You’ve been drinking coffee your entire adult life. Now you’ve decided to quit. At first, you sigh a breath of relief, realizing you are no longer reliant on the drug that is coffee. But this feeling doesn’t last long.
Your hands start to shake, you get a splitting headache, and you feel an uncontrollable urge to run to the nearest coffee shop and shoot caffeine straight into your veins.
What actually happens when you stop drinking coffee?
The reason coffee is so addictive isn’t because of its taste but because of a white, bitter, chemical found in the coffee plant’s beans. We are not talking about any illegal drugs here; instead, we are referring to caffeine. The surprising thing is that the Food and Drug Administration actually classifies caffeine as an addictive drug. It just happens to be a legal one.
Your body craves the substance once it’s become accustomed to it because caffeine causes higher concentrations of dopamine to build up in the brain due to its ability to block specific receptors. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy. After you drink coffee, the caffeine enters the bloodstream via your stomach and small intestine. It is then carried around the body where it activates the pleasure centers of the brain.
So basically, the caffeine in coffee is tricking your body into producing chemicals that make you happy and more alert. This feeling is a good one, and therefore your body doesn’t want to give it up easily.
How quickly does it take for you to go into withdrawal after your final sip of coffee? What long-term effects will it have on you?
According to a study conducted in Psychopharmacology that consisted of a compilation of 170 years of research, the symptoms of caffeine withdrawals can start as early as 12 hours after your last cup of coffee. And there is even worse news than that. All of the terrible feelings and changes to your body could persist for nine days after your body is cut off from the drug.
Unfortunately, some of the worst symptoms happen right away. Everyone is different, and everyone’s body responds differently to coffee withdrawals. However, we are about to take a journey through what will likely happen to most people who decide to stop drinking coffee cold turkey.
Moments after your last sip of coffee, the liquid will descend down your esophagus and into your stomach. From there, some of the caffeine in the drink passes through your stomach lining and into your bloodstream. Seconds after that, the coffee will move into your small intestine where the rest of the caffeine diffuses through the tissue and begins fully circulating around your body. It only takes a matter of minutes before this process is complete.
This is why it only takes a few sips of coffee to help you feel awake. The highest caffeine levels your body will experience occur about an hour after you finish your cup of coffee. From then on, it will be all downhill.
The nasty symptoms are just about to begin.
After about an hour, your body slowly starts to use up all of the caffeine that is circulating through your bloodstream. This is okay until your body realizes that it will not get a replenishment the next day. When you wake up on your first day without drinking coffee, you will feel groggy.
As you walk to the kitchen and sit down to drink a glass of orange juice instead of your regular cup of coffee, you notice your hands are shaking. Actually, you may feel every part of your body begin to jitter.
This is ironic because too much caffeine can cause the same symptoms due to the substance being a powerful stimulant that causes the nervous system to send signals through the body faster than usual.
When this stimulant is removed, the same side effects can occur. Your body became so used to the extra boost caffeine gave it that when the substance is removed, the nervous system slows down slightly and the signals from the brain to the rest of the body are less constant.
These signals will now be at the appropriate levels, so that’s good. But your body is just not used to functioning without the help of coffee. This is one of the reasons why your first day without caffeine may start with the shakes.
As you sit at the kitchen table staring off into space, something begins to creep into the back of your brain. You are probably thinking of coffee and how you would give anything for just one sip.
You start developing a headache.
Besides increasing the concentration of dopamine in your body to make you feel happy, caffeine also tricks the brain into thinking there is an emergency, which some scientists think may cause adrenaline to be released. This is another reason why coffee makes you feel so awake. But the unfortunate thing is that once the body gets used to an influx in these chemicals, it starts to crave them. Without its daily dose of caffeine, the body does something strange.
Instead of maintaining normal hormone levels, your body begins dumping adenosine into the bloodstream. This is a chemical that signals the body it needs rest or sleep. This change in brain chemistry is what causes the caffeine withdrawal headache to develop.
Another change that happens the morning after you’ve given up coffee is that your blood vessels start to enlarge.
This is actually a good thing because it means more oxygen can flow to the brain. However, since your body has become accustomed to shrunken blood vessels as a result of drinking coffee, the return back to normal can be painful.
In fact, caffeine can reduce the blood flow to the brain by as much as 27 percent, which means once it is out of your system, your blood flow can increase by the same figure. This would be a shock to your system.
