A few weeks ago I gave up caffeine.  Please understand that I never planned on giving up caffeine, as I really didn’t consume all that much of it.  Except on Fridays.  On Fridays I went all Venti on the caffeine.  (“Venti” is “large” for those of you who do not speak Starbucks. Twenty ounces. Ohhhhhh yyyeahhhhhhhhhh)

See, what ha’ happen’ wuz…

One night the evening news (which I hardly ever watch because of my inherent disdain for sensationalized tragedy and inaccurate weather forecasts, but which Dom likes to fall asleep watching) had a story on the effects of caffeine in the brain.  Basically, we all know that caffeine restricts the blood vessels, raises blood pressure, etc.  But this news story was worth watching.  The reporter had an MRI performed pre-coffee, then drank a Grande coffee beverage (medium) and had another MRI done.  The difference in brain activity before and after the coffee was astounding.  Brain activity was reduced to 40% after drinking the coffee.  The medical doctors interviewed in the report stated that after a while, the brain will learn to function with the reduced blood flow.  As in, the 40% becomes your new normal.  Yikes.

And that is also why when you have gone without caffeine after being so dependent on it, you will experience a “caffeine headache” because the blood vessels are returning to normal size, thus allowing a whole lot more blood to flow into the brain and resulting in the pounding in your head.

The key, it would seem, is getting your internal highway system accustomed to full traffic again.  I believe blood to the brain is a good thing.  Which means that after hearing that report (not once, but three times during the night because the television in my bedroom was left on) I decided to ditch the caffeine.

It had only been a couple of weeks since my Lenten sacrifice of customized Starbucks beverages had ended, and I hated the idea of giving it up permanently.   I decided that one custom beverage a week wouldn’t hurt.  I’d switch to decaf and be completely happy.  Riiiight??

(Yes, I vividly recall all my concerns about decaf coffee and the chemicals used in the process of removing the caffeine.  I’m trying really hard to strike a balance here, folks.)

Around the same time, I decided to try out this paleo lifestyle which excludes (among other things) sugar, dairy and soy.  Damn.  No coconut milk at Starbucks?  What’s a lost soul to do??  Again, believing one custom beverage a week was no big sin, I dropped my Venti down to a Grande, further reduced the sugar syrup pumps, and asked for decaf.

Three times I have done this.  Three times I have finished my cup with a dull headache.  Make sense?  Not in the slightest.   Could it be that three separate times, at different Starbucks locations, they spiked my beverage?  I don’t think so.  But something is amiss, and I aim to find out what.  Especially since I talked with another Starbucks junkie who said she recently started having reactions to her custom coffee beverages.  She switched to tea and is fine.

My issue could potentially be all the other changes I was making in my diet.  With the elimination of grains, starches, dairy and sugar (except for the occasional splash of agave nectar in a cup of hot tea) I have noticed several positive changes which I plan to detail in another post.  So I wonder…could the sudden influx of milk and sugar whack me out so much as to induce a headache?  It’s totally possible.  And if that is the case, then there’s all my reason for staying the course with the paleo lifestyle.

I have one experiment to perform before I turn in my Starbucks badge.  I got a card in the mail for a free drink – I hit my “Free 15” (yes, I’m that committed).  I’m going to redeem my card for a full-caf grande and see what happens.  If I still have the issues, then I’ll know the culprits are the milk and sugar.  If I don’t have issues, I’ll know it’s their decaf.  Either way, I should have my answers, and an era of coffee-house devotion will come to an end.

C’est la vie…