We’ve previously talked about the risk of high caffeine consumption, which can have major effects on sleep patterns, mood, and blood flow to your brain.  But what do you do if you’re seriously hooked on the stuff?

Because caffeine is addictive and our body builds up a tolerance to it over time, people who decrease their caffeine intake often experience symptoms of withdrawal.  Headache is the most frequently reported symptom in caffeine withdrawal studies.  Some other symptoms include fatigue and crabby mood (not the medical term, but you know what I mean). 

Studies have found that even people who consume a moderate amount (about 2 ½ cups of coffee) can experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to break the caffeine habit.

Here are some tips for decreasing your caffeine intake without experiencing serious withdrawal:

Wean yourself off slowly.  You built up a tolerance to caffeine over time, now take some time to bring yourself down.  Drink ½ cup less of coffee or tea for a few days, and then shave off a little bit more.

Jump around.  You will experience fatigue when you remove the caffeine that was keeping you alert.  Going for a walk, having a good stretch, or a quick run up the stairs will give you a little energy boost.  Also, if you’re experiencing fatigue often it might be time to ask yourself if you are getting the sleep you need.

Find a replacement beverage.  Here are some ideas for beverages you could use to replace your caffeine vehicle:

Coffee:  Grain-based coffee alternatives like DandyBlend® or Teeccino®.  These instant beverages are dark brown, aromatic, and earthy like coffee.

Caffeinated Tea:  Herbal or decaffeinated green tea.

Soda:  Fruit-flavored seltzer water like Talking Rain®.

I chose this topic today because I am currently in the process of decreasing my caffeine intake!  I recently found out that I have a food sensitivity to coffee; it just about knocked me out when I got the news.  I’m almost two weeks deep now, and it’s actually been a great experience thus far.

Caffeine is an organic compound that is found naturally in plant foods such as tea and coffee.  The caffeine content of different beverages can vary greatly based on processing.  An 8 oz cup of green tea has 24-40mg, while 1 oz of espresso has 40-75mg.  Some energy drinks with added caffeine have as much as 200mg in 2 oz!  With the growing popularity of super-charged energy beverages, some consumers are drinking hundreds of milligrams of caffeine each day.  A recent study found that college students consume an average of almost 1500mg per week.

Caffeine has been designated Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration.  This means it can be used as an additive in foods, beverages, and over-the-counter drugs.  However some research has shown that caffeine in large doses can have adverse effects including sleeplessness, anxiety, and rapid, irregular heart beat.  A 2010 study found that chronic heavy caffeine use (950mg/day) might negatively affect blood vessels in the brain.

To avoid health complications, keep caffeine consumption under 300mg daily.  If you’d like to replace your caffeinated beverage with something else warm and tasty, there are herbal options available.  Roasted chicory and dandelion root have an earthy flavor like coffee.  Rooibos tea has many of the antioxidants that other teas contain, but without the caffeine.

To see the caffeine content of some common beverages, check out this page from the Mayo Clinic.

This article is a reprint of a post I wrote for Sound Integrated Health News.

Our bodies can go for weeks without food, but just one to three days without water and you’re done for!  Water is necessary for every metabolic process in the body, and is also important for maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

So we know it’s important to drink water, but how much should you have in one day?  It will vary based on your size and activity level, but two liters daily is a good place to start.  Imagine a two-liter soda bottle as your goal- but ditch the soda and replace it with clean tap water.

Remember that you can reach those two liters through more than just plain water:  herbal tea, flavored seltzers, and juicy fruit also provide the hydration we need.  Avoid high-calorie beverages like soda, fruit juice, cocktails or sugary coffee drinks (you know what I’m talking about, those giant coffee-flavored milkshakes with whipped cream on top).  Just think- every liquid calorie you avoid is one more calorie you get to eat in delicious food!

See my recommendations for herbal tea in a post on my old blog here.