As with any stimulant or energy drink, when people rely on coffee for daily energy, stopping to drink it can lead to unfortunate withdrawal symptoms.
First, let us go over the general definition of coffee withdrawals. Some researches believe that 3 out of every 4 coffee drinkers is actually addicted to caffeine. In addition, over 21 million Americans drink more than 6 cups of coffee A DAY! There is about 100 mg of caffeine in 1 standard cup of coffee, and the healthy maximum amount of coffee people are not supposed to exceed in a day is 400 mg… which means that anyone drinking 6 cups of coffee a day is 200 mg over safe levels and definitely addicted to caffeine.
To clarify, this means that beyond the 21 million Americans that over consume caffeine, more of us are actually secretly addicted to caffeine as well. If every 3 in 4 coffee drinkers is addicted to caffeine, of the about 204 million Americans who drink coffee daily, about 153 million Americans would be addicted to caffeine… that is a LOT of people depending on coffee for normal daily functioning.
When somebody drinks coffee or caffeinated beverages daily or multiple times a day, the body becomes used to the consistent caffeine intake and adjusts to its effects. This is why avid coffee drinkers need more coffee than somebody who never drinks coffee. The coffee drinker’s body sees that caffeine as a normal part of its daily cycle and needs it to function properly, so it doesn't affect it the same way as someone who isn't drinking that much coffee. Caffeine is actually seen as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system, which is why there is truly a possibility of being addicted to it and there are legitimate symptoms of withdrawal. Luckily, a caffeine addiction usually does not cause serious issues to health, but too much caffeine can cause complications.
Now, when coffee drinkers start to cut back or cut coffee out completely, the body needs time to adjust to its new diet and lack of caffeine entering the brain. This adjustment period is where withdrawals come into play. More scientifically speaking, stopping drinking coffee after daily intake changes the amount of blood flow in the brain which causes withdrawal symptoms.
Caffeine causes blood flow in the brain to slow down, so stopping drinking coffee will make blood flow speed up. Also as previously discussed, it is a stimulant and blocks your brain from receiving the signals that say “I’m tired,” so going without it will cause the body to feel more tired than usual and might decrease motor function.
Common symptoms of coffee withdrawal include headaches, fatigue, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, irritability, tremors, and low energy. Thinking about these side effects logically, each effect is an opposite to a positive effect of caffeine. Caffeine causes increased energy, so withdrawals cause fatigue. It also elevates mood and increases physical performance, so it makes sense that going without would lead to the decrease in those functions.
How to avoid caffeine withdrawal
If you are feeling the need to cut down on your caffeine consumption, it is important to understand what is happening in the body and how to effectively reduce or eliminate your consumption. Just like with quitting eating sugar or smoking cigarettes, it is least effective to quit "cold turkey." This is because immediately depriving the body and brain from something it is used to will create intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The intensity of these symptoms are what force people back to drinking coffee or doing whatever it was they were trying to eliminate from their routine. If you really want to reduce your coffee intake or cut it out completely, the best way to do that would be gradually.
If you usually drink 4-5 cups of coffee a day, aim to cut down by a cup every week until you are on one cup per day, or none per day. In general, it is best to cut down your caffeine intake by 25% a week a week to avoid the withdrawals symptoms. This slow cut out process will keep intense withdrawal symptoms at bay. On average, it takes 2 months for actions to become habitual, so it will take time to allow the body to reacclimatize to your new routine. Withdrawal symptoms should not last very long though, especially if you are taking care of yourself. If you are still craving the coffee taste, you can also switch to decaffeinated options for a lower caffeine dose.
If you are doing everything possible to keep withdrawals at bay but they keep coming back harder and faster, here are some tips to get through the worst of it until you are caffeine free. The most common and most painful symptom is headache, so as with any headache, over the counter pain reliever is your best solution. Whenever headaches begin to come on, take some ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin for some relief. It is also generally important to drink water and keep the body and brain hydrated. Dehydration causes headaches, so you don’t want there to be multiple things causing your discomfort.
Another symptom to caffeine withdrawal is low energy. To fight your tiredness and low energy as a result of your caffeine withdrawal consider exercise. Working out releases endorphins in the brain that give you many of the same symptoms that caffeine does; makes you happier, more energized, more physically able, sharper mind, etc. Therefore, if you are going through caffeine withdrawals or any withdrawals for that matter, exercise is the body’s natural way to bring balance to the brain and bring it happy chemicals that are proven to help you function better mentally and physically.
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* Statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information provided by this website or this company is not a substitute for individual medical advice.