18 December 2012

Quitting caffeine

Today is roughly three and a half weeks since I last had coffee or tea. After a brief hospital visit, I decided to quit caffeine for a while.

The hospital visit wasn't caffeine-related, and during my post-hospital five-day recovery I drank some coffee. But once I started feeling physically better, my head was still cloudy, and I was tired all day long. Yawn-a-minute tired, sleep-under-my-desk-on-breaks tired. No amount of coffee or tea helped. I brewed my tea stronger and stronger, then tried a shot of espresso in a brewed coffee, then tried two shots of espresso in a large brewed coffee—and nothing, no effect, still yawning and foggy.

I couldn't determine the problem. I had rested, and I felt better otherwise. No symptoms of any other sickness. I kept hydrated, I ate healthy. I ran down the list of potential issues until I settled on a likely culprit: caffeine dependency. So I quit.

Quitting gave me a 24/7 headache for three consecutive days, a horrible headache that moved behind, pierced, and throbbed my eyes, teeth and sinus cavity. But I didn't get better, my fatigue became worse and my head more densely clouded.

After another four days of sporadic headaches, my fatigue lifted. I neglected to notice at first, but I slept more easily and deeply than I had in many months. Two weeks in, tasks became more interesting, and I encountered bored where I would normally enjoy relaxing.

I don't blame tea for my dependency; in fact, I suspect a period of using workout supplements very high in caffeine played a big role in tying me to a need for higher and higher daily doses of caffeine.

Initially, I wanted a hard reset of my caffeine tolerance to boost caffeine's effect on me. Now, I've decided to moderate my intake, too.

I'll post an update when I begin to drink tea again, probably in the next two weeks.


davidn said...

I try to spend a week caffeine-free about once a year to reset my tolerance, which slowly creeps up over time. It's hard, but not as hard as what you described. I usually only get mild headaches and lethargy. But I also try pretty hard to limit my consumption to one tea session per day, and coffee extremely rarely.

Patrick said...

Being a tea and coffee lover in college I often run into the same problems. I usually use vacation periods as a way to stop intaking caffiene and i find that after two week all the negative side effects leave. After that caffiene is once again very beneficial to my daily functioning.

Anonymous said...

very interesting

We need to be more aware that caffeine causes/exacerbates anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Just read the 170+ pages of comments of people trying to get off caffeine here; http://coffeefaq.com/site/node/11
And the research referenced here; http://caffeineevaluation.blogspot.co.uk/

Many people feel they cannot 'get going' in the morning without caffeine; in reality they are just experiencing withdrawal from not having ingested any over the previous hours.

A key point is the research showing anxiety sufferers can be very sensitive to caffeine; some people think 'it can't be the caffeine, I only have 1 cup a day', but for them that could be the key issue in their anxiety.

Withdrawal is not easy (especially first 2 weeks, when anxiety actually goes up), but is possible.

How about cutting all caffeine for 30 days and seeing how you feel? What's to lose?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jason,

How are you now?

I am a coffee and tea (mainly puerh) drinker.

I would suggest that you drink more plain water and perhaps take up a bit more exercise (walking, running, etc.) to sweat out and achieve a better 'chemical balance'. (You do exercise of course?).

Looking forward to hear of your 'recovery'.

Roy (from LA) said...

You got me going on another caffeine literature kick. For a great article on the topic of caffeine and withdrawal take a look at http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/289/1/285.long. Great study that shows just how easy it is to suffer from withdrawal symptom.

Hope all is well.

sasi said...

Hi Jason

Try increasing intake of fresh root ginger to help you cleanse caffeine from your system.

I did it and it worked, juiced it consumed shots of ginger juice with warm water.

Felix said...

Good luck with your recovery!

I personally find coffee is a lot harder on my adrenal system than tea.

I used to drink coffee and when I skipped drinking it, I always felt pretty crappy for 2 weeks or so until my energy levels evened out.

I never had those problems with any kind of tea.

There are lots of shu pus with relatively low levels of caffeine and even a strong sheng doesn't mess with my brain as badly as coffee.

If you feel a lack of energy, try cordyceps or reishi pills. Both are medicinal mushrooms with nearly no side effects for most people and especially cordyceps has been most helpful to me when it came to elevating my energy levels.

Bearsbearsbears said...

Thanks for the tips. I have found that b-12 sublingual supplements were helpful, add was ginseng. Not sure where I could find cordyceps here, but I will look.

Felix said...

You're likely to be able to get it at any shop that caries nutritional supplements, as most bigger supplement producers like Swansons have it in their product offerings, or at Amazon in case you have a prime membership and don't need to pay for shipping.

It's mainly produced by one lab in the US, so I don't think there is any big difference between brands.

The lowest dosage should be 500mg per capsule.

You should feel an effect within a few hours, but if you don't feel any increased energy it's still good for boosting the immune system.