My Addiction To Coffee

And why I had to quit cold turkey

I’m ... an addict.

I drink about eight to 10 cups of coffee a day.  I love the taste, the smell and the way a shot of espresso gives me a sudden jolt of energy.  I drink it in the morning, afternoon and I generally brew a pot around 10 p.m.  I even drink coffee until I go to sleep, which is around 2 a.m. 

Three days ago, I decidedly quit cold turkey, because I've been expressing symptoms of a stomach ulcer.  (Go figure.)  Considering that I’m not a morning person, the fact that my good friend, Mr. Cup-of-Joe, wouldn’t be able to help out was disconcerting -- for me and for everyone around me.

And so, I began my journey toward the land of the brave and the coffee-less:

  • Day One:  The first morning I stomped into work, groggy and energy-less.  The afternoon work slump was not assisted by my two or three cups of coffee, causing an increase in said afternoon slumping.  Displayed symptoms of eye twitching, foaming of the mouth and general behavioral expressions of meanness. 
  • Day Two:  Today, I felt a little better.  Probably because I slept better the night before.  Still relatively cranky though.  Tried to focus on eating foods to give me energy.  Had a piece of chicken for lunch with a salad and Greek yogurt.  Felt a little better in the afternoon.
  • Day Three:  The feeling that someone was repeatedly sucker punching me in the stomach lessened up a wee bit.  I drank a protein shake for breakfast.  I still felt groggy but less so. 

Rima Kleiner, MS, RD, CLT, registered dietitian and nutrition coach in the greater D.C. area, explains that coffee can have its perks if consumed in moderation. 

The recommended dose?  Around 200 to 300 milligrams per day -- or two to four cups of brewed coffee.

“Studies have found that coffee drinkers, as compared to non-coffee drinkers, are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease and dementia.  Coffee also contains the minerals magnesium and chromium, and Americans get more of their antioxidant fix from coffee than from any other food or beverage,” Kleiner said. 

But, here comes the bad part.

Overconsumption of coffee can lead to increased blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels and insomnia. 

“Caffeine does temporarily increase blood pressure, and individuals with hypertension or chronic high blood pressure should avoid or limit caffeine to 200 milligrams or less a day, which is about two 12 ounce cups of brewed coffee," Kleiner said.  "Unfiltered coffee, which includes espresso and coffee made from a French press or percolator, has been associated with mild increase in cholesterol levels."

Let’s not forget about the added calories when adding in all of those extras, like flavorings, either. 

“While brewed black coffee contains only a few calories per cup, calories can add up if creamer, sugar and flavors are added to multiple cups throughout the day,” explained Kleiner. “So those counting calories should make sure they're not consuming excess calories from coffee beverages.”

If you think you’re an addict, don't fret:  there are ways to gradually wean yourself off of coffee.

“Don't go cold turkey,” said Kleiner. “Cutting caffeine suddenly will likely cause withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, nervousness or irritability.”

(Oops, too late.  Could that be the reason for my ... meanness this week?)

“Whatever your reason for cutting back on caffeine, the best way to wean yourself from coffee is to reduce your coffee intake by a cup a day or drink smaller cups each day,” said Kleiner.

Really, I can honestly say that the whole process is terrible.  But, to be fair, my stomach feels much better.  When I can resume drinking coffee again, I will.  But, I’m going to knock my intake back to, sigh, two cups per day.

So, onwards and upwards.

Wish me luck.

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