Caffeine Withdrawal

One of the first ways people will start their mornings is by drinking a warm cup of coffee – whether it’s when first getting out of bed or during the rush-hour drive to work – coffee helps us perk up and has become a part of the daily routines of millions of Canadians.

Caffeine, the main ingredient in coffee, works by changing the brain’s chemistry and blocks a natural chemical called adenosine. Adenosine is responsible for regulating your sleeping cycle by telling your body when it should wake and when it needs rest. Thus, when drinking coffee increases your energy and makes you feel more alert, it is a direct result of the interaction between those receptors in your brain and caffeine.

Like anything, drinking too much coffee isn’t a good thing. It can stain your teeth, make you feel anxious, and even keep you awake at night. It’s also possible to become addicted to caffeine over time. While drinking coffee is not harmful to you in ways that certain prescription and non-prescription drugs may be, it is still a stimulant and therefore is still very easy to become dependent on it, and you can experience severe symptoms of withdrawal by not drinking it. A headache is one of the most common symptoms associated with caffeine withdrawal, and can even turn into a migraine. People who go without caffeine can also experience other symptoms such as irritability, lack of concentration, lethargy, constipation, flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and joint/muscle aches, dizziness, extreme fatigue, and even depression. These symptoms can last as short as a few days to as long as few weeks, sometimes longer – it all depends on how many milligrams of caffeine one consumes on a daily basis.

In order to avoid caffeine withdrawal, there are certain steps you can take that are recommended by Burnaby physician Dr. Ali Ghahary.

First of all, start cutting back on the amount of coffee you drink. If you normally have 5 cups of coffee per day, cut back to 4, then 5, then 3, etc. You can also reduce the amount of coffee you drink by ordering your caffeinated beverage as half-caff or decaf, or even switch to tea. You should also try to naturally boost your energy. Rather than drinking coffee, go for a morning walk or jog, as exercise can also help you feel more energetic.

To find out just how addicted to caffeine you may or may not be, take Buzzfeed’s coffee addiction quiz.

For more tips on caffeine and how it affects your health, be sure to follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Instagram at