Help me fix my Coke addiction
July 25, 2006 3:28 AM   Subscribe

MedicalPersonFilter: Ok, I admit it, I'm addicted to caffeine. No, not coffee, I'm addicted to coca-cola. Basically, I'm wondering how I can kick the habit or reduce the heartburn I now get from drinking it?

As background, I've tried several times to kick the habit, but all it takes is a bourbon & coke at a bar or even a regular coke at a party and I'm back on to it again. To make things worse, as I get older, I'm starting to get a lot of heartburn from the coke, especially if I have it first thing in the morning (which I do, because it wakes me up). It doesn't seem to matter if I drink diet coke, anything with caffiene causes the problem.

With all this in mind, I guess I've got two questions:
1. How can I kick my caffeine habit?
2. If I find that too hard, how can I reduce the heartburn I'm getting and, for the medically-inclined among you, why am I getting heartburn now with coke when I didn't before (I've drunk it for years)?

posted by ranglin to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Change Coke for sparkling water, like Perrier. That really helped me. It was too much of a jump to go from Coke to water, so drinking sparkling water helped.

For the caffeine habit, try drinking some green tea. It might taste horrible in the beginning, but you'll get used to is after your twentieth cup. Drinking tea has helped me reduce my coffee drinking.
posted by einarorn at 4:09 AM on July 25, 2006

Heartburn, Hiatal Hernia, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD):
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly and stomach contents leak back, or reflux, into the esophagus. The LES is a ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that acts like a valve between the esophagus and stomach. The esophagus carries food from the mouth to the stomach. [...]

Also, certain foods can be associated with reflux events, including

* citrus fruits
* chocolate
* drinks with caffeine
* fatty and fried foods
* garlic and onions
* mint flavorings
* spicy foods
* tomato-based foods, like spaghetti sauce, chili, and pizza [...]
Avoid caffeine to reduce and prevent acid reflux
Avoid soda, coffee, tea, and other beverages with caffeine. Caffeine relaxes the LES, increasing the risk of acid reflux.
posted by pracowity at 4:11 AM on July 25, 2006

I expect the phosphoric acid and carbonation isn't helping. If you want caffeine try coffee or black tea (green tea releases less caffeine).

Related AskMeFi post
posted by D.C. at 4:22 AM on July 25, 2006

Switch to caffeine-free Coke. Little mom-and-pop corner stores won't likely have it, but any large chain grocery store will.
posted by Gator at 4:23 AM on July 25, 2006

And stay hydrated; whenever I've gone without caffeine for any length of time, I would get massive withdrawal headaches. Drink lots of extra water if you're kicking the habit.
posted by Gator at 4:24 AM on July 25, 2006

For the caffeine habit, try drinking some green tea.

Green tea has plenty of caffeine.
posted by malp at 4:46 AM on July 25, 2006

You need water. And coke is a sugary sweet dieuretic that brings nothing to the table.

So, you'll go through two phases to get off the stuff.
1) Transfer to something less sugary
2) Split that with water.

Today, replace 1/2 your coke with Gatorade (and/or water). Every other drink will be Gatorade (or something else you find tolerable)

The hardest one to replace with be the morning one. Buy 10 ounce bottles rather than cans/2 liters.

Eventually you wean yourself down. Even if it's one can less a week.

Last, once you're drinking something like Gatorade...start cutting that in half with water.
posted by filmgeek at 4:53 AM on July 25, 2006

I had to quit drinking coke like a junkie quits crack. Meaning, I could never, ever drink it if I didn't want to go back to drinking my 2-3 cokes a day. It actually took about a year before I really didn't want it at all anymore.

If you want to quit it, quit it.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 5:03 AM on July 25, 2006

I'm curious about something, in all seriousness. Why do you think you're addicted to caffeine, and not sugar?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 5:13 AM on July 25, 2006

I'm an addict as well... One thing I found helped to cut down consumption and heartburn (but not get rid of it) was to mix half water and half coke together. I don't mind the lack of bubbles and it still felt like I was getting a full glass of coke.
posted by dripdripdrop at 5:44 AM on July 25, 2006

My method was to taper off gradually. I switched to no-caffeine drinks, but when I felt like I needed a hit, I used caffeinated mints, like these. It took about 2 months to really get off the caffeine and not need the mints anymore.
posted by JanetLand at 6:28 AM on July 25, 2006

What does acne have to do with acidity? Just curious.
posted by onepapertiger at 6:38 AM on July 25, 2006

Tea has caffeine, but also has other compounds that help regulate caffeine's effects in the body - changing the peak/crash cycle to an even, steadier level. So, to beat my coffee addiction I first switched to tea. Regular old Breakfast Tea or Earl Grey or whatever. Then, I switched to green tea. Now, I'm on decaf green tea and doing fine. It took months. Drink lots of water. Have Advil on hand for the headaches. Good luck.

