Caffeine Blues – Caffeine Withdrawal Anxiety

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Caffeine Blues

By Stephanie Relfe

Okay, I know this article won’t be popular. Most of us are so addicted to Caffeine that we don’t want to know about it. I am writing this because when “Caffeine Blues” by Stephen Cherniske M.S.came out I just knew I had to read it. Several years ago I began to realize that coffee was much worse than we had been told, because I noticed that I got an arthritic pain in my wrist within ten to twenty minutes of a cappuccino!

This book didn’t just tell me how bad coffee was – it told me how GOOD I would feel once I was totally caffeine free for two months. Somehow, this book sold me on giving it a try. And it was right! For example, I no longer have the drained feeling that I sometimes used to get in the mornings.

This is one of the best health books I have ever read. It is written by Stephen Cherniske who is a Clinical Nutritionist. “Caffeine Blues” is incredibly easy to read, and convincing. After reading it I realized that caffeine does NOT give us energy. In fact, it is a major CAUSE of LACK of energy. However, he explains that this drug is so powerful that one needs to go for three weeks to two months without any caffeine before one notices the difference. And how many of us have ever done that? Hardly anyone.

As Cherniske waded through the tons of information on caffeine, he began to see that consciously or unconsciously nearly every researcher starts from the assumption that caffeine is okay. Why? Probably because they themselves depended on caffeine.

Caffeine is in coffee, tea, chocolate, colas, chuppa-chups, many sodas, some drugs, most ‘energy’ drinks and guarana.

A 6 oz cup of:

Percolated coffee has about 120 mg of caffeine

Black tea has about 70 mg of caffeine

Green tea about 35 mg of caffeine

Leading colas 45 mg of caffeine

Mountain dew 54 mg of caffeine

Brewed decaf has 5 mg of caffeine

Milk chocolate has 6 mg per ounce

Baking chocolate has 35 mg per ounce.

Caffeine is produced by more than eighty species of plants. The reason may well be survival. As it turns out, caffeine is a biological poison used by plants as a pesticide.

Caffeine is considered harmless simply because it is so widely used.

There is a brochure available in hospitals and other medical related areas: “What you should know about caffeine” published by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) in Washington DC. After many phone calls Cherniske finally got a list of ’supporters’ of the IFIC. The list included Pepsi, Coca-Cola, M&M, Nutrasweet, Nestle and Hershey – all of whom have caffeine in their drinks and foods. ‘Partners’ of the IFIC included groups such as the National Association of Pediatric Nurses and the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureau Inc. This brochure says that “Caffeine is normally excreted within several hours after consumption”. In fact, only 1% is excreted. The remaining 99% has to be detoxified by the liver.

It can take up to 12 hours to detoxify a single cup of coffee.

Many studies regarding coffee and hypertension were flawed, because the test studies came off coffee for only one or two weeks. It takes many more weeks than this for stress hormone levels of the body to return to normal.

The ‘half-life’ of a drug is the time it takes the body to remove one half of the dose. Caffeine is a drug. The half-life of a single dose of caffeine ranges from three to TWELVE hours.

Caffeine puts your body into stress. A single 250 milligram dose of caffeine (the equivalent of about 2.5 six ounce cups of coffee) has been shown to increase levels of the stress hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) by over 200%.

Caffeine triggers a classic fight-or-flight reaction. The fight-or-flight response was designed for events that happened only occasionally (such as a lion chasing you). Now, we put our body in fight-or-flight every day with caffeine!!! Since we are in society, we don’t respond in a fight-or-flight way. Instead, other things may happen. For example, sugar and fat get dumped unused in the bloodstream. The sugar creates more stress. The fat clogs the arteries. The digestive system slows or shuts down.

Not only is caffeine addictive, it also encourages other addictions to substances like nicotine.

Caffeine does not give you energy. It stimulates your nervous system and adrenals. That’s not energy, that’s stress. Imagine going to a bank for a loan. The loan officer agrees to your loan. But as you leave the bank you notice the fine print – the loan has to be repaid at 75% interest! The ‘energy’ that you think you get from caffeine is really just a loan from the adrenals and liver, and the interest you have to pay is very high.

