Hello, my name is Jennifer Parris and I am a former Pepsi addict. I used to drink soda all the time, and frankly, I loved it. It helped me stay awake (I don’t drink coffee or tea), helped me focus, and enticed me daily with its delicious sweetness. Just the cracking open of a Pepsi can was enough to trigger a Pavlovian response. The thought of giving up caffeine was inconceivable. Caffeine, after all, was my friend. All was right with the world.
But then New Year’s rolled around, and as most of us are wont to do, I decided to make some resolutions that wouldn’t last longer than a few days at best. But as I rattled off my usual list (lose those last ten pounds, write The Great American Novel, etc.), I happened to come across a news story about how bad soda can be to your overall health. In short, drinking one can of soda daily equals ingesting 50 additional pounds of sugar a year, according to a CBS News report. All that added sugar can wreak havoc on the body, causing everything from extra weight gain and acne, to an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Those stats got me to quit soda cold turkey, but it certainly wasn’t without its challenges. These are just some of the weird things that can happen to your body when you give up caffeine — and how to overcome them.
1. Increased Blood Flow Causes Major Headaches
Oy, the headaches. The first thing you’ll notice is that your head is going to hurt when you give up caffeine. And we’re not talking about your garden variety headache — we’re talking about a headache that can quickly escalate into migraine-level status. As blood vessels expand, the extra blood flowing to your brain becomes painful, according to a Healthline article. The bright side is that the headaches will dissipate once your body gets used to the additional blood flow. But for me, the only thing that helped assuage the headaches was my husband yanking on my hair… literally.
2. Your Blood Pressure Drops
If you’ve ever experienced a heart-pounding sensation when you have your cup of joe in your hands, it’s not just your imagination. The National Institutes of Health report that caffeine contributes to vasoconstriction, which means that it narrows your blood vessels, and in turn slows down blood flow to the brain. Without caffeine in your system, your blood pressure might plummet, making you tired, dizzy, or nauseous. If you notice your blood pressure dropping to a concerning level after cutting out caffeine, speak to your doctor about what your options are. They might want to run some tests first to figure out if there are any underlying causes that aren't related to caffeine withdrawal. In the meantime, your healthcare professional might suggest home remedies to bring your pressure back up to normal. You may need to temporarily up your salt intake and drink more water to bring your blood pressure back to normal, per the Mayo Clinic.
3. You Begin To Feel Anxious
If you’re wondering if that mom is giving you funny looks at pick up or if it's just your imagination, you can thank caffeine withdrawal for that. Feeling skittish and stressed are just two weird things that can happen when you wipe caffeine completely from your diet, according to Healthline. Prepare for your anxiety (and paranoia) to ramp up while your body adjusts to a caffeine-free existence — and try not to take things too seriously in the days ahead.
4. You Experience a Lack of Focus
Can’t remember if you packed your kid’s lunch this morning — or if you even dropped her off at school at all? Giving up caffeine means that your mommy brain is (sadly) on total display. From not being able to find your keys to walking into a room forgetting what you needed (a glass of milk, the remote?), you’re bound to experience some serious lack of concentration when your diet is sans caffeine. Why? Since it's a stimulant, caffeine helps you concentrate, explained Medical News Today, and without it, your thoughts might get fuzzy. Once your body gets used to being without caffeine, your focus should go back to normal.
5. You Could Have Pooping Problems
Drinking caffeine on the regular keeps you, um, regular. Since caffeine is a mild diuretic, you’ll have an easier time having consistent bowel movements, as explained by TIME. But once you stop drinking it, you might discover going number two is a bit trickier. Because caffeine causes the intestines and colon to contract, your digestion works faster and easier. Sans caffeine, it becomes more sluggish, reported Medical News Today. You’ll need to make up for that by eating a diet rich in fiber (think avocados, blueberries, lentils, and beans, for starters) and drinking a lot more water to keep your digestive track healthy and happy.
My suggestion is that if you’re going to quit caffeine, be strategic about it. Make sure not to do it when you know that you’re going to have a stressful week ahead, or if you’re going to need it to power through that presentation at work. You can also opt to slowly start giving up caffeine (think switching to decaf or sipping on caffeine-free sodas), but for me, I felt like that was only prolonging the inevitable.
Instead, I cut my ties to caffeine on a Friday afternoon, so that any immediate consequences (cue the headaches) would be over the weekend when I wasn’t working and could take a shower or a nap if need be. And sure enough, once I got through the first few tough days, giving up caffeine felt totally liberating. But every once in a while, when I’m in the supermarket and I pass the soda aisle, I feel a tear come to my eye and feel wistful for what once was.