Epilepsy: Good-Bye Java

“If you’re waiting for the right time, it’s now.”

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Before I had become diagnosed with Epilepsy back in 2008, I was probably in pretty bad shape when it came to eating habits. I was just plain no good at it. Worst of all, throughout my days, it mainly consisted of any energy drink, soda or coffee I could get my hands on. Never ever crossing my mind what I was putting inside my body and the harmful effects it could do to you or your brain.

When Epilepsy struck me down in 2008, I made an immediate decision to send everything unhealthy in my life packing. It all had to go and I didn’t think twice about it. Yet, the only thing I allowed to linger was the sodas and the coffee. Why? I was not yet fully educated on the dangers of caffeine on the body. Especially on the body of someone with a seizure condition. I continued for a good long while after my diagnosis to guzzle down sodas and guzzle down coffees. Occasionally I would continue to have seizures too. I began to wonder what more I could do to prevent these seizures from happening as best as I could.

I began to want to know more about the condition I lived with. I began to want to understand more. To educate myself. To educate the world too! To advocate others living with this condition with me. I began to want to make it my life’s mission to be an advocate for epilepsy awareness, to learn all I could about this condition, and become as healthy as able to fight back. Even if that meant having to give up a couple of things that I love, if it’s for the sake of my health, it’s completely worth it. So I wanted to know…. What foods contain caffeine? All of them. Because  they’re leaving.

Foods Containing Caffeine:

  • Decaf Coffee
  • Diet Soda
  • Chocolate
  • Ice Cream
  • Weight Loss Pills
  • Pain Relievers
  • Energy Water
  • Alcoholic Energy Drinks
  • Breath Fresheners
  • Sumseeds Energized Sunflower Seeds
  • Morning Spark Instant Oatmeal
  • Tea

In learning about all the varieties of foods caffeine is placed in, and these are merely just a few, I knew it was time to make a change and fast if I wanted to get healthier. Yes, there are indeed more that I have not named. I couldn’t be certain if it would stop my seizures or lessen them but I was willing to try anything. Giving up the items on that list wasn’t as difficult a challenge as I had thought it to be. The first week or so, saying good-bye to soda in specific, was rough. Feeling caffeine slipping away from my body was like being beat up on its way out the door.

Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Headache – A caffeine headache usually starts behind the eyes and then moves up the front of the head.
  • Sleepiness – This just isn’t your normal tiredness, this is sitting up straight but still can’t keep your eyes open tiredness.
  • Irritability –  Everyone and everything might try to get on your last nerve. It’s could be best to read up on some deep breathing techniques and calming music during this stage.
  • Lethargy – You may not feel very productive at this stage because you’ll be unmotivated to do very much for the meantime.
  • Depression – Caffeine withdrawal can make you feel a little blue or bummed. Temporary blues are one thing, but if you already struggle with depression this could be a big issue. But remember! If you’re choosing to do this, you’re doing this because you want to do good and positive things for your life! It’s all looking up!
  • Muscle Pain/Stiffness – If you normally have some caffeine prior to exercise then during caffeine withdrawal you could feel as though your muscles have weights strapped to them.
  • Lack Of Concentration – You may have a little difficulty concentrating during caffeine withdrawal but no worries! It won’t last forever.
  • Insomnia – Some people actually can’t sleep when going through caffeine withdrawal.

See? Now when I said it was rough. I really meant it. It was rough. There were several instances just for the sake of not wanting to feel the withdrawal side effects any longer, I wanted to go back, but I stayed the course and it truly was worth it. Ultimately as a result, I shed a lot of extra pounds that I had packed on from all of that unhealthy eating and soda drinking. My seizures did lessen up just a bit and I began to feel like a completely different, more energetic person. So now that I had showed off all of the not-so-fun side of giving up caffeine, what is the fun side of giving up caffeine? When I had stumbled upon that aspect, that made giving up caffeine all the more enjoyable!

