Benefits of Quitting Coffee
Why Do I Like Caffeine?
Vague Anxiety, Worries, Discomfort and Background Stress Caused by Caffeine
How to Be Free of Caffeine and Restore Your Natural Energy Levels
The Hard Truth About Soft Drinks/ Dangerous Levels of Caffeine and Sugar
How Soon Can I Feel the Benefits of Quitting Caffeine?
Politics of Coffee

Why is Caffeine Harmful?

"In over a decade of practice as a clinical nutritionist, I have seen firsthand, with thousands of clients, that caffeine is a health hazard. Anxiety, muscle aches, PMS, headaches, heartburn, insomnia, and irritability are the most common symptoms, and they can usually be lessened or eliminated simply by avoiding caffeine." (p. 42, Caffeine Blues, under a heading: 'Caffeinism: It Could Happen to You!) Here's a LONG list compiled from 'Caffeine Blues' on the adverse health affects and other dangers of caffeine:

  • Coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed foods/ beverage commodities - if not organic, it is literally a cup of chemicals.
  • Caffeine increases blood pressure (hypertension) and stress hormone levels
  • One study documented significant increases in thought disorder and psychosis after caffeine administration.
  • Caffeine produces metabolic, biochemical and emotional stress
  • Caffeine causes blood sugar swings
  • Fatigue, sleep disturbances are often caused by a coffee/ caffeine habit
  • Fatigue, depression and brain fog can result from caffeine withdrawal
  • "... caffeine decreases learning skills in a number of ways. It constricts blood vessels in the brain, leading to marked reduction in cerebral blood flow, and interferes with brain biochemistry." (p. 288)
  • "A single 250-milligram dose of caffeine (the equivalent of about 2.5 six-ounce cups of coffee) has been shown to increase levels of stress hormone epinephrine (commonly known as adrenaline) by more than 200 percent." (p. 56, Caffeine Blues)
  • "...women consuming high amounts of tea suffered 80 percent more PMS [pre-menstrual syndrome]." (p. 321) "Women who consumed more than 4.5 cups of tea per day were almost 10 times as likely to suffer from PMS as women who drank none." (p. 242) "Basically, the more caffeine you consume, the worse your PMS will be." (p. 240)
  • Adverse effect on children's growth: "One recent study in Guatemala found that taking children off caffeine for just five months resulted in 22 percent gains in length compared to the group that continued drinking coffee." (p. 292, Caffeine Blues)
  • Caffeine contributes to irritability, anxiety, anger, headaches and nervousness.
  • Tiredness during the day, disturbed sleep
  • Caffeine causes increased loss of B vitamins (measured in the urine)
  • "One study demonstrated that chronic, heavy caffeine ingestion can be associated with depression and may also cause anxiety and panic in panic disorder patients [...] In a study of agoraphobia and panic attacks, caffeine consumption exacerbated anxiety in 54 percent of the patients and triggered panic attacks in 17 percent." (p. 243)
  • Menopausal hot flashes and their intensity is linked to caffeine consumption.
  • "Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco [...] found a significant association between caffeine consumption and reduced bone mass." (p. 232, Caffeine Blues)
  • Caffeine dramatically reduces iron absorption, contributing to iron deficiency.
  • Caffeine increases calcium loss and the risk of osteoporosis
  • Caffeine produces short-term mood elevation but contributes to rebound depression
  • "... caffeine contributes significantly to anxiety, hostility, and depression. In turn, these are powerful risk factors for irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers." (p. 229)
  • "...conclusive research has found a significant association between caffeine intake and miscarriage." (p. 229, Caffeine Blues)
  • Sleepiness, tiredness, feeling disorganized (this effect has been reported to be stronger on women than men)
  • "Caffeine causes a marked constriction [to the veins] that limits the delivery of oxygen and vital nutrients to the tissues [= to cells]." (p. 221) This constriction of veins affects the brain, peripheral blood vessels, and the eyes (e.g. glaucoma). Uric acid also causes the painful condition of gout.
  • "...one of the breakdown products of caffeine is methyluric acid, and that can add to the body's uric acid burden." (p. 220, Caffeine Blues) [High uric acid in the body (hyperuricemia) can cause kidney disease, among other problems.]
  • "Men can significantly reduce their risk for urinary and prostate problems by getting off coffee and caffeine" (p. 216)
  • "Recovery [from fibromyalgia] is unlikely as long as your adrenals are stressed. Avoiding caffeine will greatly increase your change of recovery"
  • "Any caffeine intake only worsens [Stage 4] sleep disturbance. [...] Anyone with disturbed Stage 4 sleep will have aches and pains from unrepaired microtrauma that occurs in the muscles and connective tissue." (p. 213)
  • Caffeine addiction can make asthma symptoms worse (the withdrawal from caffeine can cause an asthma attack, thus the faulty view that caffeine helps with this)
  • Exhausted adrenal glands - which caffeine contributes to in no small way - are unable to produce either sufficient DHEA or cortisol, and this double whammy sets the stage for autoimmune disease.
  • Mood disorders
  • Inflammation
  • "Caffeine raises blood sugar levels and disrupts the blood sugar-regulating effects of insulin [...] Caffeine raises fatty acid levels in the blood [...] and can significantly increase the risk of heart disease [...] Caffeine raises the homocysteine levels [...] Caffeine causes vascular resistance, in which blood vessels constrict and circulation is reduced. [...] Caffeine raises stress hormone levels [...] Chronic stress, including feelings of irritability and hostility, has been linked to the development of insulin resistance, leading to the diabetic state." (p. 199-200, Caffeine Blues)
  • Caffeine accelerates aging by impairing immunity
  • Caffeine has been shown to inhibit DNA repairs
  • The net effect of caffeine use is accelerated aging, especially of the skin and kidneys
  • Caffeine is a common trigger for migraine and other types of headache.
