If you’re a coffee enthusiast (or just like your morning cup or five), you probably know the many benefits of your cup of joe. It has plenty of antioxidants and nutrients, it may reduce your risk of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers and it could even contribute to a longer life span.
But, of course, as with all good things, there are some drawbacks, too. Dependency is one of the big ones, with coffee addiction prevalent and the withdrawal symptoms all too severe (think headaches, irritability, sluggishness and others). Plus, if you’re prone to anxiety, coffee can make you jittery and even more anxious (I can attest to this). It can also contribute to sleep problems.
You may already know you’re overdoing it and are thinking about cutting back. Perhaps you’re considering quitting cold turkey. Here are 10 reasons why it's a good idea to take the plunge.
10 health benefits of living caffeine-free.
1. You’ll beat the addiction.
There’s no doubt about it: coffee contains a lot of caffeine — much more than tea and other beverage alternatives, even including soda — and caffeine is highly addictive. It’s never a good idea to become overly dependent on anything; it means you’re not able to rely on your own natural resources. Plus, you’ll find that the dependency means a very difficult withdrawal process when you do quit or even go a day without your fix. There’s also the fact that sugar, something many coffee-drinkers add to their cup, is addictive and unhealthy, too.
2. You may decrease your anxiety.
I’ve certainly experienced the heart palpitations associated with the fight-or-flight response after drinking even just one cup of coffee. And many other people do, too. Coffee can make you anxious and even cause panic attacks in some people, especially if you're already prone to anxiety. Nobody’s saying cutting out coffee is a cure for anxiety, but at least you’ll eliminate a common trigger.
3. You could improve your sleep.
Overdoing the coffee can interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep. This is especially true if you drink it later in the day. In fact, if you suffer from a lack of sleep, insomnia or other sleep-related disorders, cutting back on coffee can often help.
4. You might lose weight.
What you put in your coffee might just be wreaking havoc on your tummy. Many of those delicious artisan drinks you love are packed with sugar, which has no nutritional value (empty calories), and fat. However, it’s important to remember that caffeine also suppresses your appetite, so you might also start eating more, leading to the opposite effect.
5. You’ll reduce some common some ailments.
Coffee is highly acidic, which means many people experience such common ailments as heartburn and indigestion when they drink it. (Not to mention the anxiety issue we’ve already touched on…)
6. You’ll improve your teeth.
As you’re probably aware, coffee stains your teeth. Undo those smile-altering effects by reducing your exposure to it. Also, keep in mind that the acidity can wear down the enamel on your teeth and lead to other dental issues.
7. You could lower your blood pressure.
In the study “Critical Review of Dietary Caffeine and Blood Pressure: A Relationship That Should Be Taken More Seriously,” Jack E. James notes that there’s some evidence that caffeine increases blood pressure and could be contributing to cardiovascular mortality and morbidity. That’s definitely a factor worth considering if you weren’t already thinking about cutting back on your daily cup.
8. You’ll retain important nutrients.
Physician Mark Hyman writes in The Huffington Post that coffee drinkers secrete calcium, magnesium, potassium and other important nutrients in their urine, which could lead to more serious health problems.
9. You could better stabilize your mood and energy levels.
Hyman also notes that 5-HIA, which is part of serotonin, is found in elevated levels in the urine of people who drink coffee, indicating that it is not being synthesized properly. This could lead to issues such as difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression and lower energy.
10. You’ll save money.
Coffee costs money, and you could be spending a lot more than you realize, even if you brew it at home. In a survey of 1,008 people, Amerisleep found that people ages 25-34 spend $2,008 on coffee annually, while those ages 35-44 spend $1,410. That means kicking your habit will be one less (pretty significant) expense.
Who should avoid caffeine?
While cutting back on (or cutting out) caffeine can have benefits for everyone, there are some groups of people who should stay away from it altogether or at least only drink it in reduced quantities. They include:
• People who have severe anxiety or depression
• Children and adolescents (the study “The Relationship of Caffeine Intake with Depression, Anxiety, Stress, and Sleep in Korean Adolescents” found that it can increase the odds of adolescents have depression; how much is safe for children to consume depends on body weight)
• People with some heart conditions or high blood pressure
• Pregnant women (the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends limiting intake to 200 milligrams per day during pregnancy)
Ultimately, tolerance of and reaction to caffeine varies from person to person. You probably know how your body behaves on caffeine, and if the effects are harmful (for example, if you feel jittery and anxious after every cup or suffer from heartburn), that’s a sign that it’s time to lay off it.
What to expect when you quit.
How long do caffeine withdrawal symptoms last?
The length of withdrawal symptoms varies from individual to individual, depending on how much and how frequently you consume caffeine and other health factors. Some will find the withdrawal effects mitigating after just a day, while others may experience symptoms for a week. However, if your withdrawal symptoms haven’t cleared up almost entirely after a couple of weeks, you should consult a physician, because other issues may be at play.
What happens when I quit caffeine?
Common symptoms of weaning yourself off coffee, especially if you’re accustomed to a daily or several-times-a-day dose, include:
• Mood swings
• Difficulty concentrating
• Trouble sleeping
Again, most of these symptoms should clear up within a few days.
Will quitting caffeine increase energy?
As we’ve touched on above, serotonin synthesis can be compromised when you drink coffee, and this chemical is essential for many functions, including maintaining proper energy levels. So, it stands to reason that you could feel your energy levels stabilize after quitting caffeine. However, you won’t get that (not necessarily pleasant) immediate jolt you may be accustomed to.