The Cruel Calling of Coffee

Anywhere from 80-90% of the U.S. population drinks caffeine in some form every single day.  More than 50% of people in this country drink more than 3 or 4 cups of coffee every day.

To me, this is ridiculous.  I’m sorry, but why are we so hard on alcoholics and smokers for being addicts, but it’s perfectly okay to drink a big gulp of coffee that contains a colossal 640 mg of caffeine every day? I know: it’s so delicious and it’s a morning ritual.  Nothing tastes quite like it, and that aroma! How would you ever wake up in the morning without coffee?! Oh, and it might be the only way you can do your business in the bathroom every morning. These are the rationalizations people have for their full-fledged addiction.

Do you know what statistic goes right along with the 80% of people in this country who drink caffeine every day? Over 60% of Americans are overweight. Yep, I said it: caffeine is contributing to making us fat.

Why do I believe this? Well, first off, I see it in my practice.  People take out their daily 6 cups of coffee and they start to feel more awake.  They start having fewer headaches and their digestion improves.  They start losing weight.

But the proof is in the science: caffeine is a stimulant and it messes with your hormones and blood sugar levels.  When you drink caffeine (often, the reason you drink caffeine), you get a burst of energy, and that’s because it stimulates your adrenals to kick out cortisol, which stimulates a blood sugar increase.  It tells your liver and muscles to send out sugar into your blood to keep you awake.  Drinking caffeine also stimulates a release of adrenaline, or epinephrine, which tells your heart rate to increase, and all your other fight or flight responses to turn on.

If you were to be attacked in a dimly lit back alley, you’d have the same involuntary reactions as you do when you drink caffeine – maybe just at a more intense level.  Your heart rate would increase and glucose would be sent into your blood stream so as to give you the energy you need to run away or fight.  Your lungs would start working super well so that you could sprint away if necessary (which is why epinephrine has been used as an asthma treatment), your senses and reflexes would be heightened and you’d basically feel like you had super powers.

Sounds AWESOME, right? Why would I ever suggest you NOT give your body this amazing sensation 4 or more times per day? It’s funny because heroin addicts probably feel pretty good when they inject heroin in their veins, too. But I digress.

Let me make it clear before I go any further that I do believe that some people are way more capable of handling caffeine than others. Some people can drink caffeine here and there (or even a cup every day) without any ill effects.  But most people will never give themselves the opportunity to find out what kind of an effect it really has on them because they’ll never go without it for more than a day or so (because after a day or so, the heinous detox symptoms arise: headaches, nausea, moods swings, fatigue – caffeine is starting to sound more and more like a real drug…).

The more often you drink caffeine, usually the less it peps you up.  Most people need to detox in order to really see how it’s affecting them.  If you think you’re one of those people who’s not affected by caffeine, I double – no triple – dog dare you to stop drinking it for a few weeks and then have a cup of coffee. Then decide how much it affects you.

Back to the science.  Where were we?  Oh yes, super powers.  Basically, every time you drink caffeine, you’re simulating a horrendously stressful event in your body.  Every time you go to Starbucks or crack open a can of Coke, you put your body through what it thinks is a mini Viet Cong ambush, a three car pile up, or a fight with a lion.  I’m not exaggerating. That’s why you feel awake after drinking it.  Any one of those events would knock you straight out of a dead sleep with eyes wide, senses reeling, superhuman strength intact.

Those things are fine when they happen every once in a while – that’s what the fight or flight system is in place for: to keep you alive when occasional stressful things happen. But when you start overtaxing the system, things start to go awry.

Cortisol, like I said, is one of the hormones that’s secreted by your adrenals when you drink caffeine.  In normal amounts, cortisol is perfectly fine for you – it’s good for you.  When it’s constantly being released in your body by caffeine consumption, though, it can:

If this is the case, what do you do instead of drinking caffeine?

EAT FOOD.  Most of the time when people start regulating their blood sugar by eating protein, unrefined carbs and good fat at every meal and snack (and eat regularly – like every 2 or 3 hours), they find they don’t need the coffee anymore.  They’re awake when they wake up in the morning – not in some low blood sugar stupor.

The blood sugar spike that the cortisol creates plummets into a blood sugar crash just as quickly, which is why you get the munchies an hour or so after that cup of coffee.  And which is why everyone gets tired at around 2-5pm. It’s a blood sugar roller coaster and there’s going to be a giant dip in the ride every afternoon when you start out on a swooping high from your 4 cups of coffee every morning.

In summation, eat your breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner, and even add a snack in there somewhere else if you need to.  Don’t eat (or drink) refined sugars, stay away from grains, and eat plenty of protein and fat. In other words, eat Paleo.  Step away from the coffee (or Coke or whatever) slowly if you need to, and you may just find that you can wake up, fall asleep, do your business in the bathroom, and have enough energy without the aid of your favorite drug.

Let us know your own experiences with caffeine!


  1. I’m so glad you posted on this subject matter! Less than 2 months ago, I swore upside down and backwards that I would NEVER give up my morning coffee routine. I kept to a strict one cup a day policy, thinking that was keeping me from bordering on any kind of “addict” status, but I was also battling some pretty heinous laryngeal acid reflux problems. In a last ditch effort to avoid reliance on one of those proton pump inhibitors, I decided to give up coffee cold turkey style. The two weeks that followed were so incredibly heinous, that I ended up in my primary MD’s office wondering if I had an undetectable brain tumor. Nothing else, I rationalized, could be responsible for the sudden case of vertigo and daily tension style headaches that would hit me at 2:47 on the dot every afternoon. Low and behold, even my MD laughed when I told her what I’d done to myself in the last 30 days (switching over to Paleo, giving up caffeine, changing work out routines, etc.), and she confirmed this was my body going through withdrawal. The only reason I stuck it out was because my reflux symptoms completely disappeared. Granted, I think it’s a bit unusual to have such extreme withdrawal symptoms when giving up caffeine, but everyone’s physiology is different. Long story short, don’t let my experience deter you from giving up the sauce, but rather take it as an example of how even a seemingly small amount of the stuff can be adversely affecting your health.

    1. Thank you! Awesome story. Glad you had a good doc who recognized the symptoms and even happier to hear you stuck it out.

  2. So I am one of those coffee lovers. I have my cup of coffee black not because I don’t want the sugar or cream, but because I don’t want those things to spoil the naturally great taste of my coffee. I do not go without a cup every day (12-16oz) but only in the morning.

    However, I have taken your challenge every year, as I give up my beloved cup of coffee for lent every year, it generally takes me only a day to pass the ‘detox’ period and I am fine. I still very much miss it, I miss the smell and the taste, I will have a cup on sundays and on Easter I am back drinking it daily. I have never noticed a lack or boost of energy really during my absence from the wonderful beverage.

    I have recently tried to cut back the caffeine (half decaf, smaller cups) but not sure I will ever give it up entirely. There are just some things that make life more enjoyable.

    1. Thank you so much for writing in. I’m happy to hear that you seem to be one of those people who can tolerate your beloved coffee. I’m happier to hear that you’ve tried going without it. I agree that there are some things that do make life more enjoyable. :)

  3. I am fairly new to Paleo, only two months in, but I am an avid coffee drinker. AT this point I’m unwilling to give it up. I have severe Attention Deficit Disorder and am currently unable to take my medication because I’m breastfeeding. I’m hoping to see improvements in my mental state as my body detoxes from poor diet and becomes more healthy, but at this point caffeine is the most natural stimulant that will insure my brain works better and I can function as a mother to three children under five. I’ve never been much for the Standard American Diet as an adult, so we’ll see how much the Paleo diet really improves my mental function and how much is just a chronic issue that isn’t going anywhere. At this point I need stimulants, hopefully it won’t always be like that. Today though, I’m not giving up my coffee because it is safer for my nursing child than methamphatemines.

  4. Coffee makes me feel high as a kite and I adore it. I don’t know if its because I am dealing with leaky guy issues so it gets absorbed into my whole body or what. (also extra low cortisol in the morning) I couldn’t feel any happier, full of life and energy, after a large americano (black of course!). It abates my hunger and the less I eat the happier my stomach is. The only way that it I was able to give it up my twice a week (treat) habit, is that I read that coffee can act as a cross-reactant for those of us that have a gluten intolerance. I will do just about anything to heal my stomach -so I am off coffee. But have been indulging in a bit of roasted yerba mate, but mostly stick with Roobois and herbal teas (all made in my much loved expresso machine).

  5. Very interesting and timely post. I’ve been a coffee drinker for most of my 44 years without any problems (at least that I could notice). However, last year I was diagnosed as severely hypothyroid. Doctor put me on Synthroid and my levels are good, but still unable to lose any weight despite diet and exercise.

    I heard about Paleo a couple of weeks ago and have been easing myself into it. I’ve already been off white sugar and white flour for a long time. I am hoping cutting out the whole grains and dairy will help me lose the 20 extra pounds I haven’t been able to lose.

    In reading up on thyroid disease, adrenal fatigue and cortisol kept coming up. So, I cut way back on caffeine a few weeks ago – from an average of 6 shots of full strength espresso per day to 1 shot of regular espresso and the rest decaf. No withdrawal symptoms at all. Am I still consuming too much caffeine? Coffee is the only drink I like besides plain water, and so I’d like to still enjoy it in moderation, but am unclear as to what that means.

