Quitting Caffeine.

Why would I quit caffeine, my final drug love affair?  In order to have a foundation for research I used my one palpable symptom—a large cyst in my left breast, which gets larger and more painful near my cycle.  I have a host of other symptoms I can attribute to too much caffeine, but let’s use the very obvious physical growth which isn’t imagined or complicated by too many variables.

During my last mammogram the tech said, “you know cutting down on coffee or quitting would reduce these,” so I believed it was a scientific fact there is a correlation between caffeine and my benign breast cyst, after all, she is the expert.

The American Cancer Society reports:

Some women report that their breast symptoms improve if they avoid caffeine and other stimulants found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and many soft drinks. Studies have not found these stimulants to have a significant impact on symptoms, but many women feel that avoiding these foods and drinks for a couple of months is worth trying.”  (

The Mayo Clinic reports:

No, caffeine doesn't appear to cause breast cysts… Anecdotally, some women report reduced breast pain when they go off caffeine. Although no research has documented this effect, there's no reason not to go caffeine-free to see if it relieves discomfort from breast cysts.” (

The LiveStrong Foundation synthesizes the Mayo Clinic article:

According to Mayo Clinic internist Sandhya Pruthi, M.D., there does not appear to be a clear-cut connection between caffeine -- or coffee, a major dietary source of caffeine -- and breast cysts. However, in very large doses, the caffeine in coffee may indirectly influence reproductive hormones, which, according to, are thought to affect the development of fibroadenomas. Moreover, some women report relief from fibrocystic breast changes when they reduce caffeine intake, according to Pruthi. So if you drink a lot of coffee and suffer from uncomfortable fibrocystic breast changes, you may want to try going caffeine-free, says Pruthi. MedlinePlus also reports that while there is no evidence that caffeine causes fibrocystic breast changes, some women believe reducing their consumption of caffeine -- as well as chocolate and fat -- helps.  (

And finally, the website ‘Women to Women’ writes:

“There is also some suggestion that caffeine causes breast tenderness and may increase the incidence of fibrocystic breast lumps in women of all ages.”  (

Marcelle Pick, a founder of the Women to Women website warns, “But be prepared — caffeine is not an easy drug to quit for some women. I see patients in my office willing to make every other single lifestyle change I suggest, yet who break down in tears when I suggest giving up caffeine.”

Of course I enjoyed Marcelle’s article the most because it elaborated on the issue from a wholistic perspective.  While the Mayo Clinic and The American Cancer Society are brief and to the point, ‘if you want to see if your cysts decrease by quitting coffee, there is anecdotal evidence which suggests it may help,’ it will honestly take more than that for me, because frankly, I can stand the discomfort of a cyst because I love coffee that much. 

My answer to the simple question is, ‘it would likely help to cut down or cut out coffee.’

“Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I don’t want to!”  

I often say, “coffee is the one drug I abuse and I’ll be damned if I will give it up.”

Then Marcelle adds a few more criteria for me to consider:

The caffeine addiction quiz

Answer yes or no to the following questions.

Do you use caffeine to facilitate a physical activity (for example: waking up, exercising, having a bowel movement, concentrating)?  YES

Do you have to have caffeine in the morning?  YES

Can you substitute hot water with lemon? yes

Do you crash or have caffeine/sugar cravings in the afternoon/early evening? YES

Do you grow irritable, have headaches, feel disembodied if you miss your caffeine fix? YES

Do you have difficulty falling asleep at night and waking feeling refreshed? sometimes

Do you need caffeine to heighten the effects of other substances, e.g., nicotine, alcohol, sugar?  sugar, YES

Do you feel your social routines would suffer without caffeine use? YES YES YES

Does the idea of going without caffeine seem impossible to you?   IT SEEMS REALLY, REALLY TOUGH.

My husband, in solidarity, rarely drinks alcohol, and he hasn’t around me since my last drink six years ago.  However, there is zero chance he is going to quit coffee.  When he is home we wake up and share a pot of coffee, when he is fishing he drinks coffee non-stop, when we go to his parents we have coffee, when he stops by the shop for lunch we have coffee.  The only time of day we have reduced our coffee habit is right after dinner, which until about 9 months ago was completely normal for us to make a pot of coffee after dinner.

We have made a few changes to our coffee habits after our first #whole30.  We begin taking our coffee black and have never gone back to coffee with 1/2 and 1/2.  Before our first whole30 we bought at least one fancy coffee/day.  He drank a grande double mint mocha and I drank a grande single latte with a hint of real cinnamon and honey (basically a warm milk); every day we spent at least $10 for those coffees.

For the past 6-7 months we have cut back on our fancy coffee (we are in the middle of our third whole30 now=no fancy coffee).

Is the next step, for me at least, to cut it out altogether?

I tend to be black and white in my habits.  I prefer very structured diet guidelines, in fact, it’s the only place in my life I appreciate and respect routine.

There are a host of other issues I could address in my quest to quit caffeine, such as:

The effect of caffeine on mood, energy, sleep, nutrient absorption, calcium depletion, dehydration… all components of a system I work to keep in balance and cannot deny caffeine doesn’t assist in balancing.

When we get back to the foundation, instinctively I know to quit coffee, in my case, would be more beneficial than detrimental.  I have quit tough things before. 

I will let you know how the cyst does, off coffee, because although I can tolerate it, why wouldn’t I do the one thing that has anecdotally shown to help?

Yancey, I am going to apologize in advance for this week because the only way I know how to quit something is cold turkey and I am choosing today to begin; it’s okay that I began the day with coffee after all, I don’t believe it takes the sun rising to make a new day.



Lisa Nilsen
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