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Can Caffeine Help Migraine Headaches

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much

Migraine Headaches and Caffeine Migraine Headache Relief Dr.Berg

For healthy adults, the FDA recommends limiting caffeine intake to 400 mg a day

If you have episodic headaches you should try to limit your caffeine intake to 200 mg a day or 1-2 caffeinated beverages.

When calculating your daily intake, don’t forget about the caffeine in medicine. A recent study shows more than half of people who live with Migraine and Tension-Type Headaches will grab an over-the-counter medication to treat their head pain

Many of these over-the-counter pain relievers contain caffeine and come with a risk of medication overuse headache. Try to limit your use of caffeine for pain relief to once or twice per week to reduce your risk of developing rebound headaches.

You can find out how much caffeine is in common drinks and medications with this handy resource from the National Headache Foundation. Keeping a log of your daily intake of caffeine and your headaches or Migraine attacks will give you a better picture of how susceptible you are to caffeine headaches.

Foods That Can Help Prevent A Headaches And Migraines

Some people rarely get headaches, and if one strikes, just popping an aspirin will put a stop to the pain. But for other folks especially those dealing with chronic migraines finding relief is a lot trickier. Fortunately, when and what you eat can have a big impact on the frequency and severity of headaches. Migraine is a disease. Its there every day, whether or not someone has an attack, says Simy Parikh, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology at the Jefferson Headache Center at Thomas Jefferson University. So when we talk about food, its usually more along the lines of preventive care.

Dr. Parikh says certain brain structures that are involved in migraine are also involved in regulating your bodys natural daily rhythm. As a result, sticking to a regular schedule, and eating and sleeping at the same times every day not skipping meals or sleeping in late can go a long way in averting pain. In terms of food itself, theres not a lot of research on which specific foods will be really helpful, but we do know that there are certain vitamins and minerals and things like that that could be helpful in prevention, explains Dr. Parikh. A lot of times theyre taken as supplements, but people can have a diet rich in some of these things and that can hopefully prevent a migraine attack from happening.

Berries May Relieve Sinus Pressure

Eating things that are high in antioxidants can help to relieve sinus pressure over time, says Brown. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all good choices.

Smaller fruits tend to have more exposure to pesticides, and so Brown recommends getting organic berries whenever possible.

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How Are Migraines Treated

Migraine headaches and their triggers can vary a lot between people. Treatment can depend on how severe the headaches are, how often they happen, and what symptoms a person gets with them.

Usually it helps to lie down in a cool, dark, quiet room. Your doctor may prescribe pain relief medicine or medicines that help with nausea and vomiting. Some people need preventive medicines that are taken every day to reduce the number and severity of the migraines.

Some doctors teach a technique called biofeedback to their patients with migraines. This helps a person learn to relax and use the brain to gain control over certain body functions that cause tension and pain. If a migraine begins slowly, some people can use biofeedback to remain calm and stop the attack.

Adding other non-medicine therapies to the treatment plan, such as acupuncture or herbs, helps some people with migraines. But ask your health care provider about these before trying them. This is especially true of herbal treatments because they can affect how other medicines work.

If You Have Migraines Put Down Your Coffee And Read This

Caffeine and Migraines: Here

During medical school, a neurologist taught me that the number one cause of headaches in the US was coffee.

That was news to me! But it made more sense when he clarified that he meant lack of coffee. His point was that for people who regularly drink coffee, missing an early morning cup, or even just having your first cup later than usual, can trigger a caffeine withdrawal headache. And considering how many daily coffee drinkers there are , its likely that coffee withdrawal is among the most common causes of headaches.

Later in my neurology rotation, I learned that caffeine is a major ingredient in many headache remedies, from over-the-counter medicines such as Excedrin and Anacin, to powerful prescription treatments such as Fioricet. The caffeine is supposed to make the other drugs in these combination remedies work better and, of course, it might be quite effective for caffeine-withdrawal headaches.

But then I learned that for people with migraine headaches, certain drugs, foods, and drinks should be avoided, as they can trigger migraines. At the top of this list? Coffee.

So, to review: the caffeine in coffee, tea, and other foods or drinks can help prevent a headache, treat a headache, and also trigger a headache. How can this be?

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Breaking Down The Data

A sample of 98 adults with frequent episodic migraines completed electronic diaries each morning and evening every day for six weeks. The total servings of caffeinated coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks consumed were recorded each day, along with twice daily headache reports documenting the onset, duration, intensity and medications used for each migraine since the previous diary entry. Other common migraine triggers that each participant normally experiences was recorded as well.

A self-matched analysis was used to evaluate the linkbetween caffeinated drinks and migraines on the same or following day.Researchers compared each participants occurrence of migraines on days withand without caffeine intake, eliminating the chance of factors such as age,sex, and other behavioral and environmental factors to intrude with data. Thisstrategy also accommodated for various caffeine dosages and serving sizesconsumed by participants.

The end result? For regular caffeine consumers, one to two servings thats 8 oz. of coffee, 6 oz. of tea, 12 oz. of soda, or 2 oz. of energy drink had no effect on migraines on the same or following day. Headaches were more often onset by three or more servings of caffeinated drinks for regular consumers, and one to two servings for those who rarely consume caffeine.

