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Clueless About Caffeine Withdrawals

Most people drink caffeine daily but are clueless about caffeine withdrawal symptoms and when they are likely to show up.

We wrongly assume that caffeine withdrawals only occur when giving up caffeine entirely. In which case, most people know that the withdrawal symptoms might be severe.

However, you can experience caffeine withdrawals in many situations:

  • With infrequent caffeine consumption. For example, only drinking coffee when traveling or on certain occasions.
  • With varying caffeine intake. For example, drinking the same amount of coffee during work days but cutting back (often without realizing) on the weekends or vacations. For many people, caffeine intake is associated with a place where coffee is available: at work, for example.
  • Switching coffee brands or brewing methods. Different coffee beans may contain varying amounts of caffeine. So just changing from a high-caffeine to a lower-caffeine coffee can cause withdrawal symptoms. Or drinking coffee in various places: Starbucks or McDonalds or a hipster coffee place, which brew their coffee differently and at different strengths.
  • Different types of caffeine-containing beverages randomly: Kombucha, green tea, or decaf cappuccinos, which all contain varying amounts of caffeine.

Any time the body is used to a particular caffeine intake and this amount is dropped, you will experience some withdrawal symptoms.

This is how people on vacation find that they are more irritable (think about arguments during road trips!) and blame it on external circumstances rather than their sudden cutback in caffeine intake.

You could also experience headaches, depression, anxiety, and many other symptoms that come with caffeine withdrawals.

Brain Fog

An often unrecognized symptom of caffeine withdrawal is a sort of “brain fog” where you are not able to concentrate and lack motivation.

An article published on the website “Let Them Eat Meat” tipped me off this explanation. The author offered an “An Alternative Theory for My Vegan Brain Fog.”

The author writes:

“At some point after I quit veganism, I did recognize that inconstant caffeine consumption would turn my brain into mush on withdrawal days. I quit caffeine for a while around the time I quit veganism – or at least, that’s what I gather from that email I found – but at some point after that I got back into coffee and drank it consistently for a while. When I was doing this, I would wake up very early every morning with a headache, which I would then cure with coffee. I eventually decided that as much as I loved caffeine while I was drinking it, it wasn’t worth the pain when I wasn’t. I went through an intentional, self-aware caffeine withdrawal that was around two weeks of agony – and the symptoms weren’t just headaches. But I somehow managed not to connect this with the reason I left veganism. I put “vegan brain fog misery” and “caffeine withdrawal misery” in separate boxes, and it was only more recently when I felt the brain fog again without knowing how to categorize it that I realized both felt the same.”

He attributes his reason for quitting veganism as a misunderstanding: the caffeine withdrawal was the cause of his brain fog, not the diet.

The same thing happened to me about 12 years ago. A friend of mine introduced me to the wonders of soy lattes, and I would drink them occasionally. It was around this time that I kept experiencing a mysterious “brain fog” that I thought was caused by deficiencies in my diet.

In reality, I was experiencing regular caffeine withdrawal symptoms!

The best way not to experience random caffeine withdrawal symptoms that can occur for any of the reasons I have mentioned is not to drink any caffeine.

But if you still consume caffeine-containing beverages, try to keep your intake regular to avoid the withdrawal symptoms.


Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.