It 3 weeks ago I was on Facebook and ran across a post by my friend Lucas Duguid(@octopusred on the Twitters) mentioning that he was on day 1 of quitting caffeine. I myself had been thinking for awhile that I wanted to lay off caffeine, but seeing Lucas had started on his own journey to conquer his addiction, I decided that I would try too. I know I’ve always heard the mantra when it comes to stuff like that, why not today? It seems very easy to want to begin a new week, or month, or year by turning over a new leaf, but that is just really delaying things. So I figured starting Thursday, November 10th I would no long ingest caffeine.
Now I don’t wish to position myself as a hardcore caffeine addict as some folks may be, but I definitely have my vices. Repeatedly in the past I had tried to cut out pop, carbonated beverages or soda as the American folk like to call it. I’ve been a longtime fan of cola beverages in particular. In my house growing up we typically had Diet Pepsi, and I subsequently became a big Pepsi drinker when I got older. My favourite was fountain pop Pepsi, I always loved the extra zip the drink usually had. But over the years it has been said over and over that sugary drinks like Pepsi are quite bad for you, of which I have no doubt.
So the few times I had tried to quit drinking pop I would suddenly gravitate to drinking more coffee. I found that I had grown to really like coffee, after taking years to acquire a taste for it. Over time I also discovered a cycle that would develop. I would start drinking coffee on a regular basis, then after a month would just start feeling terrible. I’d eat food and often have indigestion, regardless of what kind of food it might be. So I would make a concerted effort to ramp down my coffee consumption, and invariably go back to drinking pop.
Maybe I’m just slow, but it didn’t really dawn on me until earlier this year that I was a caffeine addict. The realization just never hit me because I was never one of those people drinking a pot of coffee a morning or downing 5 Cokes a day. On average I’d say I’d have 1-2 caffeinated beverages a day, with a max of probably 3. I didn’t frequently have a Pepsi as a pick me up, I usually just had it because I enjoyed it. On mornings I’d be dragging my ass I’d pick up a large McDonalds coffee and feel a little bit more alert for the morning.
What Are The Effects Of Caffeine?
Many people rely on the well known effects of raised alertness, a sense of increased concentration and an ability to alleviate tiredness, but aside from these potential benefits, many negative effects occur as a consequence of consuming caffeine.As a stimulant of the central nervous system, caffeine interferes with responses and interpretations to and from the brain. It increases the production of the stress hormone, hence a feeling of being more alert, can increase acids to the degree of potentially causing a stomach ulcer, alters the anatomical function of the blood vessels and strips the body of vital calcium supply. As a result of these actions people are more susceptible to osteoporosis, irregular heart rhythms and serious illness and pain from the gastro-intestinal tract.
I decided to quit pretty much cold turkey. As I mentioned I don’t believe I was heavily addicted drinking 1 or 2 beverages a day, so I didn’t find I suffered from any of the major symptoms, but it did make me realize I did actually suffer with them before.
Symptoms Of Caffeine Withdrawal
Headaches, memory alterations, irritability, tiredness and nausea can all be caused during the period of withdrawal, to be expected when giving-up caffeine. Symptoms of withdrawal may last up to four days.
I have gotten headaches on a semi-regular basis since I was probably 8, but I would never have specifically pinned them on caffeine withdrawl, since I never actually realized I had a problem. Since stopping caffeine, I find I have had less headaches, and if I have had one, the severity is a lot less than before.
I’ve also found that my stress level has dropped dramatically. I simply don’t feel as tightly wound as I did only 3 weeks ago. I find I sleep better and feel more refreshed getting up in the morning. The only drawback is those mornings where I might have been out late the night before and could use that morning pick me up and can’t do that. I’ve also felt I have more energy in general.
I’ve been firm on my insistence on not ingesting caffeine, but I haven’t given up pop. I’ll drink non caffeinated drinks like root beer, ginger ale, Sprite etc while avoiding cola. I realize if I want this to stick that quitting everything at the same time is just a recipe for failure. I’ve started drinking more hot chocolate, which is obviously sugary and has small amounts of caffeine, at least allows me to replace coffee. I’ve also had one decaf coffee as well.
The more I’ve read about caffeine the more it really bothers me. I’ve found over the last couple of weeks it just makes me realize how many people are caffeine addicts as well. Places like McDonalds, Tim Hortons and other food chains have a vested interest in keeping you caffeinated. It’s what keeps you coming back. If you’re interested in learning more about caffeine addiction, I suggest checking out OverCaffeinated.org for info.