If you don’t even dare say the word decaf, you aren’t alone. Americans are currently drinking more coffee than ever before. And that doesn’t even account for all of the other ways to get your caffeine fix — from matcha lattes to the $25+ billion dollar energy drinks industry.
The good news is that there are plenty of proven health benefits that come along with drinking coffee, from a faster metabolism to a significantly lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
But what are the benefits of going caffeine-free, and who should be avoiding caffeine altogether?
Here are the top 10 benefits of cutting down on your fancy espresso drink habit — besides, of course, saving a ton of money.
1. Less anxiety
Feeling increasingly anxious lately? Too much caffeine may be to blame.
Caffeine comes with a burst of energy, which is what most of us use it for. However, that energy also stimulates our “fight or flight” hormones. This may cause an increase in anxiety, nervousness, heart palpitations, and even panic attacks.
Those who are already prone to stress and anxiety may find that caffeine makes their symptoms a whole lot worse. Additionally, higher caffeine intake has been linked to increased chances of depression in adolescents.
2. Better sleep
Your caffeine habit could be affecting your sleep. Studies show that daily coffee intake can alter your sleep cycle, causing restless sleep and daytime drowsiness. This can be especially true if you consume caffeine less than six hours before heading to bed.
Besides a more blissful and undisturbed night’s rest, those who are caffeine-free may find it takes them much less time to fall asleep in the first place.
3. More efficient absorption of nutrients
If you’re not a caffeine drinker, your body may absorb some nutrients better than those who do partake. The tannins in caffeine can possibly inhibit some of the absorption of:
This can be especially true for those who have a very high caffeine intake, imbalanced diet, or older age. Consuming no caffeine at all can help ensure you’re getting all of the nutrients possible from your diet.
4. Healthier (and whiter!) teeth
There’s no fighting it: Coffee and tea can stain teeth. This is due to the high level of tannins found in these drinks, which cause buildup and discolored tooth enamel. The acidity in caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda can also lead to enamel wear and decay.
5. Balanced hormones for women
Women may especially benefit from going caffeine-free. Caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and soda can alter estrogen levels.
A 2012 study found that drinking 200 milligrams (roughly 2 cups) or more of caffeine per day elevated estrogen levels in Asian and black women, while white women had slightly lower estrogen levels.
Changing estrogen levels can be particularly concerning if you have an increased risk for conditions like endometriosis, breast cancers, and ovarian cancers. While caffeine isn’t directly linked to these conditions, high estrogen levels is associated with the causes.
Caffeine has also been shown to worsen certain menopause symptoms.
6. Lower blood pressure
Not partaking in caffeine can be good for your blood pressure. Caffeine has been shown to raise blood pressure levels due to the stimulatory effect it has on the nervous system.
7. Balanced brain chemistry
It’s no surprise that caffeine has an effect on mood. All of those “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” slogans are on mugs for a reason.
Caffeine can alter brain chemistry in a similar way that drugs like cocaine do, and researchers agree that caffeine does fulfill some of the criteria used to measure drug dependence.
People who don’t consume caffeine don’t have to worry about the addictive qualities of it, whereas people who decide to wean off caffeine or stop drinking it completely may experience withdrawal symptoms or temporary changes in mood.
Withdrawal timeline If your body is dependent on caffeine, you may experience withdrawal symptoms in as soon as 12 to 24 hours. How long these symptoms last depends on how much caffeine you drink, but it can be anywhere from two to nine days, with symptoms peaking at 21 to 50 hours.
8. Fewer headaches
Caffeine withdrawal is a real thing. One of the most common and unpleasant side effects of caffeine withdrawal is headaches. And it may not take a few days for one to show up.
Ever notice how you get a headache if you’re too busy for your morning cup of coffee? This is only one symptom of caffeine withdrawal. Others include:
- brain fog
- difficulty concentrating
Even if you’re not experiencing withdrawal right away, a 2004 study found that caffeine intake is a big risk factor for developing chronic daily headaches.
9. A healthy digestion
Caffeine intake can come with a host of unpleasant digestive issues. Coffee creates a laxative effect that stimulates the bowels. Consuming especially large amounts of coffee can cause diarrhea or loose stools (and even incontinence).
10. You may age better
If you’re concerned about aging, you may benefit from not consuming caffeine. Caffeine interferes with collagen formation by reducing collagen synthesis in human skin.
Since collagen has a direct effect on the skin, body, and nails, not sipping that morning cup of coffee could mean less wrinkles for you.
Who should avoid caffeine?
It’s best to steer clear from caffeine entirely if any of the following apply to you:
1. You’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant
We know that those who are pregnant and breastfeeding should avoid caffeine, but it’s important if you’re trying to conceive, too. Caffeine has been linked to an increase in miscarriage and decrease in fertility.
2. You’re prone to anxiety
Those who are prone to anxiety or depression may find that caffeine makes their condition worse. Caffeine has been shown to exacerbate certain psychiatric conditions. It can cause increased irritability, hostility, and anxious behavior.
3. You have a gut or digestive condition such as acid reflux, gout, or diabetes
If you have a preexisting digestive condition, caffeine may make your symptoms worse. This is especially true for those with:
4. You take certain medications
Always check if caffeine interacts with your prescription medication. Some of these drugs include:
- antibacterial drugs
- antidepressants (especially MAOIs)
- asthma drugs
While the process of going off caffeine, especially coffee, doesn’t sound the greatest, there are alternatives you can try to make this undertaking go more smoothly.
That being said, coffee does have its benefits. If your life doesn’t get better after you ditch your morning cup, there’s no reason to completely go off the brew. Like all foods and good things in life, it’s about moderation.
Tiffany La Forge is a professional chef, recipe developer, and food writer who runs the blog Parsnips and Pastries. Her blog focuses on real food for a balanced life, seasonal recipes, and approachable health advice. When she’s not in the kitchen, Tiffany enjoys yoga, hiking, traveling, organic gardening, and hanging out with her corgi, Cocoa. Visit her at her blog or on Instagram.