Caffeine Headache As A Withdrawal Symptom

On the flipside, if youve ever tried to cut back on caffeine, you know that headaches can occur as a result. And it doesnt matter what foods or drinks the caffeine comes from the issue is whether you have a regular habit of consuming about the same amount of caffeine every day. If you suddenly get a lot less caffeine, you’ll likely have a headache.

Caffeine withdrawal isnt just something that happens to people who drink a lot of coffee or caffeinated beverages it can happen to people to drink as little as one small cup of coffee per day, according to StatPearls.

The incidence of headache as a result of caffeine withdrawal can be as high as 50 percent and thats in the general population, not just in people who have migraine.

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Caffeine: What You Need To Know

Robert E. Shapiro, MD, PhDProfessor of NeurologyUniversity of Vermont College of MedicineBurlington, VT

Keeler Center for the Study of HeadachesOjai, CA

Migraine patients often report that some attacks can be halted by a strong cup of coffee. This is not surprising to hear. Caffeine is a key active ingredient in many headache medications including ExcedrinTM, AnacinTM, MidolTM, Darvon CompoundTM, FioricetTM, and MigranalTM. Caffeine may aid in the absorption of these medicines, but can caffeine itself relieve headaches? Few research studies have examined this question, but the answer appears to be yes caffeine can provide some headache relief. For example, one small controlled study found that caffeine was more effective than placebo, and as effective as acetaminophen, in relieving tension-type headaches.

Natural Remedies For Migraines

Caffeine Headaches: What Every Headache Sufferer Should Know

There is a very complex relationship between migraine and coffee. Migraine cures, at this point, dont really exist. According to the National Institutes of Health, exactly why they occur, and exactly what can be done to prevent and treat them, is misunderstood. That said, some treatments have been observed to work in certain individuals. These treatments include both natural and pharmaceutical options.

The following natural options might help you deal with the migraine headaches, whether by preventing them or reducing the duration or symptom strength.

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Does Caffeine Help Headaches

Throughout the day, our body accumulates a chemical substance called adenosine, which causes sleepiness. Caffeine has a comparable structure, and when consumed, blocks the adenosine receptors

It’s a great pain reliever, too. When combined with aspirin or acetaminophen, caffeine increases the pain-relieving effects by 40%

There are many different types of headaches, like, tension-type headaches, cluster headaches, sinus headaches, and Migraine attacks. It is essential to know what kind of headache you have before deciding to use caffeine as a potential reliever.

Some People Use Caffeine to Relieve Migraine Pain

During a Migraine attack, blood vessels can dilate or widen, causing changes in blood flow

Caffeine provides relief by constricting blood vessels, thus relieving the pressure on the nerves.

Salad Dressings And Sauces

If you get a headache after eating Chinese food, barbecued chicken or beef, or even salads, the culprit causing your headache might be monosodium glutamate . This ingredient is used as a flavor enhancer in soy sauce, barbecue sauces and salad dressings, as well as potato chips, lunchmeat and more. This one can be tricky to track because MSG also shows up on ingredient lists as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed oat flour, glutamic acid, autolyzed yeast, sodium or calcium caseinate and other terms.

Even though many people can consume nitrates, nitrites, sulfites, tyramine and MSG without problems, some people are sensitive to certain ingredient triggers, especially migraine sufferers. If you think your headaches are food related, thats why tracking what you eat each time you have a headache can be so helpful. Share your concerns and your tracking notes with your doctor to find out the best ways to avoid or relieve food and drink related headaches.

Be sure to keep our convenient, on-the-go stick packs of BC® Original pain relief powder on hand for quick pain relief whenever a headache pops up.

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Seeds And Nuts Provide Magnesium And Fiber

Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common nutritional causes of persistent or cluster headaches, says Sarah Thomsen Ferreira, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinics Center for Functional Medicine in Ohio.

Prioritizing ample amounts of magnesium-rich foods daily is one of the best ways to keep these headaches at bay, Ferreira says.

Flaxseeds, sprouted pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds are all good , says Ferreira. Pumpkin seeds are also high in fiber, preventing the constipation that sometimes comes with migraine. Cashews are high in magnesium, too, she says.

Can A Single Cup Of Coffee Fix Headache

Caffeine And Migraine: A Gift Or A Curse?

A single cup of coffee with moderate caffeine quantity can help in relieving the pain from headaches.

The answer to this is relative since the caffeine content in different varieties of coffee differs owing to differences in the serving size.

Lets have a look at the caffeine content of some popular coffee varieties:

Type of Coffee
702-928 mg

The relation between caffeine and headache is quite debatable since it can both trigger and cure pain.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. Due to its vasoconstriction properties, it can constrict vessels and reduces blood flow to the brain, and thus help in headache or migraine pain. It may also help in headaches by increasing the effectiveness of pain relief medication used by the consumer.

However, since the science isnt yet clear, there are no specific recommended quantities that can ease your pain.

American Migraine Foundation suggests that depending on how much of the stimulant youre consuming the caffeine in your coffee will help you with headaches.