    1. Hi Cheryle,

      Great work on making the switch to Paleo. It’s a great option for you and I hope you start reaping the benefits soon. Yes, it very well could be that you’re still drinking too much caffeine. For you, any caffeine might be too much. I’d try taking it all out and see how that goes. Switch to herbal tea or rooibos in the morning. Or drink one of those coffee substitutes made of chicory and other bitter herbs. I know it’s going to be hard, but it might just help you lose the weight. I’d suggest getting your thyroid tested in about 6 months to see if the diet is working for you. Good luck!


  6. So I’ve been toying with the idea of giving up coffee, I’ve been a hardcore coffee drinker since I can remember {and I started drinking it around age 4… The half coffee half milk sorta deal}

    I ended up giving it up a few months ago for a few weeks felt great, then broke down and had an iced coffee… and well.. back to at least a cup a day again. But this has seriously convinced me to give it up.

    My question is are herbal non-caffeinated teas ok? And what about green tea? I’ve heard it’s super good for you but I know it has caffeine in it. Thoughts?


    1. Hi Liz,

      Herbal non-caffeinated teas are fine, but green tea has caffeine in it, like you said. If it’s the caffeine that’s messing you up, I’d say stay away from it. You can get decaffeinated green teas or you can decaffeinate your own by steeping a tea bag for a minute before consuming it. I mean, steep it in one cup of hot water and then take it out and put it in your cup to drink – most (but not all) of the caffeine goes out in the first steeping. It does have anti-oxidants in it and MAY have some useful properties for losing weight, but so do fruits and vegetables. :)

  7. How about yerba mate? I started drinking yerba mate and i replaced for coffee. I do not get any of the side effects like I do with coffee, I feel so energized and alert I always feel so good when I drink one cup in the morning. I know it also contains caffeine but it has a lot of good benefits such as it is a hunger suppressant and a fat burner. .

    1. @poki – Yerba mate is less harsh than coffee, yes, but it’s a hunger suppressant and a “fat burner” because it’s got caffeine in it. If it gives you fewer side effects, that’s great. Just be sure you’re not drinking caffeine to stay awake. Use food and sleep for that.

  8. Oh man! I have heard this before but this subject really hits home with me right now in my life. I recieved an espresso machine for my 24th birthday from my parents. It was a lovely one from Williams Sonoma, and I had wanted it for so long. I was an occasional coffee drinker, but this led me into being an everyday drinker. I would mix up my little latte’s and cappucino’s pretending that a I was a Starbuck s barista. I loved it!! My body however didn’t. Within a few weeks I started having bladder/kidney trouble and constant UTI’s. I do have another problem worth mentioning which is that I never drink water, and don’t even ever really feel thirsty, so I am always dehydrated. I call it waterrexia. It’s kind of like anorexia but with water and liquids in general. It’s not an actual real term, I made it up but I am NEVER thirsty…. With these two things combined, the new coffee habit and the always being severly dehydrated, I got really sick. I gained 20 lbs. within 6 months. I was becoming a fat blob with constant lower back pain and dwindling self confidence. I was going back and forth to the doctor for meds to clear up the UTI’s but never stopped drinking coffee.
    It some how dawned on me that maybe the coffee was giving me the problems. I backed down to one a day and started trying to drink a little water at my doctors reccomendation. This helped tremendously. The weight however is a whole different story. I had to get into the gym, clean up my eating and exercise like crazy for the 20 to come off, and it took me years! I am now 28 and still drink a cup a day. I know however, that this has got to end. I still have that big problem of not drinking enough water and every once in a blue moon my kidneys act up, like they are right now. I am now down to 200 lbs. from 220, however at 5’9 I should be in the neighborhood of 150-160. I started eating Paleo a few months ago and everyone has been mentioning that I look like I have lost weight but the scale doesn’t show it. I can’t get past this plateau of 200! I think that eliminating coffee from my diet and finally forcing myself to drink water has to be the answer along with exercise. I know for sure that my adrenals are taxed and I have low blood sugar as well as hormonal problems and coffee can’t be helping my situation. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. Great post and great blog!! Thanks, Lisa G. Atlanta

  9. If one is sensitive to coffee / caffeine or has acid refulx issues made worse by it, by all means, quit. There are some studies showing it does improve mental clarity, and coffee in general (regular or especially decaf) improves how we control our blood sugar, even reducing the risk of Type II Diabetes. Further, my mother-in-law has Parkinson’s and we’d learned that Coffee drinking, yes, heavy (2-3 cups a day or more if tolerated) reduces the risk of children of those with Parkinson’s (since it can be hereditary) for developing it. As much as 50%.

    It’s a great source of antioxidants and has more than every variety of tea, even green or the new white tea. While all teas have something coffee doesn’t (unless you use fluoridated water) and that is naturally occurring fluoride. That is only natural in how those leaves take it in from their environment, where likely a lot of it is the result of pollution. Tea and grape products are tied for the highest dietary sources, even higher than fluoridated water alone. That messes with yout Pineal and Thyroid glands. So it’s not a good alternative to it.

    Myself, I have 2-3 cups of coffee in the morning. I’m willing to try to reduce or eliminate it to see how things go. Though for me, given there is a lot of Type II Diabetes in my family lineage, I have to consider its benefits. Yes, I’m eating low-glycemic as often as I can which is a good defense and maintain a healthy weight, but if this can help I’d not be against it, provided it has no other downside to my health. It would be interesting to quit it for a while to see if it does have other negative effects beyond what I’m observing. We shall see.

  10. I gave up coffee naively and cheerily when I was 22 on a naturopath’s recommendation. The ensuing headache had me afraid I was dying! I missed 4 days of work (I think, that’s a long time ago) and slept pretty much the entire time. I have never attempted to quit it again, because I’m afraid of that pain.

    I am 99% certain I have celiac disease. I am also pretty sure I have pernicious anemia. When I was an infant my parents were told I lacked certain enzymes to digest meat proteins. (That’s as best as they can remember it.) Those three things apparently some kind of sad trifecta, and the pieces are fitting together finally. I have been able to reduce my considerable load of medications taken for Bipolar Disorder I, idiopathic daytime hyper-somnolence, and – just for fun – insomnia. Adding B12 injections for 2 months (daily dose of 2 ml at the moment) has allowed me to stop taking my sleeping pills and my stay awake pills. My psychiatrist isn’t pleased with my decision. Can’t please everyone all the time.

    So I’ve been gluten-free for just about a year. I had added in beans and legumes as we were really tight for money this year, but really noticed an increase in fatigue, digestive pain, joint pain – to the point where I actually made an appointment and was scheduled for a colonoscopy to confirm a diagnosis of diverticulitis.

    I haven’t had that pain since I stopped eating the beans and legumes. I’ve stopped with the wheat substitutes for the time being (GF cereals, breads, etc) to focus on eating simple pure nutritious food as close to it comes from nature. And bacon. God help me I love bacon. :)

    I am nervous to give up dairy. I love my goat cheese yogurt, Bulgarian yogurt and greek yogurt. Cheese is easier to give up. Butter? I’ll miss it but coconut oil is fun, too. Only 30 days, hey? Just to see what will happen? Then we go back, if we want to, if no indications to the contrary? I will have to consider this before I make that commitment, but I am sorely tempted…

  11. Question. All other things staying the same, could quitting caffeine cause a weight loss stall?

    I started the 21-day sugar detox on the first and lost 13 lbs in 3 weeks. In that time I also weaned myself off coffee, onto moderately caffeinated tea, and then finally on to no caffeine at all a week ago. I have lost exactly 1/2 pound in the last week. I’m 5’9 and currently weigh 236, so I shouldn’t be plateauing or stalling yet. I’m sugar free and grain free. I occasionally eat a bit of green apple or under-ripe banana, but generally that seems to help my weight loss. I eat high fat, moderate protein, low carb.

    I figure it must be the no caffeine situation . . . . or possibly my period is finally about to start (it’s been 22 months, my son is 13 months old).

    Thanks to anyone that has some ideas about this. Thanks!

    1. @Rachel – it could be affecting your weight loss in that you’re detoxing from the caffeine withdrawal. I’d give it a few more weeks at least and see if your weight loss resumes.

  12. Uh, last time I checked coffee doesn’t correlate with broken homes, child abuse, spousal abuse, organ failure, homelessness, STD’s, and a million other societal problems. That’s why.

