Caffeine Withdrawal: Top Symptoms & How To Cope

by Raksha Hegde last updated -

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People who try to cut down on caffeine go through severe to mild caffeine withdrawal symptoms, which can last anywhere between two to nine days. The most common caffeine withdrawal symptoms include headaches, irritability, nausea, constipation, and brain fog, among others. This condition is referred to as caffeine withdrawal syndrome, and it is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is one of the most widely used stimulants in the world and it is commonly found in coffee, tea, and sodas. The stimulant is also present in several prescription and non-prescription drugs. If you are a regular coffee or tea drinker, you are most likely to be a caffeine addict with physical and emotional dependence on this plant-based stimulant. Intake of caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, drives away drowsiness, increases energy, and improves performance. However, an excess of it can cause stomach aches, headaches, and the need to urinate more often, according to a recent report published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

How Much is Too Much Caffeine?

The US FDA says that up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine can be considered safe for most individuals. That’s about four cups of coffee, two energy drinks, or 10 cola cans.

Top Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal

Let us look at the top symptoms that people experience when they cut down on caffeine.

Headaches

One of the most common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal is headaches. Research published in the Human Brain Mapping journal revealed that a 250 mg dose of caffeine reduces blood flow to the brain between 22 and 30 percent. However, when you stop taking caffeine, the blood vessels widen, causing more blood to flow to the brain. This sudden blood rush causes blinding headaches, which can subside in severity in a couple of days as the body adjusts to the blood flow.

Constipation

Research links coffee consumption with increased activity in the colon and likens the effect of a coffee cup on the colon to that of a 1000 calorie meal. You may experience constipation in the first few days of caffeine withdrawal. It is better to hydrate yourself to avoid this.

Fatigue

Caffeine is known to increase energy and stimulation of the central nervous system. It is often recommended for athletes to boost their speed and performance levels. The flip side of not taking caffeine could be that the body feels lethargic. A research study published in Elsevier’s Sleep Medicine showed that sleep length increased during the week that people gave up caffeine and went back to normalcy in a week.

Anxiety

Many times, caffeine addicts reach out for coffee or tea to de-stress and to unwind after a long day. Cutting down on coffee or tea may cause anxiety, stress, or even depression in some people.

Tremors

Some people have reported tremors in their hands when they have given up caffeine. However, if tremors continue beyond nine days, it is best to seek medical advice from a doctor.

Irritability

A study published in the Journal of Caffeine Research 2016 reveals that caffeine withdrawal can cause changes in mood. This includes signs of irritability, brain fog, and decreased concentration.

How To Cope With Caffeine Withdrawal?

The best way to cut down on caffeine without experiencing a full-blown withdrawal syndrome would be to go off caffeine progressively. For coffee lovers, it is best to cut down on the amount of coffee and slowly progress to a decaf version. Similarly, tea and cola drinkers can opt for herbal versions. Herbal drinks can also help mitigate nausea and fatigue, that are common caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

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About the Author

Raksha Hegde is the content director at Organic Facts and helps oversee a team of brilliant, dynamic content writers. A former business news journalist and editor, Raksha followed her passion for wellness to become a certified Yoga teacher and a wellness festival curator. She believes learning never really stops. She has completed her MS in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University and is currently pursuing “Introduction to Food and Health” e-course offered by Stanford University, US. 

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