Withdrawal as Dysfunction

So you could look at whatever is causing the chronic stress in the first place. For example, you could make it a priority to take breaks from work; short ones every day, and longer when you can. Use enjoyable, fun and genuinely rejuvenating activities to manage your stress whenever possible. Exercise some but not too much. Get as good a night’s sleep as you can. If glucose metabolism is affected, eat little and often, especially soon after waking and just before bed.

If you’ve had a stressful lifestyle for some time it’s possible you’re deficient in magnesium, as cortisol uses it up. There’s no harm in trying a supplement to see if it makes a difference to your energy, but I do recommend the best possible quality. I take 400mg of chelated magnesium a day (Solgar) and certainly find my energy drops without it.

As for caffeine, it’s by no means essential to go cold turkey. You could make a plan to cut down over time, write the plan down and stick to it (closely, but not rigidly unless you are seriously ill) by managing your desire for more (see EATING LESS, Chapter 6). If your adrenal glands are not too burned out, and if you can make improvements in the way you deal with other sources of stress, it’s entirely possible you’ll feel the benefit right away.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Why does it matter what we call these symptoms that appear when we stop drinking caffeine?

First, if caffeine withdrawal is more about adrenal function than pure addiction, it could be helpful to take breaks from stimulants from time to time, to give your adrenal glands a restorative break. If it’s all about addiction, that wouldn’t be a helpful strategy.

Secondly, you might not drink much coffee, but still use a wide range of stimulants. Each type is consumed ‘in moderation’, but together add up to quite a daily cortisol overload.

And thirdly, it could be smart to consider how our energy is ideally generated, if not through stressful spikes of cortisol. This comes down to some very tiny molecules – as many as 10,000 of them inside a single cell – called mitochondria. Their purpose is to convert all our food – proteins, carbohydrates and fats – into real energy known as ATP. (3)   

What’s best for your health, energy and wellbeing is what’s best for your mitochondria. But that’s a topic for another newsletter.

NOTES
1. Development of the caffeine withdrawal symptom questionnaire. Juliano LM, Huntley ED (2012) Drug and Alcohol Dependence 124(3):229-34
2. The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried MD (Scribner, 2013)
3. Minding My Mitochondria by Terry L. Wahls MD (TZ Press, 2010)  

 

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