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July 20, 2021

Cut Caffeine Without Headaches?

ThedaCare Dietitian Says it’s Possible by Reducing Intake Gradually

Maybe your cup of coffee in the morning has turned into two cups (or three) and you’re feeling jittery or having trouble sleeping. Maybe you’re thinking it’s time to cut back on caffeine, or your provider has recommended you quit – oh, but the headaches.

Don’t worry: There’s a way to cut the caffeine without the debilitating, migraine-like withdrawal headaches.

It’s all about taking it slow, said Ashley Krautkramer, a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist and Clinical Dietitian with ThedaCare. Along with headaches, withdrawal from the stimulant caffeine can cause other symptoms, including tiredness and fatigue, decreased energy, a loss of alertness, irritability and foggy thinking.

“These symptoms typically set in 12 to 24 hours after discontinuing caffeine intake,” Krautkramer said. “Symptoms usually peak within one or two days, and have been shown to persist for up to nine days.”

If you quit caffeine cold turkey and the withdrawal symptoms are too much, drinking something caffeinated will usually resolve symptoms within 30 to 60 minutes, she said.

“I recommend slowly withdrawing from caffeine intake instead,” Krautkramer said. “You still might experience some of the symptoms, but they won’t be as intense.”

Coffee drinkers might go with a half-caffeinated order instead, for example – that’s equal parts caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. Or maybe a quarter decaf, to start.

Some research has indicated that caffeine may have some health benefits, including increasing alertness and memory, as well as reducing risk of some serious diseases including some cancers.

Too much, however, can cause people to be jittery and even exacerbate cardiac issues such as arrhythmias; it can also exacerbate gastrointestinal issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease, as well as insomnia, anxiety and depression.

About 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is considered safe, with two cups of coffee totaling about 280 milligrams, Krautkramer said. People who drink coffee and related drinks should be aware that different drinks will have different levels of caffeine – an espresso will have less caffeine because of the serving size, for example. And people should watch the sugary additions and flavors, which can create problems with blood sugar and weight gain.

Withdrawal symptoms can appear when people use as little as 100 milligrams per day, she said.

“Before you start reducing your caffeine intake, try finding another option to replace the habit,” Krautkramer said. “If you don’t have a replacement, it’s more likely that you’ll go back to drinking coffee or related drinks.”

Tea is a great alternative – even the caffeinated versions have much less caffeine than a cup of coffee, with a cup of green tea containing between about 25 and 40 milligrams of caffeine and black teas up to 75 milligrams. Matcha and mate teas have the most, containing between 60 and 85 milligrams of caffeine. Herbal teas contain no caffeine.

Tea has other potential benefits, with different types offering different benefits, including improved sleep and reduced stress, antioxidants and potential reduction in disease-causing inflammation.

Some bottled teas are very low in caffeine. People should be mindful of other ingredients such as sugars.

“Reducing caffeine the gradual way can reduce the symptoms that you may experience,” Krautkramer said. “I’ve had patients say they’ve felt less anxious or notice they just felt better without the daily caffeine intake. It really can be worth it to cut the caffeine.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care

Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.