Three Surprising Reasons to Monitor Caffeine or Alcohol—and How to Do It

BLD108817Everyone knows that alcohol and caffeine aren’t always the healthiest of choices. Is moderation effective enough to avoid their negative effects, or do some people have to quit altogether? It all depends on you.

I’ll start with a short survey. Then I’ll discuss how alcohol and caffeine may be affecting you.

  • Do you struggle with weight gain or low energy?
  • Do you routinely consume a caffeinated drink for revving up, or an alcoholic drink for winding down?
  • Do you wake up in the morning feeling restored after sleeping 7 to 8.5 hours at night, undisrupted?

If you answered yes to any of the three questions, caffeine and alcohol may affect you more than it does others. They are stimulants and therefore may cause harm if you are highly sensitive to them. While many women rely on a strong drink as an energy booster or mood changer, if you struggle with weight gain, low energy, or problems with sleep, it’s time to face the fact that alcohol and caffeine have to go. That’s because caffeine can zap your energy levels once you crash from the initial boost, alcohol sidetracks your fat-burning mechanisms, and both disrupt your sleep. On top of that, both substances are addictive. Once you get beyond the initial pleasure of consuming coffee or alcohol, I’m sure those less-than-pleasant side effects are not what you’re seeking.

In a recent article in the The New York Times Style section, I was thrilled to read about a devotee of Drynuary, a January drink, but without booze. The article was about a man named John Ore, age 46, a longtime practitioner of Drynuary, who “reports better sleep, better dreams, and a weight loss of roughly 10 pounds.” Read the article if you want to try it with me!

How Can You Limit What You Love?

Is it possible to curb your caffeine and alcohol intake without feeling deprived? Yes. Some drinks contain lower concentrations of psychoactive substances, or provide nutrients instead of toxins and sugars. Even if you aren’t energy-depleted, quick to gain weight, or short on sleep, these options are good choices for anyone. Here are my suggested alternatives.

CAFFEINATED BEVERAGE ALTERNATIVES

I’ve listed a few popular caffeinated drinks that are better or even ideal in terms of health impact, yet still give you a bit of a pick-me-up. Note that conventional coffee, especially with added sugar, or worse yet, an energy drink with five times the caffeine and loads of sugar, are simply not on the roster.

BETTER

  • Matcha tea. The caffeine content in matcha tea may promote focused energy without the jitters. With matcha you’re actually drinking the entire green tea leaf, not just the tea water – one of many reasons matcha tea is much more nutrient-dense than standard green tea. Matcha tea is very high in antioxidants, amino acids, and chlorophyll, which is responsible for its distinct bright green color. L-theanine is the most prevalent amino acid; it increases serotonin, dopamine, and GABA and is known to have a calming effect on the mind and body. (This is likely why monks historically sipped matcha tea.)
  • Other organic black and green teas contain less caffeine than coffee, and green tea in particular has many health benefits, including a lower risk of cancer,[1] anti-infection and antiviral properties,[2] and possibly lowering BMI, among other benefits.[3]

 IDEAL

  • Decaffeinated organic coffee. The word “decaf” is a misnomer because the process still leaves a low amount of caffeine. In fact, once you get used to drinking it, decaf coffee has enough caffeine in it to make you feel more alert. My favorite is Dave Asprey’s Decaf Bulletproof® Upgraded Coffee.
  • Decaffeinated green tea. This is the caffeinated beverage I personally enjoy. Admittedly, decaf green tea has only a trace amount of caffeine. So, if you enjoy the taste of green tea and are willing to waive the buzz for the health benefits, then this drink is for you.
  • Hot water with lemon. Alkalinizing, detoxifying, and a great substitute for a cup of Joe. The hot water stimulates the gastro-colic reflex, helping you eliminate toxins and preventing constipation.

ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE ALTERNATIVES

Some alcoholic drinks are better than others. Cocktails and beer are on my blacklist—the cocktails for their sugar content and beer for its gluten[4] and carbs. Even if you choose a less toxic alcoholic drink, limit consumption to a maximum of three servings per week. For me, drinking more than two glasses of wine per week makes me sluggish, and interferes with my sleep quality.