  13. I am a coffee addict. I have quit cold turkey multiple times. Like others, I am a true lover of coffee. Drink only the best quality coffee, black, chemex, pour over or french press. I don’t drink “Starbucks”… The rich aroma, the oils, the earthy bitterness…. alas,

    Having gone on and off coffee multiple times I am all too aware of how negatively it effects me when I am back on it. The first cup after not having a drop for a few months always give me a crazy, jittery high. I borderline can’t think straight afterwards. After a few more cups over the next few days the hyper-ness subsides and the effects are more gentle and warming. I call this the coffee honeymoon period where I am not experiencing any unwanted side effects from the caffeine. This usually lasts 2-3 weeks depending on the quantity (no more than 1 cup / day and usually only on week days). By the 4th week it becomes harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. I am also staying up later at night, even if I lie in bed, my mind will race for some time before I actually nod off. Enter the vicious cycle. Lack of sleep and caffeine addiction leads to more tiredness in the mornings which leads to more coffee, which leads to making it harder to sleep well. (Side note: I would call myself healthy in every other way. I eat paleo and I work out 4-5 times per week at an intense level. By the end of the day I should have no problem passing out cold, but the caffine in my system won’t let me.) This lack of proper sleep also starts to negatively impact my recovery times. It also makes me grumpy and very un-fun to be around. It is usually around this time that I gear myself up for making a cold turkey break with the black gold. As I toy the idea of quitting coffee around in my mind I am entertained by all the justifications I come up with to stay on it. At the moment, it is one of my few remaining vices (no dairy, no grains, rarely drink…how healthy can one guy be?) I also observe myself, with increasing disappointment as I give into my coffee addiction and go for what I promise myself will be my last cup. Eventually, the tiredness and self-loathing reach the climax that I need to motivate myself to make the break. I know the next 2-4 days will be tough, but I also know the light at the end of the tunnel. Peaceful, wonderful sleeps, boundless energy in the mornings that continues consistently through out the day. I can actually deal with peoples bullshit in the morning and my girlfriend finds me pleasant to be around in the mornings. ;)

    After a couple months of clean living I somehow convince myself that I can handle the occasional cup of coffee, just as a treat, maybe just on sunday mornings… Ever so slowly it creeps back in to my life and before I know it the cycle begins again. My cross to bear.

  14. hello, i am not going to give up coffee, i am not mildly interested in giving it up at all. I have successfully lost and maintained a weight loss of 135 pounds. I enjoy my eating and exercise. I challenge you to go 3 weeks WITH coffee, See? Does that seem ludicrous? Well, thats how your challenge sounds to me.

    I am very happy with my coffee. I see no reason not to drink it. I find your heroin analogies not valid. I have read countless articles about the health benefits of coffee. And I have read how it reduces chance of diabetes, helps with blood sugar, etc.

    I’m sorry, but I found your entire post…ridiculous. And pompous. And arrogant. And unscientific. No science. Nothing. Just your opinions. Thats it.

    No, I don’t take a big gulp of coffee. I sip it slowly. No, I do not depend on the aroma to wake up. I wake up before my coffee, happy and strong and energetic. I exercise. And later I drink coffee.

    No, coffee is not contributing nor has it contributed to me being fat. And I am not fat. I drink coffee, and my heart does not race or increase, in fact my heart rate is quite slow, and I have fantastic blood pressure.

    Truth be told, I feel you have an agenda, to have this certain opinion about coffee. You enjoy using the analogy of heroin addiction, which to me, is such a poor example, such a poor analogy. To me, it shows your attitude is not about health, its about ego. Its like 2 kids being mean to each other, and you trying to find some crappy image, like heroin being injected into veins! Please!

    I have gone months without coffee. No ill effects. But I choose to drink it, I like it, and I do not believe it does my body harm.

    So here you are with another very scientific statement of yours, “The more often you drink caffeine, usually the less it peps you up.” Says who? Based on what study?

    Back to the science, you write. What science? Really, I don’t find a thing about your post anywhere near “science”. Sounds more like what you would say in court, trying to persuade some jury by hurling around inuendos about coffee, based on how you feel.

    Or perhaps you should have been a journalist, or a film writer, where you can write about a mini Viet Cong ambush or a three car pile up. I know, you are trying to make a point, and then, saying you are not exaggerating? No you are not exaggerating. Basically, you are just making things up out of your own head.

    I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy your whole thing, obviously. I know you are seriously interested in the well being of others, and in their health. And you and I have a lot in common with the way we eat and what we advocate for eating, except coffee. So I dare you to drink coffee for a month, 4 cups a day. And when you do that, I’ll consider my 2nd go around at giving it up.

    1. Hi Deb. Well, this comment really made my weekend a great one, so thanks for that. I’m wondering if you would have said all of those things to my face in person, or if you just enjoy personally tearing people down on the internet. And by the way, yes, I would and do say the same things I said in this blog post to people all the time. I don’t believe I said that EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the universe, or even that you personally have problems with caffeine. In fact, I said, “I do believe that some people are way more capable of handling caffeine than others. Some people can drink caffeine here and there (or even a cup every day) without any ill effects.” So why are you attacking me about this? I’m not MAKING you give up coffee. You are clearly very defensive about your coffee consumption, though, which gives me pause. Perhaps you’re not quite as confident in your ability to handle caffeine as you purport if you’ve taken the time to write many paragraphs about why you ARE ok with caffeine to a complete stranger. To be quite honest, there are not any studies that I can find that show conclusively that caffeine, over long periods of time, will do these things to you that I suggest. That’s because researchers haven’t taken people, put them in a controlled lab for years at a time and monitored their health as it relates to their caffeine intake. However, you can use deductive reasoning by using the laws of physiology and related studies. (I’m taking these studies from a comment I responded to in my intermittent fasting post)

      Here’s an article stating that caffeine does, in fact, elevate cortisol levels. This is one of many articles that state this:

      Here’s an article that states that one of the big reasons people see “benefits” from caffeine is simply due to “withdrawal relief”:

      This study shows that people with chronic fatigue and/or fibromyalgia have cortisol levels that are abnormal compared with people who don’t have chronic fatigue and/or fibromyalgia, just to show that these things are related:

      I think the biggest thing is to understand how cortisol works and what happens when you overstimulate it. For lack of time and space here, wikipedia has a really awesome page with tons of references about how all of the symptoms I mentioned correlate with cortisol:

      Now, to clarify, I wrote this post on coffee because many people never give themselves the opportunity to discover whether or not they have issues with caffeine. I mean that they never DON’T drink caffeine. And their family doctor won’t suggest that they take it out, and neither will their cardiologist and neither will their endocrinologist. In fact, most Paleo bloggers won’t even suggest it. So I feel like it’s my duty to at least give people the idea that it might just help them, and if I have to use outlandish analogies about heroin to get my point across, I will not hesitate to do that.

      Not drinking caffeine DOES help some people. Actually lots of people. I’ve had people email me tear-provoking messages about how thankful they were that I suggested they do it because now they sleep better and have more energy all the time and aren’t cranky bitches all day long. I am not “making stuff up out of my own head”, and I don’t appreciate you having the audacity to say that, Deb. I do care very much about people’s health and that’s why I do what I do every day. So next time, please take your frustrations out on another blogger.

  15. Look at all the good coffee can do!

    1. Coffee is the number one source of antioxidants for Americans.
    2. Roasted coffee beans have a higher antioxidant content
    3. Moderate doses of caffeine improve mental performance.
    4. Caffeine influences gene expression in a way that protects your brain.
    5. The caffeine coffee is a powerful antioxidant that can even protect against Alzheimer’s.
    6. Caffeine is an ergogenic aid, meaning it increases power output. This is true for both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

  16. Neely, this post has allowed me to see that I need to give up my one cup per day of black tea, with coconut creamer. I will make the transition with yerba mate until the desire wanes, as it usually does when drinking yerba mate. I developed the black tea habit while living in the UK for a spell. It was so delightful to sit around and relax and drink tea with friends. Especially when it was cold and rainy, which was most of the time.

    I really need to take care of my adrenals and hormonal balance. I still wonder how one cup of black tea can affect me, but since I have given it up over and over, perhaps I will find out now that I have given up all grains.

    Thanks for showing up and putting forth all of this information!

  17. Hey everyone!
    My family never ate the Standard American Diet, and as a teenager, I try to eat as Paleo as possible. I don’t drink coffee, but I love white and green tea, for their health benefits as well as flavor. Both of these have less caffeine that coffee, and I lost a few pounds when I started drinking regularly. How do you feel about tea?

    1. Caroline – I think some people can certainly tolerate tea and benefit from it. However, it does have caffeine in it, so all of the above CAN apply. It just depends on the person.

  18. Neely!
    Thanks so much for this article! I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of it as well as everyone’s personal posts and found support in it as well!

    I am on a healing path, dealing with leaky gut, multiple food sensitivities, hypoglycemia, as well as a fungal/parisite infection in my gut. Many of these issues, especially the blood-sugar issues, have been long-standing and through mismanagement or a simple lack of knowledge as to what I was actually dealing with, they progressively got worse over the years. Equipped with school training and life experience in holistic health allows me to see more clearly the connection between stress and chronic sickness/imbalance. And what is coffee doing to most people but creating a stress response in their bodies?
    Caffeine to the rescue! Only it is not what it seems. I have progressively shifted my diet more and more over the years to what I feel (and experts tell me) will be sustainable and healthy for my gut and other organs to regenerate. However, the stress of these adjustments, upkeep, and the isolation that ensues has created a whole new level of stress that almost seems to counteract much of the healing work.
    This is where caffeine has proven to be the slickest, stickiest, and most seductive of vices!

