What Happened When I Quit Coffee

Coffee – it keeps many of us going every day! But what about when that goes wrong? Here's what happened when I quit coffee to improve my health!

By Stacy Karen, Contributing Writer


The beverage that seems more like a king than a mere drink. Adored and revered by it’s faithful followers the world over.

It’s the one thing that many of us refuse to start our days without.

Plus, drinking coffee includes you in a worldwide club where members write about it, think about it, joke about it, and savor it, each and every day.


Because it’s good!

Coffee is delicious. Especially with cream . . .

But I’m getting distracted from my point here.

Coffee, ahem, yes, coffee, that beverage I had to give up.

Let me tell you the story . . .

Growing up, I never expected to be a coffee drinker. I hated the taste. Tea was more my thing and well-suited my British heritage.

However, a number of years ago, fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks.

I have three children and live a busy life. I couldn’t keep up anymore.

I was just tired. All. The. Time.

(Little did I know, I had a thyroid condition.)

I noticed people bebopping around talking about how much they loved coffee. How they couldn’t function without it. How it helped them think.

I figured, if it worked for them, it should work for me, too.

And it did.

Kind of.

I felt a little surge of energy, but not the “awake” feeling I had imagined.

I was more jittery than awake. But, the nervous energy seemed to keep me going.

So, I started drinking coffee regularly.

It became a ritual.

And since I don’t do things lightly, I dove into the coffee realm full force, bought myself a chemexWhat Happened When I Quit Coffee and ground coffee beans fresh, just to make sure it tasted good.

And it did.

What Happened When I Quit Coffee {KeeperOfTheHome.org}
Image by Susanne Nilsson

Fast forward a few years . . .

Daily coffee drinking was now a firm habit. I enjoyed it so much I would go to sleep thinking about how I was looking forward to my first cup in the morning. Scary, I know.

It was about this time that I had a complete health crisis.

I won’t say that coffee drinking was responsible for that. But, I do think it was a contributing factor.

I began to feel anxious and irritable all the time.

And my adrenal glands were shot.

Any little noise would make me jump and I’d feel an adrenaline rush before I knew what hit me.

If someone was too close to my face, I had to close my eyes.

All of my senses were on high alert.

At this point, I did not relate any of this to drinking coffee.

But, once I discovered an underlying thyroid condition (Hashimoto’s), my doctor decided to run a food allergy test.

The test was not a traditional food allergy test, but one that measured the immune system response to certain foods. (It’s called an IgG ELISA test. Read more about it here.)

I’m sure you know where this is going . . .

My #1 food allergy = coffee!

I almost laughed. It seemed so ridiculous.

But I also wanted to cry. I didn’t want to leave my beloved coffee club.

I didn’t want to stop grinding the beans and smelling the delicious aroma.

What Happened When I Quit Coffee {KeeperOfTheHome.org}

In some ways I was crushed.

I had already discovered an allergy to gluten a few months prior and it felt let all of my favorite things wee being taken away from me. 

First world problems. Yes. But, I’m sure you understand.

So, what happened then?

Well, I did it.

I quit.

I stopped drinking coffee.

I figured it was in my best interest to cease putting something in my body that was causing my immune system to go haywire.

Thankfully my withdrawals were fairly short lived and not half as bad as expected.

What surprised me the most:

Within a week I started to feel better.

I actually had MORE energy.

I was less irritable and jumpy.

Having more energy was probably the most unexpected benefit.

I can say for sure that this is directly related to coffee drinking (at least for me), since when I fall down on my commitment to be coffee-free and actually have a cup (yes, not perfect here, by any means), I end up feeling more tired. The extra tiredness I feel from drinking coffee is quite dramatic.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the various ways my health has improved over the past year, see this post: My Return to Health.

What Happened When I Quit Coffee {KeeperOfTheHome.org}
Image by Luz Bratcher

What I’ve learned

While coffee does have some health benefits, excessive, habitual use can be detrimental. Especially if you have an underlying health condition.

The high caffeine content of coffee can raise cortisol levels by increasing the production of adrenocorticotropic hormone by the pituitary gland.