BETTER

  • Organic or biodynamic red wine. Conventionally-farmed grapes are one of the most pesticide-ridden fruits in the US and France. Therefore, organic or biodynamic wines are far superior to conventional wines. Organic wine is made from grapes that do not have fungicides, allowing wild strains of yeast to grow uninhibited, leading to a more flavorful wine. Biodynamic wines are farmed without fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. As with any wine, you might need to experiment with different types to see which ones strike your palate the most. Read more including my favorite brands in my new book, Younger.

IDEAL

  • Kombucha tea. Kombucha is a powerful detoxifier, antioxidant, and supporter of immune system function.[5] This delicious fermented tea is great anytime you want to have something bubbly and tasty in your glass without the heavy booze. With approximately 0.5 percent alcohol per serving, it’s doesn’t have the high-alcohol impact.
  • Filtered water. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. We just need to clear out the toxins first with a carbon filter or reverse osmosis. I add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or white balsamic vinegar for better insulin-resetting activity, and taste.

Improve Your Metabolism of Alcohol

If you still occasionally indulge in alcohol, you can ease its effects with these suggestions:

  1. Drink filtered water first. On a trip to the Caribbean, I got a great tip from another doctor: Drink a full glass of filtered water before you go out for drinks. It will fill your belly, helping you drink less of the stiff stuff.
  2. Take two tablets of activated charcoal. Yes, you read right, and here’s the reasoning: When a patient is admitted to the ER for a drug or alcohol overdose, doctors administer activated charcoal to absorb and filter the toxins in their stomach.[6] It’s not a miracle fix, nor an excuse to consume more than three drinks per week, but it does help protect your liver from recently-consumed toxins.
  3. Drink more filtered water. It’s common knowledge, but not common practice!

Making Progress

Completely cutting out caffeine and alcohol can feel extreme – I get it. At the same time, I also personally know it’s worth a shot. My online Hormone Detox clients testify to me (almost daily!) about how removing alcohol and/or caffeine from their diets makes them sleep an additional thirty to sixty minutes each night, have consistently-higher energy levels, and not feel overwhelmed and stressed.

Why not test out curbing alcohol and caffeine? Commit to downing a glass of filtered water before drinking alcohol. Or take a full week off from coffee to reset your body – just to see how you feel.

Alcohol and caffeine can make us feel so good, at least for a tiny while, that it can be hard to turn them down. But by reducing or eliminating them from your diet, you’ll feel healthier, boost your energy, better manage your weight, and sleep better. I’d say those are convincing reasons to try cutting back. Happy Drynuary!

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Interested in learning more about keeping healthy throughout your life? Pre-order my upcoming book Younger now before its price goes up for the official release on March 7, 2017.

[1] Henning, S.M., et al. “Epigenetic effects of green tea polyphenols in cancer.” Epigenomics 5, no. 6. (2013): 729-41.

[2] Tran, J. “Green Tea: A Potential Alternative Anti-Infectious Agent Catechins and Viral Infections.” Advances in Anthropology 3, no.4 (2013): 198-202.

[3] Phung, O., et al. “Effect of green tea catechins with or without caffeine on anthropometric measures: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91 vol. 1 (2010): 73–81; Mak, J.C.W. “Potential role of green tea catechins in various disease therapies: progress and promise.” Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology 39, no. 3 (2012): 265–73; Johnson, R., et al. “Green tea and green tea catechin extracts: an overview of the clinical evidence.” Maturitas 73, no. 4 (2012): 280–87.

 [4] Soares, F.L., et al. “Gluten-free diet reduces adiposity, inflammation and insulin resistance associated with the induction of PPAR-alpha and PPAR-gamma expression.” The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 24, no. 6 (2013): 1105-11.

[5] Viña, I., et al. “Current evidence on physiological activity and expected health effects of kombucha fermented beverage.” Journal of Medicinal Food 17, no. 2 (2014): 179-88.

[6] Sair, M., et al. “Oral poisoning: an update.” British Journal of Anaesthesia: Continuing Education in Aneasthesia, Critical Care, & Pain 10, no. 1 (2009): 6-11.

 

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Sara Gottfried MD About Sara Gottfried MD

Sara Gottfried, MD is the New York Times bestselling author of the new book, Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years. Her previous New York Times bestsellers are The Hormone Cure and The Hormone Reset Diet. After graduating from Harvard Medical School and MIT, Dr. Gottfried completed her residency at the University of California at San Francisco. She is a board-certified gynecologist who teaches natural hormone balancing in her novel online programs so that women can lose weight, detoxify, and slow down aging. Dr. Gottfried lives in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two daughters.