Quitting caffeine: People may want to cut out caffeine for medical, personal reasonsGLYNDON, Minn. - Jennifer Ehrichs of Glyndon wanted to get healthier, and decided for her, quitting caffeine was one of the first and easiest ways to do that.
By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM
GLYNDON, Minn. - Jennifer Ehrichs of Glyndon wanted to get healthier, and decided for her, quitting caffeine was one of the first and easiest ways to do that.
She’d read about the medical effects of caffeine consumption over time, how it may contribute to obesity and likely has other unknown consequences.
So Ehrichs stopped drinking caffeine a year ago. Not a fan of coffee, she simply stopped buying pop.
“The first week or so was definitely difficult,” says the 27-year-old. She says she experienced caffeine withdrawal, including headaches, grumpiness and fatigue.
“None of that was fun, but I knew I was doing it for the greater good of my body,” she says. “The hardest part was adjusting to drinking something different.”
She bought a Nalgene water bottle and kept it filled and with her at all times. She gave herself beverage options of tap water, bottled water, Kool-Aid or juice.
“Now I pretty much stick to water,” she says. “I’ve really found it interesting to note the change in my taste buds. I never used to like plain tap water and now it tastes great and almost everything else tastes too sugary.”
Ehrichs says she also has more energy every day, and is alert and ready to go in the morning instead of needing a can of pop “to wake up and do anything.”
“I really don’t miss it,” she says.
While caffeine boosts energy and may help stave of heart disease, Parkinson’s, diabetes, dementia and some types of cancer, it also can cause insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, stomach irritation and increased heart rate and respiration.
Large doses may be unsafe, especially in people with certain medical conditions.
The reasons for wanting to quit caffeine may be largely personal, says Amy Hieb, a licensed registered dietitian at Essentia Health. A person may have poor sleeping habits, heartburn, stomach ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome.
Women who are pregnant are advised to restrict caffeine intake.
Also, caffeine can act as a diuretic, leading to dehydration, which can increase feelings of fatigue.
“Caffeine really isn’t necessary for your body to function in any way,” Hieb says. “It’s not something your body requires for physiological function.”
It’s possible some people may want to cut out a beverage that happens to contain caffeine.
Coffee can stain teeth and be an expensive daily habit. Recent studies have shown diet soda is linked to a number of health problems, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, just like their full-calorie counterparts.
But going cold turkey on these drinks can lead to unpleasant symptoms.
Hieb suggests cutting out caffeine gradually, over a one or two week period. Drink a smaller amount each day, she says.
Adequate sleep and exercise can help increase energy levels to fight off the fatigue that can come with lack of caffeine, she says.
A healthful diet is another helpful factor, as people sometimes rely on beverages instead of making good food choices, Hieb says. A high-fiber carbohydrate combined with a lean protein will be the best energy source.
Caffeine can be as much a social habit as a physiological one, such as the daily coffee break. Keeping active can help distract people from caffeine cravings. A substitution drink, perhaps consumed from the same cup, can also help, Hieb says.
Erin Reiner, manager of Atomic Coffee in Moorhead, says she doesn’t have a lot of customers who are trying to quit caffeine, but many will say they don’t want caffeine that day.
She recommends an herbal tea that is naturally caffeine-free. The coffee shop also sells decaf coffee and decaffeinated black tea, but generally chemicals are used to make them decaf, Reiner notes.
Other options include a steamer – hot milk and flavored syrup. “Like a hot latte without espresso,” she says.
Patrons who want the espresso flavor in a latte or mocha can order decaf espresso, she adds.
“You can have all your fancy coffee without the caffeine,” Reiner says.
Ehrichs suggests anyone wanting to quit drinking caffeinated beverages have a replacement drink in mind and at hand.
“The first few months I would feel like I wanted pop, but that slowly gave way to a simple ‘I’m thirsty,’ and didn’t necessarily mean pop at all,” she says.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556