Caffeine is one of the most socially acceptable substances on the planet. Today, it’s mixed in just about anything humans can get their hands on. Soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, various foods, and even certain chewing gums have taken to including this ingredient. Caffeine essentially has no age restriction with children being able to purchase this supplement at any convenience store.
Mass consumption of caffeine began long before modern foods, dating as far back as the Paleolithic period. More than 60 plant species throughout the world have been identified as containing caffeine. Caffeine-containing beverages made from native plants in South America, such as guarana, yoco, and mate, have been traced back to antiquity (Rall 1980).
This “tolerance” of caffeine has led to a world where even overuse of this stimulant isn’t really considered drug abuse. Weakened social reinforcement has made those that want to stop caffeine facing an almost impossible task. With caffeine consumption from all sources being estimated to around 70 to 76 mg/person/day worldwide (Gilbert, 1981, 1984), it’s one of the hardest drugs in the world to actively quit cold-turkey.
[divider]Reasons for Quitting? [/divider]
The real question is…why would you stop? Waking up in the morning and grinding through that first hour of work is already tough enough, human’s feel like they need that first cup of coffee to really start their day. The average amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee is 96mg. Already above that initial threshold of caffeine consumption by the general world population. In reality, our cups of coffee in the United States aren’t the standard 8 fl. oz . A cup of coffee over here is a grande something or another double shot expresso extreme from Starbucks. Even the smaller size at America’s favorite past time Starbucks is 12 fl. oz. not 8. To get down to that standard size you have to order a short and who wants to labelled like that?
Besides, Caffeine doesn’t inhibit you (we’d like to think). If anything we feel that it boosts our ability to stay awake longer, lift harder, and study better. While we certainly know what caffeine does, and I encourage everyone to do some research into the actual beneficial effects of caffeine, that’s not what this article is about.
Some good research on the effects of caffeine:
- Effects on Blood Pressure: http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/339084
- Metabolism and Exercise Performance: http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/723503/reload=0 (Hint, those on caffeine did slightly better for various reasons).
- Effects on weight loss: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1318281 (Not effective without being paired with ephedrine)
I want to point out before I get into the negative effects of caffeine and how to wean yourself off that there have been TONS of studies on caffeine, some more conclusive than others. There is also a lot of conflicting evidence out there. I will primarily be using personal experience to guide the you through this process. I’ll augment the cases I’m making with scientific studies in order to clarify why caffeine elicits these responses whether emotional or physical.
[divider]Why I wanted to stop[/divider]
I have a small jaw disorder called TMJ. It’s caused by the grinding of the teeth at night that results in pain, swelling, and general inflammation in the muscles surrounding this jaw hinge. It’s causes me a lot of discomfort and I’ve resolved this issue with a myriad of devices (Special Pillows, exercises, and nightguards). However, this doesn’t mean that it goes away completely. Every once in a while this thing flares up and I have to take time out of my day to fix the issue. The BIGGEST problem is what I like to call “brain fog”. Imagine if one side of your head feels cloudy. Like your thoughts are all there, but you just can’t quite reach them or organize them with the precise tuning that you’re used to. It’s a terrible feeling and causes severe anxiety for me when it happens. Slight memory loss, a feeling of not being connected follows when the anxiety and brain fog collide.
As you can imagine…I don’t like when this happens. I’ve used scientific experimentation with my own jaw to figure out what really triggers these events. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed…caffeine is one of the main trigger factors for this inflammation. It causes me to grind my teeth more, tense my muscles surrounding my joint instead of letting them relax. The brain fog floods into my head so I figured that caffeine, while effective at keeping me awake at my desk, wasn’t enough of a benefit.
[divider]The Research [/divider]
Not everyone has TMJ and I’m sure that even of those that do, caffeine doesn’t trigger this effect for them. Let’s isolate some reasons why it may be time for you to quit caffeine. I’ll use some scientific studies and then summarize them. I’ll still leave the bulk of reading on you, the reader, because my focus is the wean off process, not convincing you one way or the other.
- Caffeine and Anxiety: http://pharmrev.aspetjournals.org/content/51/1/83.short#ref-202 Caffeine can lead to higher levels of anxiety. Also, those that have higher anxiety levels or an anxiety disorder have been found to be more sensitive to caffeine related anxiety
- Caffeine and Sleep: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/111/1/42.short
Higher caffeine intake in general was associated with shorter nocturnal sleep duration, increased wake time after sleep onset, and increased daytime sleep
- Caffeine Withdrawal: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199210153271601
Caffeine withdrawal does exist. Weariness, apathy, weakness and drowsiness, headaches, anxiety, decreased motor behavior, increased heart rate, and increased muscle tension and, occasionally, tremor, nausea, vomiting, and flu-like feelings were reported.
- Caffeine Cardiovascular Effects: http://pharmrev.aspetjournals.org/content/51/1/83.short#title17
It is generally agreed that high coffee intake causes tachycardia, palpitations plus a rapid rise in blood pressure, and a small decrease in heart rate. However, you can develop tolerance to the majority of these.
Now that we’ve explore some of the side effects of caffeine, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Click the link below for part TWO