04/05/2016 10:10 EDT | Updated 04/06/2017 05:12 EDT

Control Your Coffee Addiction With 8 Simple Steps

Who's addicted to coffee? "Not ME," you say in an offended tone as you reach for your third double espresso of the day, and you're just getting started!

Don't worry, I'm not about to ask you to quit your early cup of java. Believe it or not, I'm here to tell you that not all caffeine is bad for you; in fact, it's not bad for you at all!

Sound too good to be true?

Like most things in life, moderation is the key, and while caffeine itself might not be inherently bad, the frequency, amount and the dependencies people have to it can be cause for concern. There's always a catch isn't there?

While you might think that your cup of joe in the morning is your only exposure to caffeine, think again. If you're also consuming foods and beverages such as certain teas, energy drinks, soda, chocolate, and some medications, you might be getting more caffeine that you think.

Moderate amounts of caffeine, about 400 mg a day (how many caffeinated drinks is this?) will rarely cause harm.

But what about all the other "stuff" you put in your coffee? Sugar, flavouring shots, whip cream, or chocolate powder to mask the actual taste of coffee? All these additives might be throwing your diet and health way off.

And even if you drink your coffee black, having more than six to eight cups of coffee, or a daily dose of caffeine at higher than 600 mg, you may notice side effects such as:

  • problems sleeping
  • feeling restless
  • agitation
  • rapid heart rate

In all simplicity, caffeine is a drug, that when used properly, can provide benefits. But like any other drug, there are physiological side effects, especially when it comes to your adrenal glands (stress organs). I explain the adrenal glands to my patients with this analogue:

Imagine you have a pair of soaked sponges. They are so full that the minute you pick them up they spill over with excess water.

These are your healthy adrenal glands, spilling over with adrenaline, epinephrine, cortisol and other energy-producing and stress-regulating hormones.

With each task you take on in life you start to squeeze the sponges, little by little. And if you don't take the time to re-charge your batteries, or in this case re-fill your sponges, they will slowly start to dry out.

Caffeine does a fantastic job at squeezing your sponges (aka. stimulating your adrenals) to release more water (aka. energy-producing and stress-regulating hormones).

Unfortunately, when you're stressed, you're often not taking the time to properly rest and nourish your adrenals. So, your sponges start to dry up even more. You require more cups of coffee to wring out the last few drops of adrenaline and cortisol until you eventually reach "adrenal fatigue."

If this sounds like you it might be time to cut the caffeine habit, but be forewarned, it's never an easy thing to do. It's best to start cutting your consumption when you can afford a little more downtime, allowing you to ease into your new life sans caffeine, especially if you want to limit your withdrawal symptoms, which can include:

  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Depressed mood
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain and stiffness
  • Irritability
  • Constipation

To reduce your risk of developing these symptoms here are eight steps to remember while weaning down and off your caffeine consumption.

Control Your Coffee Addiction With Eight Simple Steps

1. Replace your current caffeine intake with teas (black, green, yerba), decaf coffee, or caffeine supplements to start.

This will keep the your caffeine levels more regulated and avoid a drastic crash. Switching from caffeinated sodas will also reduce your consumption of added sugar, which is always a good thing.

At 35 grams of sugar per 12oz, a can of pop puts you over the WHO's recommended daily intake or 25 grams.

2. Slowly reduce consumption of products with high caffeine content.

Don't go from 10 RockStars a day to a cup of green tea in a week. While caffeine might have had you moving at light speed, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to weaning your daily dose.

3. Support your adrenals prior to and during stressful events.

Adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwaghanda, Rhodiola, Astragalus, and Eleuthrococcus can be very nutritive to the adrenals, helping to support while you break the caffeine habit.

4. Protect your heart and mind with a healthy well balanced meal full of colourful vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats (ie. fish, coconut, olive oil, nuts and seeds).

Nutrition is always to the key to better health.

5. Start a sleep routine by doing healthy sleep hygiene practices before you go to bed, going to sleep at consistent time, and getting 7-9 hours per night.

6. Drink more water to stay hydrated and focused.

Dehydration and low blood pressure can be a common reason for low energy. Before you reach for that coffee or sugary donut, try drinking a glass of water. Wait 10 minutes and see if your energy perks back up.

7. Exercise and keep your body releasing feel good hormones and sweating with daily activities.

Feeling a little lethargic? Get your blood pumping and body moving. Sluggishness of the body (and mind) often occurs when you've been sitting too long, especially with poor posture. So go for a walk, stretch or get some fresh air every couple of hours.

8. Maintain a healthy state of mind with regular practices, such as meditation, deep breathing, and gratitude journaling.

There's nothing quite like an espresso pick-me-up to get you through your hectic afternoon.

However, if you find you're needing more than four throughout the day, it might be time to take stock of your caffeine consumption and perhaps break the habit. Starbucks might not appreciate it, but your adrenals sure will.

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