I love coffee (read: I love coffee that has so much cream and sugar in it that it barely tastes like coffee). My coffee journey began when I started working full time after college, because it turns out that mornings are hard and 9 hour days are long. But after a year or two of caffeinated life, I gave up caffeine, and I’ve now been caffeine free for over 3 years.
I used to love the pick-me-up that caffeine gave me, but about 3.5 years ago I started getting debilitating headaches at the exact same time every afternoon. My head ached so badly that I would have to put my head down on my desk at work and honestly felt like my brain was about to burst right out of my head (slightly dramatic but it really hurt).
After suffering for a few weeks, I went to a doctor and got tested for all kinds of things – hypothyroidism, vertigo, even diabetes. All of the tests came back negative. Disappointed, I then took to the next best source: Google. Here I found amazing information on caffeine intolerance.
Caffeine intolerance symptoms include (thanks WebMD):
- Restlessness and restless legs
- Headaches or migraines
- Palpitations and racing heart
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Most people have some kind of negative symptoms if they’re going through caffeine withdrawal, but people with caffeine intolerance have negative effects when they drink caffeine at all (You are welcome for that rhyme).
As soon as I read the symptoms for caffeine intolerance, I had a feeling that I’d found the source of my pain. The very next day I skipped my morning coffee and my headaches were instantly gone. I haven’t had an intentional sip of caffeine since. (Unintentionally, every now and then I’ll order a decaf coffee and then a few hours later a splitting headache will notify me that the barista has betrayed me).
Since I quit caffeine, my mental health has been noticeably affected. I used to feel super jittery and anxious in the mornings after drinking coffee, but after switching to decaf, I’ve experienced much less of this.I feel much more emotionally stable and level-headed since leaving caffeine behind.
When I see new therapists and doctors about my anxiety, I’m often asked whether or not I drink coffee, because caffeine is scientifically proven to increase anxiety. If you’re also struggling with anxiety, I highly recommend removing caffeine from your life, or at least cutting down your consumption. (I always say that one bonus of anxiety is it keeps you so wired all the time that you don’t even need caffeine).
I get a lot of weird reactions when I tell people that I only drink decaffeinated coffee – I can’t even count the number of people who have told me I am “too young” to drink decaf (eye roll). Or the number of people who’ve told me there’s “no point” to drinking coffee without caffeine. But I’m going to ignore the haters and keep on drinking my tall decaf vanilla lattes, with soy milk (because of course I’m lactose intolerant, too).