Sunday, June 24, 2007

Breaking up is hard to do...

So I mentioned a while back that I was decaffeinated. I meant to get back to that.

About two weeks ago I went in for my annual check-up. I saw a terrific nurse practitioner who noticed my knitting and we spent a lot of time chatting about that. She knits, too, but can't do complicated patterns because she does most of her knitting while waiting with laboring mothers. (Hmm, what's my excuse?) Anyway, during the course of our chat she mentioned that caffeine is a culprit in, among other things, heart palpitations, which I've noticed occasionally. So I thought maybe I could stop drinking coffee. [Aside: she said tea and chocolate didn't seem nearly as problematic, which made the prospect of going coffee-free seem much easier. She did laugh when I asked her about chocolate, though.]

I switched to decaf the next morning. I really only drink one, maybe one and a half, cups of coffee a day, so I thought it would be easy. I gave up coffee entirely during both pregnancies with no problem. And for a while all seemed well.

Now, coffee and I, we have a history. It began in high school. Seniors had the privilege of drinking coffee and chatting with teachers in the headmaster's study after lunch, and I got in the habit of downing two or three heavily sugared demitasse cups every day. At some point I noticed an inverse relationship between the number of cups I drank and the number of minutes I could sit still in my afternoon classes--but that was a long, slow realization, and the after-lunch conversation seemed more meaningful than the late afternoon classes anyway. (Ah, the rationalization, it starts early!) In college I began to be a coffee snob, bringing my own French press to the dining hall filled with my own grounds so I could brew it fresh rather than drinking the dining hall swill. When Starbucks became ubiquitous I found it rather too easy to spend over two dollars on a cup of hot steaming liquid. It just tasted so good!

But I'm not such a coffee snob that I can't just brew my own delicious decaf and take it from there. So that was the plan: decaf all day instead of just after lunch, a change I made years ago to stave off insomnia.

As I said, at first all seemed well. Nick's illness, our trip up north, all passed uneventfully--at least on the coffee front. I just drank decaf, or (for a few mornings) tea. I vaguely expected a headache or two from the withdrawal, but nothing. I was smugly congratulating myself.

Until Friday, when I had a splitting headache all day. I put it down to aftereffects of travel--my sunglasses are a little too tight, the drive had been long, I was finally home and able to relax, which is sometimes when stuff like that kicks in. That was all.

Until Saturday, when the headache persisted. Tylenol had no effect. A glass of wine with dinner did nothing. This morning I had two more tylenol before breakfast, but nothing changed.

Until lunch today, when I poured myself a cup of coffee, drank it, and about an hour later noticed the headache was gone. (And, yes, for the record: it did taste better than the decaf, too.)

So now the question is: can I drink one cup of coffee a week to stave off the headaches? Do I need to taper off more slowly? Was this just a coincidence?


Mrs. Coulter said...

I tapered off coffee (though not entirely) several years ago by mixing decaf and regular at work. The first week, I did 75/25, then a week of 50/50, then 25/75, then 100% decaf. No headache.

More recently, I've been trying to ditch my afternoon cup of coffee, with limited success. I still need a cup of tea to be functional, but eventually I'll try ditching that...of course, commenting on other people's blogs at 1am is probably not consistent with that goal.

Magpie said...

Caffeine is a drug - I'd go with Mrs. Coulter's suggestion of a slow taper.

Caroline said...

After 3 glasses of wine last night (pathetic, maybe, but that's a week's worth for me!) followed by 4 hours of sleep, I needed a cup of real coffee this morning. My family was shocked; decaf black tea is usually enough to get me through after a short night. And now here I am, still going strong past midnight... I feel like a chemistry experiment!

sam said...

I can't help but be amused by the picture of you bringing a French press to your college cafeteria.

[Aside. I know I'm commenting on something you posted weeks ago. I switched to Google Reader when I got my new computer, and just realized that I forgot to add a lot of the blogs I had been reading.]

My doctor recently said to cut back on coffee (and, incidentally, wine, and everything else that I like) because it causes acid reflux. Why should eating and drinking be so complicated? Ugh.