I’m from a generation of children who were routinely given warm sweet tea to drink when we were as young as 2 years old, sometimes in our baby’s bottle! And I’ve loved drinking tea ever since, so practically all of my life.
I never really thought about the impact of a lifetime of caffeine consumption, and I never thought I was addicted to caffeine, but it turns out I was. I never drank much coffee, but my tea consumption was so stereotypically British that I couldn’t imagine even contemplating giving it up. But when it comes to your health and comfort, it’s surprising what you can do.
Caffeine Causes Irritation
After menopause arrived in my life at the age of 50, I began to suffer from frequent UTIs and an overactive bladder. I never really had this problem before, but after a few courses of antibiotics, my doctor told me they couldn’t keep on prescribing them to me. I completely understood this, I know you can’t repeatedly take antibiotics, but where did that leave me? My doctor talked about trying an estrogen cream if the problem persisted, but I felt like there was another answer to this.
I’d noticed recently that my usual mug of tea wasn’t as appealing as it had always been before. Some days I felt like I didn’t want it, which was highly unusual for me. Maybe my body was trying to tell me something. I did some research and I found out that caffeine irritates the bladder, so perhaps this was the root of my problem. Quitting it seemed like such an easy thing to do and maybe it would work.
A Positive Attitude Is Key
I had a very positive attitude toward this big change in my life. My father had to give up cheese due to migraines and my daughter had to give up dairy entirely due to irritable bowel syndrome. I’d seen the positive effects these changes had made in their lives and I also saw that giving up something from your lifestyle, especially your diet, wasn’t such a big deal. My father and my daughter had embraced these tweaks to their diets and they enjoyed better health because of it. Looking at them and talking to other people I knew who had already quit caffeine helped me to face this change and to look ahead to a better future.
Things That Are Worth Doing Are Often Hard
I’m not going to lie, the first few days without caffeine were much worse than I had anticipated. This could be because I went “cold turkey” and simply stopped consuming any caffeine at all, instead of weaning myself from it slowly and gradually. I went from a dedicated tea drinker to nothing at all overnight.
This is a choice each individual has to make. For me, I so desperately wanted to sort out my bladder issues, it was an easy decision, but for other people gradually reducing your caffeine consumption will have a less drastic effect on how you feel. Because I really did feel awful. I felt like I was underwater all day long. I had pounding headaches and I was exhausted. I had to take frequent naps because I was so tired all day. I asked around and people who had already quit caffeine told me this should only last a few days, at the most a couple of weeks.
I stared down 2 weeks of feeling like this and I almost gave in and made a mug of tea. But then I thought about the discomfort of the UTIs and I knew it was worth persevering. Once I was over the first couple of weeks I began to feel fresher, better rested, and lighter in my mind. I feel naturally awake now and I sleep so much better than I did before. I even think I look brighter and less tired. But best of all, I haven’t had a single UTI or any irritation since I gave up caffeine. My bladder feels like it is functioning perfectly normally, and so much better than before I quit caffeine.
Decaf Tastes Good
As I didn’t drink much coffee anyway, this might be different for other people, but decaf tea tastes pretty much the same as caffeinated tea. I didn’t find the switch in taste to be any challenge at all. And apart from those first few days, I haven’t missed regular tea or had any desire to go back to caffeine.
I’ve also started drinking mint tea, which I now love, and other herbal teas. This has opened up a whole new world of discovery for me. Whereas I used to go into a café and always order the same pot of tea, I now scan through the drinks menu for alternatives, and I’m finding there are different types of drinks out there that I’ve never tried before.
Caffeine Is A Drug
I honestly didn’t expect quitting caffeine to be so hard. I never considered myself to be an addict of anything, and I never imagined caffeine was this addictive. The withdrawal process has made me realize how powerful a drug caffeine really is. I wish I’d done this years ago because I now see how much I was relying on caffeine throughout every day.
Caffeine serves an incredible purpose for the majority of people who consume it. And most people never have any problems with it at all. But there’s no doubt it is a drug and it is addictive. If you think your caffeine consumption might be causing any health problems, or you just want to cut down to live a more natural life, I promise you won’t regret it.
Tips For Quitting Caffeine
Have patience with the process. It might feel like it’s too hard at times, but keep going and the benefits will far outweigh those first few difficult days. Find out which coffee shops and cafes serve decaf tea and coffee. I now know which chain of coffee shops stocks decaf tea, so when I’m traveling around the UK I know where I’m guaranteed to get a good cup of decaf.
If you’re not sure what kind of availability of decaf drinks you’ll find when you’re traveling, take your own with you. I make sure I have a small bag of teabags of my own when I’m traveling. I’ve found most hotels don’t offer decaf tea and coffee as standard, but if you let them know before you arrive, most places will do their best to accommodate you.
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