Can Caffeine Trigger Migraine Attacks
While a little bit of caffeine may help ease a migraine episode, too much may have the opposite effect.
An example of this is the medication overuse headache, which is what can happen when you take more headache medication than you should during the course of a month.
When that regularity isnt maintained maybe you take a day off from coffee or get into a situation where you cant drink your usual amount withdrawal symptoms can occur.
One of these withdrawal symptoms might be a headache, which can turn into a migraine attack.
When it comes to the mechanisms of how too much caffeine actually triggers migraine attacks, researchers think there are two main ways an overabundance can create negative physiological effects:
Does Taking Too Much Caffeine Cause Headaches
Taking too much caffeine can cause a caffeine overdose. This often happens when you are experiencing a withdrawal, where the blood vessels expand, allowing the pain signals to reach your brain and make you feel uncomfortable again.
Symptoms of this overdose include:
- Breathing difficulties
I suggest taking a low to moderate amount of caffeine to relieve your headache or migraine.
Once youre feeling better, you should lay off the caffeinated beverages for a few days to allow your body to rest.
If not youll probably end up with a case of chronic daily headaches, a condition that refers to any type of headaches that frequently occur during at least 15 days every month for a duration of half a year or more.
Does Caffeine Help Relieve Headaches It Can But Not If You Drink Too Much
- Drinking pain or trigger it, depending on the amount you consume.
- Caffeine narrows blood vessels, which may relieve pain caused by some headaches, like migraines.
- However, if you become dependent on caffeine and stop drinking it, you may experience headaches as a result of caffeine withdrawal.
- This article was reviewed by Jason R. McKnight, MD, MS, a family medicine physician and clinical assistant professor at Texas A& M College of Medicine.
Caffeine and headaches have a complicated relationship. In fact, caffeine can either relieve or trigger headaches, depending on how much of it you consume, and how frequently.
Caffeine which is a central nervous system stimulant turns up in soft drinks, sports drinks, coffee, tea, chocolate, and more, so it’s easy to see why 80% to 90% of all adults in North America consume it regularly.
Here’s everything you need to know about how caffeine can impact headaches and how much of it you should consume for positive effects.
You May Like: What Is Migraine Weather
Kale Might Help Migraineurs
Related to cabbage and broccoli , kale is also packed with magnesium about 32 milligrams in one cup of chopped leaves. Kale is tougher than spinach and more of an acquired taste. Its also high in fiber, which is essential for an overall healthy diet.
If you prefer eating your greens raw but dont like kales toughness, chop the leaves fine, squeeze with lemon juice, and let sit for an hour to soften the leaves a bit. Check out this Greek kale salad recipe for inspiration . You can then toss the kale in salad or a quick stir-fry. You can saute kale like spinach, add it to pasta dishes, or roast it to make crispy kale chips.
Is Decaf Coffee Ok
The USDA requires that at least 97.5% of caffeine be removed from coffee in order for it to be labeled as decaffeinated. So the starting potency of coffee is very relevant to the potency of decaf. University of Florida researchers have measured up to 6.9 mg caffeine per 8 ounces of Starbucks brewed decaffeinated coffee, and up to 15.8 mg caffeine per 1 oz shot of Starbucks decaffeinated espresso.
Studies of caffeine dependency and tolerance have shown that daily caffeine users are actually more motivated to consume it to avoid withdrawal symptoms, than to experience the lift that its stimulant properties may provide. Caffeines combination of a punishing syndrome of withdrawal, along with a rewarding sense of wakefulness, has made coffee, tea, and chocolate some of humanitys best loved foods. One might say that caffeine-producing plants have succeeded in motivating humans to cultivate them widely and with very great care.
It is important to emphasize that caffeine consumption is rarely the sole cause of frequent headaches including migraine. However, it is a modifiable risk factor, unlike many other unavoidable migraine triggers, that is often a significant and overlooked contributor to the problem. The moderation or elimination of caffeine use should be one component of a successful program of therapies for migraine sufferers and it requires no prescription.
Also Check: Persistent Migraine Aura Treatment
How Can Caffeine Make Migraines Worse
You shouldnt rely on caffeine to treat migraines for a variety of reasons, one being that it can make migraines worse.
You can also become dependent on it, which means youll need more to get the same results. Increasing caffeine levels excessively can harm your body in other ways, causing tremors, nervousness, and sleep interruptions. Caffeine use disorder was recently as a significant problem for some people.
A 2016 study of 108 people found that people who experience migraines reduced the intensity of their headaches after discontinuing the use of caffeine.
That doesnt mean you shouldnt have a cup of coffee or tea when you feel a migraine coming on. Caffeine doesnt cause headaches, but it can trigger whats known as caffeine rebound.
This occurs when you consume too much caffeine and subsequently experience withdrawal from it. The side effects can be severe, sometimes worse than a typical headache or migraine itself. An estimated 2 percent of people experience this.
