Thursday, December 13, 2018

Hot Flashes 2.0

In the spring, I mentioned reducing the frequency and intensity of hot flashes by cutting out caffeinated coffee, tea, and sodas. My hot flashes began in January of this year and making this huge reduction in caffeine brought those flashes down to a minimum, overnight. My primary source of caffeine was brewed coffee. I cut back to half caffeinated/half decaf brewed coffee, then went to all decaf brewed coffee. In late summer, wanting to reduce my caffeine even more, I switched from brewed decaf to instant decaf. The amount of caffeine in either preparation for coffee sounds insignificant, but when you figure that a person (me) may be consuming 5 or 6 cups of decaf per day, the amount of caffeine can add up to that of one or two cups if caffeinated coffee, over the course of a day. Some individuals are more sensitive to caffeine and every reduction possible is beneficial. This was the case for me.

To get an idea of how much caffeine is in various preparation methods and roasts, healthline.com provides some data. So, I live in Coffeeland, USA. Starbucks Pike Place Roast Decaf (the standard Starbucks decaf for my area) has about 20 milligrams of caffeine per 12 oz. cup. Home-brewed, supermarket coffee-in-a-can grounds have around 7 to 8 milligrams of caffeine per 12 oz. cup. Grocery store instant decaf granules (the kind in a jar, not the Starbucks single-serve packets) provide about 3.1 to 3.8 milligrams of caffeine per 12 oz. cup. The choice for instant coffee now saves me about 85 milligrams of caffeine per day, in comparison to the brewed decaf that I had been drinking all winter and spring. That is about the amount of caffeine in an 8 oz cup of caffeinated coffee. For this period in my life, this is important for my comfort. My hot flashes are rare, now. This may in part be due to my body making the adjustment to reduced estrogen levels. I am unwilling to experiment with a cup of caffeinated coffee to see if hot flashes resume. (I like not feeling sweaty.)

I do drink a lot of decaf coffee each day. I enjoy the flavor. So, I made the maximum concession, while still finding enjoyment in the activity. It was a matter of weighing benefits against costs. As long as I felt the benefits (no hot flashes or heart palpitations) outweighed the costs (sacrificing some of the pleasurable flavor in brewed coffee), I was willing to make this change. In addition, the heart palpitations that I had lived with for decades practically vanished. I had a brief spell of an irregular heart beat two or three evenings in a row, last summer, but that has been it. I don't know what caused that aberration, but I do associate the near-cessation of palpitations with cutting out caffeine.

There are some bonuses to drinking instant decaf, now. It's quicker to prepare. There are no filters to buy, and no basket or filter holder plus carafe to wash out. The counter space where my coffee set-up previously sat is now freed up for other kitchen activity, or just a cleaner-looking space. I can take my instant coffee granules with me when I go to food courts and similar take-out counter-service restaurants, asking for a cup of hot water to go. I  fact, when I was at the airport recently, I walked up to the Starbucks counter and asked what the charge for a cup of hot water would be. They said it was free. I took my hot water to a table near my gate, mixed in a spoon of instant granules and made a "free" cup of coffee for myself. I wouldn't do this in a restaurant where I sat at one of their tables. That would just seem tacky to me. But in a take-away situation, I don't see why not, if the establishment is willing to provide a free cup of hot water.

Anyway, I am glad to be able to wear fleece again. The occasional hot flashes that I do experience are limited to specific scenarios, such as an anxiety attack or a fever. I am working on calming myself during anxiety attacks. It's similar to a biofeedback process. The feedback comes not from electrical sensors, but from the hot flash, itself. You know the saying, "every cloud has a silver lining?" Well, the silver lining of my hot flashes has been finding ways to live a physically and emotionally healthier life.