Why I Quit Coffee: A Lesson On Listening To Your Body

Rahim Kanji_portrait 112112I find a lot of times, patients (including myself) start to lose their mind-body connection when it comes to food. With science supporting the addictive potential of processed foods such as soda and chips, we are starting to not only lose our ability to realize when we are full, but also the ability to realize the impact food is having on our body.

Let me start by my own experience. I used to love coffee. The taste, the smell and the social experience surrounded by drinking coffee. Now, I’m by no means a coffee expert, but I did know that it woke me up when I was tired, tasted great and was a great way to connect with friends. When I was in naturopathic medical school, we were told how sensitive people can be to coffee. It can irritate the gastric lining causing heartburn, cause diarrhea/indigestion, cause anxiety and in the long-term, make your body even more exhausted than when you began drinking coffee. I shrugged this off because I never felt different from coffee other than being awake and a bit wired. So that meant I wasn’t sensitive to it ……right?

Later that year, I decided to go on a detox program where you eliminate foods that commonly cause sensitivities in the North American population. Such foods were (but not limited to) dairy, wheat, coffee, refined sugar, and eggs. This process gives your body time to heal and repair. After you’re supposed to introduce each food you’ve eliminated one-by-one, like a science experiment and see how you feel with the food compared to how you’ve been feeling on the detox diet. What I found out astonished me. I remember sitting in class when I was reintroducing coffee and feeling an INTENSE bout of anxiety for no apparent reason. Midterms were over, I had no real life stress at that time, my grades were good, and I wasn’t even THINKING about anything stressful. The only thing that I had done was go to a coffee shop and order a big cup of dark coffee. I knew the coffee gave me some digestive issues, but now that I had a baseline of calmness (from not drinking coffee on the diet) to compare to, and I realized the affect it had on my body. And it wasn’t just that time; every instance after that where I drank coffee, it became more evident the effects it had on me. What I realized was that we can’t expect to hear what our bodies are saying if we aren’t actively listening. A debilitating stomach ache shouldn’t be what it takes for someone to take a second glance at what they ate. Especially in our fast-paced world where lunch is eaten at your desk in 15 minutes and where a lot of processed snacks actually impair our ability to know when we’re full, being introspective about food is key. Taking time to do a detox, or just being more cognizant of how your body is feeling from the foods you eat can go a long way.

Are there any foods you had a similar experience with? How do you tune into your body? Let’s support each other in the comments below.


Dr. Rahim Kanji


Dr. Rahim Kanji is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Toronto, Canada. He has a passion for evidence-based natural medicine, specifically empowering his patients to make nutritional changes which create dramatic impacts to their health. For more information, visit his website at www.rahimkanjind.com.

  • Arun Abey

    An insightful piece – more people should take notice of it

  • Angel c.

    I just had a similar experience with coffee! I stopped drinking it everyday for about three weeks, I found myself feel extra energized and just great overall. I had large coffee yesterday and have been regretting it since, I feel tense, anxious and just not good! I never knew the effects it was having on me until now, the difference is so noticable and I loved the way I feel without coffee, therefore I quit! Quit coffee!

  • rocmon

    Coffee has traditionally been used in my culture to help trigger you body’s first movement… first thing in the morning – i found I’m feeling much better in general if I just enjoy this coffee only and avoiding the Starbucks lines during the day make my wallet feel better too! 🙂

  • Great blog. I have a true addiction to certain foods and I know there is an emotional aspect to them. I can’t have a box of cookies in my house because I will eat the entire thing. I’d love to be able to give up refined sugar, because I know that it makes me emotionally feel comforted and accepted. Being an alcoholic (sober 2 years), I know the dangers of turning to something external to fill up emotions. That is the funny thing about numbing- you numb the good and the bad.

  • Nicole

    Thank you for sharing your coffee experience…it has helped me confirm what I was feeling while drinking coffee. I recently started (on Easter acutally), a raw vegan detox cleanse. I am a vegan, so my diet is pretty clean except, I like my coffee a little to much and sugar too.
    Luckily, I became aware that my french coffee press was my new best friend for the last 6 months. I started to notice how snappy, wiped out by the end of the day, and I experienced the exact same anxiety you described. So, during this cleanse I’ve eliminated these products. I switched to green teas, mate, and chai. I love them all and the benefits they provide to my body. Let me tell you what…this week without coffee and sugar has been liberating. I feel a lot more alert, energetic, happy, still working with anxiety (think its because I put pointless deadlines on my self). Anyway, I miss the preparation, smell, taste but not the noticeable effects it had on my body.
    Cheers, N

  • Audrey

    When I first started receiving acupuncture treatments I went on an elimination diet to help determine the cause of my digestive issues. I begged off of dairy, wheat, coffee and acidic/spicy foods. In a very short time, my issues went away. When I lapse and eat any of the above, I feel it. 🙁 The process of eliminating food groups turned on my sense of listening to my body, and I was able to blatantly tell what it liked and especially didn’t like. It blew me away how insensitive I was to my own body’s signals to myself.
    Thanks for this excellent article.

  • Jade

    I have always been sensitive to caffeine. I eliminated it from my diet for years and when I tried to reintroduce it, my body said “no way jose!”. Anxiety, restlessness, problems sleeping, and a crash at the end of the day. My problem is that I looooove the smell and taste of coffee. So, I have a question. Everyone overlooks decaf, what about that as a substitute? Just as bad? I know there are some decafs out there that go through a water based rather than chemical based decaffeination. And I know it will still always have trace amounts of caffeine. But is it better than drinking regular? that hot, rich, flavorful ritual would be nice to have. Thoughts?

    • sue

      BThink if you do go for decaf, is best swiss water less chemicals and fair trade orangic even better, does have little caffine like chocolate. There are some susubstutes, like roasted barley at health food stores. Coffee is responsible for a lot rainforest clearing and cheap labor, besides having a lot of.pestides and being highly acidic.

  • Kerrymcd

    I have been wanting to try an elimination/detox program to try and figure out what causes some of my (not dibilitating, but definitely uncomfortable) ailments. Is there a specific program anyone would recommend?

    • Hi Kerry. I can highly recommend looking into Dr Robert O Young’s work – author of the pH Miracle. I have used the basis of his system with many clients over the years and consistently achieved terrific success coupled with zero ‘detox crisis’ reactions. Check it out and see if it resonates with you. All the best, Willow xx

  • That’s why I am kind to Gwyneth Paltrow. She is right, but her cookbook looks simple. In eliminating a lot, you are left with simple things to cook. What to eat is a challenge when you have removed a lot already, LOL.

  • Alice

    I experienced the same when I went thru a detox…but the level of emotional confort that coffee with milk gives me was worth..only once a day.
    I have read some about how tolerance to certain foods is tied to race…for instance asians are very sensitive to dairy because they are genetically conditioned by hundreds of years of consuming soy based…I dont think foods are one size fits all…

  • Alice

    I find that refined sugar, processed foods are far more damaging to confuse the messages from your bodies, just look how a whole population is damaged as opposed to centuries of the world conssuming coffee..

  • Coffee

    I had major stomach upsets and low energy and was told by my GP I may have IBS. I gave up dairy, wheat, gluten and coffee for 2 months and then reintroduced them. After 3 weeks I felt better than I had in the past. When I had a coffee I became ill and had to vomit. I had a stronger reaction to it after giving it up than I had when I was drinking it regularly. I am now coffee free. I miss it but my burning stomach does not!