Stress is a major factor in disorders such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis, headache, hypoglycemia, asthma, herpes, hypertension and heart disease. And yet hospitals provide coffee and tea, which put your body into stress!!!

DHEA is our vitality hormone. Decreased levels of DHEA is a cause of aging. Caffeine consumption leads to DHEA deficiency.

Caffeine lowers the stress threshold in virtually everyone. That is, if you have had caffeine, it will be easier for you to suffer from emotional stress. (Therefore, when research is done that is designed to show how safe caffeine is, any test subject who is under significant stress is removed from the study).

Caffeine is implicated in ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome: GABA is produced in the intestinal tract, where it calms anxiety and stress. Caffeine disrupts the normal metabolism of GABA.

Caffeine disrupts sleep. Deep sleep is CRITICAL to good health. When there’s caffeine in your bloodstream, you are unlikely to experience deep sleep at all!

Caffeine AT ANY TIME of the day can cause sleep problems, especially if you are under stress.

Malnutrition is one of the most well-defined effects of habitual caffeine intake.

A single cup of coffee can reduce iron absorption from a meal by as much as 75%.

People do not develop a tolerance to the anxiety-producing effects of caffeine. Rather, people simply become accustomed to the feelings of stress, irritability and aggressiveness produced by the drug.

Caffeine contributes to depression in well-defined ways. This is particularly due to the withdrawal effect, which can cause headache, depression and fatigue, even in light users (p. 111). Cherniske reported that 90% of people who came to him who suffered from depression and gave up caffeine completely for 2 months reported that their depression went away!

If you are a coffee (or tea or cola) drinker, you may be thinking, “Well, I drink coffee and I’m not depressed.” It’s necessary to state that everyone is different, and also that depression can be subtle. Throughout the book, Cherniske suggests that you will never know the full effect the drug is having on you until you experience what life is like caffeine free (which takes two months to do). Over the years, Cherniske has heard similar responses from hundreds of clients: “Wow, I never realized that caffeine made me so (select one: anxious, depressed, irritable).”

Students the world over use caffeine not only to stay awake, but also they believe the drug will improve their performance on exams. Solid research, however, illustrates that as little as 100 milligrams of caffeine (one cup of coffee, two cups of cola) can cause a significant DECREASE in recall and reasoning.

When people are relaxed and given caffeine, caffeine does not raise blood pressure significantly. But how many people are relaxed? When people are stressed and given caffeine, blood pressure is raised significantly.

Women who consume more than 24 ounces of coffee (6 moderate cups) per day had almost twice the risk of heart attack compared to non-coffee drinkers. Moderate coffee drinkers with high cholesterol had more than seven times the risk of heart attack, while heavy coffee drinkers had eighteen times the risk of non-coffee drinkers!

Caffeine depletes your supplies of thiamin and other B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc.

Caffeine increases calcium loss and risk of osteoporosis.

In one large study, the risk for hip fracture for those women who consumed the most caffeine was 300% greater than it was for the group that consumed little or no caffeine.

Take the Challenge! Most people have no idea what life would be like without the background of caffeine and stress hormones coursing through their veins. Even if you’re only having a few cups a coffee, chances are your personality is affected in ways that may be too subtle for you to associate with caffeine. I want to encourage you to conduct a trial period without caffeine. You owe it to yourself.

Don’t’ go ‘cold turkey’. To avoid headaches etc. when giving up caffeine, Cherniske recommends taking up to six weeks to come off it. Drink the same NUMBER of cups, but each week reduce the strength or amount in each cup.

There is lots more information in this very easy-to-read and highly interesting book. 440 pages. Read this book and you won’t need to spend so much on supplements!

Copyright ©: Stephanie Relfe – 2001

Permission is granted to use this article in whole or part if you acknowledge the author and quote and link to

Stephanie Relfe was born in Sydney, Australia. She now lives in the USA with her husband and son. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Sydney University. She is a professional Kinesiologist.

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We hope that you enjoyed this article about caffeine and some of its effects. Caffeine can cause some terrible side-effects, so be careful not to overdo it. Stay well…Team at caffeine withdrawal.

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