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Can Caffeine Cause Migraine Headaches

Is Your Headache Triggered By Caffeine

Too Much Caffeine Can Cause Headaches

If youre used to drinking coffee to start your day, you might have experienced a caffeine headache when you dont get your morning cup of joe.

Youre not alone. In fact, caffeine withdrawal headaches are quite common among coffee drinkers if they dont get their fix. There are many causes, affects, and tips to minimize your headache symptoms when it comes to caffeine.

What Happens During A Migraine

Every migraine begins differently. Sometimes people get a warning that a migraine is on its way. A few hours or even days before the actual headache, people might feel funny or “not right. They might crave different foods, or feel thirsty, irritable, tired, or even full of energy. This is called a “premonition.”

Some people get auras. These are neurological symptoms that start just before the headache and last up to an hour. An aura is different in every person, but it often affects vision. For example, a person might:

  • have blurred vision
  • see spots, colored balls, jagged lines, or bright flashing lights
  • smell a certain odor
  • feel tingling in a part of their face

Once the headache starts, light, smell, or sound may bother people with migraines or make them feel worse. Sometimes, if they try to continue with their usual routine, they may become nauseated and vomit. Often the pain begins only on one side of the head, but it might eventually affect both sides. Trying to do physical activities can make the pain worse.

Most migraines last from 30 minutes to several hours some can last a couple of days.

What Else You Should Know About Ocular Migraines

An ocular migraine is short-lived and may not be painful, but it can be debilitating you have to be careful while doing daily activities like driving, reading, or writing. The chance of permanent vision loss due to an ocular migraine is rare but the reduced blood flow for a prolonged time can damage your retina. So it is a good idea to make an appointment with your ophthalmologist to check your condition.

Since hormones play such a big role in causing migraines, declining estrogen levels as women age and enter menopause is a reason why migraines usually reduce in severity in older women.11

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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.

Can Migraines Be Prevented

9 Handy Charts to Help Deal with Migraines

You can’t prevent every migraine. But learning your triggers and trying to avoid them can help. Take a break from activities that might start a migraine, such as using the computer for a long time. If you know that some foods are triggers, skip them. Some people find that cutting back on caffeine or drinking a lot of water can help prevent migraines.

Make a plan for all the things you have to do especially during stressful times like exams so you don’t feel overwhelmed when things pile up. Regular exercise also can reduce stress and make you feel better.

The more you understand about your headaches, the better prepared you can be to fight them.

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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.

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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.

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Caffeine And Diabetic Eye Disease

Diabetes is a group of chronic diseases that affect how blood sugar , is metabolized or not metabolized, by the body. This inability to utilize blood sugar results in high levels of circulating glucose in the blood vessels, which ultimately damages the integrity of the blood vessels.

Within the eye, the result is diabetic retinopathy, in which blood leaks into the retina. Because there is less blood perfusion, less oxygen is available to the retina. This results in the retina responding by the development of more fragile, leaky blood vessels in response to the low oxygen. Diabetic macular edema is the cause of vision impairment for those with diabetic retinopathy. This is the result of an inflammatory process.

Not a lot is known about the effects of caffeine and coffee on diabetic retinopathy

A notable research study indicated that caffeine decreased blood vessel permeability. This is attributed to its capability to block adenosine receptors. What researchers think that means is caffeine blocks the adenosine receptor in the brain and retinal tissue to prevent inflammation. Coffee has other active ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These other active properties of coffee may help decrease blood vessel leakage and the inflammatory process of diabetic retinopathy.

Ref: Caffeine Prevents Blood Retinal Barrier Damage in a Model, In Vitro, of Diabetic Macular Edema

Or More Caffeinated Drinks May Be A Trigger

Migraine Headaches and Caffeine Migraine Headache Relief Dr.Berg

For her study, Mostofsky recruited 98 volunteers who experience migraine with or without aura. The study participants filled in electronic diaries every morning and evening for 6 weeks. In these diaries, they recorded a variety of factors, including exercise, caffeine and alcohol consumption, stress, sleep quality, and headaches.

Specifically, the team asked the participants about total daily caffeine intake from coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks.

They then compared how likely each participant was to experience migraine on a day when they consumed caffeine with the likelihood on a day when they didnt.

Using a statistical model, the team estimated that drinking one or two caffeinated beverages did not change the odds of experiencing a migraine headache on the same day. However, when the volunteers consumed three or more caffeinated drinks, the odds were significantly higher.

The results were similar when the team reanalyzed the data to take alcohol intake, stress, sleep quality, exercise, and female participants menstrual cycles into account.