  • "Whether or not you suffer from tension or migrane headaches, you have to ask yourself if you want to consume a drug (caffeine) that clamps down the blood vessels of your brain and restricts oxygen delivery to millions of cells." (p. 189-190)
  • Caffeine increases tension in the jaw, shoulders, back and neck.
  • "In one study, individuals with chronic back pain were found to be consuming an average of nearly 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, while matched controls (people the same age and occupation without back pain) averaged less than half that amount." (p. 183)
  • "... the critical role played by melatonin in regulating immunity and sleep. I presented evidence that caffeine and coffee, especially when combined with other stressors, significantly reduce melatonin levels. And melatonin's effect on the GI tract [gastro-intestinal tract] is more than calming. Researchers believe that melatonin's principal role in the GI tract is to promote healing and boost immune defense." (p. 180, Caffeine Blues)
  • "In clinical practice, I saw hundreds of patients whose irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, food allergy, gastritis, heartburn, bloating, and abdominal pain improved or healed completely once they got off coffee." (p. 181, Caffeine Blues)
  • Coffee contributes to ulcer formation because of its harsh acids (which are even worse in decaf coffee). Caffeine itself stimulates acid secretion in the stomach and interferes with the protective action of GABA. This becomes even more of a problem if coffee is consumed on an empty stomach.
  • Caffeine and chronic stress elevate blood levels of cortisol, which suppresses a number of immune functions, including production of secretory IgA (sIgA), which is a powerful microbial agent. When sIgA levels are low, 'H. pylori' is allowed to proliferate and cause ulcers. When sIgA levels are high, H. pylori and other pathogens in the mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal tract are quickly destroyed. "When viewed in this way, H. pylori is actually a second risk factor. Stress, caffeine, elevated cortisol, and suppressed IgA production are the primary factors contributing to ulcer risk." (p. 176)
  • Coffee is the frequent cause of both constipation and diarrhea. Caffeine tends to pull water out of the digestive tract, leading to hard stools that are difficult to pass.
  • Coffee interferes with the digestion of protein
  • "Caffeine is one of those substances (along with refined sugar, 'fake fats', and hydrogenated oils) that is completely foreign to the human gastrointestinal tract." (p.168, Caffeine Blues)
  • Coffee raises homocysteine and lowers magnesium. The correct levels of these are critically important for someone high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Alzheimer's disease is also characterized by abnormally high homocysteine levels.
  • "Moderate coffee drinkers with high cholesterol had more than seven times the risk of heart attack, while heavy coffee drinkers had eighteen times the risk of non-coffee drinkers." (p. 162)
  • "... blood cholesterol levels appear to rise in direct proportion to the number of cups of coffee consumed, and we now know what causes this rise in blood cholesterol. It's not the caffeine, as once thought, but two other chemicals (diterpene alcohols) naturally found in coffee: cafestol and kahweol." (p. 144, Caffeine Blues)
  • "... the increased risk of heart attack was seen starting at one to two cups of coffee per day." (p. 161, Caffeine Blues)
  • Modest amount of caffeine taken before exercise produced dangerous elevations in blood pressure in 45 percent of subjects.
  • "If a person were injected with 500 milligrams of caffeine, within about an hour he or she would exhibit symptoms of severe mental illness, among them, hallucinations, paranoia, panic, mania, and depression. But the same amount of caffeine administered over the course of a day only produces the milder forms of insanity for which we take tranquilizers and antidepressants." (p. 124-125)
  • "Research has also found that caffeine ingestion is associated with lower academic performance and greater incidence of psychosomatic illness." (p. 120)
  • The caffeine-depression connection is very clear.
  • "... the feelings of tiredness and depression that come three hours after a cup of coffee are seldom associated with caffeine. We blame something else, like the weather or a boring job." (p. 111, Caffeine Blues)
  • "Coffee cuts you off from the brain's higher centers of reasons and evaluation because you are forcing your brain into defensive, emergency overdrive." (p. 95)
  • A single cup of coffee can reduce the iron absorption from a meal as much as 75 percent.
  • "GABA has a unique ability to calm the mind without putting you to sleep. [...] Caffeine, it turns out, disrupts the normal metabolism of GABA. Here's this wonderful brain biochemical that increases the 'filter mechanism' of the brain, helps you to step back and see clearly even under stress, and caffeine screws it up. Thus, in the maze of life you never make it to the cheese." (p. 70-71, Caffeine Blues)
  • Caffeine lowers the stress threshold in virtually anyone.
  • Caffeine elevates cortisol, which leads to DHEA (= a steroid-hormone) deficiency. DHEA levels are an indicator of the health of the adrenal glands, and low DHEA levels have also been linked to aging, lack of energy, lack of sex drive, etc. (Stephen Cherniske has written another book about DHEA: The DHEA Breakthrough)
  • "There is an intriguing but not fully understood connection between stress, caffeine, and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and MS." (p. 67, Caffeine Blues)
  • "The 'energy' you receive from caffeine is really just a loan from your adrenals and liver, and the interest is extremely high." (p. 64)
  • Caffeine causes adrenal exhaustion, i.e. the exhaustion of the adrenal glands. Adrenal exhaustion, in turn, has other consequences: "I was seeing patients every day with serious health problems that strong, healthy adrenals could have prevented. Why were these people vulnerable to allergy, inflammation, hypertension, infection, and fatigue?" (p. 65, Caffeine Blues)