Sarah Ballantyne, PhD states (in her book, The Paleo ApproachWhat Happened When I Quit Coffee):

“Excessive cortisol production can lead to a variety of health issues, including an overactive immune system, disrupted sleep, impaired digestion, and depression.”

She also states: “One key study showed that moderate coffee consumption in healthy individuals correlated with increased inflammation in their blood: people who drank more than two hundred milliliters (about six and a half ounces, or one large cup) of coffee every day … had an increase in white blood cells and several key inflammatory cytokines.”

I also learned that just because something what works for some (or most) it doesn’t mean it will work for me. Many say that coffee makes them feel better, but for me, it’s the opposite. 

Should you quit coffee?

It’s hard to say. Everyone is different.

However, I would encourage anyone who consumes coffee on a regular basis to take careful note of how it makes them feel.

If you can’t function without coffee, it might be time to cut back a little.

You might enjoy these posts for further information regarding the effects of coffee:

How Does Coffee Affect Your Health
Nourish Before You Drain

What I’m drinking instead

I realized that I was not just sad to give up coffee, but more so the ritual of preparing and drinking it. I enjoyed holding the warm cup in my hands and sipping away in the early morning hours.

Although others mention herbal blends that taste like coffee, I have not found anything that mimics it well enough (at least to my own taste). That said, there are some blends I have not been able to try as yet, due to the fact that they contain barley and rye, which I’m also allergic to.

However, there are many delicious herbal teas that I do enjoy (both store bought and homemade).

And, I found a beautiful pot in which to steep herbs and pour a steaming cup of tea from. It fulfills some of the ritual aspect that I was missing.

I’ve become quite serious about my tea collection and have spent a good amount of time and energy cultivating it. (You can see my tea collection here.)

In conclusion

Giving up coffee was a good decision for me. My health improved and my mood and disposition became happier and less irritable. I gained energy and a clear mind.

Totally worth it.

If you’re wondering how your health might change without coffee in your life, I encourage you to give it a try. Go a week or two without coffee and see what happens. Maybe a coffee-free life is just what you need.

I’d love to hear from you! Have you tried giving up coffee? How did it go?

Top image by Zach Inglis

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  1. I’d been on various forms of health related diets for a couple of years when I quit coffee. I been off it for at least 3 months when I started having problems with chronic migraines. It got to the point of where I had only two or three days a months without a migraine. Through trial and error (and not wanting to eat my stomach up with pain relievers), I found a daily combination of coffee (for the caffeine) and sole (so-LAY) has put an end to my chronic migraines. But if I try to lessen either one, the migraines return. Note, I *started* drinking coffee to end the migraines, so it’s not the result of stopping. (You know that whopper you get when you suddenly stop caffeine.)

    I’ve addressed thyroid, adrenal, liver, candida overgrowth, allergies/sensitivities and have done the candida cleanse diet, GAPS (intro, regular and extended) for 4 years now. And have recently even been able to get off antidepressants meds.

    So you can imagine my surprise when I had to add back something that’s supposed to be such a “no-no”. Like you said, everyone’s body is different. It’s good to start on a set program for a while and then start tweaking it to what your own body is telling you.

  2. Coffee makes me so grumpy! My brother tells me the jittery feeling and crash that some people get has to do with how fast they metabolize the caffeine. If you process it really fast you get a huge rush of sleep hormones when it is gone because caffeine blocks the hormones that allow sleep and causes them to build up. For some people this is a much more gradual process that feels like sustained alertness. Anyway, a hot drink is nice (I like Chai or cocoa for a smaller dose of caffeine) but for morning energy I usually try to get my blood sugar up and eat some fat and protein. A smoothie and bacon is great, but more often it’s a banana and peanut butter.

  3. Coffee actually contains harmful mold toxins called “Mycotoxins” These mycotoxins can break down our cellular structure and DNA. Even though we think of coffee as being “caffeine” there is much more to the substance.
    Coffee is also very acidic which can lead to lower pH levels in the body. 100% of all cancer patients have a pH level below 6. Is this ironic? Not so. Many things contribute to lower pH levels in the body why let coffee be one of them when we work so hard on our diet? Food for thought.

