Many people choose to cut back on caffeine or eliminate it from their diets entirely in order to enjoy associated health benefits. After reducing their caffeine intake, most people experience better sleep, reduced blood pressure and more consistent moods. Still, anyone who has cut back on caffeine can attest to the undesirable withdrawal symptoms, which include headaches, mental “fog”, drowsiness, irritability, depression and impaired focus.
At PurMedica, we support the use of natural, health-friendly remedies for various afflictions, including caffeine withdrawal. If you’re preparing to reduce your caffeine intake and deal with the difficult symptoms of withdrawal, we recommend taking the following steps to help ease the process.
1. Quit in Stages
If you haven't already quit, the best way to make your withdrawal symptoms more manageable is to gradually taper back your caffeine consumption. Quitting cold turkey typically causes more severe symptoms, which can make sticking to quitting more challenging. Most experts recommend cutting out one of the daily caffeinated beverages that you drink, waiting a few days and then repeating the process. Substituting in decaf coffee to replace what you have phased out can make cutting back feel more tolerable.
2. Stay Hydrated
Once you have completely cut out caffeine, you can keep many symptoms from escalating to intolerable levels by staying hydrated. Drinking water won’t eliminate unwanted withdrawal symptoms, but it can ensure that those symptoms don’t become worse. Staying hydrated can help you feel more energized and mentally alert, which can counter the following common withdrawal symptoms:
Feelings of fatigue
Remember that dehydration can cause headaches that worsen the pain you already feel due to caffeine withdrawal. This makes staying hydrated by drinking water, tea or juice important.
3. Schedule More Rest
Adjusting your schedule to allow more time for sleep can also help reduce some unwanted side effects of caffeine withdrawal, such as drowsiness and general fatigue. These symptoms are typically unavoidable because caffeine consumption throws your body off of its natural rhythm. Caffeine stimulates production of cortisol, a hormone that helps you feel awake and alert. Taking in caffeine regularly can prevent your body from consistently producing and releasing this hormone on its own.
Once your body adjusts to the lack of caffeine, its natural rhythm will return, and you will be able to wake up on your own and feel more energetic throughout the day. Until then, allowing yourself to rest during the day or catch extra hours of sleep at night can help reduce feelings of exhaustion. As an added benefit, extra sleep can also provide a respite from caffeine withdrawal headaches, mood swings and other symptoms.
4. Manage the Headache
Some of the home remedies that are employed to treat migraines or other severe headaches can also offer relief from caffeine headaches. Try spending time in a dimly lit room, lying down, lightly massaging your head or applying a cold pack. You can also try using a natural remedy, such as peppermint oil or peppermint tea, that is known to improve general headache symptoms.
5. Choose Painkillers Carefully
Turning to over-the-counter painkillers to take the edge off of caffeine withdrawal headaches may seem harmless. However, it’s important to be careful when choosing your products. Many painkillers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, actually contain caffeine.
Caffeine is usually added to these medicines because it has mild pain-relieving properties and helps the body absorb the medicines more quickly. Painkillers that are advertised as effective for treating headaches are especially likely to contain caffeine, so make sure to understand what you’re taking or simply limit the use of these products.
6. Give Yourself a Break
If your withdrawal symptoms become unbearable, you can always ingest a small amount of caffeine, which should offer some relief without derailing your efforts to cut back. You can drink decaf coffee, which does contain trace amounts of caffeine, or you can eat foods that deliver caffeine, such as chocolate. If you want to limit your caffeine intake to minimal levels, try taking a supplement with very low caffeine content. For instance, our green coffee bean extract supplements generally contain less than 20 mg of caffeine each.
Although dealing with withdrawal symptoms can be difficult, remember that the benefits that come with eliminating caffeine or at least reducing your daily intake are huge. You can expect financial savings, more streamlined daily routines and a huge range of health improvements. These gains make even the worst symptoms of caffeine withdrawal more than worth enduring.