There isnt a set amount of caffeine that can cause rebound headaches. Each person reacts differently to caffeine. So you may be able to drink a daily cup of coffee and be fine, whereas someone else could get rebound headaches from having one cup of coffee a week.
Caffeine isnt the only trigger, either. Triptan drugs, such as sumatriptan and other medications, can cause rebound headaches if you regularly use them. Using narcotics on a long-term basis can also called rebound headaches.
A New Study About Coffee And Migraines: How Much Is Too Much
In a new study published in the American Journal of Medicine, researchers asked 98 people with migraines to keep a diet diary that included how often they consumed caffeinated beverages . This information was compared with how often they had migraines. Heres what they found:
- The odds of having a migraine increased for those drinking three or more caffeinated beverages per day, but not for those consuming one to two servings per day the effect lasted through the day after caffeine consumption.
- It seemed to take less caffeine to trigger a headache in those who didnt usually have much of it. Just one or two servings increased the risk of migraine in those who usually had less than one serving per day.
- The link between caffeine consumption and migraine held up even after accounting for other relevant factors such as alcohol consumption, sleep, and physical activity.
Interestingly, the link was observed regardless of whether the study subject believed that caffeine triggered their headaches.
Caffeine Can Also Trigger Headaches
Drinking lots of caffeine won’t help relieve a headache. For example, if you increase your caffeine intake, but don’t increase how much water you’re drinking, caffeine can trigger a headache indirectly by causing you to become more dehydrated.
However, you’re more likely to get a headache from caffeine if you simply drink too much of it too often, because this can lead to dependence.
If you suddenly stop or reduce your caffeine intake after consuming it regularly typically more than 200 mg per day for more than 2 weeks you may feel the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. According to the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , headaches are the main symptom of caffeine withdrawal.
Caffeine narrows the blood vessels around your brain, so once you stop consuming it regularly, they expand. This causes a significant increase in blood flow to the brain, and that’s what can lead to migraine headaches.
“If you want to get off caffeine, don’t abruptly stop. Taper your intake gradually over a few days. This can help minimize the intense withdrawal headache,” says Stephens.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, it’s possible to avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms by tapering down your intake to as little as 25 mg of caffeine a day.
Caffeine As A Headache Treatment
Caffeine seems to be an effective acute treatment for migraine, or at least a component for the acute treatment of migraine from a patient perspective, says Roderick Spears, MD, a neurologist and headache specialist at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.
Patients often report that if they can have a caffeinated beverage combined with a medication, its usually helpful during an attack, Dr. Spears says.
There are also medications to treat headache and migraine both over-the-counter and prescription that contain caffeine and can be helpful for some patients when they are having a migraine attack, says Spears.
Similarly the drug Cafergot, available by prescription, contains ergotamine and caffeine. Each tablet contains 100 mg of caffeine, and the recommended dose is to take two tablets as soon as you notice a migraine attack starting and one additional tablet every 30 minutes up to a total of six tablets per 24 hours if symptoms continue.
The mechanism of action behind caffeines pain-relieving potential is related to the blood vessels, says Spears.
We know that blood vessels dilate with migraine, and caffeine is thought to be beneficial because it causes vasoconstriction. Thats what people are addressing when they consume a caffeinated beverage or a medication that contains caffeine when they have a migraine, he says.
Recommended Reading: Are Migraines A Symptom Of Pregnancy
How To Reduce Your Dependence On Caffeine
One way to avoid caffeine withdrawal headaches is to reduce your dependence on caffeine. However, you could end up with even more headaches if you go cold turkey.
The best way is to cut back slowly. You should aim to reduce your intake by about 25 percent each week.
For example, if you usually drink four cups of coffee a day, go down to three cups a day for the first week. Continue to cut back until you get down to one or no cups a day. If you crave the taste of coffee, switch to .
You may consider using a food diary to track how much caffeine youre getting. This will help you cut back on other sources of caffeine, such as black tea, , and . Switching to noncaffeinated alternatives, such as herbal tea, with fruit juice, and may help.
Most people can manage caffeine dependence or reduce their reliance without medical intervention.
You should make an appointment with your doctor if your headaches are accompanied by:
What Is A Caffeine Headache
A caffeine headache occurs when someone who consumes caffeine regularly skips their usual dose. This doesnt only happen to people who drink excessive amounts of caffeine every day. Even someone who just has one small cup of coffee each morning can experience caffeine headaches.
FYI, the FDA says about four 8-ounce cups of coffee or 400 milligrams a day is a safe amount to consume.
Recommended Reading: Faking A Migraine
Understanding The Relationship Between Caffeine And Headaches
Is caffeine helping or hurting your efforts to manage migraine attacks and other types of headaches?
Whether youre gritting your teeth trying to give up your cola habit or drinking a strong cup of tea in hopes of stopping a migraine attack, youre probably well aware that caffeine can have an effect on a headache. However, the connection between the two is not fully understood.
