For those of you that know me, and understand how important my daily cup of "proper" coffee is, you may be shocked to hear that I have not indulged in my absolutely-necessary-caffeinated coffee hit for a whole week! Yup, I'm 7 days in (not that I'm counting) and I'm finally beginning to feel great.
I thought I would share my experience with you all because I feel such a sense of achievement by managing to stick to it and wanted to share some of the reactions my body has had, because quite frankly, they're horrid and unexpected. However, by going through this process, I've learned a lot about trusty old caffeine and I think it is important that people are more aware of what it is actually doing to us before we so readily indulge in it, or even give it to our children without thinking.
The headache. Oh the headache. Most of us have heard of, or experienced slightly, the headache that comes when you ditch caffeine. I've had it briefly in the past when I have some-how forgotten, or not managed to have a coffee in the morning and then by the afternoon the headache is beginning to set in, sound familiar? Well, boy did it set in on day one.
By the evening it felt like a full-on migraine; pain behind my eyes, throbbing head and all I wanted to do was close my eyes in a dark room and sleep (which I did, I was in bed by 9pm!)
I wanted to know why this happened though, so I looked into it and what I discovered kinda grossed me out a bit: Caffeine causes the blood vessels to narrow which restricts the blood flow to your brain, in fact, one study found that less than three cups of coffee (250mg) can reduce the blood flow to the brain by 27%!!
Let that sink in for a minute.
So the reason you get a headache when you stop the caffeine is because the blood vessels open up again and it takes time for your brain to get used to the increased blood flow.
The headache was still there, very noticeable but not as severe as the day before (thank goodness!) However, towards the end of the day, my lower back was really beginning to ache. I didn't think it was anything to do with lack of caffeine, I just thought that I was tired and feeling generally pretty terrible.
Not too much of a headache anymore but oh the back pain. My lower back was so painful. I was trying to stretch it at every given opportunity, hanging from the bannister on the stairs, getting into yoga poses, anything to try to relieve it.
Eventually, I gave in and took some ibuprofen (something I generally try to avoid as much as possible)
Again, I had to find out why this was happening, so I looked into it, and it is to do with those pesky blood vessels opening up again. Receptors in the brain are now being hit by signals that have previously been prevented due to the restricted blood vessels. Ergh.
On a positive note though, I slept all through the night. I usually wake up briefly every night at least once, only for a second or two, roll over and just go back to sleep, but this time I went to bed and didn't open my eyes again until I was ready to get out of bed.
Nothing too much to report. Went for a run in the morning which felt fab and felt ok all day. Slight back pain still, no headache though, just steady all day.
Starting to feel great. No afternoon slump in the day, feeling motivated and energised consistently throughout the day. Went for a run and to the gym, again no afternoon slump. I felt more calm, steady and motivated. I wasn't having the bursts of energy followed by the slumps anymore, just feeling more consistent which is really exciting.
Waking up and ready to get up. That sluggish feeling in the morning seems to have disappeared which is rather wonderful. Went for a run and to the gym again. I seem to have much more energy and focus. I am more determined to get stuff done and more able to do it. Just feeling hopeful and happy.
Day Seven - today
Woke up again and was just ready to get up. I just feel much happier and more consistent. There is less fluctuation in terms of energy, mood and stress levels. I feel more calm and I even think my skin is starting to look slightly more fresh (wahoo!) I am really excited to see what other changes happen and how I will feel.
So there you have it, my caffeine free journey so far. I don't know what will happen in the future, but I am pretty confident that I wont ever consume caffeine every day like I was (going through those initial withdrawal symptoms are just not worth experiencing again!) I still love the taste of coffee so it will just be the decaf option for me for now.
I would love to hear from those of you who have also cut out caffeine and your experiences, so please feel free to get in touch and share!
For those of you who are curious to find out more about caffeine and what it actually does to us, please go and listen to Dr Rangan Chatterjee and Matthew Walker as they discuss the importance of sleep and the impact caffeine has.