Aside from tobacco and alcohol, caffeine remains arguably the most popular and widely consumed drug in the world. A common ingredient in coffee, soda, and energy drinks, caffeine even exists in some foods, such as chocolate. While generally not considered addictive in the traditional sense, caffeine often "hooks" users thanks to its energy-boosting effects - think of how many people need a cup of Joe to start their day. But what exactly happens when you cut out caffeine and stop ingesting this largely unregulated drug?
Depending on how much of it you ingest, cutting down caffeine consumption or removing it from your diet can prove highly beneficial. Excessive caffeine intake may result in a variety of symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, and headaches. And the effects of significant caffeine over consumption may even cause death. Though such outcomes come as a result of excessive caffeine consumption, the health benefits of reducing your caffeine intake are worth considering.
So, if you've ever considered quitting coffee and wondered how your body changes without caffeine, this list runs through the common side effects people experience when they kick caffeine.
Caffeine blocks the production of adenosine, increases the amount of adrenaline produced, and offers the brain increased access to dopamine. When a person stops consuming caffeine, the chemical balance in their brain shifts and the organ stops getting as much adrenaline and dopamine. This, coupled with the increased amount of the drowsiness-inducing chemical adenosine, causes headaches.
These headaches can be severe and often kick in almost immediately after the body initially runs out of caffeine. Ironically enough, caffeine is often used to reduce headaches because it prevents adenosine from opening the blood vessels in the brain.
Although the reason why remains unclear, caffeine causes a sudden and significant jump in blood pressure. Within 30 minutes of drinking coffee or consuming another caffeine-based product, an individual's blood pressure will rise. It should then begin to drop once the caffeine leaves the body, but regular coffee drinkers might experience a long-term effect of higher blood pressure.
For this reason, those with high blood pressure are often advised to cut down on their coffee consumption and reduce activities such as alcohol intake and smoking.
One of the main benefits most people get from coffee and other caffeinated products is an energy boost. Caffeine makes people more energetic and can also increase alertness. Understandably, the sudden removal of this drug can cause tiredness. Studies even reveal those who consume a high dose of caffeine every day begin to feel more fatigued than casual consumers when both parties remove the drug from their diets.
This feeling of tiredness can last up to nine days, but should gradually reduce during that time.
Caffeine withdrawal comes with numerous other symptoms. Those who consume a lot of caffeine on a daily basis will probably suffer more severe symptoms than others. After headaches, one of the most common complaints is flu-like effects. This includes nausea, aching joints and muscles, and vomiting. Fortunately, these symptoms typically only last a couple of days.
According to Roland Griffiths, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine: "Onset of these symptoms typically occurs within 12 to 24 hours of stopping caffeine and peaks one to two days after stopping. The duration is between two and nine days."
If symptoms hit you too strongly, experts suggest slowly weaning yourself off rather than going cold turkey.