Coffee is one of the most popular sources of caffeine in the American diet, and according to the National Coffee Association, 62 percent of Americans drink coffee every day, with the average coffee drinker consuming just over three cups per day.
Although its easy to become dependent on caffeine, such that stopping it abruptly causes withdrawal symptoms such as headache, its generally considered safe for most people in reasonable quantities.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes that consuming up to 400 milligrams a day is generally safe for healthy adults. For reference, an average 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 80 to 100 mg, and a cola-type soda contains about 30 to 40 mg.
For people with migraine or headaches, the relationship between caffeine and their head pain is a delicate one. On the one hand, caffeine may help ease headaches on the other, if you are trying to give up or cut down on caffeine, you may experience a temporary spate of caffeine withdrawal headaches.
Can Caffeine Ease Migraine Attacks
A variety of drugs used to treat headaches, such as Excedrin, Anacin, and Midol, contain caffeine.
This is because caffeine may reduce the sensation of pain through its effects on adenosine receptors, which influence pain signaling in the brain.
While research around caffeine and migraine is still ongoing, its thought that since adenosine is involved in the physiological processes associated with migraine attacks, caffeine may be able to reduce some of the pain associated with them via its effect on adenosine receptors.
However, the amount of caffeine consumed and the frequency of consumption, have a lot to do with its beneficial effects.
Recommended Reading: Cream Of Tartar For Headache
Does Caffeine Cause Migraine Getting To Know Caffeines Varied Effects On Migraine
Caffeine is often cited as a headache trigger, but for some people with migraines, a cup of coffee can offer some relief in the midst of an attack. Still, others who have caffeine frequently can suffer migraine attacks triggered by caffeine withdrawal when they skip their morning cup of joe. Often, the key determining factor is the quantity of caffeine consumed: many over-the-counter migraine and headache medications contain caffeine as a key active ingredient, but it is typically included for its role in aiding the bodys absorption of these medicines rather than as a treatment itself.
Still, the line between how much coffee, tea or soda will relieve a headache versus the quantity that will cause one can vary widely from person to person, and depends on a variety of factors. Read on for tips on how to determine how much caffeine is right for your migraine management plan.
Understanding How Caffeine Affects You
Caffeine Effects by Headache Type
How To Determine Your Caffeine Limits
Remember to be on the lookout for caffeine in unexpected places, including some teas, chocolate, non-cola sodas, and even decaf coffee. Check the ingredients in any medications you take. Also, consider that caffeine levels can vary widely between different types of coffee: a large McDonalds brew contains 133mg of caffeine, while a venti at Starbucks has roughly 415mg of caffeine.
Reducing Caffeine Reliance
Stimulate Those Pressure Points
Acupressure is a type of traditional Chinese medicine in which you apply pressure to certain points on your body. Its been found to sometimes relieve headaches and ease muscle tension.
A 2010 study found that one month of acupressure treatment relieved chronic headaches better than muscle relaxants did.
There are several pressure points that you can try stimulating for headache relief. More study is required to determine whether these actually work. It couldnt hurt to try, right?
Read Also: How To Fake A Migraine To A Doctor
Migraine Medicines With Caffeine
Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs that treat migraine have caffeine, such as:1,2
- Anacin: caffeine and aspirin
- Excedrin Migraine: caffeine, aspirin, and acetaminophen
- Midol: caffeine, acetaminophen, and pyrilamine maleate
- Norgesic: caffeine, aspirin, and orphenadrine citrate
- Fioricet: caffeine, acetaminophen, and butalbital
- Darvon Compound: propoxyphene hydrochloride, aspirin, and caffeine
Many studies have found caffeine brings migraine relief when used alone and when mixed with other migraine drugs. One study found 1,000 mg acetaminophen plus 130 mg caffeine worked as well as sumatriptan 50 mg to treat acute migraine. Both had similar side effects, which were mild or moderate. Doctors believe this means acetaminophen with caffeine may be a good option for people who cannot take triptans.3
Some cold medicines and diuretics also contain caffeine. Diuretics are drugs that cause your body to release more water and salt.2
What Should You Avoid
While a 2016 study found that migraine intensity in study subjects decreased after discontinuing the use of caffeine, thereâs no reason to avoid it completely if it does not trigger your own headaches, Dr. Crystal says. In fact, consuming coffee has benefits, too.
âCoffee may help prevent neurological diseases, and a compound found in both caffeinated and decaf coffee may help prevent abnormal protein accumulation found in Alzheimerâs and Parkinsonâs patients,â? Dr. Crystal says.
Those who are unsure of how caffeine affects their migraines can keep a food journal or use a migraine tracker app to log potential triggers, as well as monitor how much caffeine is a safe amount for you.
In general, Dr. Crystal suggests limiting your caffeine intake to less than 200mg total per day. Thatâs about two cups of coffee, five cups of soda, or one energy drink.
Also Check: Does Cream Of Tartar Help With Migraines