    I totally agree that coffee affects your blood-sugar negatively, as I experience it in a very similar way to when I have a huge peice of cake or something. I get an obviously unnatural boost of energy and euphoria, followed by nervousness/anxiety, hunger, and eventually, depression and fatigue. Doing this over prolonged periods leads to fatigue, skin issues, insomnia, bladder issues, indigestion, etc. And my doctor has told me several times that if I am serious about stabilizing my blood-sugar, I need to give it up. I agree.

    I gave it up for two weeks and stuck to small amounts of green tea and mate. Then i had it again and felt CRAZY. I agree that some people’s nervous systems and other systems are stronger and for whatever reason can handle it better. So, for balance, I will not write it off as all bad. But nobody needs to put themselves through that. This culture runs on that kind of energy but it is not sustainable.

    O’, and not to mention how acidic it is!! Over-acidity plays a huge role in chronic health imbalances.

    So thanks again for posting this, as its an addiction that I continue to struggle with!!

  19. Thanks for the reminder on the effects of Caffeine. I haven’t intentionally drunk caffeinated drinks for a decade or so, but I do like a bit of chocolate. Your article has helped me recognise that my chocolate consumption has been slowly rising, and is probably contributing to my current reduced health status. Time to ditch the chocolate again.

    Dandelion makes a great coffee alternative, especially in the convenient instant or bag forms.

    I still like the smell of coffee, but I don’t need to drink the stuff to get the smell!

  20. Thanks for the post!! I quit Diet Coke 7 months ago and I made the heroin analogy SEVERAL times to friends. I’ve quit quite a few other substances as well, including cigarettes, and nothing felt as bad as caffeine withdrawal.

    But now? Blissfull sleep. No jonesing for a diet coke. No headaches. No messed up stomach.

    About 5 weeks into it though I did cave and have a Dr. Pepper. I was awake for about 24hrs straight.

    I think you are right. Different people have different reactions. But I definitely agree that your readers should check it out for themselves.

  21. I was drinking serious amounts of coffee, I did the home barista course and ground my beans in the morning and was hooked on double espresso’s. In an average day I was having 3-4 double espressos.

    Sleep was an issue and I don’t think I was getting any type of coffee high. It’s a ritual and a bad cycle that mentally makes you dependent on coffee to function.

    I did the impossible, 8 days ago I gave up and went cold turkey. I battled with headaches , tiredness feeling low…

    I really am feeling much better now and think I have broken the worst part.

    Who knows if I will have coffee again, I think I might try for 1 x cup a day and not 8 ( 4 x double espressos).

    Neely, I have also been reading about the Blood Sugar Solution by Dr Hyman. It’s remarkable how similar some of the plan is, no wheat, gluten, diary, whole foods etc…

    He also encourages you to give up coffee BUT does encourage green tea, Green tea has about 1/10 the caffeine of normal coffee. Do you still feel it should not be consumed?

  22. I am a person who loves coffee. I roast my own beans, grind it by hand, and brew it. So I am biased, obviously. And the recent studies point in a direction totally opposite of where you are heading with this article. In fact, most of it is based on science that was dis-proven a decade or more ago.

    You need to update your thinking. I am not saying reject it toto, but your position is not accurate.

  23. Absolute rubbish, the health benefits of coffee outweigh the negatives backed up by various studies. Search it yourself, you’ll see. I don’t even drink coffee regularly and i wouldn’t say i become addicted when i do. However i am going to start drinking a cup everyday when i start to intermittent fast on my gym days and see how it goes.

    Moderation is key.

    Overall, ignore this article, It’s a terrible one.

    1. Damn, guys. Brutal. This message is for Dante and Charles Stoy. There’s plenty of research to back up my claims, as I’ve cited in a response above. I’d love to see the studies you’re talking about. You can pretty much find a study to back up anything these days. However, at this point, I’ve talked to so many people whose lives have been changed drastically JUST by cutting out caffeine that I stand behind this article 100%. There’s no study in the world that could change my mind about that. No, caffeine may not affect you very much at all (or maybe it does and you don’t know it), but I know for a fact that it negatively affects me and plenty of other people out there. Please don’t stand in the way of me extending an invitation to people to find out for themselves how it affects them.

  24. Well coffee combats my awful headaches, desire to sleep all day, depression, grogginess and constipation. And these symptoms were transpiring before I even knew what caffeine/coffee was. Now that I found it, it seems like a miracle drug for me (not for everyone) People tell i have a great memory, and that is unbelievable because before I was spacey and would zone out all the time.

  25. I often wonder if this one is more an individual thing. I know when I was at my thinnest, it was at a time when I was consuming the most coffee. I weighed 125LBS, and at my mothers house where I lived, we would drink 5-7 pots of coffee per day. I would have 4 or 5 cups morning, noon and night. That was 12-15 cups of coffee a day for me. I eventually stopped drinking coffee altogether. That lasted about 4 months. I saw no difference in my energy or anything else. I now only drink 2 cups in the morning and 2 cups in the afternoon. Sometimes not in the afternoon depending on my mood. I am heavier than I have ever been. I will have to do some more coffee research to make this decision.

  26. Dang guys, she’s only trying to help people explore the possibility that caffeine may be adversely affecting them. Just like dairy doesn’t have an effect on one person but makes another run for the bathroom, caffeine affects people in many different ways, depending on one’s physiology.

    Neely, I’ve been addicted to caffeine for about ten years. I’ve gone between one cup/day to 4 or 5 when I was a barista, but I never really considered giving it up. It reminds me when I first considered giving up grains – I never imagined that I could, but I decided to give it a shot “just to see what happens”. I had NO idea that my body had become so accustomed to feeling cruddy from eating that way until I gave it up. I felt “normal” but normal wasn’t the way we as primal beings are supposed to feel, that is to say, balanced, energetic, and clear headed. I know now that I’ll never go back to the standard American diet (or SAD as many paleo folks call it). In that same vein of thought, I think I’ll try giving up caffeine for a while and see if it has any effect on my system. If not, I’ll slowly re-introduce it if I feel like it, but it’s at least worth considering.

    Thanks for all of your blogs, Neely. They do what they’re supposed to do, which is provoke thought and facilitate conversation….and they’ll always draw out a crazy or two ;-)

    1. BMels – Thank you for your support. I REALLY appreciate it :) And good luck with giving up caffeine and please let me know how it goes!


  27. coffee consumption. Hmmmmmm I have never been so confused on how diet affects people’s lives. I am left with protein shakes and that seems to be all. I have been tested to have hypoglycemia, non diabetic. I can see it might be a diet problem only. A battery of tests from the doctors, yuk. I will let them earn some money as I can pay

  28. Hi Neely.
    Nice post. I had a chuckle reading some of the negative posts defending their sacred drink…like an alcoholic defending red wine because of Resveratrol.Every blog has them. I have been Paleo for a long time, and a coffee addict with adrenal fatigue.
    I searched for a cause, not daring to think of my precious coffee. 2 weeks off coffee, and I’ve had my 1st decent sleep in 6 months. My point is the usual adage “one mans meat…”
    For every aggressive negative vocal poster there is always 100’s agreeing in silence .

  29. I’ve been trying to quit drinking coffee for about a week. I was drinking about 4 cups a day, and it seemed fine (though I’ve had headaches for my entire adult life, which correlates to the amount of time I’ve been drinking coffee!)

    I’ve recently been reading about Adrenal Fatigue, and that just sounds downright scary… A few months ago, I started an anti-inflammatory diet for what I thought was Lyme Disease, but I didn’t give up coffee (one of the requirements.) I found that coffee was actually make my Lyme headaches worse, but I kept drinking it, thinking I just needed more. Now I’ve been tapering for about a week, and I find that I’m calmer, and more in control of my reactions. I’m hoping I feel even better in another week! I’m considering making today my first day with no coffee at all (yesterday I only had half of a cup!)

    Good luck to everyone else who tries quitting — the withdrawal period is short compared to the lifetime of not being addicted to what basically is speed!

  30. @ Shellie
    Hope your coffee withdrawal going ok, and the ant-inflammatory diet too. This type of diet cured me of adult asthma of 25 years duration (severe, brittle)
    Word of warning though….recently I went low calorie too, with intermittant fasting. With training, this caused adrenal fatigue and transient hypothyroidism. I am on the mend by upping my calorie intake and skipping intermittant fasting. Once again, trial and error. We are all individuals. Good luck.

