Last updated August 4, 2020 by Lisa Richards, CNC   Reviewed by Katie Stone, ND.

How To Reduce Your Caffeine Intake: Alternatives To Coffee & Tea

Drinking too much coffee

For many people, restricting their caffeine intake is an excellent idea while they’re on the Candida diet. Giving up caffeine completely is not always necessary, but it really depends on your own health situation.

Caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee have some undoubted, well-researched health benefits, and for most people drinking a small amount of caffeine will not be a problem.

However, if your Candida overgrowth has made you tired and burned out, it might be better to minimize your caffeine intake.

There are several reasons why you need to cut back or cut out the amount of coffee and tea that you drink while on the Candida Diet. When you understand why it makes your Candida worse, and how it can delay your recovery, you’ll find it easier to reduce your intake.

Even better, there are plenty of great alternatives that taste very similar to coffee and tea but won’t compromise your recovery.

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The Health Benefits And Costs Of Caffeine

Many of us simply can’t get through the day without a hit of caffeine. Whether it’s coffee, tea or some sort of energy drink, we become dependent on the stimulation that caffeine provides to wake us up and keep us feeling alert.

Of course, that alertness isn’t the only effect that caffeine produces. And while those effects aren’t all bad, they aren’t all good, either!

3 Benefits Of Caffeine

Caffeine Boosts Energy And Physical Performance

Drinking black coffee about an hour before workout has been found to boost performance by around 11-12%. This is largely to do with the effect that caffeine has on the adrenaline levels in your blood. Adrenaline is a stress hormone that prepares your body for “fight or flight”. In other words, it gives you a rapid energy boost that prepares your body for physical exertion. (1)

Caffeine Can Help With Weight Loss

Coffee contains magnesium and potassium, which stimulates your body’s use of insulin. This helps to regulate your blood sugar levels and reduce your craving for sweet treats and carb-loaded snacks. It’s also been shown that caffeine stimulates your metabolism, causing your body to break down fat cells and use fat for fuel.

Caffeine Boosts Alertness

This is probably the number one reason we drink coffee! A moderate caffeine intake – even just one cup a day – can help you to re-focus and be more productive at work. It boosts your mental alertness and helps you to concentrate on a task.

The Downsides of Drinking Caffeine

Sadly, the benefits of drinking caffeine are often outweighed by the negatives – especially if you’re suffering from Candida overgrowth. The cons include:

Caffeine Weakens Your Immune System

One of the worst things about drinking too much caffeine is that it impairs your immune system’s ability to fight off harmful invaders. This can result in you being more susceptible to illness and infection.

Studies show that those who regularly drink large amounts of caffeine tend to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their bloodstream.

Cortisol is released in response to physical and mental stress and triggers the release of sugar and fat from your body’s stores in order to help you run away from a threat. However, other facets of the stress response include elevated cholesterol and triglycerides and the temporary suppression of your immune system. (2)

A weakened immune system can allow pathogens like Candida albicans to spread more easily in the gut, vagina, mouth, and elsewhere.

Caffeine prevents you from getting restful sleep

Drinking coffee stimulates your adrenal glands to produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.

If you do this several times a day for a few years, your body adjusts to the levels of stress hormones, so your adrenal glands have to work harder to produce enough for the same effect.

This can disrupt the feedback loop between your hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenals (the HPA axis), impairing your body’s ability to regulate hormone levels. This leads to symptoms like weight gain, mood disorders, and disrupted sleep.

The more caffeine you drink, the more likely you are to suffer from anxiety, restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, stomach upset and irritability.

Caffeine can affect your sleep more directly too. One study found that drinking caffeine 6 hours before bed reduced the total amount of sleep by 1 hour. In older adults, these effects can be even stronger. (3)

If a Candida overgrowth and disrupted microbiome is already making you tired, caffeine could be worsening the problem.

Caffeine Destabilizes Your Blood Sugar Levels

Recent research has found that caffeine may lower the sensitivity of your cells to insulin.

When your cells become less sensitive to insulin, they don’t react they way they should when it’s released into your bloodstream – that is, they don’t absorb as much sugar from your blood after you eat or drink.

As a result, your pancreas thinks it has to make more insulin, pushing your levels even higher after you’ve eaten a meal. Because your blood sugar rises after eating, you may and up with chronically high blood sugar levels. (4)

Researchers believe this effect is due to the way caffeine increases your levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline.

Adrenaline can block a protein called adenosine, which plays an important role in how much insulin your body makes. Adenosine also controls how your cells respond to insulin. However, when caffeine prevents adenosine from doing its job, sugar will stay in your bloodstream for longer than it should.

Why Should You Reduce Your Caffeine Intake If You Have A Candida Overgrowth?

If you feel like you can’t go a day without several cups of coffee, or you find that you need to drink more and more each day to get a ‘hit’, it’s a sure sign you need to cut back. Coffee and tea can be fine in small doses – but when they start upsetting your natural bodily rhythms, they’re not so good!

Firstly, caffeine’s detrimental effect on your immune system reduces your ability to fight Candida overgrowth. This will not only worsen your Candida symptoms; it will compromise your health in the long run.