"Let's face it, remaining healthy and strong throughout life is a battle. Caffeine is the Trojan Horse. It looks like a gift but instead delivers adrenal stress, low blood sugar, mood and energy swings, fatigue, depression, malnutrition, and disturbed sleep."
(p. 94, Caffeine Blues)

"Caffeine effects your nervous system. [...] Sitting up in a chair, extend your arm straight out in front of you, locking the elbow, palm down. Look at the tips of your fingers. If there is any noticeable trembling, chances are that caffeine has already damaged your nervous system. [...] The good news is that this damage can be repaired, but not until you get your caffeine intake under control."
(p. 39, Caffeine Blues)
"You must remember why caffeine has these temporary beneficial effects. It's all part of the stress response, the ancient survival mechanism that enabled us to survive in times of imminent danger. The increased respiratory efficiency that caffeine provides is purely a Phase 1 phenomenon; adrenal hormones are poured out to dilate the bronchial airways in order to send more oxygen to the muscles."
(p. 206, Caffeine Blues)
"... smokers who drink coffee have the deck stacked against them when they try to quit. That's because without the cigarette stimulation, their caffeine detox system slows down, resulting in enormous increases in blood caffeine levels (up to 200 percent). As you imagine, this produces severe anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and insomnia. Added to the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, it's enough to send even a highly motivated person running back to Marlboro country. The take-home message here is: If you're going to quit smoking (the most positive step you can take to improve your health), it is highly advisable that you decrease your caffeine intake at the same time."
(p. 54-55, Caffeine Blues)
Reishi mushroom raw food tea -picture
Powerful reishi mushroom raw food tea (raw foodists drink their teas lukewarm)

Jump to top of article
Jump to Chapter:
Caffeine and Hormones
Benefits of Quitting Coffee
Why Is Caffeine Harmful?
Vague Anxiety, Worries, Discomfort and Background Stress Caused by Caffeine
How to Be Free of Caffeine and Restore Your Natural Energy Levels
The Hard Truth About Soft Drinks/ Dangerous Levels of Caffeine and Sugar
How Soon Can I Feel the Benefits of Quitting Caffeine?
Politics of Coffee

Why Do I Like Caffeine?

