The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Why have I given up coffee?

I keep asking myself that, pretty much every hour I’m awake.

It all comes down to the CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) I’ve been suffering from for over 4 years.

If you don’t know what CFS feels like, then read “Fatigued. Chronically”.

Back in March of this year the medical establishment gave up on me (read “Win some; lose some: you’re a lost cause”) so I thought I’d try another route and went off to see a nutritionist.

I was never entirely convinced by the machine that supposedly tested me for allergies and intolerances, but when I was told it was highly likely that I had an excessive build up of yeast in my gut, and that “Candida” can cause all the CFS symptoms I suffer from, then I felt I had to at least give it a go to try and tackle it.

This has required giving up:
Yeast – therefore bread, and a multitude of different things containing yeast based flavourings
Fungi – not just mushrooms, but Quorn products
Anything Fermented – obviously alcohol, but also anything containing vinegar or even soy sauce
Fruit – including dried fruit, because of all the natural sugars in them
And probably coffee/caffeine.

And you have to be absolute with this. If you decide, “Oh what the heck, it’s my son’s birthday – surely one small slice of cake must be permissible?” then the burst of sugar could feed the Candida and you’d be straight back to square 1 – weeks of sacrifice undone in a weak moment.

So for over 3 months I’ve been sticking rigorously to this regime. Apart from the coffee. And for the first week I still had sugar in my coffee, because it is vile stuff without sugar. I did abandon the sugar, but even after 3 months, my palate has still not adjusted to coffee without sugar.

But I hadn’t quit the coffee. Why? Because it’s only after a coffee, for an hour or so, that I actually feel alive. And to give up that feeling has been a step too far.

And if that sounds odd, you didn’t read that post I pointed you to – so go and read “Fatigued. Chronically”. Then tell me if you could stop feeling like that for an hour or so, twice a day, you wouldn’t take the drug – even if the side effects are a drop in mood and energy afterwards and a periodic headache. Go on – tell me. And I won’t believe you.

But after 3 months, there has been no discernable improvement in my condition. I’m not convinced of the diagnosis.

Ah, but Kim – you still have the coffee! That’s probably still feeding the Candida! What if you could have cured yourself of the CFS, if you’d only given up the coffee?

And that’s the dilemma. In order to see if it will work, I have to give up the one thing that keeps me sane.

So now I have to go back to experiencing perpetual tiredness with no break, just in case.

Of course with the recent change of circumstances (see “Twice the number of people, but the house is the same size”), the timing couldn’t be worse. But then there is never a good time for giving up an addiction – it always sucks.

Apparently it only takes a maximum of 9 days for caffeine to completely work its way out of your system. Depending on your physiology most people will only suffer withdrawal symptoms for a few days, and some won’t be bothered at all. Lucky bastards.

My plan now is to endure until I’ve been at least 3 full weeks without any caffeine. And if there is still no improvement in my condition, I will start reintroducing foodstuffs one at a time to see if I have any reaction. Probably starting with fruit, which I still have a hard time believing can be bad for me.

But I cannot reintroduce anything until I know I’ve given it my all on this wretched regime.

So to return to the original question, “Why have I given up coffee?” The answer is so I can prove the whole bloody thing is wrong and I can start eating properly again.

And if I sound grumpy and irritable, it's because I am.


savannah said...

sweet mary sunshine, sugar, i'd be more than grumpy and irritable. i'd be homicidal! i so hope this gives y'all an answer! xoxoxox

Anonymous said...

Dear Kim- sounds grueling and horrific and I don't mean just the caffeine! My sympathies - I'm not a fan of these kinds of dx but I know that when I was in pain I was willing to try anything. I don't want to be a pill pusher either but have you considered something like Adderall (usually prescribed for ADHD). It is a prescribed stimulant and it might get around the no coffee issue? It's purely an idea- you probably have already thought of it and hate it but I'm just putting it out there - who knows?

Carole said...

You are determined Kim. I don't think many would be able to give fruits, breads, sugar all in one fell swoop. I surely hope this works.

Pat said...

I'm glad you are giving it a real trial but it figures after what you have done before so bravely.
I would be interested in what your diet actually is just now, with all the forbidden things.
But with all the extra stuff going on I doubt you'll have time to record it. Maybe a later post when there's a lull.

Attila The Mom said...

Aw man, I hear you. I had to give up caffiene for the most part because of heart problems. Why take meds to slow my heart rhythm and continue to drink stuff that will speed it up?

