Sweating and with a heavy headache, coming off caffeine was no easy feat. I hadn’t realised I was so addicted until I tried to stop drinking diet fizzy drinks. It wasn’t the aspartame that people tend to attribute as the biggest problem, as that was still in the diluting juices I fizzed with my soda stream instead.
I must have been taking caffeine in large doses although I really had no idea just how much it took to end up with withdrawal. I was obviously sipping enough of it as the withdrawal was very obvious.
I’ve heard people saying that caffeine isn’t addictive, but if you have ever ingested lots of it over a long time frame and tried to stop, you’ll probably get some of the symptoms I suffered with it. I believe caffeine is a mild painkiller, so perhaps lots of us self medicate by using it. Boots tells us that caffeine helps other pain relievers to work better, and is often in over-the-counter pain relievers, cold medications and diet pills.
I know that coffee and tea are the ones we know most about, but where I took most caffeine in was with my Diet Irn Bru and Diet Coke. My kids were also all imbibing it in larger quantities by wanting Pepsi Max which seems to be Diet Pepsi with added extra caffeine. Cocoa beans contain some caffeine, and Pro-Plus tablets / Energy Drinks contain quite high levels.
We all know people who take caffeine to keep them awake or to appear brighter, but where should we draw the limit? On the Diet Coke bottle beside me, I can’t even find how much caffeine is actually in it so keeping tabs on how much we eat/drink isn’t the easiest of tasks.
There is actually less caffeine in Coca-Cola and Coke Zero than in Diet Coke which surprised me.
In 500ml of fluids, there are approximately:
- Coca-Cola 48mg
- Coke Zero 48mg
- Diet Coke 64mg
- Pepsi 50mg
- Diet Pepsi 48mg
- Pepsi Max 92mg
- Instant Tea 48 – 62mg
- Instant Coffee 120 – 170mg
- Diet Irn Bru – (Approximately 50mg. I couldn’t find the exact amount anywhere)
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and although we do end up with a dependence, it isn’t thought that it would affect our physical health.
Symptoms of withdrawal usually go away after a few days, and may include:
- Brain fog (difficult concentrating)
- Increased heart rate
Daily limits for health are not easily found.
I’ve seen it spoken about that levels around 500mg + of caffeine a day may cause some problems. Although caffeine is a well studied substance, each persons tolerances are different.
I used to drink about 4 litres of diet irn bru a day which would take me to around 200mg of caffeine a day. That’s not a massive amount in the terms of caffeine intake, yet I did suffer incredible headaches and used to get stressed if I thought I was about to run out of my liquid nectar which seems totally daft to me now. I didn’t suffer the other symptoms of withdrawal, but the headache was enough for me. There are times when I drink a Diet Coke that I can have indigestion, so I do think that caffeine has an effect on me.
Is caffeine safe?
Who knows, but the effects certainly seem to have been well studied. I think this is one additive to products we really all have to take our own responsibility for.