I wouldn't call myself a coffee addict.
I started in high school when all the cool kids were drinking it, and then I made it a twice-daily staple in college when long days and all-nighters became the norm. If I was feeling especially tired in the morning, I knew having a cup of coffee would bring me back to life. It was part of my routine—a morning without coffee felt off. But it never got to the point where I'd get a pounding headache if I didn't have it. No, I wasn't addicted to coffee, I was just in a devoted relationship with it.
But, as some relationships reach a rocky point, so too did our unrequited love affair. Just this past year, I noticed serious digestive issues and painful stomach churning—warning signs, so to speak. I'd feel bloated and pained like I was having an ulcer. I also started feeling ten times more tired during the day even after I'd had my two large iced coffees with soy. My whole body started to feel rundown, especially post-coffee, so I decided to do the unthinkable—I quit.
I didn't set up a timeline, I didn't schedule the day in which I'd go cold-turkey. One day, I decidedly walked past my morning coffee spot, and I didn't set foot back in for a few months thereafter. I issued an "it's not me, it's you," packed my bags, and moved out. And it felt great.
Life as a newly single coffee-free girl was much easier than I thought. I didn't find myself yearning for it—instead, I was dating around, specifically with an iced green tea/lemonade mix I concocted myself every morning. I know it seems like I moved on fast, but having a drink every morning during my daily commute made the transition easier and kept me much more hydrated than my previous daily brew.
I didn't experience any withdrawal symptoms post-coffee and instead saw vast improvements in my health. For starters, the bloating and indigestion, and other, well, issues down there disappeared. It's no wonder, considering coffee is proven to promote gastro-oesophageal reflux, as well as increased rectosigmoid motor activity (a fancy name for having to go number two) soon after ingesting.
I also felt more alert. This may sound completely counterintuitive, but again, it's a scientifically proven effect of quitting coffee. Ready for this? According to Owen Bain, MD, coffee doesn't actually give you energy, it just reduces your ability to feel that you're tired. Coffee also lends itself to caffeine crashes, wherein your body comes off of the increased levels of serotonin and dopamine, and your heart rate slows down, meaning you feel way more tired a few hours after drinking coffee than if you hadn't had any at all. All that said, caffeine affects everyone in different ways: Some may crash hard, while others may not feel any changes throughout the day. For me, though, I was no longer yawning or feeling myself drift off come 3 p.m. I actually felt more productive without coffee.
I think about coffee occasionally—our good times, our bad. I'll pass by a coffee shop or get a whiff of Columbian beans and consider giving it another go, but then I think about all the other reasons breaking up with it improved my life:
- It disrupts your sleep cycle: The closer you drink coffee to bedtime, the more trouble you'll have falling asleep.
- It's bad for your teeth: Black coffee may have polyphenols that help prevent enamel destruction, but for those who take their coffee with cream or sugar, these benefits are counteracted. Not to mention, coffee stains your pearly whites.
- It can cause weight gain: Caffeine increases the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for weight gain around the midsection.
- It's potentially bad for your heart: Too much caffeine consumption can lead to raised blood pressure.
- It speeds up the aging process: A recent study found that caffeine inhibits collagen production, a necessary component for skin elasticity and suppleness.
When I weighed the pros and cons (there are some pros to coffee, like antioxidants and a reduction in skin redness), the cons far outweighed the benefits for me. Yes, there is still technically caffeine in my green tea replacement, but not nearly as much as a cup of coffee, so I'll continue my happy life with it. Sorry coffee, we gave it a shot.
Need another coffee replacement? Golden lattes are an excellent healthy swap.
Ed Note: Some people may experience serious withdrawal symptoms after quitting coffee, so please speak with a physician before making the switch.
Pirastu N, Kooyman M, Robino A, et al. Non-additive genome-wide association scan reveals a new gene associated with habitual coffee consumption. Sci Rep. 2016;6:31590. doi:10.1038/srep31590
Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, Roth T. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013;9(11):1195-200. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170
Meckelburg N, Pinto KC, Farah A, et al. Antibacterial effect of coffee: calcium concentration in a culture containing teeth/biofilm exposed to Coffea Canephora aqueous extract. Lett Appl Microbiol. 2014;59(3):342-7. doi:10.1111/lam.12281
Lovallo WR, Whitsett TL, Al'absi M, Sung BH, Vincent AS, Wilson MF. Caffeine stimulation of cortisol secretion across the waking hours in relation to caffeine intake levels. Psychosom Med. 2005;67(5):734-9. doi:10.1097/01.psy.0000181270.20036.06
De giuseppe R, Di napoli I, Granata F, Mottolese A, Cena H. Caffeine and blood pressure: a critical review perspective. Nutr Res Rev. 2019;32(2):169-175. doi:10.1017/S0954422419000015
Donejko M, Przylipiak A, Rysiak E, Głuszuk K, Surażyński A. Influence of caffeine and hyaluronic acid on collagen biosynthesis in human skin fibroblasts. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2014;8:1923-8. doi:10.2147/DDDT.S69791