If you drink caffeinated soda on a regular basis, within the first few hours of missing your usual dose of caffeine you can expect to suffer symptoms like headache, irritability, general moodiness, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. These maladies can last over a week.
Tapering off instead of trying to quit cold turkey can minimize some of these withdrawal symptoms.
Researchers from the University of Vermont College of Medicine and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine conducted a double-blind study while investigating the biological reasons for caffeine withdrawal.They found that acute caffeine abstinence increased brain blood flow, which they believe to be the cause of withdrawal headaches. They also noticed changes in the theta rhythm, brain waves generally observed during various states of light sleep, which would explain feelings of fatigue.1
Diet or Diet Caffeine-Free Soda
Aspartame, a sweet chemical made up of aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol, also known as NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure, has indeed made its place in the Great Halls of Controversy. Many doctors insist it is a poison and there are withdrawal symptoms associated with Aspartame.2
Common withdrawal symptoms are reported to include headache, fatigue, mood swings, irritability, depression, tension, nausea, and sweating. However, there are the aspartame industry “experts” that deny this, claiming that aspartame is the next best thing since sliced bread. Pictured on the front page of the aspartame industry website is a smiling woman supposedly drinking a beverage sweetened with the chemical.
So depending on what soda you are trying to quit drinking, for instance, Diet Coke or Pepsi, you may get hit with a double-whammy of withdrawal symptoms due to the both the caffeine and aspartame, depending on which side of the controversy your doctor is on if you ask.
Both Caffeinated Regular and Non-Caffeinated Soda
Much like illegal drugs, sugar releases opioids and dopamine in the reward center of your brain. It stands to reason that if you take in a lot of sugar and suddenly stop it, your body is going to object.
Most sugar withdrawal discussions cite a rat study published in 2007 in which the four components of addiction were analyzed: bingeing, withdrawal, craving, and cross-sensitization (becoming sensitized to a substance different from one you are already sensitized to). The study found that after bingeing on sugar and then stopping, the withdrawal symptoms notably included anxiety and depression.3
There have not been an abundance of human studies done on the withdrawal effects of sugar. However, just a cursory look around at symptom lists physicians have complied from their patients’ complaints when suddenly abstaining from a sugar habit is evidence that this is an issue to take seriously. Dr. Fredric L. Bonine, D.D.S., M.S., P.C. states that “a typical sign of sugar withdrawal is a depressive low feeling”.4 Others symptoms can include craving, irritability, poor concentration, and restlessness.5
While it is unpleasant to know you may suffer some of these withdrawal symptoms due to quitting caffeine, artificial sweeteners, or sugar, keep in mind it will just be for a short while and well worth your improved mental and physical condition after you’ve kicked the addiction.
1. Study collaboration between Sigmon and Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, include Griffiths, as well as Ronald Herning, Warren Better, and Jean Cadet of the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Molecular Neuropsychiatry section.
2. Aspartame (Nutrasweet R) Addiction, H.J. Roberts, M.D., F.A.C.P, F.C.C.P
3. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Volume 32, Issue 1, 2008, Nicole M. Avena, Pedro Rada, Bartley G. Hoebel: Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake.
4. Dr. Fredric L. Bonine, D.D.S., M.S., P.C.
5. Dr. Simon Thornley, public health physician, Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Auckland.