  31. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was 9. Within 2 years I stopped taking the meds because I just didn’t feel like me while on them. When I spoke with the doctor about it he’d suggested trying caffeine, as that can have beneficial effects for focusing the mind when you have ADD/ADHD.
    I was so in love with how it made me feel, that i slowly started upping my dosage. By the time I was working my first job, I was up to about 3 liters of Mountain Dew a day, all consumed while I was on shift at work. After I left that job, I wasn’t in a position to drink that much during the course of my shifts for several years, but I still maintained a high caffeine intake.
    About 7 years ago I started working at Starbucks. I don’t drink drip coffee (never developed a taste for it), though working opening shifts (starting at 3:30 in the morning), I did start to drink espresso. Stopped drinking it after a few months because I just couldn’t sleep at night, and figured that would help. By this time I’d become somewhat familiar with what withdrawls felt like, and recognized that, two months after I’d drunk my last bit of caffeine, I still had withdrawl symptoms on the days I wasn’t working. I doubt there are any studies on it, but to this day I’m convinced that you can get caffeinated just by standing in a place that full of evaporating, caffeinated drinks.
    I left that job and, once again, found myself over-indulging in caffeine (Mountain Dew again). I was up to 8 liters a day, and at an all time low for my weight, but again, was having trouble sleeping, and started to have acid-reflux like symptoms. Since then I’ve mostly tried to keep clear of caffeine, though I’ll use it as a crutch during times when I can’t get enough sleep (out of self defence, as I’ve been known to fall asleep while driving on rare occassion, and have dozed off in the workplace enough to cost me one job… no, I wasn’t on caffeine in either instance).
    I’ve been trying to lose weight again recently, and a few months ago started taking a dietary supplement (Rasberry keytone, not that it matters) to help with it. After a week and a half, I started having what severe headaches. It felt like someone was pounding an icepick into my scull (and was strong enough that I could even demonstrate the angle and point of impact). I ran a quick inventory of everything that had entered my system, and found that the supplement had caffeine listed as it’s primary ingredient. I stopped taking the supplement and, after a few days of detoxing, the headaches went away. The supplement didn’t even have enough caffeine for me to feel it in my system, but my body still reacted to it negatively.

    All of that is to say that some of us /do/ happen to have extreme negative reactions to caffeine, and that the reaction you have to it can change as you age. Just like how some of us /do/ have negative reactions to dairy. And the only way to find out what your reaction to it is, is to spend some time not taking it, and spend some time taking it, and compare how you feel in each case.

  32. That percentage I’m sure is skewed but even if we consider it to be just, there’s no need to add bias in your article by stating this populous is consuming “big gulps” There is enough health facts to back your post that bias doesn’t have to be riddled in your blog

  33. Just as everyone was once brain washed to believe cigarettes are good for them, so too are people brain washed to think caffeine is good for them. Same story with grains being good and fat being bad (which is now being realised the opposite is true, hence obesity rates). Check out ‘caffeine blues’ by Stephen Cherniske, and Caffeine makes me bleed, by Susan Lynn. (both available to view on amazon). Another reason for the increase in food, is that caffeine is a gut irritant, and people mistake that ‘knawing feeling’ for hunger, when really it’s inflammation of the gut walls, not to mention dehydration and increased acidity. A lady at my work (after having to rush to hospital for an ‘acidity attack’) was told by the doctor to cut down her caffeine intake, or she’d have to get her gallbladder removed. She did and now she’s ok. Anybody who disagrees with this post is just using justifications to keep their addiction going. It’s fine, if that’s your choice, then make it because it’s your life, but know that it is bad for you and don’t try to drag people down to your level by trying to fool them, because you’re putting their health in jeopardy, and shame on you.

  34. Hi, love the comments about coffee. Is it easier if I gradually wean myself off of the coffee? Or is it the same as going cold-turkey? I should give it up. i definitely feel the fatigue after drinking it. Also, is giving up coffee part of the paleo diet ,or can I be paleo with coffee (black or coconut creamer).


    1. Kenz – Plenty of people are Paleo on coffee, including the main proponents of Paleo on the internets. Whether you wean off or go cold turkey is totally up to you. I tend to be in the cold turkey camp so as not to drag out the detox symptoms, but to each his/her own.

  35. I used to drink the occasional coffee, maybe every 1-2 weeks thinking it will be okay.
    I have been eating Paleo for about a year now (partly raw paleo) and did feel much better without grains etc. But little did I know that coffee can trigger the same reactions as my worst enemy wheat!
    I am talking about inflammation and brain fog. I thought my carpal tunnel was due to hormones, but when I stopped coffee, it disappeared. I was not even aware of still having real brain fog, but after quitting I felt chrystal clear! A feeling I had long forgotten.

    What made me stop is reading about the reaction celiacs can have to a protein in coffee that the body mistakes for gluten.

  36. Hi, I’m not real sure what I’m sufferig from but I’m a 28 year old fit male work a physical fast pace job. I was taking five hour energy shots in the am.with Pepsi regularly through out the day and drinks mixed in as well. I was doing this for a few over time I notoced my.moo and personality change. my biggest issue came when Ialways.became cold and tired and no sex drive poor erections and premature ejaculation. I could not take it I cut out energy shots and slowly cut out the drinks. I’m down to just maybe two cans a week.,I’mhaving serious head aches and.body aches. Ive also been on a a better diet and.vitamins. I’m wondering if there is hope for a recovery and my body will function like it use to long it can’t take and if.there is.anything.i.can do to help thank you

    1. mark – If you just recently cut back on the caffeine, then you might be going through withdrawal. If it’s been over a month and you’re still going through this, I’d strongly recommend seeing a naturopath who can test your adrenals, thyroid, and sex hormone function to see what’s going on and get you on a supplement and diet regimen to get you healthy. Sorry you’re going through this!

  37. Thank you so in your expert advice if indeed it is caffeine withdrawl should my body start functioning lile normal in a month or so once I’m caffeine free meaning less head aches body aches and strong normal erections?? If.not it can be something else after that time period?

  38. I love coffee. It has been my favourite morning routine for most of my life. I had never experienced any kind of caffeine-related symptom until about two years ago, after going through a surgical procedure where I woke with a headache that lasted almost a month. I learned that the combination of anaesthetic and caffeine deprivation can give a small percentage of people headaches that have lasted as long as one year post-surgery. Thank God mine only lasted a few weeks! Over the past year or so I have been intermittently drinking and abstaining from coffee, to determine its effects. I’ve experinced twitches, shakes, headaches, nervousness, tension and stress from ceasing and re-introducing coffee. Having been a smoker in the past, I can say that caffeine is no different than nicotine in its addictive qualities. It provides the same feeling of well-being. What is alarming is how caffeine is pushed on teenagers and young adults; as if the next generation hasn’t got enough challenges to identying and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

  39. What about coffee enemas? Does the author know anything about that? I’ve heard they are totally different than drinking coffee, but the source isn’t the most credible, so I though I’d ask here cuz what you say makes a lot of sense and drinking coffee makes me whacked out. Superman then super down to super weirdo after that.


    1. Brian – Sorry, I don’t know much about coffee enemas, but I do know that if you’re requiring enemas to relieve your bowels then you’ve got some issues that can (usually) be tackled with food. Let me know if you want help with that.

  40. Great Article. I have been off coffee for about 3 months now and the results are AMAZING. I have actually started loosing weight again. I had changed my diet completely and have been paleo for over a year now-but no changes in my weight- the last Item I needed to give up coffee. For the past 5 years I have been a 3- 5 cup a day person. Detox was not fun – I weened myself off by bringing down my consumption to 1 cup day- then substituting my necessary cup of joe with green lemonade (kale, cucumber, lemon, green apple, ginger, celery… i’m an avid juicer)- which gave me the jolt I needed in the mornings- and then for a week-if i needed it- i would have a decaf espresso in the afternoons. Took me less then 2 weeks to get off coffee completely with no headaches and I haven’t looked back.I feel have way more energy in the mornings and I don’t feel as anxious during the day. I also suffered from insomnia and that has completely disappeared. My digestion has improved dramatically as well.

  41. I have been eating Paleo for 3 months, I did the 21 DSD and felt amazing. I started eating sugar again and felt like crap for 3 days, so I am limiting my sugar now to fruit. I downloaded the e book 21 day Paleo cleanse with a bundle I got. I have taken Asacol for about 6 years due to a inflamed colon. Not once has diet been mentioned by my gastroenterologist. I went gluten free 2 years ago and he wasn’t happy because he said I needed fiber. I have stayed on the Asacol out of fear of what could happen, but now I am feeling more and more empowered and have stopped taking the asacol. I know in my heart my digestive issues are from years of eating junk food. I never had a weight problem, and have always been active, but once I turned 30 this health issue with some others came up. Caffeine was the one thing I said I am not giving up, mainly my coffee, but I suffer from all of the above, blood sugar out of whack, irritability, stress levels increased, bad PMS. So with all this new knowledge I have been gaining I also came across the Hormone Cure by Dr. Sara Gottfried, this is when I really started paying attention to the caffeine, cortisol, blood sugar connection. I was terrified to stop caffeine, but I decided to taper off, 1 cup, 1/2 cup, then 1/4 cup. Over a week I did this, and this morning I had my last 1/4 cup of coffee. I put the coffee away ( haven’t convinced hubby yet), and replaced it with herbal teas. I was super lethargic today, serious brain fog, and grouchy, but after dinner tonight I found this blog and am now seeing the light. I can go without caffeine. I am so excited to see how my life changes, I know it will be for the better. I think the article is great, keep up the good work.

  42. I’ve kicked the habit and picked it back up a couple of times over the past year. Everytime I quit I feel like I have a sever case of the flu for about two weeks. I only drink one expresso drink in the mornings that contains 2 shots of expresso. I wish more people were informed about how bad caffeine really is for you. I’m beginning my journey once again tomorow morning. Wish me luck.

