Tips for giving up caffeine

One of the hardest changes for me was fully giving up caffeine. At first, I mistakenly believed that I needed to cut out coffee and tea for the acid they contained and instead switched to caffeine pills. This is incorrect however, the issue with caffeine as far as reflux is concerned is that it relaxes the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) which is supposed to keep food in the stomach. A relaxed LES is more likely to allow acid out of the stomach and into the Esophagus causing heartburn, acid reflux and/or GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease).

Once I realized my mistake I gave up caffeine completely. I’d like to share some tips to make that process easier:

  1. Don’t quit cold-turkey: Most people who give up caffeine experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms (for me headaches) when they get off caffeine. To avoid this, slowly ratchet down the amount of caffeine you are drinking and switch from higher caffeine drinks to lower. For example, if you drink two cups of coffee per day, cut back to 1.5 cups of coffee and a ½ a cup of decaf, then after a couple of days cut back to 1 cup of coffee and one cup of decaf. Continue until you are even off of decaf (decaffeinated coffee and tea are NOT caffeine free, they are just extremely low in caffeine).

  2. Make sure you identify all of the caffeine in your diet: this sadly includes tea, green tea, white tea, coffee / espresso / cappuccino, decaf coffee / tea, chocolate (especially dark), cola’s and other sodas, certain pain relievers, certain diet drugs, yerba mate, certain craft beers (but alcohol is out anyway), energy drinks / bars / gums / etc, certain chewing gums, and coffee flavored ice cream / candies / etc. Pay special attention to any product that claims to give you energy or wake you up.

  3. Get enough sleep: without caffeine as a crutch you’ll need your full allotment of sleep (for most people somewhere between 7-9 hours per night). Your goal is to wake up naturally before your alarm clock. Remember you shouldn’t lie down for at least 3 hours after eating which means you need to plan your last meal of the day with enough time to still get in those 3 hours plus your needed sleep before getting up the following morning.

My younger brother gave up caffeine in an attempt to control migraine headaches. I reached out to him for help when I went caffeine free and he provided these next two tips:

  1. Exercise in the morning: I walk two miles each morning between taking my acid reflux medicine and eating breakfast (the instructions state I need a one hour gap between). I don’t notice any difference in the morning but on the days I do exercise there is much less of a lag in the afternoon.

  2. Have a fruit pick-me-up in the afternoon: my brother does apples or orange juice (not allowed for reflux) but I’ve read that bananas can work as well.

  3. Eat more frequent meals: this is something you should be doing for reflux anyway but keeping your blood sugar more constant can avoid that late afternoon crash.