If you’re like billions of other Americans, you rely on caffeine to wake you up in the morning and keep you going throughout the day. You may convince yourself drinking coffee is all about pleasure and that if you wanted to stop, you could. But then you go a morning without coffee, and you feel sluggish, irritable, and headachy (we've been there). If you’re wondering if you're experiencing caffeine withdrawal, chances are the answer is yes.
Though not a drug in the typical sense of the word, caffeine is, in fact, a drug. As with any drug consumed regularly and then stopped abruptly, caffeine can cause withdrawal symptoms in its regular "users." Caffeine withdrawal symptoms include low energy, fatigue, headache, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood, tremors, and poor concentration. These symptoms can last anywhere from two to nine days, depending on one's "level of dependence."
The good news is you can reduce your caffeine intake and the risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms with a caffeine detox. Below you will find everything you need to know about caffeine, caffeine detoxes, and how to approach the detoxification process.
What Exactly is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant commonly derived from cacao plants, tea, and, of course, coffee beans. It stimulates your brain and central nervous system and helps to prevent the onset of fatigue.
Today, caffeine is commonly found in foods and beverages most likely in your fridge or pantry. Examples of foods and drinks that contain caffeine include the following:
- Coffee (yes, even decaf)
- Chocolate and cocoa
- Green tea
- Energy drinks
- Chewing gum
- Chocolate flavored foods and beverages
Given the above list, it should come as no surprise: Caffeine is widely popular. Who doesn't love chocolate everything?
Benefits of a Caffeine Detox
In moderation, caffeine is harmless to most. In fact, caffeine provides several health benefits, including improved mood and brain function, improved metabolism, protection against heart disease, liver protection, decreased cancer risk, and increased longevity. However, there is a thing as too much of something good, especially if you're intaking more than you should.
In addition to eliminating the symptoms of caffeine overload, which may include insomnia, headache, irritability, nervousness, muscle tremors, and fast heart rate, a caffeine detox can have the following benefits:
- Improved sleep quality
- More balanced hormones
- Reduced anxiety
- More efficient absorption of nutrients
- More balanced brain chemistry
- Reduced blood pressure
- Healthier digestion
- Healthier teeth
Tips & Tricks On How to Begin the Process
A caffeine detox can do wonders for your mind and body, but quitting cold turkey can have several uncomfortable side effects, ranging from mild irritability to raging headaches. To avoid a full-blown caffeine withdrawal, you must go about the process in the right way, which you can do with the following tips:
- Cut caffeine from your diet gradually by reducing the amount you consume each day by half to one cup.
- Substitute each cold caffeinated beverage you finish with one cup of iced water.
- Alternate between decaf and regular coffee. Then, slowly taper off of regular and opt for decaf more often.
You may also want to consider using a cleanse during this process. This addition can help eliminate the caffeine from your body quickly so that you’re less likely to experience side effects once you stop consuming it.
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When/How to Introduce Caffeine Back Into Your Diet
The key is to consume caffeine in moderation. Per the Mayo Clinic, healthy adults should be able to consume up to 400 milligrams daily without experiencing adverse side effects, which is equivalent to about four cups of coffee.11 If and when you decide to add caffeine back into your life, keep these numbers in mind. Just as when you cut it out of your diet, gradually add it back in. Keep tabs on how much you're consuming and from what sources, while trying to go herbal or decaf where and when you can.
Caffeine is loved widespread, so you are not alone on your journey with cutting back. If you begin to experience adverse side effects from overconsumption, consider a caffeine detox. It could be the best thing you do for yourself this year.