  43. Thank you for this. I have been struggling with my decision to cut out caffeine. While I have give up sodas and coffee, I still enjoy tea quite a bit. I can find teas that are decaf, of course, but the fancy teas i recently bought are just so dang tasty!! But, after reading this, and being one of the 60% of obese people (hence the reason I’m changing my diet) I will now stick to water and decaf! Thanks for the information.

  44. I have a question for you. Do the stimulants found in green tea have the same effect? I know the stimulants in green tea are on a molecular level larger and so process much slower. So do you recommend getting rid of tea also?

    1. Wilka – I recommend getting rid of all caffeine if you’re trying to see how it affects you. So yes, green tea, white tea, black tea, maté, soda, etc.

  45. I wish I was dead. I switched to decaf and my life is falling apart. I am peeing all of the time and I cannot sleep longer than 3 hours.

  46. This sounds like a crazy statement o make, but I can’t believe it if this is true!! Actually, I am embarrassed by my ignorance…here goes…did I read on one of your blogs that caffeine=cortisol=weight gain?!?!?! Oh My Gosh…I drink 1-2 Rockstars (sugar free however!) a day!! Yikes, that’s ALOT of cortisol!!! Did I really read that correctly, Neely?? Hmmm, might be on to something with my horible weight gain if true. :(:(:(:(

  47. I think some people here are in plain denial about the effects of caffeine abuse, specially coffee, of course. I am in my forties, mid-forties, now. And I know I can’t preach to the quire by using my own little personal experiences, but let me tell my tale, if you allow me.

    I was an ambitious undergraduate and graduate student who went through many college years just pouring coffee in my veins. And, many years afterwards, I felt like coffee was that four am inseparable companion of mine in my forties.

    It made me feel on top of the charts. For years. But as time went buy, funny things started to happen, about three years ago: I we nt off of caffeine, my weight went off, I went back on caffeine, I’d gain weight. No matter what I age. Recently, I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and I have a pretty large nodule. This nodule scared me enough to make the connection of coffee/thyroid disease and lay off of my longtime companion for good.

    The withdraw phase I am going through now has been awful, but I feel today that a lot of it is over, after nearly a week, a period where I went from three to four cups a day of coffee to a couple of small cups of green tea, until the final dead end I stipulated for myself, this coming Sunday.

    My constipation is nearly gone, along with the bloating also being gone, along also with the gastritis and the awful reflux I was having. I am fatigued, headachy, but I noticed that I has been a little less frequent since my cutback last Saturday.

    Last time I quit coffee and caffeine, cold turkey, three years ago, I had a terrible reaction, but had to do so due severe stomach age/heartburn, and the funny thing is, I could eat virtually anything, like a child, and not gain weight – I actually was eating pasta, and was still skinny.

    Aam not going to condemn any sort of dieting, but only going to humbly add that no diet has helped me loose weight since I went back on caffeine, after that last time. I just kept gaining it, and started gaining it ever since.

    The Paleo diet is fine for those who like meat, I guess, as many other diets are fine, but once your glands and your digestive system have been shot dead by the doings of our dear caffeine, no diet will really work, trust me.

    Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here having the, energy to speak to you now, and rushing after another anti acid like about a week ago. The nodule is here, but it has shrunk before, when I had quit Mother Caffeine before …. but none of us really wants to take that “blame it all on coffee” stanza, do we?

  48. I’m actually searching the net to see what the deal is, out of curiosity, because when I drink coffee my body gets all whacky, as though I hadn’t eaten anything all day. Weak, dizzy- that kind of stuff. I receive no energy boost, I drink it for the taste. I also don’t understand the “alertness” and “focus” people claim, because it seems to be either the oppisite, or make no difference for me. I also have been experimenting with the effects of gluten, lately, suspicious of its similar effects- I’m also curious if the two effect each other.

    1. Katie – I have the same reaction to coffee, or any caffeine for that matter. And so you know, coffee is the number one cross-reactor to gluten in people’s bodies. That means that to many people’s bodies, coffee looks very similar to gluten, so it can cause the same reactions…

  49. Thank you for this post, i thought i was the only one that got tired at around 3-5pm. I don’t have many withdrawal symptoms when i go off of coffee, my only major issue is constipation. As soon as i go off it, so does my regular bowel movements. Its very frustrating, and i can even go days without having to go. What do you recommend i do or take for this? The only way i find i can go daily is taking coffee.

    1. Jessie – A lot of people have success with taking probiotics, and in the beginning by taking a digestive enzyme spectrum and/or hydrochloric acid to help digest and move things. Your body has probably become dependent on the coffee for that, where a normal body would be dependent on its own digestive juices, so you can just help things along by taking those supplements for a few weeks, which are normally naturally created in your body.

  50. Neely,

    This will probably be the most challenging part for me. I LOVE my coffee every morning, sometimes even 2-3 times a day. And you are absolutely right. All of the symptoms that you said and described are what I feel when I drink my coffee. It has come to the point where I can fall asleep after drinking a cup of coffee. My first goal is to reduce my coffee intake by 1 cup in the morning. I’ll let you know how I am progressing in a few weeks. :)


  51. Hi Neely —

    I’m new here; new to the whole Paleo concept and new to this site. I discovered you guys through another site that recommended the Paleo eating plan and I desire to see how changing my diet may help with my general health and well-being. This is my first week on PaleoPlan and I am enjoying all the menus and recipes and certainly have not missed grains one little bit. :) But I do have a confession to make – and I’m sure this won’t shock you – I have not yet cut out coffee. Partly because I fear going through a massive detox (I am on day 4 and am beginning to feel some of the detox symptoms another article describes), and partly because I enjoy it/find it comforting. I drink two cups of regular coffee with a small amount of sweetened creamer (dreaded sugar!) each morning. I can conceive of giving up coffee – I don’t drink that much of it anyway, but I do find it to be so comforting on chilly mornings. Am I doing myself a disservice by delaying the extrication of coffee from my diet now? I notice elsewhere (and right now I can’t recall where) coffee is on a list of food and beverage items that a Paleo person can have on occasion. Would you say that my daily ritual is benign enough to continue? Frankly, I don’t know if I have a caffeine addiction. I sleep well, I wake up happy and energized and do a 45-minute treadmill workout and drink a bottle of water before I ever get near the coffee maker. I work happily throughout my day without crashing, I hit the gym after work 4 nights a week for weight training and then go home and cook yummy Paleo foods. But I’m certainly open to suggestions and would like to hear your thoughts.

    Thank you and the rest of the team for putting so much time and energy into this website and into the people (like me) who are members and are looking to be the healthiest versions of ourselves we can be.

  52. There definitely seems to be a big connection between leaky gut, hormonal disregulation (hypothyroid in particular) and caffeine consumption. For years I consumed coffee and had no effects other than increased alertness. Now, it causes a huge cortisol spike and I become anxious, unfocused, depressed, etc. I was also getting severe joint pain, cravings and started gaining weight rather quickly. I finally quit coffee five days ago and my pain went away almost overnight and my brain fog is gone. I have tons more energy and motivation, and a way better mood. For me, it is a huge no-no in my diet. I started drinking herbal teas. I mix my own herbal “coffee” and it is delicious without all of the side effects.

    Like you, I am tired of people promoting this stuff as a health food. At best, it is a neutral food for someone who is really healthy. For those of us dealing with hormonal issues and leaky gut, it is extremely addictive and has negative health effects. Quitting coffee for me was many times harder than quitting gluten, even though I was not in denial, I knew it was causing major problems in my health. I had quit before and started up the addiction again by just having the occasional cup. Everything in moderation, right? Te cycle of addiction would start again.

    It is so true that the foods that we think are impossible to give up are the very ones causing us the most harm. Years ago, I was addicted to starchy carbs and now, I have no desire for them at all. I suspect the same thing will happen with coffee… Thanks for talking about this.

  53. Coffee contains acrylamide (a known carcinogen) – acrylamide develops in coffee as a natural consequence during the roasting process and cannot be avoided. Don’t believe me? Look up California Prop 65 & Coffee. In addition to this, all coffee substitutes (chicory, grain based substitutes) have double, triple and even 5 times the amount of acrylamide in comparison to regular roast & ground coffee. Best not to recommend coffee substitutes as a healthy replacement. Moreover coffee, acrylamide develops as a natural consequence of anything that is roasted, toasted, baked or fried. This really throws a wrench into the food pyramid particularly considering whole grain bread has one of the highest acrylamide levels.

  54. Hello, I have a question about this; as a person with ADHD, caffeine has never had the same effect on me as it does on others; it calms me down and helps me focus. I can drink a pot of coffee and fall asleep. People like me respond differently to certain chemicals. Because caffeine helps with my symptoms and I gave up psychiatric medications long ago, and I drink my coffee black (or with just a little bit of pure coconut milk and cinnamon) since I gave up dairy, I’ve seen no reason to go without it. I’m curious, if it obviously doesn’t cause the same amount of stress on my body, are the consequences you listed really something I need to be concerned about? Thanks!

    1. Lynsay – That’s a really good point, and I think there are a lot of people like you out there. I honestly don’t know the answer to that, but I’d love to see any studies on people with ADHD and their cortisol levels in regards to coffee drinking. The only thing I’d say is that coffee itself (not the caffeine part of it) looks a lot like gluten to many people’s bodies, and who knows – it may be the case for you. So if you’re still having any symptoms and you’ve already gone Paleo/gluten free, then I’d look at getting your caffeine from a different source.