I occasionally mention to people that I have quit caffeine and feel that the benefits are amazing. Most of the time their response is anything but enthusiastic.
Often people go a bit quiet, with a slightly depressed look on their face - or maybe a look of boredom - and mumble something like: 'I love coffee.' Others announce the same but triumphantly. In any case it is a non-starter of a conversation.
Only very few people follow up with a question, asking me to describe the benefits. I have learned to not mention it and just say 'no thanks' if someone offers me coffee or tea. As with many other amazing health secrets that I have learned, I normally try to not mention anything about them, unless someone comes and asks me specifically. An exception being people close to me - friends and family - whom I try to carefully drip-feed bits of information, so as not to overwhelm them or make them feel like I am criticising their choices.
There is nothing more certain to make a person lose interest in a topic than if they feel that someone is trying to 'feed' it to you.

So why do you (think you) like caffeine so much?

According to Caffeine Blues:

"One of the reasons so many people require caffeine in the morning is that they have a low blood sugar reaction from breakfast.

"Today, breakfast typically consists of highly sweetened, refined carbohydrates such as commercial breakfast cereals, doughnuts, bagels, muffins, and croissants. Hitting your system with a whopping dose of [carbohydrates] can raise blood sugar quickly, precipitating the release of insulin, which results in a blood-sugar crash shortly thereafter. This sets you up for a mid-morning fatigue, and the natural tendency to reach for coffee."

(p. 361, Caffeine Blues)

For more information on how caffeine affects your blood sugar levels, and the myriad problems that it can cause to your health, including an extremely bloated belly, read the book called Fat Around the Middle by Marilyn Glenville.

On the other hand, addiction plays a role:

"A great many people are addicted to caffeine and abuse it without being aware of the consequences. Depending on individual sensitivity, as little as two cups of coffee per day has been shown to produce anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and dizziness." (p. 127, Caffeine Blues)
"If you ask people what caffeine does for them, most will tell you that it sharpens their minds. However, this perception is only true in the sense that stress increases alertness." (p. 97, Caffeine Blues)

So I would say that the real reasons why people drink coffee are usually subconscious.

The illusion of enjoyment presents itself in the face of misinformation, denial, and addiction.
So my guess is that you think you like caffeine but you don't really.... and even if you really do, new habits can be formed usually within 30-60 days... after that the taste and smell of coffee will appear disgusting.

"Dr. Michael Lipman [...] has identified the following types of patients who commonly abuse caffeine. [...]

  1. Patients with insomnia who are unaware that caffeine can disturb sleep for up to eight hours [...]
  2. Patients with anxiety disorder (panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)) whose symptoms are aggravated by caffeine.
  3. Alcohol abusers who drink to counteract the anxiety and/or depression produced by excess caffeine intake.
  4. Recovering alcoholics who switch to caffeinated beverages once sober from alcohol. They become anxious, experience an overwhelming craving for alcohol sedation, and then relapse.
  5. Hyperactive-appearing children who start of caffeinated beverages and chocolate (source of caffeine and theobromine). Such children often become wild and uncontrollable, either ending up on stronger stimulants or sedating themselves with alcohol, marijuana or other drugs.
  6. Patients on sedating drugs who increase their intake of caffeine to resisit the sedation.
  7. Patients who are taking drugs that include caffeine (e.g., painkillers) without knowing that they contain caffeine.
  8. Fetuses, newborn infants, and nursing infants whose mothers ingest caffeine from multiple sources. The babies have disturbed sleep..."
(p. 128-129, Caffeine Blues)

Jump to top of article
Jump to Chapter:
Caffeine and Hormones
Benefits of Quitting Coffee
Why Is Caffeine Harmful?
Why Do I Like Caffeine?
How to Be Free of Caffeine and Restore Your Natural Energy Levels
The Hard Truth About Soft Drinks/ Dangerous Levels of Caffeine and Sugar
How Soon Can I Feel the Benefits of Quitting Caffeine?
Politics of Coffee

Vague Anxiety, Worries, Discomfort and Background Stress Caused by Caffeine

(For many more powerful and surprising self-help techniques on how to combat anxiety and mood swings, read my article here: Cures for Moodiness/ How to Control Anger.)

"I suggest you do this in a quiet place when you have a few minutes you can spend alone. Pay careful attention to any tightening in the chest, tension or pain in the stomach or solar plexus (your 'gut' feelings), any clenching or pain in the jaw, tremor in the fingers or legs (restless leg syndrome), and involuntary twitching in limbs, eyelids, or face. These are all signs of accumulating stress, danger signals that need to be dealt with while they are still minor.

"Watch your breath rising from the solar plexus up to your lungs. Feel the rib cage expand and the collarbones rise. Then watch the exhalation, feeling the relaxation and letting go of the breath and body. Take time to feel the sensations that come and go, and in a few minutes, you will have a clear connection to your emotional state.

