Did you know that caffeine is a drug? I have always been very firm about what medications and drugs I will and will not put in my body. I won’t grab an aspirin or Tylenol for just anything and I wait to make sure whatever pain or discomfort I have won’t go away on its own before I take it. I usually take a smaller dosage than recommended because I can be sensitive to medications. Illegal drugs scare me and I stay away from them. But I willingly and happily ingested caffeine. I knew it was addictive but I had no idea how addicting it was until yesterday, when I began going through withdrawal symptoms. I was floored that my body reacted in such a way because I’m not nor have I ever been a coffee gal, or someone who needed a caffeine IV all day. I have been guilty of getting a Dr. Pepper or sweet tea on the way in to work (hey, McDonald’s sells them for only $1 and it’s plastered everywhere) or picking up a soft drink at lunchtime because it’s easy. I can’t imagine the withdrawal symptoms the daily Starbucks imbiber would go through.
But I digress. Caffeine is a strong diuretic; it will make you urinate more frequently. That can lead to dehydration, which naturally affects your internal organs and your bones. (Did you know there are more cases of younger people with arthritis? Certainly no coincidence that we as a society are ingesting more and more caffeine through soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee and the like). Caffeine also affects your mental abilities. While it’s true that a jolt of caffeine can pep you up, wake you up and even make you feel more productive, when that caffeine (and sugar) buzz wears off, it leaves you feeling lethargic, dizzy and fuzzy, leading to a crash. Is it any wonder that many days that I did partake in a lunchtime soft drink, I was nodding off by 7:30 or 8:00 in the evening? Nope, my body was merely responding to coming down off the caffeine high.
There are other drawbacks too, although they have been debated and contested. Cancer, diabetes, heart conditions . . . no fun.
I can’t speak personally of those but I can say that cola consumption has given me belly bloat and added on the pounds. I suffered more frequent and intense bouts of acid reflux, with heartburn and indigestion. When I changed my diet two years ago and went cold turkey off the caffeine and soda, I immediately lost a few pounds and my midsection began slimming down. The lack of cola and not having my pants so tight against my stomach helped my acid reflux disappeared – – with no medication required (but also with the help of a changed diet, to be discussed later). Additionally, my hair and skin looked much healthier. (Again, the lack of water or lesser intake of water affects your body in many ways). My mood also seemed better and definitely more temperate. I wasn’t going through sugar and caffeine highs and lows throughout the day and I wasn’t suffering from bouts of insomnia or too much sleep, which can make anyone cranky.
Where is the benefit to having that Dr. Pepper or latte? It’s best to never drink them at all, honestly, but if you must, having one every now and again is doable. When it becomes a habit (and it will eventually become a habit, and easily, if you let it) that’s when you’re in trouble.
And going cold turkey, as I have attempted to do this week, can lead to a multitude of withdrawal symptoms. I’ll be blunt – – yesterday I felt like I was suffering from a bad hangover. Horrendous headache that made me want to throw up to relieve the tension, stomach cramps, hot and cold chills and shaking hands. That’s on top of an inability to focus and produce. So no cold turkey for me but a gradual weaning over the next week of cola.So please think twice before you stop for that coffee drink on your way to work, or reach for that convenient can of Coke out of the drink machine. Try water instead – – there are so many flavor options, between Crystal Light, Kool Aid, Mio, etc., to jazz it up if you find plain tap or bottled water boring. You can also go with green tea if you like (I am not a fan myself) or hot tea (I personally enjoy Earl Grey and Lady Grey).