  55. I’ve been sugar free and mostly carb free for a couple months now and I’m pretty sure the only time during this phase that I lost ANY fricken weight was when I stopped drinking coffee. HOW FRUSTRATING!!! God I love having coffee. I don’t even know why, but, starting tomorrow morning I’ll be coffee free I decided and see how it goes weight lose wise. I started drinking coffee when I had Glandular fever and from this time I have struggled with weight even though I eat a lot healthier than most others.
    Wish me luck :) Hopefully no massive withdrawals ensue…..

  56. Hi Neely – I just started the 21 day cleanse this past Sunday and so far, so good except for one thing. I haven’t had a BM since I started it! Coffee is always what made me regular before. I have been gluten free for almost a year and a half, and went Paleo for Lent. Rather than going back to how I ate before after Easter, I have stayed Paleo and I love it! I decided to do the cleanse because I was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. I thought the cleanse would be a good way to figure out if caffeine, nightshades, eggs, dairy, etc. are contributing to my problem. However, now an additional problem is that I can’t have a BM and that is not making me feel good. I saw a previous post where you recommended probiotics or a digestive enzyme spectrum. I went online and got a little overwhelmed – there are so many choices out there and I have no idea what to select. Can you offer any recommendations? Thanks!

    1. CB – Yes, definitely a probiotic and enzyme spectrum. For a probiotic, I use Ultimate Flora 50 billion and for the enzyme I use Source Naturals. You can find both online I bet. But also, if you really just need to get the BM out of your system, my go-to laxative is senna, which is an herb that they use in Smooth Move tea. One bag of that tea in a cup of water and you will be cleaned out the next day. Do NOT get dependent on that, though. I’d do it once and then move on. Your body will adapt.

  57. Coffee gives an excuse for a social pause and to take time out, to reflect etc. I like very much to spend time at the coffee shop and watch the world go by, its a simple pleasure. I enjoy the mental clarity, energy and positive mood strongly at times. Unfortunately, this is only part of the story for me. I have noticed that for me, over time, there is always is a tendency to drink more and stronger coffee.

    If I look in the mirror after having had a couple of coffee I notice that I often look like I have been through some kind of stressful event, darker around the eyes and anxious, worried or drained. With the extra consumption a slightly manic feeling looms in the background and the realization that I am starting to feel like an addict and that in no way is this health food, clearly a drug, as all coffee drinkers must know deep down.

    I do not approve of my coffee consumption at such times as those. I have read research both for and against and remain convinced that for most people its a net negative in terms of health. I wish that when I was out in town I could go to places where there were more healthy drinks widely available, we are just not there yet unfortunately. It will be interesting to see how the soring rates of caffine consumption today will be viewed in the future. ITS EVERYWHERE.

    Caffine free by the end of the week, I hope. !!

  58. Big time coffee drinker, I drink my coffee black. I’ve been on the paleo lifestyle for a week and have decided to kick coffee out as well. I actually had a cup for the first time today and 1) I didn’t realize how nasty it tastes after being away for a couple of days 2) When I decided to drink my first couple since paleo I noticed it kind of dulled my senses, I felt too relaxed rather than energetic. Is this normal? thanks

  59. I have been drinking coffee for the last 34 years I am dying with diabetics and high blood pressure pls some one can help me stop this cooffee thx

  60. Definitely been a mixed bag for me with coffee, yerba mate, chocolate and green tea. The best I’ve ever felt has almost always been when I removed it completely in any form and was doing a very low carb form of paleo and/or paleo AIP.

    I’ve also had some really “onnit” moments and days randomly with coffee (especially) and some with green tea and chocolate. But no consistency where if I have caffeine consistently and the I consistently feel “onnit” or in the zone every I’m shooting for.

    This does make me wonder if I remove it completely for good that things would even out and I’d be able to find consistently with “the zone” and getting more traction to embody grounded, clear headed energy and zest for life.


  61. I am caffeine free for about 3 years now, and I still think about it everyday. Every morning I would have a pot of coffee waiting for me to start my day. I couldn’t function without it, I was miserable without it, and I even needed it before my morning run. Then I started having a cup or two at work, along with a new found passion for extra dark chocolate. Oh did the problems start to arise! I began having moments where I was feeling like I was going to faint throughout the day. Never actually fainting, just near fainting feelings. My heart would rush, then stop in the middle of the night. It would instantly wake me up. I went to doctors, had a heart monitor, blood work, cat scan. They could find nothing! One thought it may be panic attacks or anxiety. Never ever had I had any sort of anxiety issues. I was frustrated and tired of being sent for all sorts of tests. I really sat and thought about what could possibly be causing this, and the only thing in excess I seemed to be putting in my body was coffee and chocolate. After researching, I found chocolate, mostly the darker, higher cocoa content contains caffeine and theobromine. Both are methlyxanthines, which are also found in coffee and tea. After researching further, I found symptoms of toxicity including tremor, nausea, nervousness, and arrhythmia. I thought, could it be possible I overdosed on chocolate?? I was really enjoying those super dark chocolate candy bars by Lindt, lately. So I decided it was probably a combination of both the coffee and the chocolate. I had to give them up, to see if anything would change. The first week quitting cold turkey was awful. I had the most severe headaches and my muscles, especially my legs, were extremely sore. I was so unbelievably tired in the morning, I almost didn’t stick with it. But the shakiness I was feeling, and the night rushes were going away. I was able to sleep through the night after a week without caffeine. I will never go back to those days. I can jump out of bed with a clear head now, remembering how it was like that as a child. Not relying on a cup of brown water to fuel my day. I never realized what a powerful drug caffeine is, until now. There are reasons we don’t condone children to drink coffee. If it’s not good for them, why would it be good for adults? I cannot believe how it became so widely accepted. Confusing too! Because there are so many articles boasting the benefits! Which is a person to choose? Well for me, anything that hurts that bad to stop cannot be a good thing. Listen to your body, I listened to mine. I have more energy now than I ever did.

  62. I appreciate your article. I have been drinking coffee very heavily for the past 10 years or so. Recently I decided to give it up, because I realized it was interfering with my weight loss. I managed to switch to green tea, and I kept my intake to 2 or 3 cups a day. I love the taste, and wasn’t sure if I would try to cut it out because it tasted soooo good. But I got fed up with needing to have it, with carrying tea bags around or having to delay leaving home because I just “had” to have my tea. I felt like a heroin addict – needing my fix.
    I’m on the second day. Not feeling wonderful, but I don’t want to blow all the work I’ve done.

  63. I have Hashimoto’s and in progress of managing that issue. A big part of that are the adrenals. I decided to start weaning off of caffeine to avoid the headaches. I cut coffee down from 1-3 cups to 1 cup, 1/2 cup then swapped down to matcha. In the midst of weaning I experienced the WORST anxiety go my life. It was unbearable. I had a crushing feeling in my chest and neck 24/7. My mid to lower back was also aching 24/7.
    I started to freak out and cut all caffeine completely. This made things worse. The anxiety stayed. I thought I was long my mind and was calling to make appointments with a psychologist. Then about two and a half weeks after the cold turkey I had 2 days of a serene calm. No sore back or anxiety. Day 3 I had a little of the anxiety but nothing compared to what I was dealing with previously. I continue with a small amount of anxiety and zero back pain and have been doing much better overall.

    So my question is: was it the stopping of caffeine that gave my body such response or should I visit the psychologist? I know we could ALL use a little mental health support but this was ridiculous.
    Thank you!

    1. Monica,

      I am sorry your body had such a crazy reaction! There were probably many factors at play, and seeing a psychologist (in my opinion) is never bad because life is complex and we can all benefit from an outside perspective. From a nutrition standpoint, I too experienced some wacky symptoms while drinking caffeine and then getting off of it. Anxiety and headaches were my issues, but they resolved completely after about 2-3 weeks off of the caffeine. I think you need to listen to what your body is telling you, as there are a lot of factors. Your body could have been experiencing an extreme detox reaction from cutting off caffeine (have you been tested for MTHFR?) which would be consistent with mid/lower back pain (could be kidneys or colon). Either way you look at it, I think that seeing a psychologist as needed and qualified health practitioners regularly can help to make sure these episodes come few and far between (if ever). Hope that is helpful! And it probably goes without saying that you’re probably best off staying away from caffeine for good. :)

      Aimee McNew, MNT, Certified Nutritionist

  64. I know this thread is old, but it would be great if you replied to me!

    I have always drank 4-10 cups of coffee a day, even after getting my heart checked (when a dr said it was unhealthy) and still drinking this much during each of my 4 pregnancies. My kids are all amazingly healthy (20 year old, 9 years, 2 years and an 11 month old) and the only issue I could blame on my coffee consumption is they never nap as babies. Once they are 1 year old, they are up from 6:30am to 7:30pm with more energy than me.