"If you are feeling anxious or worried at all, ask yourself what is the source of your discomfort or anxiety. Is it something you can resolve, and if so, what course of action needs to be taken? "For many people, the source of discomfort and anxiety is vague and unclear. It's been described as 'background stress', and I suggest that caffeine is at the core of such feelings."
(p. 388, Caffeine Blues)
'Get Happy Tea' picture
'Get Happy Tea' from 'Tea Republic' includes dried St. John's Wort

Jump to top of article
Jump to Chapter:
Caffeine and Hormones
Benefits of Quitting Coffee
Why Is Caffeine Harmful?
Why Do I Like Caffeine?
Vague Anxiety, Worries, Discomfort and Background Stress Caused by Caffeine
The Hard Truth About Soft Drinks/ Dangerous Levels of Caffeine and Sugar
How Soon Can I Feel the Benefits of Quitting Caffeine?
Politics of Coffee

How to Be Free of Caffeine and Restore Your Natural Energy Levels

"Human body is designed to last about 120 years, and [...] it is quite capable of sustaining a high level of energy until the very end. [...] So why don't we feel this vigor and vitality? It's not because we lose it. We throw it away. We fall into the trap of sedentary living, poor diet, and caffeine. When we stop moving, we lose metabolic efficiency."
(p. 339, Caffeine Blues)

"Leafing through a health magazine, you'd think that getting more energy was as easy as taking a few pills - but as much as we would like that to be true, it doesn't happen that way. Any pill that purports to give you instant energy is very likely to be just another stimulant like caffeine, the drug you're trying to avoid. [...]
"Guarana, maté, bissy nut, kola nut, or green tea extract are simply herbal sources of caffeine. Ma huang and Chinese ephedra are herbal sources of ephedrine, another central nervous system stimulant. If you see botanical names of plants (such as Ilex paraguayensis or Paulinia cupana), the manufacturer is using the Latin nomenclature to further hide the fact that the product contains stimulants. I have even seen the chemical name for caffeine (trimethylxanthine) used on a product label!"

(p. 342-343, Caffeine Blues)

Stephen Cherniske's 'off the bean' -programme concentrates to a large extent on increasing our energy levels while weaning off coffee and all other forms of caffeine. He advices weaning off coffee slowly, gradually mixing different healthy substitutes into the coffee, while at the same time focusing on reducing stress, and supporting your adrenal glands with rebuilding, to be able to handle stress better.

These are some of the recommendations from Dr. Cherniske to help you to easily break the coffee habit - at least so he promises:

"To recover your natural energy, you must take three important steps: Eliminate caffeine abuse, boost your nutritional intake, and develop a habit of regular exercise. The order in which you take these steps is also very important. [...] ... you need to restore your metabolic efficiency. You then take that renewed energy and use it to build up and exercise program that feels good and works."
(p. 339-340, Caffeine Blues)

For your body to adapt to regular exercise, according to Stephen Cherniske, can take from several weeks to months. That's why he recommends to start with 'bioenergetic nutrient' -supplementation before attempting to exercise, to make this process easier:

"I have been an adviser to members of the U.S. Olympic team and served on the faculty of the American College of Sports Medicine. In helping to train world-class athletes, I developed a formula of what I termed bioenergetic nutrients. These substances are critically important for the body's creation of energy. They exist in every cell of the body, but most people don't have levels that will support peak performance."
(p. 341, Caffeine Blues)

Stephen Cherniske advises on taking various supplements to increase your energy levels while quitting caffeine. I quote it here in case it is of interest to you. I'm not sure they work, however, and personally think that natural is always better. Sometimes supplementation is required, however. Refer to the book for correct dosage and further information before taking these...

"The following bioenergetic nutrients have been clinically proven to boost your natural energy supply. [...] After a week of taking these nutrients you should find yourself naturally awake and alert, with ever-increasing energy that you can use to start an effective exercise program. These nutrients will also help you avoid the side-effects of caffeine withdrawal. You can continue taking them indefinitely..." (Stephen Cherniske)