When caffeine causes the blood vessels to narrow, your body increases the number of adenosine receptors on the blood cells, which helps them become enlarged. However, caffeine binds to those same receptors resulting in the blood cells shrinking. When the caffeine is finally out of your system, the cells still have extra receptors but no caffeine to block them, meaning the blood vessels swell.
The rapid shift between not getting enough blood flow because of the caffeine to getting too much blood flow can lead to withdrawal headaches the day after you stop drinking coffee. Unfortunately, this symptom can persist for the next several days.
After your seething headache starts to subside, you notice something odd about your morning constitutional.
If you regularly evacuate your bowels after your morning coffee you are not alone. This is because the caffeine in it can actually cause contractions in the stomach, intestines, and colon that signal the body it is time to poop.
For people who want to stay regular, this can be incredibly helpful, but now that you’ve stopped drinking coffee, you might feel backed up. Caffeine also blocks an anti-diuretic hormone produced in the pituitary gland, which signals the body that it is more hydrated than it actually is. This can lead to the urge to urinate more frequently while drinking coffee as well.
However, on your first day off the brown liquid, your body becomes confused. Your hormones are out of whack, and the body is storing all of the fluids and solids it would normally excrete after your morning cup of coffee.
The crazy thing is that coffee can cause the body to start preparing itself to go to the bathroom in as little as a few minutes after drinking it. Unfortunately, your first day not drinking coffee will be filled with bathroom frustrations, as you will probably be constipated for most of the day.
You will also have concentration problems your first few days after cutting coffee out of your life.
As you try to make it through your first workday without coffee, you will find that you are less productive. This is because your brain is not being filled with dopamine like normal, and there is a buildup of adenosine, the hormone that makes you drowsy. It will be a struggle to stay focused and get anything done during your first day of work without coffee. But there is even worse news.
The next day you probably will be just as unproductive. Your body has become so accustomed to the jolt of energy it’s given by a cup of coffee that it will not be able to recover in just a day or two. You could end up feeling a lack of productivity for the entire week.
Luckily there is also good news. In several research studies it was found that after people got over their caffeine withdrawal, their productivity exceeded what it was before. This is because caffeine may give someone more focus when consumed daily, but it is artificial.
When the body is allowed to operate at optimum levels without the aid of an outside drug, you can be more productive for longer periods of time. You are almost through your first day of no coffee, and it has been brutal.
Unfortunately, there are even worse side effects to come.
As you progress through the day, you will find yourself getting annoyed more easily and irritated by the littlest things. This is just another side effect of all the changes occurring in your body. The imbalance of hormones, feelings of being tired, and lack of energy will make you wish you could curl up in a ball and just sleep until your body has passed through the withdrawal stages.
Along with being irritable, you become more and more anxious as well. However, like most of the side effects of coffee, this too will pass and could even be better for your health. The anxiousness comes from an imbalance in all the chemicals mentioned before, along with norepinephrine and glutamate. These two are especially responsible for that anxious feeling lingering in your brain.
Unfortunately, even sleep won’t help you at this point.
You lie in bed staring at the ceiling hoping for rest to come. You expect that since you’ve been tired all day, you would just be able to pass right out. But this isn’t the case. Your body is struggling to regain some form of the normalcy it had before you made coffee a regular part of your life. Unfortunately, a byproduct of this process is a lack of sleep.
Your first night since you stopped drinking coffee will likely be restless as you toss and turn, trying to will your body to fall asleep. This is part of the addiction recovery process because even though you may have decided to give up coffee, your body’s chemical processes are not yet on board.
Hormone levels are still out of balance, and the brain is desperately trying to cope with the chemical changes associated with the lack of caffeine throughout the day. Eventually, you will doze off, but since you probably didn’t sleep great, the second day of no coffee will be worse than the first.
You will wake up even more tired than the day before. All of the withdrawal symptoms from the previous day will likely persist along with some new ones.
Countless studies have found that the main symptom someone feels after giving up coffee is fatigue. This is kind of interesting because, contrary to popular belief, coffee doesn’t actually give you much energy at all. It is the way it throws your body’s internal chemistry into controlled chaos that tricks you into thinking you have more energy when you drink coffee.
Coffee only has around 1 calorie per cup, and since calories are the measurement of energy contained in food and drinks, it is clear that coffee does not give you much energy at all. On average, one egg contains around 78 calories, which means you would need to drink 78 cups of coffee in order to get the same amount of energy from eating a single egg. This would be incredibly damaging to your health, so please don’t try to do this.
As day two progresses without coffee, you may start to feel depressed.
