For some of us, quitting caffeine—and specifically quitting coffee—would be like deciding to quit water: it’s a life source, a necessity, a daily ritual that if taken away would prove to be absolutely detrimental to our lives. Maybe we’re being a little bit dramatic, but caffeine certainly plays a major role in most Americans’ days. In fact, as of last year, Americans were drinking coffee at the highest percentage since 2012, with 64% percent of Americans enjoying a cup every single day, and that’s not even counting all of the other caffeinated drinks like tea or unhealthy energy drinks that have soared in popularity over the years.
While the health benefits of a morning cup of coffee are proven and many, the benefits of going on a caffeine detox or drastically cutting back on your caffeine intake can help you reclaim back parts of your health you may not even know are suffering.
The Benefits of Saying Bye to Caffeine
Making the decision to cut back on caffeine is difficult, especially for those who rely on it daily and look to caffeine as their key source of energy throughout the day. While the stimulating effects of caffeine might be the boost you need to get through a string of late afternoon meetings, this same boost of energy triggers our adrenal glands—which can cause increased anxiety, nervousness, and in severe cases, panic attacks. When you take the step to cut back on caffeine, anxiety and stress can see a dramatic reduction.
Another perk you can look forward to in the journey of quitting caffeine is better sleep. Did you know that while caffeine is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can peak blood levels within 15 to 45 minutes of ingestion, it still has the power to stay in your system for five hours following ingestion?! And for those with sensitivity to caffeine, jittery, caffeinated side effects can last up to 7 hours. If you decide for a late afternoon pick-me-up, the caffeine from your drink can negatively affect your ability to relax and fall asleep in the evening. Reducing your caffeine intake can restore your sleep cycle and encourage more undisturbed and restful sleep.
Caffeinated drinks, and especially coffee, are known to be major dehydrators due to their high levels of acidity. Additionally, because cortisol and adrenaline levels spike when you consume regular caffeinated beverages, stress hormones can become imbalanced and can cause your skin to break out. Ditching the caffeine can help reduce the inflammation in your body that causes acne, rosacea, eczema, and lowering your caffeine intake lets your body and skin absorb other nutrients you put into it and helps to keep hormones balanced.
When you set aside the caffeine, and especially coffee which contains tannins, your body can more easily absorb the nutrients of other food and drinks that it needs to stay in optimal health. Nutrients like calcium, vitamin B, and iron all have trouble making their way into the bloodstream when there are high levels of caffeine already running through it!
Finally, one of the best advantages of quitting caffeine is better digestion. Heartburn is a common side effect of caffeine overconsumption, and because of caffeine’s ability to stimulate higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, more blood is circulated to the heart instead of the intestines, and digestion can be slowed. Additionally, because of caffeine’s acidity levels, irritation of the intestinal lining can occur and upset stomachs will follow.
The Side Effects of Detoxing from Caffeine
If you’ve decided the benefits are worth it and a break from caffeine is in the cards, be warned that it’s not an easy journey if you’ve been one to rely on coffee every day (or multiple times a day) throughout your life. Caffeine and coffee addiction can be so extreme that Johns Hopkins Medicine now recognizes it as an actual disorder.
The first week (or weeks) of detoxing from caffeine can be brutal, and some of the side effects you might experience in the beginning are headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, irritability, brain fog, (which is essentially just a lack of mental clarity and difficulty focusing), and in severe cases, full-on flu-like symptoms.
But don’t let this deter you. Keep a FitJoy bar on hand to boost your mood and maintain energy and focus, especially when you want something indulgent to make up for the creamy cappuccino you're not drinking. If you miss the ritual of drinking something hot, opt for some herbal tea or hot lemon water. After 1-2 weeks you’ll break through the fog and start to notice some welcome side effects.
One of these is a sustained and smooth level of energy, unlike the jolted and jittery energy from strong caffeine, and none of the crash and burn you experience midday after filling your morning with caffeinated beverages. Most people that have tried caffeine detoxes, like this writer at Well + Good or this editor at My Domaine who had a full-fledged caffeine addiction, discovered that once the initial side effects of no caffeine wore off, they had more natural and longer-lasting energy, their sleep cycles were more predictable and their sleeping more restful, and inflammation and redness on the skin started to subside and was replaced with a healthy glow.
Establishing a Healthy Relationship with Caffeine
If coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drinks are really something you don’t want to part with but you’ve definitely felt reliant on them to get yourself through the day, it’s probably time to consider shifting your relationship with caffeine. Rather than permanently banning it from your life, work to lower the number of times per week you drink a caffeinated beverage. If you were buying lattes twice a day, every day, cut it back to once a week, and then try cutting it even further to only enjoying a cup of coffee three times a week.
Once you start to regain natural energy, consider making caffeine a weekend-only indulgence, and look to alternatives that don’t pack as much of a caffeinated punch as coffee does. Matcha, chai tea lattes, turmeric lattes, and maca powder lattes all give that same warm and fuzzy feeling you get from your morning cup of coffee without the head-spinning caffeine buzz from straight black coffee.
If you do decide to reintroduce caffeine or coffee into your life after a detox, remember that moderation is key to enjoying caffeine the healthy way. Coffee isn’t bad for you, but it can have harmful (and addictive) effects when it’s over-consumed. Most importantly, pay attention to your body and how it feels after drinking caffeine. For some, caffeine can dramatically affect how you sleep, your digestion, your mood, and your energy levels, and for others, a cup of coffee is a nice pick-me-up but isn’t required to get you through the day. Listen to what your body tells you, and enjoy caffeine without dependence upon it!
Emma Trevino is a freelance writer who splits her time between Los Angeles and Wimberley, a small town situated on the Blanco River just outside of Austin. She's combined her passion for wellness and beauty with her knack for telling stories to help brands communicate their narrative in an honest way. When she's not writing, you can find her swimming in the river, growing veggies in her garden, finding tasty natural wines, and reading on her porch.