Kicking Coffee: The Caffeine Wean

Kicking Coffee

Kicking coffee is no joke.

Whether quitting for an elimination or detox, for improved sleep habits, or due to doctor’s orders, you’ll need some support. as you go through the process.

The Good

There are many evidence-based benefits to enjoying a cup of joe. The trick is to enjoy it in moderation and to maintain healthy lifestyle and eating habits at the same time. I am not necessarily anti-coffee, though the wisdom of consuming caffeine is often a matter of individual health status. Before engaging in a caffeine wean, consider your relationship with coffee to understand exactly what you’re giving up. Often you’ll find that you’re sacrificing more than just the caffeine itself.

Think about what you get out of coffee. How does it serve you? For many, coffee is a habit linked to morning ritual. Like any habit, it may have started innocently, but at some point it began crossing the line between want and need. Before long, caffeine is something you crave so intensely that it feels like mornings cannot possibly exist without it. Understanding what you’re attached to when it comes to coffee is vital in developing a plan to wean that will work for you.

The Bad

Caffeine can be detrimental to your health if you have a sensitivity to it, if you’re consuming large quantities of it, or if you have certain health risk factors. As I mentioned before, when a moderate coffee habit begins to interfere with your diet and lifestyle you can begin to run into problems.

As a clinician, I see two scenarios play out time and time again: the effects of caffeine on sleep and eating habits. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you might notice sleep changes even with one cup of coffee. Sleep loss or poor quality sleep also occurs when we reach for coffee at 3pm (or 6pm, if working late) as an answer to fatigue.

Often afternoon fatigue is rooted in problematic eating habits, also influenced by a java habit. It is common to wake, prepare for work, and reach for a morning cup of joe before reaching for food. In fact, about 70% of my clients choose coffee over breakfast. Coffee effectively fills the stomach and temporarily tricks the body into believing that it’s not hungry, but we pay the price for a lack of morning nutrients around 3pm when that energy dip occurs. Over time, poor sleep and eating habits can wreak havoc on health, leading to a disrupted circadian rhythm, nutrient depletion, blood sugar dysregulation and other imbalances.

The Ugly

Kicking coffee cold turkey is an option, though it is not for the faint of heart. Even with a one-cup-a-day habit, dull headaches, brain fog and lack of focus will occur. Obviously, for a heavier habit the symptoms are much worse. Still, many find that cold turkey is a necessary extreme and they never look back. For these brave souls, I recommend quitting on a Friday and using the weekend to get through the worst of the symptoms. Turmeric is a great natural anti-inflammatory that can help with headaches, but if you’re coming off a big habit it’s also helpful to be able to sleep it off. Expect symptoms to last anywhere from 2-6 days, depending on your daily caffeine intake.


If you’re not quitting cold turkey, there are methods to wean yourself off caffeine with minimal effects. If you are drinking more than 1 cup of coffee in the morning, I recommend dropping 1 cup from your routine right away. Two days later, reduce your intake by another 1/2 cup. Two days after that reduce by another 1/2 cup, and so on until coffee is a thing of the past. Now, think back to the question of what coffee does for you and consider these decaffeinated options:

If it is part of a comforting morning ritual, consider replacing coffee with a health-boosting herbal tea, golden milk or warm lemon water.

If you really like the mouth-feel of coffee, try decaffeinated coffee or a replacement like Teeccino or Dandy Blend.

If it’s the energy boost of the caffeine you crave, try the energy-boosting properties of Tulsi (holy basil) tea or a Maca Latte.

…but I *really* feel addicted to my coffee… try reishi mushroom extract, which can help with coffee cravings tremendously.

Additional Tips

Focus on hydration. Commit to drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning, before your morning ritual of choice. Proper hydration will boost your energy levels naturally.

Eat breakfast! Best practice is to eat within one hour of waking, but often this is hard to schedule. Opt for a healthy breakfast that includes protein as early in the day as possible. Light the fire of your metabolism for another natural energy boost that will have you working through 3pm with ease (provided you eat a good lunch too!).

Unless you’re kicking coffee for health reasons, remember that small amounts of caffeine actually carry benefits. Once your detox or elimination is over, enjoy your cuppa again in moderation – but keep hydrated and well nourished!

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