Dopamine, glutamate, and norepinephrine are all chemicals that help regulate your mood. The caffeine in coffee throws all of them out of balance. Since your body is trying to compensate for the lack of caffeine in your system, it can overcompensate when trying to regulate these hormones and return them back to normal levels.
The withdrawal process can also exasperate symptoms for people who have been diagnosed with a mood disorder. This is why you might feel sad for a few days after you stop drinking coffee.
Some studies even claim that long-term coffee drinkers are more at risk of developing mood disorders such as depression because of the fundamental changes caffeine can make to the brain’s chemistry. So, once you start drinking coffee, sadness may be in your future.
As you progress through day two of no coffee, you will likely feel tired, irritable, and sad all at the same time, but you know you just need to power through, and greener pastures are on the other side.
A few days after you give up coffee, you might notice your blood pressure going down.
This comes with all sorts of perks. Lower blood pressure is connected to lower stress and anxiety. So, after a few days of going through caffeine withdrawal hell, you will start to see some positive benefits to your body.
The caffeine in coffee can cause an increase in blood pressure. It can also trick the body into going into fight or flight mode. An increase in blood pressure for a short amount of time is beneficial when trying to fight off an attack or run away from a predator because it allows more oxygen to circulate to your muscles.
However, constantly having high blood pressure can be detrimental to your health. It has even been linked to an increased chance of heart attack or stroke. Less than a week after quitting coffee, your body will begin to adjust to the reduced amount of adrenaline and caffeine in the body. This will cause your blood pressure to decrease to more sustainable levels.
A week or so after you stop drinking coffee
The withdrawal symptoms should be almost completely gone or at least much more manageable. If they are not, it could mean you were drinking way too much coffee.
Once you start feeling better, you might find yourself smiling more, which is a good thing because a week or two after you stop drinking coffee, your teeth will start to gain back some of their original color. Coffee is acidic, which means it can stain or damage your teeth. Once you stop consuming the brown liquid, your body can get to work repairing the damage it has done.
Coffee causes the saliva in the mouth to dry out, which normally protects the teeth from enamel buildup. This, along with the acidy, can cause lasting damage. Coffee also contains tannins which can cause the color from different foods and drinks to stick to the teeth and stain them even more.
Interestingly it has been found that brushing your teeth right after drinking coffee will only exacerbate the problem as it spreads around the acids and compounds that stain your teeth rather than removing them. Therefore, it is recommended you wait 30 minutes after drinking coffee to brush your teeth.
Now that you’ve quit drinking coffee altogether…
Your teeth are thanking you, and you will notice that the brownish color associated with coffee-stained teeth is beginning to lighten. In the next week or two, your teeth might even be noticeably brighter.
After weeks of fine-tuning, your body chemistry is almost completely back to normal. Without the side effects of caffeine withdrawal, you will get a good night’s sleep practically every night.
Your brain can now more consistently spend time in slow-wave and REM sleep, which are part of its restoration process. You will also find that you need to use the bathroom less, which allows you to sleep soundly through the night.
And if you usually had a cup of coffee in the afternoon or early evening just to give yourself that one last jolt before the end of the day, these effects will be even more noticeable. Studies have shown that drinking coffee even six hours before going to sleep can severely disrupt the sleep cycle, not to mention making it harder to fall asleep initially. This is because the lingering caffeine in your system is enough to trick your body into thinking it should be alert rather than resting.
Two weeks after you stop drinking coffee, you will feel like a new person.
Or at least the person you were before becoming addicted to the stuff. It is interesting to note that although many people drink coffee to wake up in the morning, studies have shown that once coffee is removed from someone’s daily routine, they tend to feel better rested and more awake than they did when they still drank the caffeinated beverage. This is likely because there is no substitute for a good night’s rest and taking care of yourself.
You have now reached the long-term effects of cutting coffee out of your life. You have suffered through caffeine withdrawal, mood swings, and the readjustment of your chemical composition. You are now enjoying some of the perks associated with the coffee-free life, but how will this decision affect you in the long run?
It has been several weeks since your last cup of coffee, and you’re feeling good.
There is a biological reason for this. For as long as you’ve been drinking coffee, your body has been thrown out of homeostasis by the addictive caffeine compound. Now that it has been flushed from your system, your hormone levels are completely back to normal. Returning to normal hormone levels has been found to be especially beneficial in women as the caffeine in coffee can throw their estrogen levels out of whack.
In some women, caffeine can decrease the amount of estrogen in the body. This can lead to hot flashes, mood swings, and lowered sex drive. These aren’t life-threatening conditions but can definitely cause stress, especially if the coffee drinker doesn’t know why it’s happening.
