Are you even aware of how much caffeine you’re consuming regularly? Knowledge is power, as they say, so start paying attention. You can start with labels and packaging. Turn that can of diet soda around so you can see the fine print that tells you that the 12 oz. can contain 46 mg of caffeine. Keep track of how many cups of coffee, cans of sodas, glasses of tea, or pieces of chocolate that you consume on a typical day.
Watch out for “hidden” caffeine, too. That decaffeinated coffee that you so virtuously ordered instead of your usual full-throttle coffee? Guess what: it contains some caffeine, too. Not as much as the regular coffee, of course, but it’s not caffeine-free. An example: a 16 oz. cup of Starbucks’ Pike Place Roast, decaf version, contains about 25 mg of caffeine, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Related: 6 Good-For-You Coffee Blends and Creamers to Kick Your Caffeine Fix Up a Notch“Unknowingly unless you read food labels, you could be getting caffeine from sources that you would not have suspected,” says Taub-Dix. “The most troublesome sources of caffeine are those that are appearing in waters.”
Other possible sources of caffeine that you might not expect include some gums and candies, some supplements and medicines, and even ice cream (think: coffee and cappuccino-flavored versions). Green tea also contains a little caffeine, unless otherwise specified.
Dr. Christopher Johnston, MD, chief medical officer of Pinnacle Treatment Centers, cautions that you might want to watch out for a few other things, too. “Read labels for items like guarana, guayusa, yaupon holly, yerba mate, or cacao,” he says, adding that these are sometimes added and touted as “natural energy enhancers.”
How to cut back on caffeine
Even though they still contain some caffeine, decaf coffee and tea do contain less caffeine. So, switching to decaf from fully caffeinated coffee and tea is still a useful strategy, since it will reduce your caffeine consumption level.
Other ways to cut back:
Drink fewer cups of coffee, tea, or soda each day.
Put less coffee, tea, or soda in your usual cup, so you wind up consuming less
Buy coffee or tea that contains less caffeine than your usual kind
Swap out every other caffeinated drink for water or another beverage without caffeine
Be aware of other sources of caffeine that might add to your limit so you can decide whether you really “need” them.
But one strategy might not work as well as you’d think. “I usually don’t recommend cold turkey,” says Dr. Mandal.
That’s because if you quit suddenly, you can wind up with the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, like headaches, fatigue, possibly even some anxiety, and irritability.
Related: Here Are 50 Reasons You Should Be Drinking Green TeaCaffeine isn’t addictive, at least not in the same way that alcohol is, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But you can become dependent on it. And when you stop consuming it all of a sudden, that’s when the withdrawal symptoms can kick in. They’re not dangerous, according to the FDA, but they sure can be unpleasant.
Meanwhile, a gradual reduction is less likely to give you the headache or shakes or other uncomfortable symptoms. Healthy Now Newsletter Get good vibes and health tips delivered right to your inbox!
“Reducing intake by 20 percent per day or less is unlikely to produce any symptoms, but faster tapers can be tried, and if headaches or severe fatigue occur, then staying at the same caffeine intake level for a few days before continuing the taper would be advisable,” says Dr. Johnston. Nest up, yes, your morning cup of coffee is probably making you poop.