‘Everything in moderation.’ We’ve pretty much heard that saying with regards to, well, anything really – but when it comes to coffee, or caffeine specifically, how much is too much?
Whether you’ve never really been a coffee drinker, or have one good quality cup every day, or are on the other end of the spectrum and feel like you’re borderline turning into a bean, it’s worth understanding the affects of caffeine on the body and the brain to help avoid feeling the negative symptoms that can affect your quality of life.
Caffeine is the world's most commonly consumed substance. It functions as a central nervous system stimulant, meaning it affects neural activity in the brain. (1)
If the body becomes dependent on caffeine, eliminating it from the diet can cause withdrawal symptoms that typically begin 12-24 hours after stopping – in fact, caffeine withdrawal is a recognised medical diagnosis and can affect anyone.
So if you find that you’re turning into a sleep-deprived, anxious, and irritable caffeinated monster, here’s what you need to know in order to help you wean off of your caffeine addiction naturally.
The effects of caffeine on the body and brain
Everyone has a different ‘threshold’ – some people barely notice the effects of caffeine, while others can be so sensitive that they feel something almost immediately.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum, caffeine can have a serious effect on sleep patterns, mood swings, and anxiety levels. For example, if you’ve been struggling with getting good quality sleep and have ‘tried everything’, your relationship with coffee and stress could be the culprit.
The ironic thing is that even if you think you have control, the effects of caffeine can sneak up on you so that it’s easy to justify continuing to drink coffee. It’s not super clear that the coffee you consume to give you a boost of energy (only to then crash back down), to help you focus (before you get hit with heavy brain fog), and to perk you up (before you become the irritable monster) could be your downfall.
While many studies show that there are some benefits to consuming caffeine, throughout the last few years, scientific research has multiplied regarding the negative effects of caffeine on the body – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Simply put, research has proven that the average adult who consumes two cups of caffeinated coffee per day will encounter decreased blood flow to the brain. So while many use caffeine to help boost concentration levels, this only shows that more, really isn’t merrier. (2)
On another note, multiple studies have shown that caffeine can increase the frequency of ‘state anxiety’ – those debilitating, anxious feelings that actually affect those who do not suffer from panic or anxiety disorders.
Caffeine withdrawal syndrome is real. The good news is that if you overindulge in a few too many cups of coffee, and feel anxious, sad, irritable, moody, lethargic and so on, there are a few things that you can do right away to help you perk up naturally without caffeine and reduce those symptoms fast.
How to wean off caffeine naturally
Firstly, if the problem is in present moment and you feel out of control because you consumed way. too. much. coffee. get out there and do some cardio exercise. It’s been proven that a quick cardio burst can get rid of those caffeine jitters in no time.
Also, it’s no secret that stress is a huge epidemic in our modern times, and one helpful method to try and prevent stress is to go caffeine-free for four weeks. This can help you hit an invisible ‘reset button’ and feel calmer, happier, and by the end of four weeks, feel more productive, patient, and creative too.
So if you feel overwhelmed more than once a week, have broken sleep, are exhausted all the time, and have increased headaches and brain fog, what are you waiting for? A caffeine holiday could do the trick!
You CAN avoid caffeine crashes – if you drink a lot of caffeinated drinks throughout your day, try to decrease your consumption bit by bit in order to avoid symptoms that can affect your everyday life, like increased irritability and anxiety. There are plenty of delicious, caffeine-free alternatives out there – just make sure to consult a Nutritional Therapist or Doctor should you have any queries regarding your health.