If you enjoy your caffeine, you are not alone. Turns out we drink 400 million cups of coffee each day here in the U.S., which accounts for 75 percent of our caffeine consumption. The other 25 percent comes from soft drinks, tea, and energy drinks.
There is good reason for this – caffeine makes us feel good. It gives us a boost in energy and some people feel it makes them more focused and able to think clearly. Sometimes, it’s just really hard to wake up in the morning, and coffee helps.
Lots of research out there suggests that caffeine offers some really nice health benefits, from warding off depression to providing anti-oxidants that fight inflammation. These studies are typically not of the quality level that we like to use for making medical decisions. But even if none of the benefits pan out in more rigorous research, most medical professionals would agree that a cup or two of coffee each day isn’t bad… for most of us.
But what about the rest of us? Doctors may advise some of us to cut caffeine consumption for a variety of health reasons. These include individuals who suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, heart rhythm issues, and more.
If you’ve had this conversation with your doctor, it’s probably time to quit. But that may not be easy – caffeine dependence is no joke. In fact, caffeine withdrawal is an actual medical disorder in the DSM V – the diagnostic manual used by psychiatrists and others who treat mental health issues.
Which means, for those of us who rely on a morning cup of Joe or an afternoon soft drink to function at our best, quitting caffeine isn’t easy – it comes with an array of symptoms that can interfere with our daily activities.
The most common symptom of caffeine withdrawal is headache, which can last up to three weeks after cutting caffeine. Other symptoms may include fatigue, anxiety, depression, and “brain fog,” or an inability to concentrate. Some unlucky folks even feel like they have the flu with body aches, nausea, and vomiting.
Stated simply, quitting caffeine is no fun. But there are things you can do to minimize your symptoms as you cut it out of your daily routine.
First, get plenty of sleep. You will probably feel groggy anyway, and being well-rested is good for you in general.
Try to get some exercise. Exercise early in the day for a natural energy boost. This may help counteract some of the fatigue you feel during a day without caffeine.
Stay hydrated. It’s easy to become dehydrated since you aren’t drinking your normal amount of coffee or soda. Don’t forget to replace it with something healthy. Try keeping a pitcher of lemon flavored water at your desk, or sip on herbal teas throughout the day.
Ease off the caffeine. If your doctor says it’s okay to taper off instead of quitting immediately, you might consider cutting back gradually to try to minimize symptoms. This might involve cutting out one cup per day for a few days and then cutting out another cup. Or you could add a little decaf to your caffeinated drink. Then each day add a little more decaf and a little less regular until you’re not drinking any more caffeine.
Take a pain killer. Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help diminish headaches and body achiness during the first few days. If you have other medical conditions, ask your doctor if these medications are safe for you.
If you have questions about the effects of caffeine on your health, or you’d like some advice on how to cut caffeine from your diet as painlessly as possible, our healthcare providers would love to chat with you. Get in touch to schedule your appointment in one of our Hunt County locations.