Benefits Of Quitting Caffeine:

  • Healthier Teeth – Kicking caffeine has tremendous benefits for your teeth. The excess sugar and citric acid in caffeinated drinks can cause cavities and erode your teeth’s enamel. Plus, many caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, will stain your teeth, which is not attractive. By quitting caffeine and brushing them pearly whites, your teeth are going to not only repair its own enamel, but you also have a good chance at reversing most of these symptoms.
  • Literally, Less Stress – Your adrenal glands produce stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These stress hormones are stored as reserve energy in your body and are used during life threatening situations. Caffeine consistently releases these stress hormones into your bloodstream! When you stop ingesting caffeine, your stress hormone glands (adrenal) will begin to recover. It takes exactly 3 weeks for them to fully recover. At this point, your stress threshold will increase which will allow you cope better to normal, everyday stressors.
  • Better Sleep Quality – The half-life of caffeine in your body is approximately six hours. In other words, if you consume a big cup of coffee with 200 milligrams of caffeine at 3:00 pm, then six hours later, at 9:00pm, about 100 milligrams will be in your system. With caffeine still in your body, your sleep is less restful as elevated stress hormones can cause insomnia or wake you up in the middle of the night. You may experience increased fatigue because you do not reach the Stage 4 deep sleep where your body repairs and renews itself for the next day. When you quit caffeine, you will notice the true benefits of good, quality sleep. That alone will lead to more, natural energy.
  • More Energy – Caffeine is a drug in the stimulants class. Stimulants do not provide healthy stimulation. Instead, they tax your body with unnatural chemical stimulation. Over time, by continuing to rely on caffeine, you can become extremely run down and exhausted. This physical state is usually referred to as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. When you quit caffeine, you allow your body to overcome adrenal fatigue. Your body will bounce back and provide more natural energy on its own in just a couple of weeks.
  • Consistent Mood Without Highs And Lows – Caffeine intake will dictate your daily highs and lows. If your mood is not consistent, then your overall quality of life suffers. Quality equals consistency. This concept relates to work output, relationships and even happiness. After quitting caffeine, you will be amazed at the consistency of your mood. Obviously, this will be a benefit to you, especially if you already suffer from any type of anxiety or depression.
  • Save over $1,000 Per Year!  – Spending $2.74 a day on caffeine will cost you $1,000 per year! Most coffee shops charge around $2.50 to over $5.00 for a custom made drink. Yet, some people buy more than one every day! Just think about all the money you will save by quitting caffeine. You could easily take a nice vacation every year if you give up caffeine!
  • Less Anxiety – We all know what happens if you drink too much caffeine. People often refer to these uncomfortable feelings as ‘the jitters.’ In reality, this is anxiety. If we do this to ourselves multiple times a day or even just a few times a week, we become far more anxious people. This is not good for your mood or for your health. By quitting caffeine, you will notice the benefit of having less anxiety in your life.
  • Momentum – Caffeine is known to be an addictive drug. Any type of addiction is not good, whether it is addiction to food, sugar, drugs, alcohol or gambling. When you quit caffeine, the benefits of overcoming this addiction are worthy of celebration! as a matter of fact, it could lead to you developing other healthy habits in life, such as quitting smoking. Momentum is the key and quitting caffeine is a great way to start becoming a better you!
  • Proper Hydration – The human body is made up of about 70-75% water. We’ve gotta continuously take in large amounts of water for our body to function well. Consider how much water you drink on a daily basis. Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, which is bad for your organs. Caffeine contributes to the problem because it is a strong diuretic that can contribute to dehydration. Even if you do not quit ingesting caffeine, you should probably start drinking more water. Your body will thank you.
  • Increased Health And Vitality – The 9 benefits mentioned above of quitting caffeine come together as increased health and vitality for your life. Vitality literally means: exuberant physical strength or mental vigor, capacity for survival or for the continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence, power to live or grow, power of enduring. Vitality is something we all love to have! By quitting caffeine, you’re going to notice the benefits of increased vitality and overall better health.

