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There are some conditions that may be improved if you decrease your caffeine intake. If your doctor suggests that you cut down on caffeine, here are some steps to help you do so.

Here's Why:

Caffeine is a mild stimulant. Many people drink coffee, tea, or soda for this effect—it helps them feel more awake and alert. However, this stimulant effect can also cause jitters, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. Each person's tolerance to caffeine is different. As we age, we become more sensitive to the effects of caffeine.

You may be advised to reduce your caffeine intake in certain situations. For example:

  • If you are pregnant or nursing—During pregnancy, you may be more sensitive to caffeine. Also, caffeine can pass through the placenta and breast milk to your baby.
  • If you have a specific medical problem such as high blood pressure, other risk factors for heart attack, gastritis, or ulcers, talk to your doctor about how caffeine affects you in order to determine if you need to cut back.
Here's How:

First, you will need to know all the possible sources of caffeine in your diet. The following table should help understand the caffeine content of different beverages. While chocolate does not contain caffeine, for some people the theobromines in chocolate have similar effects. We have also listed the caffeine equivalents for some chocolate products below.

Common Sources of CaffeineServing SizeAverage Caffeine Content (mg)
Over-the-Counter Drugs
NoDoz (maximum strength)1 tablet200
Excedrin (extra strength)2 tablets130
Coffee
Coffee, brewed16 ounces133
Espresso coffee2 ounces150
Coffee, instant8 ounces148
Decaffeinated12 ounces5
Tea
Arizona Iced Tea, black16 ounces30
Black tea8 ounces30-80
Soft Drinks
Mountain Dew12 ounces54
Dr. Pepper, regular or diet12 ounces41
Colas12 ounces35
7-UP or Diet 7-UP12 ounces0
Energy Drinks
Jolt Energy Drink23.5 ounces280
5-hour Energy1.9 ounces208
Monster Energy16 ounces160
Red Bull8.4 ounces80
Chocolate Products
Hershey's Special Dark 1.5 ounce20
Hershey's chocolate bar1.6 ounces9
Hot cocoa1 tbs. 8
Cut Back Gradually

Some people experience headaches or drowsiness if they all remove sources of caffeine from their diet. Decreasing over a period of time can help prevent these effects. Try the following:

  • Mix half regular and half decaffeinated coffee
  • Drink instant coffee, which has less caffeine than regular coffee
  • Brew tea for a shorter time—a 1-minute brew contains about half of the caffeine that a 3-minute brew contains

If you find that one of the above three methods of gradual cutting back works for you, then you can begin to:

  • Drink decaffeinated coffee or tea, which has almost no caffeine.
  • Drink herbal tea, which naturally has no caffeine.
  • Replace coffee, tea, and soda with water or juice.

If you are trying to lose weight, then do not forget that juices and sugar-containing soft drinks may have more calories than some of the caffeinated beverages you are giving up.

Read Labels

You may be surprised at the caffeine content of your favorite beverages or of some of the over-the-counter products in your medicine cabinet. Be sure to check labels. Many sodas and other products come in caffeine-free forms, so look for these.

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org

International Food Information Council
http://www.foodinsight.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References:

Caffeine. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 18, 2013. Accessed March 11, 2014.

Caffeine and heart disease. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Caffeine-and-Heart-Disease_UCM_305888_Article.jsp. Updated February 21, 2012. Accessed March 11, 2014.

Caffeine content of food & drugs. Center for Science in the Public Interest website. Available at: http://www.cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm. Updated December 2012. Accessed March 11, 2014.

Cornelis MC, El-Sohemy A, Kabagambe EK, Campos H. Coffee, CYP1A2 genotype, and risk of myocardial infarction. JAMA. 2006;295(10):1135-1141.

Lopez-Garcia E, van Dam RM, Willett WC, et al. Coffee consumption and coronary heart disease in men and women: a prospective cohort study. Circulation. 2006;113(17):2045-2053.

Neurodegenerative disorders: coffee and age-related cognitive decline. Coffee & Health website. Available at: http://www.coffeeandhealth.org/coffee-and-health-topics/coffee-consumption-and-neurodegenerative-disorders/coffee-and-age-related-cognitive-decline/. Accessed March 11, 2014.

ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 11, 2014. Accessed March 11, 2014.



Last reviewed March 2014 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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