What Happens to Your Body If You Stop Drinking Caffeine, According to Experts
These are the biggest benefits—plus one major drawback.
For many Americans, a daily dose of caffeine can help jumpstart the day. However, experts say that whether your go-to beverage is coffee, tea, or soda, cutting back on your caffeine intake has major benefits.
In fact, striking caffeine from the menu altogether can transform certain aspects of your health, dietitians and nutritionists suggest. Read on to learn what happens to your body when you stop drinking caffeine—and consider whether it might be the right move for you.
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You may experience withdrawal symptoms.
First, the bad news. When you give up caffeine, you may be surprised by the adverse effects which can occur within the first few days of stopping, experts say. "Depending on how much caffeine you drink, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating," explains Kieran McSorley, RD, a dietician for the physiotherapy clinic Brentwood Physiotherapy Calgary. In particular, he says that headaches are among the most common withdrawal symptoms. "These can last a few days to a week and can be managed with rest and hydration," McSorley notes.
Karen Ann Batsantos, RDN, a nutrition specialist for the health information site Health Canal, explains why this occurs. "Since caffeine causes blood vessels in the brain to restrict, omitting it in your daily consumption causes blood vessels to expand and the blood flow to accelerate. The added pressure in your blood vessels is the headache that you experience," she tells Best Life.
To minimize the withdrawal effects of caffeine, you should taper off your intake, eliminating one caffeinated beverage at a time, suggests Sheri Berger, RDN, CDCES, a registered dietitian and owner of Sheri The Plant Strong Dietitian, LLC. She also says you may be able to offset some of the withdrawal symptoms by practicing a healthy lifestyle for optimized energy. This includes staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, taking part in stress reducing activities such as deep breathing, and getting plenty of sleep.
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Your sleep patterns may improve.
Now for some good news. When you quit caffeine, one of the biggest benefits is a better night's sleep. "Quitting caffeine may help improve sleep patterns and lead to better overall health outcomes because caffeine is a stimulant that can interfere with the body's natural sleep-wake cycle," explains Jason Shiers, a certified psychotherapist with Wide World Coaching.
Shiers says that's because caffeine blocks the action of adenosine—a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep and relaxation—by binding to its receptors. He tells Best Life this can lead to increased alertness and can cause difficulty falling or staying asleep. "By quitting caffeine, the body can reset its natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to better quality sleep and improved overall health outcomes, such as improved mood, cognitive function, and immune function," he says.
You may experience less anxiety.
Though initially you may experience a spike in anxiety when you quit caffeine, you may notice your anxiety lessening once you push past the withdrawal phase. "Caffeine can increase feelings of anxiety, so quitting may help to reduce these feelings," explains McSorley.
In fact, the U.K.'s National Health Services (NHS) recommends quitting caffeine if you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. "Avoiding drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and energy drinks, may help reduce your anxiety levels," their experts say.
You may absorb nutrients more efficiently.
Experts say that when you stop drinking caffeine, your body may start absorbing nutrients more efficiently. "Diuretics such as caffeine cause increased urination," explains Batsantos. That increased urination can lead to the depletion of water-soluble vitamins, including B vitamins and vitamin C, she explains.
And those aren't the only dietary benefits you may gain by quitting caffeinated beverages. "Caffeine may also reduce the absorption of minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and copper," Batsantos tells Best Life. "Furthermore, it depletes the calcium amounts retained in the bones by inhibiting its absorption through the intestinal tract."
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Your heartburn may go away.
If you suffer from heartburn, quitting caffeine could greatly improve your symptoms. That's because "caffeine can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus and causing heartburn," explains McSorley.
However, it's not just the caffeine in your coffee that could be causing your heartburn. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the acid in your coffee and fat content from added milk may also be behind your gastrointestinal issues. By opting for a low-acid, decaf coffee and going easy on the milk, you may be able to improve your symptoms while still enjoying your morning cup of joe.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.