  4. I’ve had the same findings as you: once I quit coffee, I actually had MORE energy because I was no longer subject to the jitters and crashes anymore. I also no longer had “stages” of being awake or tired: I was either tired, or awake.

    I genuinely believe that a lot of the stress and exhaustion so many of my family and friends feel is directly from drinking too much caffeine and taking it for granted.

  5. Just quit a month ago and so far I’m happy with the results. It has been a huge adjustment for me! I quit because of my poor adrenals and kidneys. I’m pretty sure they are all glad I did! I now drink tea, lots of tea, and lemon water instead of coffee. It’s fun to try out all of the different kinds of tea out there and so far I do not feel deprived. In fact I have found that I don’t like coffee as much if I do try and “cheat”. Hoping to someday have more energy but then my adrenals were shot. The first few weeks I had more energy than I do not, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that I have a crazy schedule and am just starting the journey of learning to give myself down time before my body screams for it 🙂

  6. I stopped drinking coffee, but what i actually quit was the creamer. Because i had already quit all other dairy products. Then one morning i discovered that even though it is non dairy, it has a little bit of something that comes from whey, which is derived fro. milk. 3 days later i felt the energy surge. When i attempted to cheat, i got a head ache. Not worth it.

  7. Yes, yes, yes! I drank coffee for 8 years, before even having kids. I couldn’t function without it, couldn’t stay up in class in college. At one point I started hating how it was controlling me. So I quit! First few weeks were HARD, but I started drinking herbal tea, eating healthier, I would NEVER go back to coffee. I was so tired all the time, I have so much more energy now! One cup of water in the morning gets me energized for the day. 🙂 Only now I’m starting to see there is much more harm in coffee than I previously thought.

    1. I am thinking of quitting coffee, but i am a bit scared . I drink way too much and can not be moderate about it because i prefer my coffee strong . I start my day at 5 am and i am exausted until i get my first morning cup at about 9. I have not felt properly awake since i can remember. I Also dont know What to substitute with. I like tea but it does not wake me up!

  8. I too have given up coffee before, though never permanently, but when I did allow my body to return to normal, I felt great. I would notice that I could track my natural highs and lows better and when paired with proper nutrition I would feel more alert and energized than I ever did with coffee.

  9. I haven’t given up coffee, but I have cut way back on it. I used to drink it all day, now I only have a cup or two in the morning. (black, from freshly ground beans.) Now instead of drinking coffee all day at work, I drink water and maybe a cup of tea every now and then.

  10. I’m fairly certain it was the thyroid. I had never been able to enjoy a true cup of coffee. We go to Starbuck’s and the husband makes sure they give me decaf. I had at one time staff make sure I got decaf and if they weren’t sure it was decaf, they made sure they made and early lunch run to make sure I got a good meal – quick!
    What happened? It would give me a quick jolt and I became extremely productive with high expectations until I crashed and became grumpy. Everyone knew this – but we didn’t know why. I just recently had the thyroid killed permanently as it reared its ugly head and became unmanageable.
    On a different note, my husband became extremely addicted. It got to the point where we didn’t want him to talk to us until he had some coffee. He began to see the problem and cut back – he is now at a healthy coffee drinking level.
    Moral of the stories … you’re on to something here …
    Coffee alternatives … Constant Comment Tea – really bold, Vanilla Chai Tea, and I’ll have to order because I love it so much and only had a few bags … Ashby’s Cinnamon Plum Tea

  11. Great post!!! Yes I had to give up coffee !! It was hard I was officially diagnosed at age 3 with Systematic Lupus and Antiphospholipid Syndrome (Hughes Syndrome) , as well as Sjolgrens Syndrome, Tieze Syndrome and inflammatory arthritis and Thyroid Issues, Reading your post I was like YES! I so know how you feel !!! I know It was so hard , and My coffee was even Organic Fair trade , Milled myself Low acid & I still had problems with it , actually all caffeine for that matter , i cannot even have Decaf Tea !! 😮 But that is alright I quick cold turkey and I love they way I feel without it 🙂
    Wishing you well!! 😀

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