Thursday, October 20, 2011

Caffeine – Breaking the Habit

If you want to be in tip-top mental health, stay away from stimulants. This is doubly important for those with mental health problems because too much caffeine can, in some, produce symptoms that may lead to a diagnosis of a mental illness. This may happen because high caffeine consumers can become both allergic to coffee and unable to detoxify caffeine. The total effect is serious disruption of both mind and mood.

Giving Up Stimulants

Coffee contains three stimulants: caffeine, theobromine and theophylline. Although caffeine is the strongest, theophylline is known to disturb normal sleep patterns, and theobromine has a similar effect to caffeine, although it is present in much smaller amounts in coffee. So, decaffeinated coffee isn’t exactly stimulant free. As a Nutritional Consultant I have seen many people cleared of minor health problems such as tiredness and headaches just from cutting out their 2-3 cups of coffee a day. The best way to find out what effect it has on you is quit for a trial period of two weeks. You may get withdrawal symptoms for up to three days. These reflect how addicted you’ve become. After this, if you begin to feel perky and your health improves, that’s a good indicator you’re better off without coffee. The most popular alternatives are: Teeccino, Caro Extra, Bambu, or herb teas.

Tea is the great British addiction. A cup of strong tea contains as much caffeine as regular coffee and is certainly addictive. Tea also contains tannin, which interferes with the absorption of certain minerals such as iron and zinc. Particularly addictive is Earl Grey tea containing bergamot, itself a stimulant. If you’re addicted to tea and can’t get going without a cup, it may be time to stop for two weeks and see how you feel. The best-tasting alternatives are Rooibos tea with milk and herbal or fruit teas. Drinking very weak tea from time to time is unlikely to be a problem.

Chocolate bars are usually full of sugar. Cocoa, th active ingredient in chocolate provides significant quantities of the stimulant theobromine, whose action is similar to caffeine. Theobromine is also obtained in cocoa drinks like hot chocolate. As chocolate is high in sugar and stimulants, and delicious as well, it’s east to become a chocoholic. The best way to quit the habit is to go one month with no chocolate. Instead, eat healthy sweets from health food shops that are sugar free and don’t contain chocolate. After a month you will have lost the craving.

Changing any food habit can be stressful in itself, so it’s best not to quit everything in one go. A good strategy is to avoid something for a month, then see how you feel. One way to greatly reduce the cravings for foods you’ve become addicted to is by having an excellent diet. Since all stimulants affect blood sugar levels, you can keep yours even by always having something substantial for breakfast, such as an oat-based, not too refined cereal; unsweetened live yogurt with a banana, ground sesame seeds, and wheat germ; or an egg. You can snack frequently on fresh fruit. The worst thing you can do is go for hours without eating. Vitamins and minerals are important too, because they help regulate your blood sugar level and hence your appetite. They also minimize the effects of withdrawal from stimulants and the symptoms of food allergy. The key nutrients are vitamin C, the B complex vitamins, especially B6 and the minerals calcium, magnesium, and chromium. Fresh fruit and vegetables provide significant amounts of vitamin c and B vitamins, while vegetables and seeds such as sunflower seeds and sesame are good sources of calcium and magnesium. For maximum effect, however, it is best to supplement these vitamins as well as eat foods rich in them.

Natural Stimulants

If you still need a boost, especially during the first week off caffeine, you can do it the natural way. The body makes adrenaline and its cousins the “feel-good” neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline, directly from an amino acid called tyrosine. Supplementing 1,000 mg of tyrosine on an empty stomach or with some carbohydrate such as a piece of fruit, gives a positive lift. This is well worth it in the week you’re quitting caffeine. It's best to consult with a Natural Health Care Practitioner when you are addressing neurotransmitter deficiencies.

In addition to tyrosine there are a number of “adaptogenic” herbs. These include Asian ginseng, Siberian ginseng, reishi mushrooms, and rhodiola. While rhodiola is a favorite in Siberia, reishi mushroom is one of the most respected tonics in Chinese medicine. In Asia, it has been revered for as long as five thousand years. These herbs are called adaptogens because they help even out and maintain normal levels of another energy-giving adrenal hormone called cortisol. These are all available as herbal supplements and you can find them combined with tyrosine.

My Experience

I was addicted to coffee a few years ago. Even now, it's easy for me to get hooked again. All it takes is one cup of coffee and I'm likely to drink it again the next day. The only substitute that has worked for me is white peony tea which I drink every morning. It has health benefits, and it's lower in caffeine than black tea. Check out the mountain rose herbs link if you'd like fresh, dried organic white tea shipped to you. You'll find white tea under black or green tea on the tea page.

A few simple steps you can take to reduce your intake of and addiction to stimulants and balance your blood sugar

 Avoid sugar and foods containing sugar.

 Break your addiction to caffeine by avoiding coffee, tea and caffeinated drinks for one month, while improving your diet. Once you’re no longer craving caffeine, the occasional cup of weak tea or very occasional coffee is not a big deal.

 Break your addiction to chocolate. Once you’re no longer craving it, the occasional piece of chocolate is not a problem. Choose the dark, lower sugar kind of chocolate.

 Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner—choosing low GL foods—plus two fruit snacks in between.

 Take a high-strength multivitamin, plus 2,000 mg of vitamin C per day and 200mcg of chromium.

Bulk organic herbs, spices and essential oils. Sin

Source: The New Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford

Those seeking help for specific medical conditions are advised to consult a qualified nutrition therapist, clinical nutritionist, doctor, or equivalent health care professional.
The recommendations given here are intended solely as education and information, and should not be taken as medical advice. Neither myself nor the sources mentioned accept liability for those who choose to self-prescribe.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease either physical or mental.

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