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Benefits of Quitting Caffeine

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Coffee is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of caffeine. But caffeine is not just in your coffee. From the matcha latte you pick up on your way to work to the energy drink you chug down after your workout, caffeine is present in more things than you may have imagined.

Surveys have estimated that approximately 85% of adults in the United States drink at least one caffeinated beverage per day. Like millions of Americans, you might rely on caffeine to wake you up and keep you going. Besides, there are several proven health benefits of drinking caffeine (a faster metabolism and potential weight loss, a longer life, and a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are just some of them). 

But did you know there are also significant health benefits of quitting caffeine? Continue reading to learn how you can benefit if you stop drinking caffeinated drinks and what caffeine withdrawal might feel like.

How much caffeine intake is too much?

Experts say that up to 400 mg of caffeine per day is safe for most adults. This is roughly equivalent to a cup of coffee 4 times a day (or 10 cans of cola or 2 energy drinks). Keep in mind that the caffeine content of beverages can vary greatly. Also, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others and even a small amount can make them jittery.

If you are drinking more than 4 cups of coffee a day, you may be experiencing side effects such as headache, nervousness, irritability, insomnia, tremors (shakiness), fast heartbeat, and frequent urination. If this is the case, it is worth trying to trim down your caffeine habit and eventually trying to quit caffeine altogether. 

What happens to your body when you quit drinking coffee?

Cutting back on caffeine can be challenging. If you quit abruptly, you may experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms such as headache, irritability, fatigue, and difficulty focusing. That’s why you should plan on quitting coffee slowly. Try becoming caffeine-free by gradually reducing your caffeine consumption, rather than quitting cold turkey.

If you want to reap the health benefits of quitting caffeine, start by keeping a tab on your caffeine intake. Read labels carefully. Try cutting back by one can of soda to start with or drinking a smaller cup of coffee. Shorten the brew time on your coffee and tea, choose caffeine-free herbal teas, or switch to decaf coffee. Keep in mind that caffeine can be present in various things, including energy drinks and over-the-counter pain relievers. 

What are the health benefits of quitting caffeine?

Caffeine affects many systems in the body. Quitting caffeine may have a range of health benefits, some of which are listed below.

Better sleep

Daily caffeine consumption can affect the sleep cycle, leading to restlessness and daytime drowsiness, especially if you consume caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime. Quitting caffeine can make it easier for you to fall asleep and get an undisturbed night of rest.

Lower blood pressure

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and can cause a rise in blood pressure. Hypertension is linked to a range of serious health complications like heart attack and stroke. One of the benefits of quitting caffeine is that it can be good for your blood pressure.

Less anxiety

Many people will drink a mug of coffee first thing in the morning because the caffeine gives them energy. However, caffeine can also stimulate the body’s fight or flight response, leading to symptoms such as nervousness, stress, anxiety, low mood, heart palpitations, and panic attacks. Quitting caffeine can make you less anxious, especially if you are prone to anxiety.

Relief from headaches

Headaches are a common and unpleasant side effect of caffeine withdrawal. You can get a headache soon after missing your morning cup of joe or it may show up several days later. Other withdrawal symptoms may include brain fog, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and fatigue. Even if you don’t experience caffeine withdrawal, studies have shown that daily caffeine intake is a risk factor for chronic daily headaches.  

Improved nutrition

Caffeine contains substances called tannins that affect the absorption of important nutrients like B vitamins, calcium, and iron from the gut. This is especially true for people who do not eat a balanced diet and/or have a very high caffeine intake. Quitting caffeine can improve nutrition by ensuring better absorption of all nutrients from food.

Balanced hormones

Caffeinated beverages like energy drinks, sodas, coffee, and tea can affect estrogen levels in women. Research has shown that Caucasian women who consume 200 mg of caffeine or more per day have lower estrogen levels compared to women who do not drink caffeinated beverages. In Black and Asian women, a caffeine habit can lead to elevated estrogen levels. These variations in hormone levels can lead to worsening of menopausal symptoms as well as put a woman at increased risk of endometriosis and certain types of cancers.

Healthier teeth

Caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea contain tannins that can stain the tooth enamel. Also, the acid in these beverages can lead to wear and tear of the teeth. If you stop drinking coffee, you may find you have whiter, healthier teeth.

Fewer gastric issues

Caffeinated drinks can cause uncomfortable digestive symptoms. Caffeine stimulates the muscles of the colon (large intestine) and has a natural laxative effect. Caffeine can also lead to stronger contractions of the anal sphincter, leading to an increased desire to defecate. That’s why coffee makes you poop, sometimes almost right away. However, large amounts of caffeine can lead to diarrhea. Also, caffeine has been implicated as a trigger for GERD (acid reflux). If you suffer from these health issues, quitting coffee, energy drinks, and other caffeinated beverages may be beneficial.

Relief from incontinence

Caffeine increases bladder activity and can worsen symptoms such as increased frequency and urgency of urination as well as incontinence or urine leakage in people with an overactive bladder. Studies have shown that women who drink more than around 200 mg of caffeine per day are more likely to have urinary incontinence, which can impact quality of life and overall health. One of the benefits of quitting caffeine could, therefore, be a relief from urinary symptoms.

Slowed aging

Coffee and other caffeinated drinks can interfere with collagen formation. Collagen is an essential protein that gives the skin its youthful, supple appearance. By quitting caffeine, you may be able to slow down the development of fine lines and wrinkles and thus delay the visible signs of aging.

Break from addiction

Like cocaine, which is an illicit drug, caffeine has an effect on brain chemistry, which gives it addictive qualities. This is why when someone tries to quit caffeine, they might experience withdrawal symptoms. Quitting caffeine gradually can break the cycle of addiction and the dependence on a substance to stay awake or function normally.

How long does it take to feel normal after quitting caffeine?

Fortunately, the withdrawal symptoms of caffeine are mild. Most people start to feel normal a few days after quitting caffeine. However, the length of time it takes to feel normal can vary from person to person and will depend on the duration and severity of the caffeine habit.

How long does it take your body to detox from caffeine?

If you stop caffeine consumption cold turkey, you will likely need at least 12-24 hours to detox. However, the detox period can last 2 to 9 days, depending on how many cups of coffee you were drinking when you decided to quit.

Is quitting caffeine worth it? Should I live caffeine-free?

Removing caffeine from your daily routine can have several health benefits, as detailed above. If you find that quitting caffeine entirely is not possible, then reducing your intake could help you become healthier in the long term. This is especially true if you are consuming large quantities of caffeine (more than 400 mg per day).

References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24189158/
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/9-reasons-why-the-right-amount-of-coffee-is-good-for-you
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678#
  4. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-shows-caffeine-consumption-linked-estrogen-changes
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3505252/

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