If you suffer from headaches once in a while, then a coffee within 100-200 milligrams of caffeine at best may help you in reducing the pain. For people suffering from daily headaches, coffee should be completely cut from the diet.

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Does Caffeine Treat Or Trigger Headaches

Many people ask whether caffeine can treat or trigger a headache. The answer is that caffeine can do both.

Caffeine can provide relief for a headache.

During a headache, blood vessels swell, tighten or go through other changes, causing an increase in blood flow around the brain. This increase blood flow pressures surrounding nerves, which send pain messages to the brain. This brings on the headache.

Caffeine has vasoconstrictive properties, meaning that blood vessels narrow to restrict blood flow, thereby alleviating the pain. Also, when caffeine is taken in combination with pain medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, it increases the absorption and strength of the medication to provide faster relief.

Caffeine can trigger a headache.

When caffeine is consumed regularly, the body becomes dependent on its effects. And because caffeine narrows the blood vessels that surround the brain, when consumption is stopped, the blood vessels enlarge. This causes an increase in blood flow around the brain and pressures surrounding nerves. This can then trigger what is known as a caffeine withdrawal headache. Withdrawal headaches can last for a couple of weeks because it takes the body a while to adjust to not having caffeine in its system.

What should you do?

Kelli Tornstrom is a nurse practitioner in Neurology in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Topics in this Post

Stimuli Can Provoke A Headache

Specific internal or external stimuli sometimes provoke a headache. They are called triggers and, if they can be identified, avoidance is a valuable control of migraine.

Keeping a symptom diary that includes what you are eating, menstrual cycle, activities and changes in environment or weather is a valuable tool for identifying triggers. Spotting a pattern and then sidestepping triggers can help keep the pain at bay.

There are six general categories of these triggers, explained below.

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Can Too Much Caffeine Cause Headaches

Too much caffeine is not what causes headaches, but the increased tolerance to caffeine aids in triggering headaches in an individual.

When coffee is consumed regularly, the body builds a sense of dependency on the beverage. This is why your body increases its caffeine tolerance. The caffeine then narrows the blood vessels surrounding the brain and whenever the consumption stopped, the vessel gets enlarged again.

As a result, an abrupt increase in blood flow and the pressure surrounding the brain nerves trigger the caffeine withdrawal symptoms of headaches.

Moreover, people who are hypersensitive tend to consume larger doses of caffeine to get the desired boost. Such a high dose of caffeine also triggers unwanted headaches after the caffeine quantity falls in the bloodstream.

Simply put, as your body gets dependent on the caffeine content over time, your brain craves more and more of the stimulant. As soon as the consumption is thus stopped, you get the unwanted sensation of tickling in your head, causing a headache.

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Caffeine Headaches By The Numbers

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Caffeine-withdrawal headaches generally occur when you consume over 200mg of caffeine daily for 2 weeks, then stop or delay your caffeine intake. The headache goes away within an hour of consuming 100mg of caffeine. Heres the amount of caffeine in various sources:

  • Coffee : 95-165 mg
  • Espresso : 47-64 mg
  • Energy drinks : 27-164 mg
  • Soda : 24-46 mg
  • Green tea : 25-29 mg
  • Black tea : 25-48 mg
  • Milk Chocolate : 9 mg
  • Dark Chocolate : 30 mg

If you stop caffeine completely, caffeine-withdrawal headache symptoms should go away in about 1 week.

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Coffee Can Stop A Headache Or Cause One

Coffee contains caffeine, which is added to some types of headache medications. But you can get too much of a good thing coffee may lead to caffeine rebound or a caffeine withdrawal headache, according to the National Headache Foundation.

A cup of coffee is a quick fix for this type of headache, says Brown. Its important to remember that caffeine can stay in your system for up to five hours, she says. For some people, this may lead to an afternoon headache once their morning cup of coffee wears off, she adds.

If your caffeine consumption is causing withdrawal headaches, you might try cutting down by drinking half caff or decaffeinated coffee, suggests Brown. Even decaf coffee has some caffeine in it, she adds.

Can Coffeecaffeinealso Relieve Your Migraine

Interestingly enough, there is also evidence that caffeine helps relieve headaches. Of course, migraines arent your typical headache, so traditional forms of relief might not always work.

As mentioned earlier, there is caffeine in most over-the-counter painkillers. This is based on research indicating that caffeine can relieve headaches. There are a number of reviews and studies showing that moderate caffeine intake can boost the efficacy of painkillers, as well as offer relief to both tension and migraine headaches.

A 2017 review published in The Journal of Headache and Pain found that, depending on dosing and individual factors, caffeine may help prevent or treat migraine headaches.

Caffeine may offer pain relief by acting as a vasoconstrictormaking blood vessels smaller. Before and during headaches, blood vessels get bigger to allow more blood flow to the region, and that can result in pain and inflammation.

Limiting blood flow to the region may be just one way that caffeine helps prevent and relieve headaches. Once again, this would be dose- and time-dependent. Drinking a coffee to treat a nighttime headache, for example, is probably not a good idea: it will keep you up and likely lead to discomfort the following day .

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