There are some instances when reducing or eliminating the consumption of caffeine can trigger symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. Even consuming caffeine for three consecutive days can result in caffeine withdrawal symptoms when you stop using caffeine.
Studies show that approximately 50 percent of individuals experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms when they eliminate or cut back on caffeine consumption, while around 13 percent experience withdrawal symptoms so severe that they cannot go to work.
.Common sources of caffeine
Usually, the more caffeine you consume, the greater the risk of experiencing caffeine withdrawal symptoms when you stop or reduce your intake rate, and the greater the chances of experiencing more severe withdrawal symptoms.
Caffeine is found in many plants, though the most widely consumed are coffee, tea, cocoa pod, cola nut, guarana, and mate. Caffeine is so popular that an estimated 80 – 90 percent of adults and children in North America consume caffeine habitually. Only 15 percent have stopped taking caffeine completely due to concerns about their health and unpleasant side effects.
In the US, the average caffeine consumption for a healthy adult is 280 mg, which is the equivalent of 84 ounces of soft drink or 17 ounces of brewed coffee.
Studies indicate that quantities as low as 30 mg of caffeine can affect your mood and behavior, while 100 mg per day can result in physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon cutting back.
The leading dietary source of caffeine among US adults is coffee, while the largest source among children is soft drinks. An estimated 70 percent of soft drinks in the US market contain caffeine, including some non-cola drinks such as cream soda, orange soda, root beer, and lemon-lime drinks.
Some coffee ice creams and yogurts contain a considerable amount of caffeine. Dark chocolate candy contains about 30 mg of caffeine while chocolate milk, milk chocolate, and cocoa contain less than 10 mg of caffeine, which is not enough to initiate any mood and behavioral effects, leave along cause dependence.
There are also some medicinal products that contain substantial amounts of caffeine: over-the-counter stimulant medications like Vivarin and NoDoz contain 100 – 200 mg of caffeine per tablet, while caffeine-containing analgesics such as Midol, Anacin, and Excedrin deliver 64 – 130 mg of caffeine per two-tablet dose.
.What is caffeine withdrawal?
Caffeine is a stimulant that can be chemically addictive. It is the most commonly used mood-altering drug across the globe, and while it does not necessarily damage your health to the same extent as other substances, you can easily develop dependence.
If you abruptly quit caffeine, especially if you have been taking two or more cups a day can lead to coffee withdrawal with physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms.
In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association classifies caffeine intoxication and caffeine withdrawal as mental disorders that can interfere with your daily life.
Caffeine withdrawal symptoms can be initiated by abstinence from daily doses of as little as 100 mg a day. But the severity of symptoms tends to increase with the intake of greater amounts.
Studies have also revealed a genetic propensity toward caffeine dependence and withdrawal. This implies that if someone in your family has experienced the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, you should take extra caution when cutting back.
.How much caffeine can you safely consume?
Studies suggest that drinking coffee can boost productivity and improve your health, but only if you consume up to four cups of coffee a day or less than 400mg of caffeine per day. But this only applies to healthy adults.
Pregnant women, surgical patients individuals who suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, individuals with irregular or faster heart rates, and individuals who are prone to caffeine dependency may, however, need to limit their caffeine consumption or quit the habit altogether.
This is because studies have linked the excess consumption of caffeine to a number of adverse effects, including:
- Modest increases in blood pressure
- Increased serum cholesterol due to lipids found in coffee (unfiltered caffeinated and decaffeinated)
- Increased risk for cardiovascular disease
- Delayed conception and lower birth weight
.Caffeine withdrawal symptoms
The symptoms of caffeine withdrawal usually start about 12 hours from the last caffeine intake and are at their worst after 24 – 48 hours, lasting up to two months for those consuming 1,000 mg or more per day.
These symptoms vary in both type and severity from one person to the other. Common caffeine symptoms include:
Caffeine headaches typically begin behind the ears as they move up to the front of the head. It is gradual in development and diffuses, though it can also be throbbing and severe
You experience an unusual sense of fatigue that causes you to feel sleepy, drowsy, or yawning even when sitting up straight
Besides feeling drowsy, some people tend to lose their sense of balance from caffeine abstinence
The diminished or lack of caffeine in your bloodstream will cause you to feel a lack of energy, sluggish, unmotivated, and unproductive.
After a few hours without caffeine, everyone and everything seems to be getting on your nerves. You feel miserable, with diminished contentedness. It’s best to isolate yourself for a while.
6. Flu-like symptoms
Withdrawing from caffeine usually causes a stuffy nose, sinus pressure, blocked sinuses, hot and cold spells, stiffness, and heavy feelings in arms/legs
Caffeine is known to stimulate the bowel. When you reduce your intake or stop taking caffeine altogether, the colon gets affected too.
8. Nausea and vomiting
The first few days of withdrawal are very hard, and many people don’t even think about food. The feeling of nausea and vomiting causes them to skip many meals, adding to the feeling of lethargy
9. Lack of concentration
There is little you can focus on during the withdrawal period, whether it is studying, working, or operating machinery. It is best to stay away
Some people have reported not being able to sleep due to caffeine withdrawal
11. Muscle pain, stiffness, and cramping
People who are used to taking caffeine before exercise can experience all kinds of problems with their muscles if they cut back or stop.
While some people experience anxiety from caffeine consumption, others experience the same and even panic attacks from withdrawing
13. Brain fog
Brain fog is described as the inability to have coherent thoughts or difficulty doing basic tasks. Some people have reported experiencing brain fog from caffeine withdrawal.
In some cases, caffeine withdrawal has caused users to become disillusioned and lose focus in life. Temporary blues are not that bad, but if you were previously troubled or struggling with depression, cutting back on caffeine can aggravate the situation.
15. Heart Rhythm Abnormalities
Caffeine is said to stimulate the heart muscle. During caffeine abstinence, some people have reported experiencing changes in their heart rhythm, resulting in low blood pressure and palpitations.
.How to manage caffeine withdrawal symptoms
When caffeine withdrawal symptoms occur, the severity varies from mild to extreme. In a worst case scenario, withdrawal can produce clinically substantial distress or impairment in performing daily tasks, and on rare occasions, be completely incapacitating.
The obvious solution to reducing withdrawal symptoms is to consume more caffeine. But this solution is only rational if you discontinued your caffeine intake for an easily changeable reason, like trying out a new beverage instead of the usual coffee, or running out of coffee before you can get more.
But if you intentionally cut back or discontinue your caffeine consumption, you can reduce the severity of some of the withdrawal symptoms by reducing the amount of coffee in your diet gradually.
A good number of people who make the decision to overcome an addiction or stop a bad habit tend to use the “cold turkey” method where they drop the habit suddenly. The problem with this technique for caffeine elimination is that it worsens the symptoms considerably.
Here are some examples:
- If you get your caffeine from coffee, you can reduce your intake by half a cup a day, or by drinking a blend of decaf and regular coffee, or by slowly switching to decaf.
- For tea lovers, you can gradually reduce your intake, start drinking decaf teas or try teas with minimal caffeine levels
- If you like colas, consider drinking smaller sizes or gradually scaling back on the number you consume every day
In addition to reducing your daily caffeine intake or replacing caffeinated beverages with herbal ones, you should get enough sleep to overcome fatigue and dizziness.
You should also consider:
- Starting an exercise or workout routine to help boost your energy levels naturally (through the release of dopamine) without caffeine
- Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated
- Improving your diet so it contains plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Taking pain relievers like ibuprofen, Tylenol, or aspirin to ease a caffeine headache and muscle pain symptoms