  1. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is essential for cellular respiration - that is, the conversion of fuel and oxygen into energy. CoQ10 levels decline with age, and this may help to explain why some people run out of steam. In placebo-controlled studies, middle-aged men given supplemental CoQ10 report greater feelings of vigor.
  2. Alpha Ketoglutaric Acid (AKG) plays a critical role in the 'Krebs cycle', which is the biochemical process that converts carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. AKG supplements have been found to improve stamina and respiratory efficiency. This means that the body can extract more oxygen and thus more energy from each breath. "I have seen sedentary people gain significant energy benefits from this important nutrient.
  3. Vitamin B6. Many of the B vitamins are involved in energy production but B6 specifically works in conjunction with AKG to enhance exercise ability. It also becomes an active coenzyme in literally hundreds of metabolic processes.
  4. Chromium is important for high metabolic efficiency and helps insulin deliver 'fuel' to the cells.
  5. Siberian or panax ginseng (the quality of the product is important here) has been shown to have antifatigue benefits and may also improve mood and general health.
  6. DHEA (a steroid hormone) plays an important role in maintaining youthful energy and strength. "After you've been caffeine free for three or four weeks, I suggest you have a saliva or blood test for DHEA [...] If your levels are low, you may want to consult with your doctor and consider supplementing with DHEA. That's because low DHEA levels make exercise somewhat frustrating." (p. 360) You can also read Dr. Cherniske's book on this topic. Be careful, however, as this is a powerful steroid hormone and the amounts and frequency of use need to be carefully planned so as not to damage your system.

To support the exhausted adrenal glands with rebuilding, Cherniske states, the following substances have proven helpful (these 'adaptogens' apparently help the body deal with physical, mental and emotional stress):

  • Gingko biloba: Ginkgo improves cerebral circulation, dilates peripheral blood vessels throughout the body, and increases memory retention and concentration.
  • Gotu kola: can help to rebuild mental stamina, increase mental ability, and improve memory and learning retention. It can also help to overcome the negative effects of stress and fatigue.
  • Siberian ginseng
  • Schizandra
  • Astragalus
  • Ashwagandha
  • Ziziphus seed
  • Withania extract

Also, low-salt diet together with potassium supplementation will be beneficial to support adrenal recovery. (Barbara Wren discusses the important balance between salt and potassium in her book: Cellular Awakening)

[Note that according to Dr. James Wilson of www.adrenalfatigue.org salt is actually beneficial in healing the adrenal glands - and I personally thought there were benefits when I was healing my adrenal glands. But only good-quality natural salt, such as pink himalayan salt.]

Dr. Stephen Cherniske also recommends 'mood support': He states that reducing caffeine gradually normally avoids the problems with serotonin balance in the brain, but if you find that you are feeling 'blue', you might add natural mood elevators to your post-caffeine routine:

  • St John's Wort is an herbal supplement that is extremely effective in raising serotonin levels. [My addition: You can also take this in the form of St. John's Wort tea - sometimes called 'happy tea']
  • 5-HTP is a natural tryptophan metabolite that helps to increase brain levels of serotonin.

[Note that there are some claims to serotonin being very harmful in large quantities, including the above herbs and supplements. Follow the 'serotonin balance' link above to find out more.]

Detoxification support to the liver, colon and kidneys is also recommended in Caffeine Blues, to accelerate their recovery after adverse effects from caffeine:

  • Milk thistle to support the liver
  • Pure psyllium powder to support the colon
  • Drink eight glasses of pure water or herbal tea daily to support the kidneys

Additional nutritional supplements recommended in Caffeine Blues:

  • High-potency multi-vitamin
  • Cayenne pepper decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease and is energising
  • A comprehensive antioxidant supplement containing vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, bioflavonoids, and extracts of pine bark, grape seed, and caffeine-free green tea.

Other things to keep in mind for optimal success in kicking the caffeine habit, according to Stephen Cherniske:

  • Don't skip breakfast and avoid processed carbohydrates and processed sugar. These can cause mood swings, and many other problems in terms of stress hormones and blood sugar imbalance. They also sap your energy.

  • Example of a good breakfast: eggs couple of times per week, soy sausages with toast and orange juice ("will keep you energised for hours"); alternatively, replace commercial shakes with a scoop of protein powder mixed in juice or low-fat milk, together with a banana or frozen fruit ("hunger is satisfied till lunch")
  • "You may find that after you quit caffeine, for a period of time it seems like your body needs an unusual amount of sleep. [...] If you allow yourself to benefit from increased sleep hours during your first few weeks off caffeine, your body will more rapidly complete the high level of repair necessary in your organs and nervous system." (p. 369, Caffeine Blues)

Exercise, "the fountain of youth", is an important part of the off-the bean programme, and may be started after the bioenergetic nutrient supplementation is starting to show results.

