With some estimates noting that 80 to 90% of adults and children in North America habitually consume caffeine, withdrawal symptoms can be an expected occurrence in individuals who stop drinking coffee or tea, either temporarily or completely. And while reducing your intake of caffeine
in some instances may be beneficial, the side effects from removing caffeine from your diet entirely can range from mild to severe, depending on your daily intake.
The “How’s” and “Why’s” of Caffeine Withdrawal
Caffeine is addictive because the molecule fits perfectly into our brain’s adenosine receptors (they tell our brain that it’s time to sleep). With the caffeine in the way, our brain doesn’t know that it’s time to feel sleepy, and the dopamine molecules (they make us feel good) work better. The adenosine that cannot reach the receptors tells our body to produce more adrenaline, thereby making us feel more alert.
Over time, our brain creates more adenosine receptors since the caffeine keeps blocking the original ones, thus causing a tolerance to the caffeine molecules, making us need to drink more to feel more awake.
When a person doesn’t have their normal intake of caffeine, the brain is then flooded with adenosine and dopamine levels drop, causing our brain’s chemistry to be out of balance. This increase in adenosine and the drop in dopamine and adrenaline cause many of the caffeine withdrawal symptoms that some of us have likely experienced before.
Common Withdrawal Symptoms
The most common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include headache, fatigue/sleepiness, irritability, and lack of concentration. Generally, these symptoms start within 12-24 hours of not having caffeine, and peak about 1-2 days later. About 50% of those who abstain from caffeine for a day get headaches. When other symptoms were included, this percentage jumped to around 70%.
Making the Transition Easier
To help reduce the severity of the symptoms, there are some steps you can take if you plan to eliminate caffeine from your diet
- The biggest help is to gradually reduce your consumption. If you drink 4 cups a day, drink 3 cups, then reduce to 2. You can also include decaf or half-caf in one or two of those cups each day, if you can’t completely eliminate a whole cup at a time. This gradual reduction will slowly acclimate your brain to the reduced levels of caffeine.
- When you remove a cup from your intake, replace it with herbal teas or water. This helps to soothe the symptoms, and also keep you hydrated. Dehydration amplifies the symptoms, especially for headaches!
- Since your body no longer produces more adrenaline and your brain has the excess “sleepy” chemical, plan to get more rest to combat the potential for drowsiness and irritability. Try reducing your intake towards the end of the week, so that you can rest more on the weekend, for example.
- Get plenty of exercise. This is a natural energy booster, as it not only gives you more adrenaline but also produces dopamine.
The side effects from removing caffeine from your diet can be extremely unpleasant, but if you plan ahead, you can greatly reduce their effects. Follow these steps to ease your way into a decaffeinated life. And don’t forget – CoffeeForLess can still help you out! We feature a wide variety of both decaf coffee styles
, as well as teas that can be the perfect substitute for your morning ritual!