It’s Not the Coffee, It’s the Caffeine: How to Deal with the Caffeine Withdrawal Syndrome

It’s been said too much of something is detrimental. Same is true with our ever beloved cup of Joe. Who doesn’t love a hot drink of Americano or macchiato (my fave)? Others love sipping on a cold spin of mocha or latte for a much-needed boost for the afternoon work session. Our days are never the same without a single cup. Studies and experts remain divided by this ever controversial drink because it’s addictive with side effects yet beneficial at the same time. While it’s great to fall in between extremes, there are those who’ve become overly dependent on the stimulant. To save redeem themselves, they need to undergo the tough process called caffeine withdrawal.

According to Medicine Net, caffeine is a stimulant from over 60 different plants from different parts of the world. Scientifically, it’s known as 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine and is the most commonly used psychoactive drug (no restrictions on the amount of consumption and is totally legal), mainly used to enhance focus and productivity in any task. Most of the beverages we enjoy contain caffeine (e.g. tea, soda, chocolate, ice cream, etc.). It appears that most of us might’ve been taking in quite a lot, then how would we know we’ve been hooked big time?

See the signs.

Caffeine use disorder needs further research and studies for backup, according to the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. With that said, it’s not entirely correct to say that caffeine is – with the very sense of the word – addictive, as the term refers to the use of substances like drugs, marijuana, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. There are experts, however, who consider it as an addiction but on a rather minor or harmless level. Nevertheless, here are a few signs that you need to cut on your intake (other than your alarming coffee expenses):

  • tolerance
  • palpitation or irregular heartbeats
  • anxiety
  • sleep deprivation or insomnia
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • diarrhea
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • increase in thirst
  • irritated bladder
  • respiratory problems

Ever noticed why you’re drinking more than usual before you start to feel the caffeine kicking in? This is due to the onset of caffeine tolerance, leading to more cups until you’re pumped up. The higher the amount consumed on a daily basis, the more difficult it’ll be to attain “detoxification.”

Take a break before you break.

It’s wise to heed your bodies and commit to a caffeine detox to give yourself a break. This endeavor may be admirable but this endeavor won’t put up without a fight. To fully equip you for battle, here’s a rundown of the common caffeine withdrawal symptoms according to One Medical:

  • headache
  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • depressed mood
  • difficulty concentrating
  • drowsiness
  • brain fog
  • muscle aches
  • flu-like symptoms

Many may have missed a cup or two once in a while and I can attest to the discomfort and vexation it brings. The body has become dependent on the caffeine to function ideally, so how can we wean ourselves off in the process?

Caffeine Withdrawal Syndrome

Do it slowly but surely.

Quitting abruptly will only do more harm than good, unless you’re already dealing with a medical condition triggered by caffeine. This is especially true for those who drink large amounts every day. Thus, gradual reduction of caffeine consumption is advised.

If, in a day, you drink 3-4 cups, you can opt for 2-3 cups or cut the volume by half. In the following days, lower your consumption further until you’ve surmounted your cravings and dependence.

Reduce the caffeine content.

Part of reducing the number of cups you drink daily is the reduction of the caffeine content. Decaffeinated drinks are perhaps the best substitute to lower down your caffeine levels for a start. Decaf doesn’t entirely mean 0%, though. Check the labels to be sure, although most products contain only around 3-5% of the stimulant.

Better yet, try natural coffee alternatives like teccino and roma. Alternatives often taste like coffee minus the caffeine, so it would be great to trick your brain for a time, as you might crave for either the aroma or the taste.

Herbal teas are also garnering applause because of its therapeutic benefits, especially when you’re going through caffeine withdrawal. These contain low levels to none. There’s a variety to choose from and are surely enjoyable to divert your attention from the nearby coffee shop.

Take pain-relievers.

Many people report experiencing headaches during their caffeine abstinence. If taking a nap is unfeasible, you might need to pop one for relief. The pain is perceived to be normal as chemical reactions in the body adjust to the stimulant’s absence. You might also want to skip a few of your go-to pain medications with caffeine if possible. Instead, opt for pain killers like ibuprofen and aspirin.

Go for an early morning exercise.

Mornings are just so tough sometimes, if not most of the time. That’s why we have our trusty coffee to help us get past sleep mode. Abstaining from it usually leads to brain fog and lethargy to name a few. Combat them by starting the day with a light to moderate exercise and not only will you attain the same level of alertness and focus, you’ll also be doing your body a favor by living an ideal, active lifestyle.

Take power naps.

Drowsiness in the middle of the day or even in the middle of a deadline is downright aggravating. When pressured with tons of assignments, you can just snap at any time. That’s why you must heed the urge to power nap. Just a 5-15 minute doze reenergizes and refreshes then you’re up and running to take on your remaining workload.

Get enough quality sleep.

What better way to wake up at your bestest than getting the right amount and quality sleep? The amount of caffeine in coffee is enough to disrupt your sleep-wake pattern when drank late in the afternoon. But with enough sleep, your body is given enough time to repair itself, reinvigorating you the following morning.

It’s quite heartbreaking to give up coffee. However, not all are gifted with a healthy level of sensitivity and tolerance to optimize the benefits of caffeine minus the drawbacks. If you happen to experience more of the undesirables than the intended effects, better start detoxifying to normalize your physiological functions.

Abigail Sabijon

Abigail Sabijon is a coffee-lover, blogger and editor of Before she pursued her passion for writing, she was a university instructor, teaching Literature and English. She’s also been a language-teaching trainer and counselor.

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