    I’m now 40, and still cannot lose the last 12 pounds from pregnancy. I’m “thinking” of stopping coffee to see if this will somehow help, but I’m not sure? I’ve had all bloodwork done, I’m in excellent health. I eat very healthy, a mix of raw/vegan/seafood/paleo but no meat or pasta/rice. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Nikki,

      There’s a good chance that ditching the coffee (and caffeine) could help lose that weight as the body’s primary response to coffee/caffeine is to initiate a stress response. When the body is stressed, it’s not easy to lose weight (especially the last few pesky pounds) because of inflammation. The body’s instinct also means that stress = a life-threatening situation (think back to our caveman days when stress usually did mean life or death). Why not give up coffee for 30 days and see what happens? It certainly won’t hurt! As a former coffee addict myself, I can say that we don’t suffer from coffee deficiencies. :)

      Aimee McNew, MNT, Certified Nutritionist

  65. I enjoyed reading this article, thank you. It’s just that the ‘caffeine is like heroine’ remark is not the right approach to get someone to stop drinking caffeinated drinks. Otherwise I fully agree about the fight or flight response, since my thoughts go into hyper mode and paranoia ensues. I have experienced nightmares and night terrors from drinking more than 4 cans of energy drinks and several cups of coffee. I am also a person who doesn’t like big crowds. Nothing wrong with drinking caffeine, it’s just not for me.

    BTW, I quit drinking caffeinated drinks for 3 years and it made a big difference. I felt relieved.

  66. I would just like to make one defense of your article. I noticed a decent amount of people thinking your heroin addict analogy was way overboard. I just quit caffeine 48 hours ago and before I even saw this blog post said this, quitting coffee feels just like quitting heroin besides the severity of physical withdrawals. As a former heroin addict, which I believe most people who commented on the irrationality of your analogy are not, I can support your claim being closer to the truth than even you may have realized. Appreciate your article I needed some convincing that coffee could really be hurting my energy levels.

    1. Hi Mark,

      I have so much admiration for your strength and your ability to break free of such gripping addictions! Hats off to you! Keep on keeping on.


  67. I just wanted to say I quit caffeine about a month ago. I eat a pretty clean diet and exercise regularly but have struggled to keep off the extra 15 pounds from college (I am now 38). At one point I read how caffeine changes your hormones and causes your body to release insulin into the bloodstream and I started to wonder if that was the culprit. All I can say is, since I quit caffeine, I’ve been dropping weight without even trying -and- I’m losing it from the places I just couldn’t lose it before, like the shape of my body is going back to what it once was in high school. It’s a drag to quit for sure, and I’m realizing how much I was regulating my mood with caffeine and how I have to deal with my feelings and get energy in a different way now. I’ve found walks, listening to music and cuddling helps with all that :)

    1. Congratulations on kicking the caffeine habit Annat!! And thanks for sharing your positive experience. Keep on keepin’ on!


  68. I just put myself through an experiment. I’ve never been fat before in my life, I’m a gym person. But I saw a need to cut coffee out of my life and even black tea for fear of my adrenal glands maxing out. I’ve been without coffee for 9 months and without any caffeine for 5. I can attest to the fact not having the appetite suppressant of coffee and caffeine has caused me to gain weight in the middle of my gluten free change in eating by about 15 lbs since 8 months ago.

    Without the caffeine I have no energy source. I reverted to healthy eating, no bread, fruits, veggies and cut down on sugar but the weight gain has been an extremely harmful affect on me. I’m not a desk person, I have a mobile business and am always on the go on an electric bicycle and walking to my clients. I go to the gym twice a week or more. Some of it is water weight but this is too much. It’s because of caffeine withdrawal and I thought I’d forewarn others it’s not worth it to go cold turkey on caffeine all together unless a doctor directs you to.

    1. Cheryl,

      I’m sorry quitting caffeine has had such an unpleasant effect for you! There are too many factors not addressed here to know for sure why it’s having this effect on you (for example: age, hormones, certain blood nutrient levels, adrenals, thyroid, etc). I quit caffeine a number of years ago and it helped me to shed my last 15 lbs and to stay down at my optimal weight. Caffeine is a stimulant, so while it can help suppress appetite for some, in others it can have the opposite effect and can increase appetite by being able to influence a number of other hormones. There are merits to being off of caffeine that transcend appetite suppressant, especially since it is a drug and a stimulant and can exacerbate the fight/flight response in the body, affect the adrenals as you mentioned, alter blood sugar and cholesterol, along with many other things. Genetic individuality is key here. I would encourage you to broaden your view and consider whether some other hormones could be at play here—the body certainly wasn’t designed to need to rely on caffeine to maintain optimal weight, so it’s likely there is one or more other factors to consider addressing that could have the desired impact, as well as increased health benefits along the way. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email.

      Aimee McNew, Certified Nutritionist, MNT

  69. I came here not because of my interest in paleo, but because I’ve been intensely low carbing with daily intense exercise and very low calorie intake (1500 or less) for a month and the scale has hardly budged. I do see a visual difference and the clothes are slowly but surely looser fitting, but why won’t the scale move?

    I have tried varying the amount of sodium in my diet, eliminating artificial sweeteners (small amounts of Splenda), more or less dairy, and nothing works. There is only one constant: coffee. I drink at least 32 ounces of VERY strong coffee every day and have for years. This morning, after another disappointing number from the scale staring up at me, I decided in my desperation to ease back on the coffee. I had a very rapidly-brewed cup of English breakfast tea instead. I know it has caffeine but come on, be reasonable, much, much less than strong coffee. I immediately took a two hour nap, lol. I plan to drop the coffee, at least for a while. The headache today was manageable with a couple of advils. I’ll let you know if it works for weight loss.

    1. Pablo,

      It would definitely be a good idea to cut back on the coffee, ideally to not more than 2 eight-ounce cups daily. However, it’s possible that your weight loss isn’t budging because you’re not eating *enough* calories. 1,500 calories would be appropriate for a very petite woman who isn’t very active, so because you exercise intensely and are a man, you definitely have more calorie requirements on your body. I would encourage you to aim for more like 2,500 calories daily and see if that helps. It’s also possible—since I don’t have more info about you—that you don’t actually need to lose weight. Here are some tips that may also help to troubleshoot your weight loss journey:

      Best wishes!

      Aimee McNew, MNT, Certified Nutritionist

  70. Coffee is the hardest addiction for me. I quit smoking four years ago which is hard but I did it. I gave up gluten, dairy and soy which was not easy but I did it. I have autoimmune and just want my body to function better. I decided to give up coffee, sugar and processed food after a bad bout of IBS. I have Celiacs, Hashimoto’s, reflux, IBS, fibromyalgia, MTHFR, chemical sensitivities and Chronic fatigue. I am pretty sure I have candida or small bacterial overgrowth issues. I felt better going on methylfolate,P6P, NAC, TMG, biotin and methyl B12. I take selenium, krill oil, magnesium, calcium and HTP for sleep. I do take probiotic and digestive enzymes. My hair started falling out for six months but now has stopped. I went back on LDN too. So anyway I am now in a world of hell. I feel like everything tastes like crap, I feel extremely tired, constipated and irritable. It is day four no coffee, sugar or processed food. I know I need to just ride this out but I can’t stop thinking about coffee and feel depressed. I guess I am having withdrawal symptoms. I am hoping it won’t last. I am going to try to exercise more in hopes it will speed up the detox process.

    1. Hi Lori,

      First of all, I am so sorry for all that you’re going through. Believe it or not, I have had at one time or another, or still currently do, every single thing you mentioned. Celiac, Hashimotos, reflux, IBS, fibro, MTHFR, chemical sensitivities, CFS, candida/SIBO, and more. It’s awful how the body just snowballs and develops more and more issues! I also dealt with leaky gut, RA, anemia, insomnia, and yes, my hair fell out in crazy amounts for years on end. You may be surprised to hear that through all of that, and in walking a path back to health where I currently am: healthier than I’ve ever been (and 7 months pregnant), I never gave up coffee. I did, however, get rid of caffeine. I continued to drink organic decaf coffee mainly because I loved the taste, and it kinda fooled my brain into thinking I was getting some caffeine.

      I certainly had many times where all of the great things I did for my body seemed to make me feel worse and worse and worse. I battled long viral infections (3-6 months at a time), felt like I would never leave my bed again, and wondered if I would ever “enjoy” life. I cried, battled depression, and somehow, emerged one step at a time, on the other side. I did take many of those supplements that you mentioned, but it was a slow road to recovery. I want to encourage you to press forward and to continue getting rid of that caffeine. The withdrawal is the worst, but once you get to the other side, your adrenals and the rest of your body will thank you for it. To ease through the withdrawal process, drink plenty of water, do some yoga every day (even just 5 minutes of deep breathing can really help!), and really focus on as many veggies as you can get down.

      If you want to talk more about this, or just need some encouragement, send me an email at I know it can feel isolating and alone to be dealing with so many fronts in a battle that is entirely within your own body, but trust me when I say that there is a way forward.

      Best wishes,

      Aimee McNew, MNT, Certified Nutritionist

    1. Decaf coffee is acceptable on a Paleo diet, but ideal when it’s water processed and organic. Other methods of decaffeinating use chemicals, whereas water processing doesn’t leave chemical residue.

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