I am allowed one cup of coffee in the morning. And believe you me, I have learned to savor it. By 1p.m. my ass is dragging.

angryparsnip said...

OMG ! savannah's comment crack me up !
I hope this all works out for you or at lest find some answers ?

I had/have Valley fever = arthritis = Fibromyalgia and now the markers for Lupus. So I understand your pain and exhaustion !
I too have over the years given up all sorts of food and after 30+ years I said what the hell and have added some back.
I hope it works out for you, please keep up the posts so we can see how you are doing. I don't always comment but I read your posts.

fingers crossed, parsnip

erika said...

Ah the candida diet... I've been on it a while ago for like a year, but for me it was giving up sugar and bread was the hardest. Fruits are usually eliminated because of their high sugar content, which causes fermentation in the stomach. Or so they claim. Stevia was suggested to replace sugar, but back then it was not available in Hungary. My naturopath (who was also an MD) told me that the elimination diet was only the first phase, after killing the candida off, the good bacteria and the balance in the gut needs to be restored. So he prescribed some probiotics and prebiotics. In the first phase, I was taking some grapefruitseed extract and other herbal supplements. Also, it's supposed to take a while for the detox diet to work. I know mainstream medicine rejects the whole candida overgrowth thing, but I also know people whom the diet
helped tremendously - for whatever reason. I think it's worth a try, but it takes lots and lots of self-discipline. And you have to be very conscious about your diet, since so many food items are eliminated. I was allowed to eat tart fruits, like grapefruit and green apples though. I possibly still have recipes, I could try to dig them up for you, if you wanted me to. Sorry for the long comment. I really hope you will feel better soon.

Eryl Shields said...

If you prove it wrong you'll feel smug and be able to go back to normal eating/drinking, and if you prove it right you'll start to feel well again: it's a win, win situation!

V said...

Wise words from Eryl! Blooming rotten, mind you...

hope said...

I often believe it boils down to listening to YOUR body, not what the doctors think.

If I'd done that when I went in to discuss my recent onset of asthma I'd be on high blood pressure medicine and an anti-anxiety med, all because going to the doctor makes me nervous! I'm a great caregiver...but a lousy patient. When the Doc tried to convince me I was obviously about to explode, I smiled prettily, got the asthma med, took HALF what he prescribed and forgot the rest. I know a little medication goes a long way with my system; that's just how it is for me.

I'm breathing better, sleeping well at night and have not murdered anyone due to high blood pressure or any need to be sedated for anxiety...which was funny because that med turned out to be for people suffering the DTs from alcohol withdrawal...and I don't drink!

Hang in there my friend. I hope your experiment is over soon enough for you to feel better again. Until then, you can be grouchy with us and we'll keep offering our shoulders.

Fay's Too said...

Good on ya, Friend.
Add some co q 10. It will work wonders.

Kim Ayres said...

Savannah - I was feeling homicidal, but didn't have the energy to lift the axe...

Starrlife - At the moment I'm trying to see how I cope without any artificial stimulants, but I do feel especially wary of pills for it. If I decide it's not making any difference I'll probably go back to tea drinking (something I've not done in years), or at worst, return to the coffee

Carole - thank you - so do I.. :)

Pat - Maggie is the real star when it comes to my diet. It is only her skill and expertise has made it possible for me to go this route at all. I eat a home-made muesli in the mornings which has various seeds and oat flakes in it with unsweetened soya milk for breakfasts. Maggie usually makes some kind of vegetable or lentil soup for lunch, and most of our evening meals are vegetarian but without cheese - we had veggy lasagne tonight, for example, and carrot quiche the other night. If I'm deperate for a snack, then oatcakes with tahini are pretty good.

Attila - you have my empathy :)

AngryParsnip - if you click on the Mental and Physical Health category, there are many posts about the CFS, so this won't be the last :)

Erika - I did a stint of probiotics and chromium too. The plan is to slowly reintroduce things and see whether I have any reaction. But I have to say, with not even the slightest discernable difference in my condition, I remain sceptical about the diagnosis of Candida

Eryl - that's the plan :)

V - Eryl is a very wise person :)

Hope - unfortunately it always feels like a lottery as to whether the doctor you see knows anything about the condition you're suffering from. The odds are higher than randomly grabbing someone off the street, but they are far from guaranteed

Kim Ayres said...

Sorry Fay - missed you in the ether there somewhere. I've tried that before (I think), but not noticable difference

litzi said...

Hi Kim,
Your tenacity is absolutely remarkable. After reading all the things you aren’t eating, exactly what are you ingesting?

