The FDA reports that more than 80 percent of American adults consume caffeine daily. Caffeine is a compound naturally present in various foods including coffee, tea leaves, and cocoa. It is also a common constituent in manufactured foods and other products like soda, medications, and supplements.
Caffeine causes some chemical effects in the body. There are several known mechanisms of action that explain the effects of caffeine on the body. One of the most important, is that it reversibly blocks the action of adenosine on its receptor (“steals” its place on the receptor), a molecule that is naturally present in our brain and structurally resembles caffeine. Normally, adenosine binds to its receptor and produces a feeling of tiredness. When caffeine is present, adenosine can’t bind and the opposite effect is seen in the body, generating a sense of alertness and energy. Additionally, the excess adenosine stimulates the secretion of another stimulant: adrenaline. Finally, dopamine (one of the brain’s natural stimulants) works more effectively when adenosine receptors are blocked. As a result, the brain’s chemistry changes over time, and neurons grow more adenosine receptors in order to bypass the effect of excess caffeine. This may explain why avid coffee drinker develop tolerance. It takes more caffeine to block the inflated quantity of receptors and achieve the same stimulant effect. This may partly explain why giving up caffeine can trigger withdrawal symptoms.
The 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), includes caffeine withdrawal as a disorder. But don’t worry, the good news for us regular coffee drinkers is that compared to other drug addictions, the effects are short-term. These are usually more pronounced in the days following withdrawal and slowly wear off. You’ll only need to survive 7-12 days of withdrawal symptoms, in order to finally kick the habit (if that is your wish). Here are 10 caffeine withdrawal symptoms with which you may have to contend.
Symptom #1: Headache
If you’ve been taking caffeine for some time, when you stop taking it, it’s likely that you will suffer from headaches. Why? Because when caffeine is in your blood, it narrows down your blood vessels(vasoconstriction) including those within the brain. This slows down blood flow.
Once you cease taking caffeine, the diameter of your blood vessels readjusts by widening. This causes the amount of blood flowing through the brain to increase. It is this change in blood flow that leads to headaches as a symptom of caffeine withdrawal. The headache is generally present for around three days after you stop taking caffeine. Caffeine withdrawal headaches have a characteristic pattern, starting from the back of the eye to the front of the head.