Coffee Alternatives For Coffee Addicts

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 2:26pm

By Wendy Hodsdon, ND

As a naturopathic physician, I often recommend that people decrease their coffee consumption or eliminate coffee altogether. My main reason is that the caffeine in coffee is a drugand when caffeine is consumed in large amounts, it acts similarly to a pharmaceutical drug with the accompanying negative side-effects.

Are you a caffeine addict?

Are you addicted to coffee? And if you were, how would you know? Well, one way to tell is if you skip drinking coffee for a few days and you subsequently develop a throbbing headache. This is a good indication you are physically addicted. Another sign is if you stop drinking coffee and think about it consistently for days, months...or even years!

Many people don't realize that oftentimes common health problems are related to over-consumption of coffee. This is because coffee has a number of effects upon the body. Here are some of its effects:

  • Increases stomach acid production for more than an hour after ingestion and can lead in some cases to stomach ulcers or acid reflux symptoms.
  • Has a stimulating effect on the large intestine, which can cause diarrhea.
  • Has been shown to interfere with the repair of chromosomes in cells which can lead to cancer.
  • Can cause high blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms in sensitive people.
  • Stimulates the nervous system and may result in nervousness, difficulty sleeping, restless legs, dizziness, and anxiety.
  • Increases blood sugar and aggravates diabetes and low blood sugar symptoms.
  • Positively affects the number and size of cysts in fibrocystic breast disease.
  • Increases mental speed (arithmetic, typing), but decreases motor co-ordination (writing, driving) and mental efficiency for one to three hours after consumption.

Kicking the caffeine habit

In addition to the above effects, caffeine withdrawal can be a problem. Some of the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include headaches, coffee cravings, irritability, fatigue, depression, constipation, shakiness, drowsiness, inability to concentrate, sensations of cold, and more.

One of the easier and gentler ways to end coffee dependence is to substitute alternative beverages. Taking additional vitamins may help with detoxifying the system when withdrawing from coffee. Vitamin B12, vitamin E, vitamin C, lecithin and B-complex may all help relieve the symptoms of withdrawal.

What are some alternatives for drinking coffee? It depends on why you drink coffee in the first place. Some people like the pick-up they get from caffeine. Some like the ritual of making a cup of coffee in the morning. Some go for the bitterness of a strong cup of coffee or the creaminess of a latte.

Alternatives to coffee

If you choose to give up drinking coffee, there are a number of beverages you can try instead. You will need to experiment and see what you like. Nothing "replaces" coffee with its own distinctive smell, taste, and character, and you will probably be disappointed if you compare these beverages to coffee. But if you evaluate them in their own right, you may find some you like. Above all, be gentle with yourself as you discontinue drinking coffee. It may take more than one try to really kick the coffee habit.

Pick-me-up drinks

These drinks have a stimulating effect on the body without the caffeine jolt of coffee.

  • Green tea*. Full of antioxidants, comes in many varieties.
  • Black tea*. Strong flavor, good with milk, large variety of options. Has half as much caffeine as coffee.
  • Licorice tea. Has a sweet flavor and nourishes the adrenal glands.
  • Siberian ginseng tea. Nourishing herbal tea. Has a tonifying effect on the body.
  • Yerba maté. No caffeine, but has a stimulating effect.
  • Chocolate powder*. Has a bitter, coffee-like taste with a mild stimulating effect when unsweetend.

Warm, creamy, sweet alternatives to coffee

These drinks do not stimulate, but can satisfy a desire for cream and sugar.

  • Chai. Spiced concoctions of black and green, which contain caffeine, and red tea, which does not.
  • Rooibos tea. Also known as Redbush tea from South Africa. Like black tea, it is good with milk, but it's caffeine-free and full of antioxidants.
  • Carob powder. From the pods of the carob tree, tastes similar to cocoa. Soothes the digestive tract.

Strong and bitter taste alternatives

These drinks have the bitter bite of coffee and a distinctive flavor of their own.

  • Roasted dandelion root tea. Has a roasted flavor with a little bitterness. Good for detoxifying the liver.
  • Teeccino. Completely herbal, roasted grains in a variety of flavors.

Instant coffee substitutes

Inca, Pero, Roma, Caffix, Roastaroma. Made of roasted grains, herbs, and beets.

*These drinks contain some caffeine, albeit lower amounts than in coffee.

For further information on the effects of drinking coffee and heart disease see the following articles from TheDietChannel: Heart disease & coffee: Are coffee-drinkers more likely to get heart disease? and It's Official: Coffee Is Good For Your Health.