We all know that caffeine is responsible for that little energy boost you get when you drink a cup of coffee.But, what exactly is it?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant found most commonly in coffee, tea and cocoa plants. The first brewed tea has been traced back as far as 27.000 BCE. And caffeine is currently the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world, with 80% of the world's population consuming a caffeinated product everyday and upwards of 90% of adults in North America.

Caffeine's main effect is on your brain. It blocks the production of adenosine, the chemical responsible for making you feel tired. It also stimulates the production of dopamine and adrenaline, giving you that rush you crave before work or school.

And there's the main problem with caffeine:it's incredibly addictive. How many of you know someone who says "Don't talk to me before I have my coffee"? Or "I can't function in the morning without my Starbucks".Probably quite a few.

As annoying as that is, people who say things like that probably actually mean it. Their body is so accustomed to a caffeine hit at the same time each morning that if they don't get it they start to experience withdrawal.

The symptoms of withdrawal usually begin 12 to 20 hours from your last caffeine fix, peaking two days later and generally lasting about a week if you don't cave and have a soda or a cup of coffee to make it go away.

Withdrawal symptoms include mild to severe headaches,depending on how much caffeine you usually consume.Generally, your headaches will be very mild if your body is used to less than 500 milligrams of caffeine per day.That's about five cups of coffee, which seems like a lot to many of us but there are people who drink all that coffee or even more.

And it's not just coffee that counts towards that 500mg figure.If you have a soda with lunch and tea in the afternoon they'll contribute to your caffeine dependency too.

If you're trying to cut off caffeine entirely,the list of withdrawal symptoms is pretty intimidating.First and most obviously, caffeine is a stimulant so you'll loose the little energy kick you had relied on to get through the day.You'll also miss out on the psychological mood and concentration boost your favorite caffeinated drink provides.

One of the drawbacks of caffeine for people with anxiety issues is that the increased adrenaline production can actually trigger symptoms that feel like a panic attack.If you're trying to quit caffeine to avoid this issue, well, we've got some bad news for you.Caffeine withdrawal can actually cause depression and anxiety too.
According to one study by Johns Hopkins about 13% of people suffer significant impairment while trying to quit.

You'll also feel in increasingly irritable every little thing will get on your nerves. You'll probably suffer from constipation for a few days since caffeine stimulates bowel activity and your body has become accustomed to it.

Strangely enough you might have to deal with insomnia for a week or so.Typically, we think consuming caffeine as a culprit behind insomnia, and while that often is the case, your body will protest the lack of caffeine too; and you'll be specially aware of it when you're lying in bed trying to sleep.

This all sounds pretty unpleasant, but the health benefits are probably worth it.After the painful withdrawal period you'll sleep better and feel more rested during the day.You'll likely won't feel the need for an afternoon pick me up to make it through the rest of the day.

Caffeine has been linked more and more closely with panic attacks and anxiety disorders - the most common form of mental illness in the United States, cutting back on caffeine could very likely lessen their severity.

Your headaches should disappear - at least those you associated with lack of coffee or caffeinated beverages.Your teeth will thank you as well. Caffeinated drinks, specially dark sodas and coffee are notorious for staining the enamel of your teeth, giving you a less charming yellower smile.

Cutting these drinks from your daily routine will help keep your teeth healthy and bright. Finally, you'll suffer less from heartburn . Over 20% of all Americans report that the experience heartburn at least once a week. And 7% experience it daily. Coffee is a particularly bad trigger for people who suffer from heartburn, so reducing your coffee intake will hell prevent painful episodes.

Source : Second Though