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Personal Health

Is Giving Up Coffee the Right Decision for You?

Does the thought of giving up coffee feel impossible? It can be tough to imagine life without the daily morning ritual enjoyed by so many, but some are finding that the negative effects of caffeine outweigh the benefits.

Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant that exists in coffee beans, as well as in the leaves and seeds of several other plants. The stimulating properties of caffeine make you feel more awake and alert, but they can also cause unpleasant side effects, including jitteriness, nervousness, irritability, an upset stomach, a racing heart, and difficulty sleeping. Not to mention: caffeine is a drug, and it's mildly addicting.

So should you get off coffee, or is it a healthier, more reasonable decision to include caffeine in your diet in moderation? Let's take a closer look.

Why People Kick Caffeine

Why is it that people forgo coffee in the first place? Caffeine carries health concerns for some, especially pregnant women. The potential risk of miscarriage increases with 300 milligrams of caffeine per day during pregnancy -- a little more than two cups of caffeinated coffee. Because caffeine can impact the development of the fetus, many women choose to abstain from caffeine altogether while they're expecting.

Some people need to reduce their caffeine intake because it can interact with other medications they're taking. Individuals who experience anxiety, heart palpitations, or high blood pressure often avoid caffeine to reduce the symptoms of their respective conditions.

The Good News

If those facts have you considering giving up coffee, hold on: There are actually some reasons why you might want to keep that daily cup of java as part of your routine.

Coffee is a great source of antioxidants, which fight inflammation and reduce the risk of certain diseases. One study even found that coffee drinkers also have a lower risk of death overall, regardless of whether the coffee they consumed was caffeinated or decaf.

How Do You Cut Back?

That said, there are still some valid reasons to cut back on caffeine, even if it's just to prove to yourself that you don't have to rely on it every day. But stopping abruptly may lead to withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, irritability, jitters, and fatigue. These should clear up in a few days, but you can minimize these side effects by weaning yourself off caffeine little by little, rather than stopping all at once.

Consider swapping out some of your caffeinated coffee for decaf, and gradually reduce the number of cups of caffeinated coffee you consume each day. Decaffeinated coffee still contains some caffeine, but it's considerably less than regular coffee. You can also reduce caffeine intake by swapping out some of those cups of coffee for tea. Green tea has about a quarter of the caffeine that coffee does, and it's also packed with antioxidants. Most herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free.

Here's another great benefit of taking a break from caffeine: It allows you to find other ways to give yourself that spark in the morning. Boost your energy and combat fatigue by hydrating with water once you wake up, or start your day with a workout so you feel strong, energized, and ready to take on the world.

Posted in Personal Health

Judy Schwartz Haley is a freelance writer and blogger. She grew up in Alaska and now makes her home in Seattle with her husband and young daughter. Judy battled breast cancer when her daughter was an infant, and now she devotes much of her free time to volunteering as a state leader with the Young Survival Coalition, which supports young women with breast cancer.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.