If you're thinking about giving up coffee, for whatever reason, you might be considering giving it up cold turkey. It sounds easy, right? You just go straight to the office instead of ordering your favorite latte on the way into work. Not so much. As someone who gave up caffeine two years ago, please believe me when I say that going cold turkey is not a desirable option. I made that choice, and the result? Mind-numbing, tear-inducing headaches that ran through my body, all the way down to my toes . . . for eight days straight.
There are so many benefits to giving up caffeine: your body produces its own energy rather than relying on foreign sources, you're less likely to get an afternoon crash, and if you're someone who struggles with anxiety, you experience fewer symptoms.
Leslie Langevin, MS, RD, CD, certified dietitian and co-owner of Whole Health Nutrition, told POPSUGAR that consuming more than 500 milligrams of caffeine a day (roughly four to five cups of coffee) can have "some negative effects" on the body, including "insomnia, irritability, fast heartbeat, and potential gastrointestinal upset." If you want to eliminate caffeine from your diet in order to avoid these symptoms, there's a smart way to do it.
"Caffeine is a drug, and you can become addicted to it," Leslie explained. "Which is why people will feel headaches if they miss their daily dose of coffee."
She says weaning slowly is a good idea, rather than just giving it up entirely one day. "If you are trying to decrease your intake, start by cutting your normal amount in half," she said. Fill your cup halfway up with decaf, and then the rest of the way with regular coffee. Then gradually increase the amount of decaf and decrease the amount of regular coffee, day by day, in order to slowly — and successfully — detach from caffeine entirely. This should help you avoid the splitting headaches and other withdrawal symptoms.
Leslie also noted that if you don't suffer from anxiety or digestive issues, consuming small amounts of coffee each day isn't all that bad for you. "Small doses of caffeine can be safe — like one or two cups of coffee — and have even been shown to have some health benefits of cancer prevention, heart disease, and memory," she said.
So if you want to keep a little bit of coffee in your life, but you need to cut down on the amount you're drinking, here's her advice: "Just drink fewer cups per day." Sounds easy enough!
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