Secondly, caffeine can cause spikes in your blood sugar that feed your Candida overgrowth. A 2008 study conducted by the Duke University Medical Center found that caffeine increased glucose levels in the blood by as much as eight percent. This effect was even more significant right after meals. Sugar is the ‘fuel’ for pathogenic yeast, allowing it to grow and spread throughout your body. This is why sugar must be strictly limited while on the diet.

Caffeine can also upset your biological rhythm, making it difficult for you to fall asleep each night. Caffeine is a natural stimulant, which means it ‘wakes up’ your nervous system and keeps adrenaline pumping throughout your body. If you’re unable to settle down and relax, your body won’t have time for ‘rest and repair’, which is extremely important during any period of recovery.

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Strategies To Reduce Your Caffeine Consumption

If the thought of going cold turkey on your coffee habit terrifies you, don’t worry! There are plenty of delicious and satisfying alternatives out there which won’t affect your Candida treatment plan.

Decaffeinated coffee or tea

Decaffeinated (‘decaf’) coffee tends to be a much better choice than normal coffee. Despite being ‘decaf’, it still contains small amounts of caffeine. One of the positives of this is that it shares many of the health benefits that coffee can bring.

This is a good option when you’re trying to find a substitute for your morning beverage. Look for a coffee that has been decaffeinated using the non-toxic ‘Swiss water’ process.

Green tea

Among its many medicinal properties, green tea is a fantastic digestive aid. In fact, it may be one of the best teas for improving gut health, thanks to its high content of catechins and antioxidants.  These catechins are not only powerful scavengers of the free radicals which can damage your cells, they also help to soothe muscles in your gastrointestinal tract.

Green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid unique to the tea plant. L-theanine has highly beneficial effects on mood, sleep, and emotion, and cortisol, and can help your body cope with stress.

More importantly, studies have shown that L-theanine counteracts the effects of caffeine when you drink them together. As both are present in green tea, you can still get your hit of antioxidants without suffering the effects of caffeine. (4)

Chicory coffee

Chicory is a delicious, slightly bitter substitute for coffee that is enjoyed all over the world. It’s made of roasted chicory root rather than coffee beans, and even provides important anti-inflammatory health benefits. It can also help to reduce blood sugar and improve digestive health.

When chicory root is dried, roasted and ground, it makes for a tasty bitter drink that is not so different from coffee. The bitter taste stimulates the production of enzymes that help regulate your digestive system.

If you have a very sensitive gut, note that chicory may not be suitable for you. It contains inulin, a type of soluble fiber that is digested by the bacteria in the intestine. While this is idea for improving the health of your gut microbiome, it may have the opposite effect of feeding the ‘bad’ bacteria and yeast in your gut when you have an overgrowth.

Herbal teas

There are many satisfying herbal teas that can double as a remedy for bloating and gas. Drinking these teas throughout the day will not only relieve your caffeine craving, they can help reduce any discomfort of digestive symptoms that may occur while on the Candida diet.

One of the best options is nettle leaf tea, which contains flavonoids (antioxidants), Vitamin C and iron. It also boosts your blood circulation, which can help your body to flush out the toxic by-products of Candida. But best of all, nettle is a powerful energiser that can replace your need for caffeine! Natural health practitioners recommend stinging nettle for strengthening the kidneys and adrenals and boosting energy from the inside out.

Ginger is also a great alternative. It’s a powerful anti-emetic, which means it can help to reduce feeling of nausea and indigestion. Fresh ginger tea is especially effective in soothing a bloated tummy due to its anti-inflammatory and carminative properties, which makes it especially useful for IBS. It can even help your digestive system to empty more quickly and efficiently.

Chamomile tea is a wonderful alternative to caffeinated beverages – even though it has the opposite effect! This gentle tea is renowned for soothing nerves and indigestion while also boosting mood.  It offers natural calming effects for the body and mind and can even help to reduce water retention and improve wellbeing. Research has shown that chamomile is especially helpful for irritable bowel syndrome, helping to soothe the intestinal tract and relax stomach muscles. Regularly drinking chamomile tea can help to improve sleep quality and relaxation by boosting GABA receptors in the nervous system.

Signs Of Caffeine Withdrawal And How To Cope

Coming off your caffeine addiction may take some time – and your body may not like it at first. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Poor concentration
  • Low mood
  • The shakes (tremors)
  • Low energy

Don’t despair: these withdrawal symptoms are only temporary, and they’ll fade as your body gets used to coping without caffeine. In the meantime, you can alleviate the severity by taking things slowly.

Rather than going cold turkey, try to wean yourself off your daily dose of caffeine one cup at a time. You can also begin slowly reducing the amount of coffee in each cup. You can even swap every other coffee for a caffeine-free cup of herbal tea.

Also, remember to keep drinking plenty of water! Hydration is essential when reducing your caffeine intake. Your body will be trying to detox, so you’ll need plenty of extra water to help flush out toxins.  Getting enough sleep is also important. Try to go to bed at a normal hour each night so you can get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Last of all, go for natural energy boosts. Exercise is a fantastic way to naturally boost your energy levels, along with a diet rich in superfoods.

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