Dr. Cherniske estimates this to take about one week, depending on the amount of caffeine you have been consuming. He claims that the use of these nutrients cuts the time the body needs to adapt to exercise from many weeks or months to zero. And the benefits of exercise are not small:

  • Exercise increases muscle mass, and high muscle mass increases metabolic efficiency, which in turn helps to convert the food you eat into energy to feed the muscles... it also enhances immunity, looks good, ensures that you will be able to maintain your ideal weight without dieting.
  • "There is no exercise, nutritional supplement, diet, practice, or program that can come close to providing the benefits that I have received from yoga over the last thirty years." (p. 367, Caffeine Blues)

Cherniske also provides advice on how to improve the quality of your sleep and techniques to reduce stress.

Jump to top of article
Jump to Chapter:
Caffeine and Hormones
Benefits of Quitting Coffee
Why Is Caffeine Harmful?
Why Do I Like Caffeine?
Vague Anxiety, Worries, Discomfort and Background Stress Caused by Caffeine
How to Be Free of Caffeine and Restore Your Natural Energy Levels
How Soon Can I Feel the Benefits of Quitting Caffeine?
Politics of Coffee

The Hard Truth About Soft Drinks/ Dangerous Levels of Caffeine and Sugar

"If it's a 'regular' cola, your body is jolted by about nine teaspoons of sugar. (When was the last time you put nine teaspoons of sugar in a beverage?) In response, your blood glucose levels rise quickly and your pancreas pours out insulin. Both the elevated glucose and insulin foster weight gain. If it's a diet cola, your brain registers the intense sweetness of aspartame and instructs the intestinal tract to prepare for an enormous intake of calories. Your body creates enzymes to convert future calories to fat, just like it did 10,000 years ago. So even through the beverage contains only one calorie (a concept your brain and body do not understand), you remain primed to create fat as soon as you eat some real food. That's why the more artificial sweeteners you consume, the more likely you are actually to gain weight - as confirmed by a study of 80,000 women over a period of six years."
(p. 280)
"Then there's the caffeine. It gives you a slight adrenal 'buzz', but the stress causes your body to lose calcium, magnesium and B vitamins. The caffeine also impairs your absorption of valuable iron." (Stephen Cherniske)

I have recently started supplementing with magnesium in the form of magnesium chloride oil, which I spray on my skin after bath. I found the benefits to be the second-best thing to actually giving up caffeine.

Within one hour, I felt a lot more relaxed, happier, all the muscles in my body felt better, I could sleep better than normal, and my stress response has definitely improved. I don't argue as easily and when I do, I snap out of the mood much easier and quicker than normal!

"Because most soft drinks contain zero nutrients and are consumed in lace of nutrient-rich beverages, regular use of soft drinks contributes to insufficient intake of calcium, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin C. But it is not only that these worthless beverages replace nutritious alternatives. Caffeinated soft drinks actually have antinutrient properties that affect the absorption and metabolism of the entire diet."
"... caffeine causes an increased loss of B vitamins in the urine. Because the B vitamin status of many Americans (especially teenagers) is borderline to begin with, regular consumption of soft drinks can contribute to deficiency and a raft of symptoms, including neurological damage. Widespread use of soft drinks has been shown to contribute to outbreaks of beriberi among teenagers. Beriberi is a serious thiamine deficiency disease that usually occurs only in the most malnourished of populations."
(p. 284, Caffeine Blues)
"Caffeine of course, is not the only culprit. There are the sweeteners, either sugar or aspartame. The high sugar content of 'regular' soft drinks [...] contributes to blood sugar problems, metabolic stress, and malnutrition via loss of B vitamins, calcium, copper, and chromium. The aspartame (brand names NutraSweet and Equal) in diet soft drinks has been associated with neurological and behavioural problems..."
(p. 284, Caffeine Blues)
"Recently, a group of preschool boys with ADD [attention deficit disorder] participated in a ten-week, placebo-controlled study that included the avoidance of sugar, artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservatives, and caffeine. Over half of the subjects showed reliable improvement on the experimental diet as compared to no improvement in the placebo period. Clearly, the elimination of soft drinks from the diet contributed to the success of this treatment."
(p. 286, Caffeine Blues)
"... caffeine contributes directly to depression. But the combination of caffeine and aspartame may be even worse.

