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Seven months ago, I broke up with caffeine. It was like one of those toxic relationships I knew was over but I couldn’t cut ties with just yet, you know? But over time, I realized it was preventing me from feeling fully present and energized, and it was getting in the way of my body functioning at its highest level. 

In this episode, I dive into why I ultimately decided to give up caffeine, how it impacts your mind and body (particularly from a Traditional Chinese Medicine standpoint), and how my life has been without it thus far. It hasn’t been the easiest of journeys, lemme tell ya, but it has truly allowed me to live my best and juiciest life. 

Before you press play, don’t worry — I’m not going to try to convince you to give up coffee. That’s a decision only you can make, and it’s not my intention to demonize caffeine. I’m simply here to share my experience and shed light on the “pros” (mood boost, increased energy, etc.) that weren’t all they were cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong, the first month SUCKED. But now, seven months later, I can say it’s the best move I’ve ever made. Find a brief summary of this episode below, plus resources and links to reference as you listen in. 

My Relationship with Caffeine

I began drinking coffee in college because that’s what college kids do, right? I looked forward to the ritual everyday (especially since it helped me go to the bathroom) and never planned to give it up. In fact, I relied on it for energy and my mood. But this year, I felt a deep desire to experience life and my full spectrum of emotions without external vibes or substances — starting with cannabis. 

While traveling and experiencing cannabis withdrawal, I turned to and found myself relying on coffee, leading to the realization that I had to reexamine my relationship with caffeine. When I returned, I started seeing an acupuncturist who put me on a strong herbal regimen that nourished parts of me I didn’t realize were once being fulfilled by caffeine. 

One morning, I pulled up to my usual coffee shop and felt my body actually reject it. The best way I can describe it is that coffee was no longer an energetic match for me. Crazy enough, just a day before I had interviewed Karen Hurd for her episode on beans, cortisol, caffeine, and hormones. All I could hear was her voice in my head when I finally said no to a cup of coffee for the first time in 10 years. 

The Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

During the first few weeks of my break-up with caffeine, I kept thinking about its connection to Traditional and Classical Chinese Medicine and the work I’ve done with herbs to build my “fluids,” aka my adrenal and nutrient reserves. Here’s what I mean:

  • Fluids = your body’s energy and reserves. The more you conserve and build fluid, the more you’re able to adapt to stressors.
  • Warmth = ability to fight off pathogens, digest, etc. We have an unhealthy society and lack true, intrinsic warmth, thus we rely on coffee (hot and acidic) to fake that fire. 
  • Coffee mimics heat: passion, focus, cognition, motivation — things we should naturally build with exercise, nourishing foods, sleep, etc.
  • The more false heat you stack onto a deficient body, the more you deplete your healthy body fluids. 
  • Fluid-depleting substances lead to fluid-depleting behaviors. For example, coffee makes it easier to overwork yourself. 

The Tough Parts

  • Day 1: Extremely tired, puffy eyes, scattered words.
  • Day 2-4: Took the rest of the week off. Stressful to look at a screen, desire to sleep, relax, etc. Intense muscle aches, cloud of depression (which improved after 3pm). 

This is when I realized how much I was using caffeine as an antidepressant. Jeremy Davis on TikTok makes a good point that in order to avoid the pendulum swing from dopamine high to depressed, you have to tap into more of the sustainable hormones like serotonin, oxytocin (acts of kindness), and endorphins. Coffee wasn’t helping me with the relaxation, rest, and fun parts of dopamine that balances out the oxytocin and serotonin. 

The Benefits 

How I coped

  • Minerals
  • B vitamins
  • Lots of protein and eating consistently
  • Walking breaks, time in the sun, exercise to balance neurotransmitters and get dopamine/serotonin in a more balanced way
  • Adaptogens: Ashwagandha
  • Coffee replacement to mimic the ritual: Teeccino 

Where I Am Now

I now only use coffee as an occasional treat or mood boost, and I can actually feel how powerful it is. It’s not something I want to mess with daily! All in all, I hope this episode was helpful, and if you found that it spoke to you, please let me know — I’d be more than happy to offer tips and tricks. DM me on Instagram @organicolivia. I’m here to help! 

Xoxo, 

Olivia

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