Upon leaving most all caffeine behind, the only crutch I had remaining was coffee. Other than that most forms of caffeine had been sent packing for good never to be seen again! It had also sparked other healthy interests in turn! My husband and I began changing our eating habits, exercising, focusing more on our relationship with God and family, it had just really opened our eyes to the importance of taking care of our bodies.

Yet somehow, coffee managed to hang it there a little longer. The last remaining piece of the puzzle.  A day had finally risen, a little over a year ago, I finally made the decision. Coffee had to go. Knowing that I would have to face the same caffeine withdrawal symptoms as I had way back when, when giving up caffeine like I had the first go ’round, I had begun to mentally prepare myself for the journey I was about to take. I wanted to know how caffeine affected epilepsy.

Caffeine & Epilepsy:

According to an expert insight, “Although caffeine may not necessarily provoke seizures for every individual with epilepsy, it can increase the duration of epileptic seizures under certain conditions. A report in the November 1987 issue of the “American Journal of Psychiatry” indicates that caffeine administered prior to electroconvulsive therapy increased the average seizure duration experienced during ECT. In this trial, caffeine more than doubled the average seizure duration.”

Yes there can be caffeine dangers! For some people with epilepsy, caffeine can act as a seizure trigger. If you keep a seizure journal, including caffeine intake, it may become apparent that your seizures are linked to your caffeine intake. For any person, an excess of caffeine can cause irritability, anxiety and restlessness. Caffeine can also interfere with your sleep patterns. Because managing your sleep is an important part of epilepsy management, caffeine may have an indirect negative effect on your epilepsy by interrupting your sleep.

Armed with all of this information, I felt mentally prepared to take on the challenge of kicking the java to the curb as well. And that is exactly what I did. We no longer allowed coffee of any sort back into the house. Was it hard at first? You better believe it was! Did the withdrawals kick my butt? Oh you betcha. However, I matched the withdrawals with healthy “Your Body Will Thank You” replacements as I trudged through the rough stuff determined to conquer this Caffeine War.

Tiffany’s Your Body Will Thank You Replacements:

  • Water Water Water! (Make water your new go-to energy drink as my husband Chris would say)
  • Exercise – We decided it was a great idea to get ourselves a gym membership and begin getting into better shape after losing all of the weight that we had from kicking soda and other unhealthy foods to the curb.
  • Diet/Healthy Eating – It’s so easy to eat out, eat fast food, eat what looks and smells delicious. However, when you look at the calorie counts and the sugars, cholesterol etc. it could be a frightening reality check! Especially if you have a health condition already or a health condition existing within the family. Start cooking at home. Start juicing and don’t shy away from veggies. It’s not going to kill you. Quite the opposite! It’s going to help you live longer! Now, I haven’t completely given up eating out but the more you eat at home the better.
  • Tea – No Coffee? How about tea! I’ve since become a big fan of tea. Decaffeinated teas. You wouldn’t believe all the different varieties and flavors of teas and the health benefits of teas. Teas have been used for centuries by many many cultures. They’ve had it right!

Did giving up the java lessen my seizures? I’d like to say I did notice a big significant difference in seizure activity! Though, I can’t say for certain. I still experience seizures unfortunately. That is just the journey that I am on. Until a cure can be found for this unruly monster. Yet, I do feel a significant difference since kicking it to the curb.

One thing, it is a challenge to avoid caffeine in all its forms. So often, I will stumble upon a new food item caffeine will sneak its way into. Rule of thumb, always be alert to reading your ingredient labels before making your purchases. Be health conscious about what you eat. Its your body. Its your health. You want to do what’s best for your health. You want to fight back. That may require you to give up a few things you love. But when it comes to your life and those in your life that love you, it’s so worth it.

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