What to Expect From a Caffeine Detox
Anyone who routinely reaches for a cup of coffee in the morning knows the feeling. Those first few sips create a satisfying rush of energy. After a full cup, you feel ready to take on the day. If this is you, then you're one of the 68% of coffee drinkers who have their caffeine fix within one hour after waking up. If you drink coffee on a regular basis, then maybe you should consider a coffee detox. We’ll tell you more about it.
Caffeine Intake in America
Although 96% of all caffeine is found in soft drinks, tea, and coffee, it’s coffee that accounts for a bulk of that number. When it comes to caffeine, coffee makes up 70% of all caffeinated beverages. Americans younger than 18, however, prefer soft drinks over coffee, and many of those soft drinks are turbo loaded energy drinks. That’s a lot of caffeine!
Caffeine content varies depending on the food or beverage. A typical 8-ounce size of a soda has 34 milligrams to 45 milligrams of caffeine. An 8-ounce cup of coffee contains about 95 milligrams to 200 milligrams of caffeine. An 8-ounce can of energy drink can have up to 100 milligrams of caffeine. Consuming up to 400 milligrams of caffeine is tolerable for the body, but more than that can cause problems.
How Caffeine Affects the Body
That rush of energy caffeine provides occurs through its effects on the central nervous system as a stimulant. With that boost of alertness comes with side effects. Caffeine is also a diuretic, which means that it rids the body of salt by increasing urination. Along with increased urination, caffeine also releases more acid in the stomach. This increase can lead to digestive issues and heartburn. Caffeine may also affect how well the body absorbs calcium and it increases blood pressure.
Too much caffeine results in health problems such as:
- Restlessness and jitters
- Rapid or abnormal heartbeats
- Caffeine dependency
Caffeine tolerance depends on the individual. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others. And, in cases where people develop abnormal heart rhythms or have anxiety, caffeine is contraindicated. In these situations, a caffeine detox may be necessary.
Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal
People whose bodies are accustomed to consuming caffeine regularly, especially in large quantities, may experience withdrawals when suddenly stopping the consumption of caffeine. The body’s central nervous system, after having access to caffeine for so long, becomes used to operating with caffeine in the body. As the body rids itself of caffeine, the following signs of caffeine withdrawals, which is a medically recognized condition, may occur.
Ironically, caffeine is sometimes used to treat migraines and other headaches. At high doses or during caffeine withdrawals, headaches can occur. Because caffeine is a fat-and-water soluble, it easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. When caffeine reaches the brain, it constricts blood flow and reduces headaches. If the brain’s regular supply of caffeine suddenly stops, blood flow in the brain quickly increases and causes major headaches.
Caffeine heavily influences the neurotransmitters that are responsible for a person’s mood (glutamate, dopamine, and norepinephrine). When the brain suddenly stops getting its routine caffeine fix, feelings of irritability, depression, or anxiety can occur.
Concentration and Memory
Over time, the brain expects its regular caffeine supply for it to function normally. Caffeine’s ability to boost concentration and memory is widely known and studied, and abruptly stopping caffeine can lead to poor concentration and information retention.
Undergoing a Caffeine Detox
Due to caffeine withdrawals, quitting caffeine “cold turkey” — suddenly and abruptly — can cause discomfort. A caffeine detox attempts to release the body of caffeine slowly and gradually, giving the body time to adjust to the loss of caffeine. Here are a few ways to perform a caffeine detox.
Track All Sources of Caffeine Consumption
Before starting a caffeine detox, take an inventory of where and how much caffeine is routinely consumed. Targeting all caffeine sources is important, because caffeine can hide in the most innocuous of foods, like chocolate and energy bars.
Reduce Caffeine Intake Slowly
Rather than experiencing a sudden crash without caffeine, a gradual decline in intake is recommended when doing a caffeine detox. Cutting back consumption bit-by-bit, over a period of days or weeks, results in less withdrawal symptoms. Mixing decaf coffee or soft drinks with caffeinated ones by titrating decaf drinks while tapering caffeinated drinks down can help reduce caffeine consumption.
Stay Hydrated With Water
Drinking water regularly during a caffeine detox helps to quell the headaches that occur during withdrawals. Water also flushes caffeine and its byproducts out of the body and reduces the chances for constipation.
The Pros and Cons of a Caffeine Detox
Not everyone needs a caffeine detox. Research indicates that caffeine’s benefits are many and regular caffeine consumption, in smaller amounts, isn’t harmful in the long run. Caffeine can:
- Lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases
- Increase metabolism, thereby preventing weight gain
- Improve the control of asthma
- Reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure (when used in moderate amounts)
- Help manage migraines and headaches
When caffeine consumption begins to affect mental or physical health in a negative manner, as in the case of anxiety or abnormal heart rhythms, then a caffeine detox might be warranted. Others might simply prefer to rid themselves of caffeine, because they feel it might improve their well-being.
For anyone opting to go caffeine-free, a gradual caffeine detox may just be the best option. As with any major dietary change, it’s best to consult with a health professional before undergoing caffeine detox, especially if major health issues are involved.