"We have long known that the amino acid tryptophan is critically important in maintaining normal mood. That's because the brain converts tryptophan to a biochemical known as serotonin, which in turn contributes to feelings of pleasure and relaxation. [...] It turns out that phenylalanine (one of the ingredients in aspartame) competes with tryptophan for absorption, and may therefore contribute to reduced serotonin levels. In one study, researchers found that depressed patients had lower tryptophan levels compared with people who were not suffering from depression. [...] Given this data, it is not unreasonable to conclude that 'diet' soft drink consumption may contribute to depression." (p. 286, Caffeine Blues)
"... soft drinks are implicated in reports of fatigue and sleep disturbance as well as coffee. [...] ... a direct relationship was reported among caffeine intake, disturbed sleep, and reported tiredness during the day."
(p. 287, Caffeine Blues)

"High-calorie soft drinks are implicated in weight gain among children..." (p. 289, Caffeine Blues)

"Soft drink intake is linked to a number of other conditions, including bone fractures due to deficient calcium, tooth decay, tooth tissue loss, and dehydration." (p. 289, Caffeine Blues)

"Doctors, particularly pediatricians, have reported signs - including irritability, headaches and nervousness - of what has come to be known as 'caffeinism' among cola-guzzling youngsters whose total caffeine intake may be boosted by cocoa or hot chocolate and chocolate bars." (p. 289, Caffeine Blues)

"Alarmingly, peak consumption [or soft drinks] has been reported among children at ages of three, thirteen, and seventeen. The tragedy, of course, is that these are the years when diet is most important, and instead of nourishing our children we're pushing them toward illness and degeneration." (p. 290, Caffeine Blues)

On the effect of caffeine on children's growth: "One recent study in Guatemala found that taking children off caffeine for just five months resulted in 22 percent gains in length compared to the group that continued drinking coffee. More important, the caffeine-free group registered a 46 percent greater weight gain and decreased incidence of illness." (p. 292, Caffeine Blues)

More on the dangers of soft drinks here: Global Healing Center: "Dangers of Soft Drinks"

There is also plenty of material on You Tube regarding the dangers of aspartame, for example, which is the sweetener commonly found in soft drinks.

Jump to top of article
Jump to Chapter:
Caffeine and Hormones
Benefits of Quitting Coffee
Why Is Caffeine Harmful?
Why Do I Like Caffeine?
Vague Anxiety, Worries, Discomfort and Background Stress Caused by Caffeine
How to Be Free of Caffeine and Restore Your Natural Energy Levels
The Hard Truth About Soft Drinks/ Dangerous Levels of Caffeine and Sugar
Politics of Coffee

How Soon Can I Feel the Benefits of Quitting Caffeine

Usually you can feel the benefits of quitting caffeine within two to three days. According to Stephen Cherniske, and Caffeine Blues, however, it can take up to seven days to decaffeinate the blood of habitual coffee drinkers. In addition, he states that... it can take three or more weeks after quitting caffeine for the stress hormone levels in your body to return to normal (!).

"If you've been consuming caffeine for a decade or more, your body will need to undergo a significant amount of repair." (p. 336, Caffeine Blues)

"Caffeine withdrawal symptoms differ from person to person, but can include up to several weeks of misery" (p. 336, Caffeine Blues) For tips on how to make it a lot easier, see the chapter: 'How to Be Free of Caffeine and Restore Your Natural Energy Levels' above.

Jump to top of article
Jump to Chapter:
Caffeine and Hormones
Benefits of Quitting Coffee
Why Is Caffeine Harmful?
Why Do I Like Caffeine?
Vague Anxiety, Worries, Discomfort and Background Stress Caused by Caffeine
How to Be Free of Caffeine and Restore Your Natural Energy Levels
The Hard Truth About Soft Drinks/ Dangerous Levels of Caffeine and Sugar
How Soon Can I Feel the Benefits of Quitting Caffeine?

Politics of Coffee

There is a chapter in 'Caffeine Blues' about the politics of coffee, and the pushers behind this popular drug. To review the chapter is beyond the scope of this already lengthy book review, however. Suffice to say that the chapter focuses on the fact that being able to legally sell an addictive drug, while distorting the public view about the way it functions, is a marketing dream come true. And high-caffeinated soft drinks are now increasingly being targeted to children. It is not a very uplifting chapter!

In addition to reading Stephen Cherniske's book, I would also recommend you to watch the following documentary film:
Black Gold: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee", available at Blackgoldmovie.com

Also see the report of my personal experience of giving up coffee: Benefits of Quitting Caffeine

Jump to Chapter:
Caffeine and Hormones
Benefits of Quitting Coffee
Why Is Caffeine Harmful?
Why Do I Like Caffeine?
Vague Anxiety, Worries, Discomfort and Background Stress Caused by Caffeine
How to Be Free of Caffeine and Restore Your Natural Energy Levels
The Hard Truth About Soft Drinks/ Dangerous Levels of Caffeine and Sugar
How Soon Can I Feel the Benefits of Quitting Caffeine?
Politics of Coffee


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