I've found that even fully caffeinated tea doesn't cause my acid reflux to flare up as much as coffee or Coke, which is why I don't bother drinking decaf coffee.
posted by misskaz at 7:30 AM on July 25, 2006

i was somewhat in the same boat as you. Gradually weening off of the stuff just didn't do it for me. The best solution (for me anyway) is to just do it. Cold turkey. Refuse the bourbon and coke. Have water at a party (or cranberry and seltzer, usually readily available). Just stop drinking it - commit. I found that after a few months the stuff will just taste horrible. I am serious. I stoped about 2 years ago and now if I have a sip of anyone's soda (coke or otherwise) it just tastes like sugary garbage which is great because that is exactly what it is: garbage. Good luck! Will power and determination are the only way. And I can assure you that you will feel like a new person once you liberate yourself from that syrupy sweet trash.
posted by Evan Gaffney at 7:45 AM on July 25, 2006

I did the cold turkey route too. Only ever drink it when I'm on a hangover now. And yeah - you'll feel a lot better for it.
posted by ed\26h at 7:52 AM on July 25, 2006

This is how I did it:

I went from multi-shot espresso drinks to regular coffee last year or so. This year I switched to green tea which has something like 20-30mg of caffeine per serving. I also used to drink diet coke which weighs in at an impressive 45mg of caffeine. I stopped both last week while my consumption of caffeine averaged less than 50mg per day.

For reference: A cup of coffee is about 150. A large drink from starbucks can be almost 350mg. This is all off the top of my head. Theres a few webpages with decent mg per drink info out there.

A couple things to keep in mind:

1. Caffeine is addictive and causes withdrawal. The morning groginess you feel is a withdrawal symptom.

2. Do not go cold turkey if youre taking more than 100mg per day. Always taper off. People get nasty headaches from stopping too soon. I didnt get any headaches fwiw.

3. I took care of stomach upset with a 14day use of Privolsec.

4. Some people are sensitive to caffeine and it sounds like youre one of them. It may also cause anxiety and heart palpatations.

Withdrawal wasnt too bad for me. I felt tired and irritable for the first few days and now it seems to be going away. The hard part is figuring out what to drink when Im eating out. Stuff like Sprite, Fanta Orange, most root beers, etc have no caffeine. Bottled waters of course dont and will take care of your want for carbonation.
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay at 7:55 AM on July 25, 2006

I had the same problem, but with Cherry Coke and Coke Classic.

While probably not the best way to do it, I moved to Sprite and 7up (which are caffeine free). The sweetness was what I needed, in no time I was free from the caffeine.

After I was on Sprite, I moved to Sugar Free Lemon Lime drinks (which I still drink occasionally). Now I mostly drink water and sugar free lemonade.

Once in a while (a few times a year) I still treat myself to a Cherry Limeade. At the State Fair every summer I enjoy a real Cherry Coke at an old fashioned sode fountain. yummmmmm......
posted by Leenie at 8:31 AM on July 25, 2006

Approximate Carbohydrate Levels
Coke 11g/100ml
Powerade 7g/100ml
Gaterade 5.8g/100ml

These are approximate only as there are regional formulation differences, and I've had to assume that 1 ml of beverage equals 1g. Close enough for this comparison, but not perfect. I've included all carbohydrates rather than just sugar.

When I have a caffiene free time, I eat apples. I read somewhere that they have some kind of stimulant in them. I can't find a link to support this thought, however. That's ok for me because I really like them! Alledgedly, apples have 10g/100ml carbs.
posted by dantodd at 8:51 AM on July 25, 2006

As addictive as caffeine is, I'll bet your bigger problem is the carbo rush Coke provides. Simplified carbs, like white sugar, have a way of perpetuating themselves in your diet because they stimulate a craving for more.

For example, once in a while I'll go through a candy bar phase. It's easy to slip into having one or two a day because my body quickly accepts the carbo spike at a given place or time and begins to expect it. Then I'll deliberately avoid sugar for a few days and the urge to eat a candy bar completely passes for months on end.

My wife, on the other hand, eats puffed rice cakes and Kashi like Paris Hilton bumps lines and she seems fine--unless she doesn't get her crunchy snack on at least once an hour. It's strange how the body sets its expectations.

This might be a helpful way of thinking about it: when you consider drinking one Coke, consider drinking them all week. It's kind of like the litmus test for taking someone home from a bar: sure, you want to sleep with her, but do you want to wake up with her? Think of the commitment you're making by signing on for a carbo spike and, as Nancy told us, just say no.

Good luck!
posted by squirrel at 9:16 AM on July 25, 2006

Green tea has plenty of caffeine.

Yeah, I know. Misskaz made the point that I was trying to make. Just to clarify, I think it is a big step to switch from a high-sugar, high-caffeine drink to water in one step.

