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Giving Up Caffeine Doesn’t Have To Be a Headache

July 07, 2022

Millions of us begin each day with a welcome jolt from our morning coffee, tea or soda.

Occasionally, however, medical conditions or lifestyle changes call for ending our dependence on caffeine.

Do it right, and you can wean yourself from caffeine and barely notice the difference.

Do it wrong, and you can end up battling headaches and fatigue that can last a week or longer.

What Does Caffeine Do?

Caffeine is found naturally in a variety of plants. One of those, coffee, has been cultivated and brewed for many hundreds of years. Tea has likely been brewing much longer. Sodas and energy drinks are more recent methods of conveying caffeine into the body. Another well-loved source of caffeine is chocolate, especially dark chocolate. It’s also in some over-the-counter medications.

Once you consume caffeine, it quickly gets into the circulatory system and the brain, stimulating the central nervous system. That’s where you get the jolt. Caffeine drinkers are likely to feel more awake, more aware and more alert.

As with most things, you need to use caffeine in moderation. A safe daily dose is about 400 milligrams, or about two to three cups. But a lot depends on the strength of the brew. An 8-ounce cup of Starbucks dark roast will have about 200 milligrams of caffeine, while a similar cup of Folgers may have half that much. A cup of tea typically has significantly less caffeine than coffee.

Is Caffeine Good or Bad?

Caffeine is mostly good for you. In addition to the psychoactive benefits from a morning cup or two, studies have shown other surprising benefits.

Consuming coffee, specifically, may reduce the risk of gout, a painful form of arthritis that often affects areas near the big toe. Coffee also has been shown to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

That’s encouraging, but sometimes a medical condition can mean giving up or cutting back on caffeine and your beloved morning cup of Joe.

High blood pressure that’s difficult to control might be one condition. If you have anxiety or insomnia, you also might be better off giving up caffeine. Gastrointestinal issues, such as acid reflux, are another possible reason to quit or curtail.

Pregnant women also might choose to cut back their caffeine to reduce the risk of a miscarriage. So might women who are breastfeeding.

Sometimes, people choose to quit simply because they no longer wish to have a dependency on caffeine.

Quitting the Right Way

Giving up caffeine can be a relatively painless experience, as long as you don’t go cold turkey.

The side effects of abruptly halting your caffeine intake can include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Fogginess
  • Low energy
  • Drowsiness
  • Irritability

Instead, wean yourself from caffeine. If you drink three cups a day, start reducing your intake, or mix your caffeinated blend with some decaf. Continue reducing the amount of caffeine you’re drinking each day over a couple of weeks.

You may notice a slightly foggy-headed feeling, but it shouldn’t be severe. Mild headaches can be treated with over-the-counter remedies.

Take it slow, make it gradual and there’s a good chance you’ll avoid the worst symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.

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