Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Thursday, 8 July 2010

Coming Off Caffeine

Coming Off Caffeine

This Blog Post follows on from my previous Post ‘Help, I’m Addicted To Coffee!’ So if you haven’t read it yet, please do so!

In my last blog post I explained in simple terms what caffeine is and how it acts on the body. Now I’m going to take this further and show how to safely cut back and remove the addiction.

If you drink a lot of coffee and suddenly cut it out you WILL have problems. If you remember caffeine affects us by ‘blocking’ the calming effects of adenosine in our neurology, allowing our neurology to run at faster speeds.

However, if you consistently take caffeine the neurons become adapted to the smaller amounts of adenosine, and therefore just work slower. Your whole neurology will slow – the brakes will be permanently on.

Without caffeine the neurons fire too slowly, slowing the brain, resulting in the fatigue and the headaches.

So there you go – caffeine can actually slow you down. And that’s not a good thing.

If you want to limit your withdrawal symptoms my suggestion is to not go cold turkey – instead gradually reduce your caffeine by say, a cup a day, giving your body an opportunity to increase the adenosine as the caffeine intake decreases. You need to allow the body to adjust its chemical balance once more.

Something else happens when we take caffeine though, and this is the source of the addiction. We have a reward pathway in our neurology that helps us to form pleasurable associations when our body’s needs are met – and that involves the production of dopamine, which makes us feel good.

And when we don’t take caffeine our bodies desire that dopamine hit – and therefore we get the coffee cravings and the withdrawal symptoms.

How do we increase our levels of dopamine? Fall in love, get good (and flavoursome) nutrition, carry out healthy activities – anything that is an activity which promotes our survival. We are hardwired to reward ourselves for doing this, and this leads to production of dopamine. We reward ourselves for being good to ourselves.

So the first way of removing cravings and the addiction is to replace the dopamine from caffeine with dopamine from being good to yourself. The second is to slowly cut back on caffeine bit by bit allowing the plasticity of the brain to re-adjust to normal levels of dopamine.

Another way is to change our ‘perception’ of the cravings. Allow yourself to have a go at this. The principle works with headaches, cravings, pain too – it works on anything that is a perception within the brain – of which these three are. It takes a bit of practice, much easier to do with a coach or hypnotherapist like me, and it really, really works.

Close your eyes, and focus on the feelings of craving. Give them a score of 1-10, 10 being really bad! Notice where they are in the body. Really notice them. Make them real by putting your hand on where they are. And as you do so, start to notice exactly what these feelings feel like. The physical aspects of the feeling. My bet is that there is movement in them, if only at a minor level. So concentrate. Usually the feelings reconnect with themselves, ‘spinning’. Notice the speed and direction of the spin. Apply your mind, and make it spin faster. As you spin it faster your headache/craving will probably get worse. The same will happen if you make the feeling physically larger using your mind. Very much worse if you spin it faster and make it larger as well.

So do the reverse, and slow it down. Use your mind to change your perception by slowing the spinning…and once it has stopped…spin it slowly at first in the other direction. This is now a different feeling, so spin it faster. And as you spin it faster and faster in the opposite direction, make it smaller. Shrink it down to a size of a pea. Notice how the craving is reducing all the time you slow and reverse the feelings, and shrink them down. Notice what the cravings are like now on a scale of 1-10.

If you want them to go down still further ‘dissociate’ yourself from the feelings. Again, apply your mind (this is all working on the level of perception), and float the feeling out of your body. Float it further away, and then as far as you can so you can’t feel it any more.

Give it a go, and trust me, it works a treat! Certain things are experienced only through the brain’s perception, and these include cravings, headaches and pain. Yes, there will usually be a root underlying physical cause behind it. Often pain which only exists on an ‘emotional’ level as its roots in physical cause – even if the physical cause is long gone, or created by the mind/body connection in the first place. But how we ‘perceive’ those feelings is purely in the mind. And we can change them…

And this will lead me into a future series of articles on pain – what it is, how it works, and what we can do to either control it (switch it on or off), regulate or manage it. And doing this with clients is something I am passionate about, building good experience of freeing clients up from the burdens of chronic pain.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Help, I’m addicted To Coffee!

I’ve been known to take a wee bit too much coffee. With my will to give my Personal Training clients the best sessions I can, quite often I’ll take a coffee before each one to ‘pick me up’ and check I’m on form. I regularly do blocks of 7 PT clients in a row – that’s a lot of coffee going down me!

Whereas a little caffeine buzz can be a good thing, not many people know what caffeine is, let alone what it does. So this blog post sets out to give you some information.

We can take on board caffeine through coffee, tea, stimulant drinks, chocolate, and a few other sources as well. Interestingly, the average cup of coffee has 100mg caffeine, cup of tea 50mg, 10-50mg in colas, and Red Bull has around 80mg.

Yes, that’s right; the average cup of coffee has more caffeine than a red bull. Interestingly, tea has more caffeine than coffee, but when we take them as a drink we directly ingest coffee whereas tea is infused. Therefore there is more caffeine in a cup of coffee than a cup of tea.

And now a quick science bit.

Caffeine is found in plants as a natural neurotoxin. The plants use it to protect themselves. It’s a defence mechanism against certain bugs.

With us, it plays havoc with our ANS (Autonomic Nervous System). In our neurology there is a chemical called adenosine which has the job of slowing our nerves down. Caffeine blocks it from doing its job, by taking its place, and therefore the nerves are free to work faster. This puts a perceived ‘emergency’ reaction into the body and the sympathetic system kicks in, starting the preparations for the GAS (General Adaptation Syndrome, or the Freeze-Flight-Fight (Fear-Feint) reaction). Voila, you are awake.

In simple terms, caffeine takes the brakes off.

And with the brakes off our neurology runs fast, and creates an increased level of dopamine activity in the brain – just like cocaine and other stimulants. Your body starts to look forward to the caffeine hit.

And the more caffeine you take, the more the body becomes desensitised to it, meaning you need more caffeine for the same effect. This is why you end up taking more and more caffeine to get a ‘lift’.

My caffeine intake levels are too high – and I’ve started the process of weaning myself off the coffee and caffeine. How do you do that? I’ll be posting another blog post soon explaining exactly what happens to cause the addiction, the affects of withdrawal, and of course suggesting some simple ways to handle it comfortably!