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Caffeine Withdrawal

What is caffeine

Caffeine is a chemical stimulant known as trimethylxanthine and is found naturally in plants. In its pure extracted form, it is a white powder. After consumption, it is known to help people wake up and increase alertness. Along with this, it increases heart rate and acts as a mild diuretic (increases urine production). Many people enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning to get a boost of energy, and some say they cannot function without their daily dose. Most adults are recommended to limit their caffeine consumption to 400mg a day, whereas those who are pregnant must keep their caffeine intake under 200mg a day.

Where is caffeine found?

Caffeine is found in a multitude of foods, some of which may surprise you! It can be found in the following items in various quantities :

  • Coffee (duh!)

  • Chocolate

  • Soda (eg. Coca-cola, Sprite, Fanta)

  • Energy drinks (eg. Monster, Redbull)

  • Chewing gum

  • Coffee/Chocolate flavoured food (eg. tiramisu, ice cream, etc.)

What are the key effects of caffeine?

  • Increased alertness

  • Energy boost

  • Insomnia

  • Increased physical energy

  • Increased heart rate

  • Anxiety

  • Increased blood pressure

How is it addictive

Caffeine is absorbed into the blood via the small intestines and is sent to the liver to be broken down. It takes approximately 45 minutes to be absorbed and can peak soon after. Caffeine absorbs the fastest on an empty stomach. It leaves the body after 3 - 10 hours (depending on the person). In certain practises eg. Smoking can increase the speed at which caffeine breaks down, whereas pregnancy or taking oral contraceptive pills can slow it down.

It is very easy to develop a tolerance for caffeine. This means that each time you have caffeine, you will need more and more to achieve the same effects of alertness as before. Dopamine levels (the happy hormone!) can be slightly increased each time someone dependent on caffeine gets their daily fix, thus making it harder to break the cycle.

Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal

Going cold turkey on caffeine can cause the user to experience the following withdrawal symptoms.

  • Difficulty focusing

  • Headaches

  • Irritability

  • Tiredness

  • Mood changes

Tips on fighting caffeine dependency

  • Gradually cut down caffeine rather than abruptly stopping

  • Avoid foods or medication with even small amounts of caffeine to avoid relapses

  • Substitute caffeinated drinks with other options

    • Eg. have a glass of orange juice instead of coffee in the morning

  • If you cannot avoid drinking coffee, try to opt for decaf

  • Hydrate with water!

  • Get plenty of sleep and rest, most adults need between 7-8 hours of sleep every night



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