My solution was to switch to sparkling water to get rid of the sugar, while still getting caffeine (but from a much healthier source, which the green tea is). Then slowly decrease the caffeine like misskaz suggested.
posted by einarorn at 9:24 AM on July 25, 2006

After quitting my four-a-day Dr. Pepper habit, I almost immediately lost five pounds. I switched to black coffee (not helpful for you, I guess) and fizzy water.
posted by Sara Anne at 10:39 AM on July 25, 2006

I had the same problem with heartburn as you do. I haven't actually stopped drinking the stuff, but as soon as I switched to Coke Light the heartburn went. However, it comes back as soon as I drink more than a little of regular Coke.
posted by Zero Gravitas at 10:39 AM on July 25, 2006

ranglin, how many oz of coke are you drinking a day? When I was at the height of my Coca-cola addiction in college, I was never without a 20 oz bottle in my hand. I was probably drinking about 3 liters a day. Ack!! Coke is my comfort food-- it's my first line of attack for sleepiness, headaches, and stomach aches. I drink a lot less now than I did then, but I'm still drinking more than I would like to be.

The way I've handled it is to do things in baby steps like other people have mentioned. Start by really considering whether you're addicted to the caffeine, or the sugar, or the combination of them. For me, I'm pretty sure it's the sugar, but having the caffeine doesn't help that addiction. So know that when you start to decrease your Coke consumption, you will have caffeine withdrawal. The first two weeks are the worst, but after that it gets easier.

I started by setting one goal (which worked for me, but start with whatever works best for you): only one 12 oz can of coke in the morning, and then no other coke at work for the rest of the day. I always had water handy, and if I was really craving the sugar in those first two weeks, I would have some lemonade. The thing about "sugar free" drinks is that they usually have aspartame or sucralose in them (artificial sugars), which really aren't that great for your body either. So, stick to getting your sugars from fruits. If you want a sugary-tasting drink, try slicing up some lemons and oranges (rinds and all) and letting them sit overnight in a bottle of plain water. The next morning you should have a tasty beverage that's good for you too.

Also keep an eye on how much soda you're drinking at restaurants. If you get one or two refills, that can be upwards of 60 oz of coke in a single sitting! Switch to something else-- ask for water with lemon, or if you're really craving something, try an Arnold Palmer (half iced tea, half lemonade), but check with your server, as the tea may have caffeine, or already be sweetened (if it comes out of the soda machine), or the lemonade may have artificial sweeteners.

Oh, one other thing: caffeine is a diuretic. Once I decreased my consumption, I became, um, a lot less regular. So keep up your fiber content, too.

Good luck.
posted by sarahnade at 11:13 AM on July 25, 2006

I'm no coke expert, but do they still sell "diet caffeine-free coke"? Maybe that would be a good place to start -- rather than trying to give up cold turkey, maybe switch to 50% diet-caffeine free and 50% regular coke.. increasing gradually... transition away from the sugary caffeiney stuff may be easier when you can still trick your mind into thinking you are having a coke..

but good luck with it -- i read somewhere that one of the main reasons so many north americans are overweight is becuase of overconsumption of coke and other similiar high-calorie but nutritition-free drinks...
posted by modernnomad at 1:12 PM on July 25, 2006

Ditto LittleMissCranky. I can't have a single delicious Coke without falling all the way back into my bad habits. Not drinking any is the only thing that works.
posted by BackwardsCity at 3:21 PM on July 25, 2006

I haven't stopped drinking Coke, because I don't want to stop drinking Coke (I think it's the best tasting thing ever created by human beings, and I'm not willing to completely give it up).

However, I have gone cold turkey. I have weaned myself off of it gradually. I've gone many months without drinking it at all. But the thing that really seems to have had a real impact on my Coke habit is something rather novel (I now drink much less, at most two 12 oz. cans a day, usually only 1, many days none).

What did it for me is realizing I have ADHD. Unlike most people, caffeine does not make me jittery or nervous -- it calms me down. I really needed that calm -- finding out that I had ADHD and getting the medication, instead of the caffeine, has helped tremendously. I still like Coke. I don't need Coke. I can concentrate without lots of Coke in my system.

I say this not because I have any reason to believe you have ADHD. You do not have it, in all likelihood. But you've gotten lots of other good advice, so I thought I'd throw that in there just in case, as something to ponder.
posted by teece at 7:12 PM on July 25, 2006

So, it's almost a year on. How did it turn out, I hear you all ask?

Well, I went cold turkey on coke (again) as a new years resolution. It's now May and I haven't had any coke for the last 4 months.

I've also tried to reduce soft drinks in general and replace them with Gatorade/Powerade. I'm still working on that, but hopefully over time I'll reduce the need for the sugary beverage.

Hopefully I can keep it up!

Thanks for all the tips MeFi-ers!
posted by ranglin at 6:25 PM on April 30, 2007

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