In other women, caffeine can increase the amount of estrogen produced, causing more severe PMS, depression, and non-cancerous lumps on the breasts and uterus. Now that the amount of caffeine ingested has been reduced over several weeks, estrogen levels are back to normal.
To be clear, caffeine consumption for both men and women affects hormone levels. The longer you go without a cup of coffee, the better you will feel. There is no doubt that the days or even weeks of withdrawals suck, but you will feel so much better in the long run.
It has also been found that people who stop drinking coffee can lose weight in the weeks after they kick the habit.
The reason for this is most likely connected to the substances added to coffee such as milk and sugar, rather than the coffee itself. A Duke University study showed that coffee, along with other caffeinated drinks, increases a person’s daily sugar intake by around 10%.
Now that you have removed coffee from your diet, your body is using more stored fats instead of burning the extra sugars that are in your morning beverage. This could cause you to lose weight and feel better all at the same time.
However, there is something everyone should be aware of when they stop drinking coffee. Although there are benefits, and for many people they may experience weight loss, there is a chance that you may gain weight instead.
Coffee can suppress your appetite without you even realizing it. This means that after your body recovers from the initial shock of being deprived of caffeine, you might have a bigger appetite each morning. There are a couple of reasons for this.
In the early days when your body was still craving caffeine, you might have tried to fix the problem by consuming sugar in the form of donuts or cookies. However, as time progresses, you might begin to realize that you should have been having a bigger breakfast every morning and that the coffee was tricking your body into thinking it was full when it was not.
There is something important to learn from this.
After a few weeks of not drinking coffee, you realize that you are hungrier than you were previously. This is just your body telling you that you should be taking in more calories. It doesn’t mean you should be loading up on sugary foods, but that your morning routine should be filled with more fruits and cereals instead of an addictive drug found in a hot beverage.
This in turn could cause you to gain some weight. But perhaps that’s okay. Just because you gain a little weight from eating a bigger, healthier breakfast instead of skipping the meal for a cup of coffee doesn’t mean you should panic.
Maybe now that you’re feeling better overall you will have more time for exercise or to pursue other activities. This could lead to you dropping whatever weight you gained while also living a healthier life.
One of the most pleasing results you might see after a few weeks of no coffee could be a younger you.
That’s right; researchers suggest that removing coffee from your daily routine could result in healthier skin. Your body is no longer under the influences of the diuretic tendencies of caffeine, so it is retaining more water. This is not only good for your internal processes but for your skin as well.
Now that you’re sleeping better, less anxious, and have healthier skin, your body seems to go back in time. You aren’t actually becoming younger, but the damage coffee and caffeine caused to your skin and body is almost completely reversed.
One study concluded that the caffeine in coffee prevented skin cells from producing collagen. This protein gives your skin its structure and aids in repairing damage to the cells, helping you maintain a more youthful look.
There also may be a connection between caffeine and the disruption of DNA synthesis in skin cells. If this is true, removing coffee from your daily life could allow skin cells to multiply more efficiently.
The benefits of reducing the amount of coffee you consume, or giving it up completely, are numerous. However, most things in moderation tend to be okay.
One rumor that many people have heard about drinking coffee is that it can stunt your growth or cause bone loss.
According to the National Institute of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements and Harvard Health Publishing, there is evidence that the caffeine in coffee can affect your bones. So, after you stop drinking coffee, will your bones become stronger? The answer is no.
According to scientists, caffeine in coffee can increase calcium excretion and reduce absorption but not by any significant amount. The total amount of calcium lost from drinking coffee is around 2 to 3 milligrams in someone’s lifetime and has no ill effects on growth. The prevalence of this myth is actually a perfect example of correlation not meaning causation.
The research studies found that people who drank more coffee tended to drink less milk and other beverages that contained calcium. The lack of calcium-rich drinks led to weaker bones, not the coffee itself.
Therefore, doctors warn that if you stop drinking coffee, it will not help your bones become stronger. However, they do recommend replacing coffee with a beverage that is rich and calcium and Vitamin D, which will most certainly help you build stronger bones and prevent osteoporosis.
What it comes down to is that removing coffee from your life will make you feel awful at first, but better in the long run. That being said, studies show the average American consumes 200 milligrams of caffeine a day between the food they eat and the liquids they drink.
This is a little much but probably won’t kill you. However, if you take in 600 milligrams or the equivalent of four cups of coffee a day, it could cause serious health problems. If this is you, it may be time to remove the addictive substance from your daily routine.