An expert explains how to tell if you’re addicted to caffeine, and how to quit
Apparently just four cups can give you insomnia
Coffee is the most popular drink worldwide, with around two billion cups consumed daily. Each day 55 million cups are drank in the UK, and it’s believed that some three out of four regular coffee drinkers are addicted to the substance.
But what’s the difference between appreciating a cup of coffee or being a full-blown caffeine addict? I spoke to Dr Rob Martinus Van Dam and Will Hawkins, Nutritionist at Push Doctor to find out more.
How to tell if you’re addicted
It’s not just in our heads, your body can become physically dependent on caffeine. Dr Martinus Van Dam said: “If you have tremors, nervousness or difficulty sleeping related to caffeine intake, you are consuming too much and should consider cutting down.”
People who drink coffee regularly become tolerant to it, explained Nutritionist Will Hawkins, “It either stops working as it used to, or a larger dose is needed to get the same effects.”
Both Dr Martinus Van Dam and Will Hawkins believe that despite this, coffee can have many positive health benefits if drank in smaller amounts.
If you are addicted, you can get withdrawal symptoms like headaches and brain fog
Will Hawkins said: “When people abstain from caffeine, they get withdrawal symptoms like headache, tiredness, brain fog and irritability. This can last for a few days. Tolerance and withdrawal are the hallmarks of physical addiction. A lot of people (understandably) don’t like the idea of being literally dependant on a chemical substance in order to function properly.”
How to ween yourself off
Dr Martinus Van Dam reassures us that coffee addiction isn’t something to worry about, “nearly everyone is able to quit drinking coffee within a few days.” He suggests the slowly reducing your coffee consumption over several days, rather than going cold turkey. Withdrawal symptoms like headaches and irritability will last a few days.
Will Hawkins suggests the following:
– Make sure you drink at least six to eight glasses of filtered water daily. Instead of coffee in the morning, take some warm water with freshly-squeezed lemon juice.
– To prevent headaches, make sure your bowel movements are regular.
– If you are tired, allow more time for sleep.
– Take 1,000 mg buffered vitamin C with breakfast and dinner.
– Make sure you exercise daily to help fight off fatigue. Even simple walking is good – 30 minutes daily.
– Some people rely on substituting coffee for real food. When you are hungry make sure to eat and do not let your blood sugar get low.
– Have some protein in the afternoon such as a handful of nuts or seeds like almonds, pecans, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds, cooked beans, or a piece of steamed or baked fish.
– If you’re irritable or have trouble sleeping, take a combination of calcium citrate 500mg and magnesium citrate 250 mg before bed.
What’s the maximum amount of coffee you should drink a day?
Consuming too much caffeine can lead to jitteriness, anxiety, heart palpitations and may even exacerbate panic attacks. According to Will Hawkins, two cups a day is the maximum you should drink if you feel sensitive to caffeine. Similarly, he advises drinking no more than four cups per day (400 milligrams) if you want to avoid restlessness and insomnia.
However, he debunked the myth that “coffee can kill you”, saying you’d need to around 80-100 cups in one session: “This dose is lethal and will amount to 10-13 grams of caffeine within your body. Before you reach this point, however, you’ll be vomiting most of it out since 23 litres of any liquid is a lot. Even drinking 23 litres of water can kill you.”
However, both experts agree that this is difficult to suggest an exact amount, as it varies from person to person. “What is too much can differ between individuals” said Dr Martinus Van Dam, “this is because genetic and lifestyle factors can affect how quick you metabolize caffeine.” He said the best approach is too monitor any possible adverse symptoms. Furthermore, he added regular high coffee consumption isn’t associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases in the long term: “In fact, moderate coffee consumption (3-4 cups per day) was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases as compared with coffee abstinence in a meta-analysis of cohort studies.”