Best of luck! I hope your experiment is a success…

Roschelle said...

Wishing you the best of luck with that. Life is about choices....I hope your proactive stance regarding your condition produces the results you're looking for....and we'll continue to hope and pray for!

Anonymous said...

Myself as a coffee drinker can imagine how difficult a habit it would be to break. For your health I'd like to cheer you on to break it.

Thrup'ny bits said...

Mmm I had to find out what it is one can eat on this diet. Didn't seem too bad but then I don't have to adhere to it. It was the list of what I would have to avoid if I were on it that depressed me . . . So I guess just look at all the good things one can eat.

Looking forward to hearing if this works for you. I liked what Eryl had to say, too.


BrightenedBoy said...

Quite right to be irritable, too. On the up side, though, this must be helping with your weigh loss efforts.

I mean, when you take out everything you're not allowed to have, what is there left to eat?

Jayne Martin said...

Oh, my friend, that all so sucks scissors. I would probably enjoy eating and drinking whatever I wanted and just drop handfuls of methamphetamine because, really, I have no discipline.

I hope giving up the coffee is the final piece of the puzzle that works for you, but if not at least you will have a great "I Told You So, You Lying Rotten Bastard" post.

Brahm (alfred lives here) said...

Well good luck with this, quite the task!

I had to give up all alochol a number of years ago for allergy overload reasons, and got used to that pretty quickly. I would be okay with most of what you have to do, however the coffee would be the biggest challenge.

I would be well beyond grumpy...

Z said...

My mother had been ill for a long time, heard about candida and went on an elimination diet - the more it didn't help, the more she became convinced that she had to give up more and more things and that it would work sooner or later. It never bloody did and it made all our lives a misery.

And, from my mother's experience, trying a whole lot of alternative therapies may not help either. Funny that, even the last week before her terminal cancer was diagnosed, her kinesiologist, her nutritionist and her reflexologist, who were all so sure of curing her every time she paid them, never saw it coming (her symptoms were nothing like yours, btw, I'm not trying to worry you).

I do think it's worth one final go with the coffee, but then if that doesn't make a real difference, it isn't candida.

pilgrimchick said...

I can entirely relate to you--after surgery about fifteen years ago, I ended up with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the better part of about two years. I was tired all the time, and I used to fall asleep at odd times and not know how or when I had done so. I hope that this works and that you at least get something out of the sacrifice.

Helen Mac said...


This is tough, I've done it too but there are different auhtors that recommend different ways of doing it. I'll dig out my book and let you know which one it is.

If you have tried chromium, have you tried supplementing with magnesium, bee pollen and aloe vera?

You could go to a website of a supplement manufacturer where you can download a health questionnaire and if you send it back to them, they will analyse it all and recommend a supplement strategy. Obviously they sell all the supplements! But they are an ethical company, they have doctors working for them, they are not cranks. And I don't work for them either!

Sorry to hear that your elimination diet is not doing the business as you expected. But its worth trying all these things, if conventional medicine can't do anything for you. And its especially wrth trying the things that dont involve paying practitioners for therapies that may or may not work.

Good luck Kim, keep going

Mimi and Tilly said...

Kim, I can really relate to what you are saying. I went through the exact same regime, and after months of fannying around and dreaming about sausage sandwiches, I narrowed it down to just a small number of things to avoid. The artificial sweeteners in soft drinks, sugar, alcohol, mushrooms and anything with caffeine in were the culprits for me. Oh joy. I am now a tee total, decaff-tea drinking, toast eating maniac with an unhealthy need for ready salted crisps so that I don't hit the cakes or the gin. Who knew?

It's total poo. I understand.

Kim Ayres said...

Litzi - see my response to Pat just before your comment to get an idea of what I do actually eat :)

Roschelle - unfortunately I don't pray, but we live in hope :)

Allen - halfway through week 3...

Alan - Eryl is wise :)

Jayne - The "I Told You So, You Lying Rotten Bastard" post probably requires more energy than I have. When you have little reserves, it's amazing how much righteous indignation drains them away

Brahm - it's those who have to live with me I feel most sorry for...

Z - I have a healthy degree of scepticism about all these things, but am getting incresingly desperate. I woould settle for a damn good placebo right now - I hear they can be very effective...

Pilgrim chick - unfortunately I don't fall asleep that much - I just desperately, desperately want to...

Helen - I've done Chromium and pro-biotics. Other things will be tried as and when

Emma - glad you managed to find out what it was you needed to avoid. So can you eat fruit and dried fruit, or do they count as sugar?

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