Mostofsky also looked at the potential of reverse causation, meaning that the volunteers may have consumed more caffeine to help cope with the onset of a migraine headache.

However, the data showed that people who drank three or more caffeinated beverages had higher odds of developing a headache on the following day, meaning that this amount of caffeine didnt stop migraine in its tracks.

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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 .

Is It A Trigger Or A Warning

We know that the brain of someone with migraine likes balance, like regular sleep and meal patterns. We also know that migraine can be triggered by alcohol and the menstrual cycle. The evidence for other triggers, such as exercise, eating chocolate and bright light, is less certain.

It can sometimes be difficult to tell if something is really a trigger, or if what youre experiencing is an early symptom of a migraine attack.

Studies have found that sometimes what you may think is a trigger is actually to do with the premonitory or warning stage of a migraine attack.

During this stage, you may get symptoms such as changes in your mood or emotions, cravings for certain foods, and being more sensitive to light, sound or smells.

These symptoms can lead to you think that something is triggering your migraine attack. For example, at the beginning of a migraine attack, you may start to crave sweet foods. You may then eat some chocolate to satisfy the craving. When you then get a headache, you may think that eating chocolate was the trigger. But actually you were starting to have a migraine attack when the cravings started and the cravings were the warning sign.

The same could be true for other triggers. If you are more sensitive to light in the warning stage, you might think bright lights are a trigger. If you are more sensitive to smells, you might think certain scents are a trigger.

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Drinking This Much Coffee May Trigger Migraines

Three or more caffeinated drinks a day is linked with migraines.

Drinking too much coffee or other caffeinated drinks may be a trigger for migraines among people prone to these severe headaches, a new study suggests.

The study researchers found that, among people with periodic migraine headaches, consuming at least three caffeinated drinks a day was tied to a higher likelihood of experiencing a migraine on that day or the following day. However, consuming only one or two caffeinated drinks a day was generally not associated with migraines, the study found.

Although many people anecdotally report that caffeine tends to trigger their migraines, few rigorous studies have examined this link. Indeed, the new study, published today in The American Journal of Medicine, is one of the first to examine whether daily changes in caffeine intake are tied to the onset of migraines.

“Interestingly, despite some patients with episodic migraine thinking they need to avoid caffeine, we found that drinking one to two servings day was not associated with higher risk of headache,” study senior author Dr. Suzanne Bertisch, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a clinical investigator in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in a statement. Still, more research is needed to confirm the findings “but it is an important first step,” Bertisch said.

Coeliac Disease And Gluten Sensitivity


Coeliac disease is a serious condition where a persons immune system reacts when they eat gluten and causes damage to the lining of their gut. When this happens, they have symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, vomiting and stomach cramps. There can also be serious complications if it is not treated, such as anaemia. There is no cure for coeliac disease and people with it need to avoid gluten all their life.

There have been studies into the link between coeliac disease and migraine. There is no evidence to suggest that coeliac disease causes migraine. It is thought that if people with coeliac disease and migraine follow a gluten-free diet, this may help with both of their conditions.

Gluten sensitivity is when a person has a bad reaction if they eat gluten. They may have similar symptoms to coeliac disease, but there is no damage to the lining of their gut or the risk of serious complications that can happen with coeliac disease.

Gluten is found in foods that contain wheat, barley or rye. These include pasta, bread, cakes, some sauces and most ready meals.

One of the symptoms of gluten sensitivity is headache. But there is no evidence that gluten sensitivity causes migraine. However, if you are sensitive to gluten, you may find that if you eat food containing gluten, it makes migraine attacks more likely or the symptoms more painful.

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Can Other Substances Trigger Rcvs

Besides energy drinks, medications that constrict the blood vessels can trigger RCVS. The biggest culprit is nasal decongestants.

Less common causes of RCVS include high doses of antidepressants from the SSRI class, migraine medicines, nicotine patches and ginseng.

RCVS is also among the many problems that illegal drug and marijuana use can cause.

Also, woman who have delivered a baby can develop RCVS postpartum, says Dr. Hajj-Ali. Often, we see it in people who are on combinations of medications.

What Types Of Coffee Cause Jitters

Any caffeinated coffee could cause jitters if you drink enough of it but some particular roasts and styles are more likely offenders than others. Lets take a quick look at the types of coffee most likely to start your hands shaking .


One ounce of espresso contains about the same amount of caffeine as a 6-ounce cup of drip coffee. This concentrated caffeine is absorbed particularly quickly by your body, especially if youre drinking it as an undiluted shot.

Diluting can help to mitigate these effects. Adding milk is the best option since the proteins in the milk take longer to break down and help slow the release of caffeine into your system. Even turning it into an Americano by adding hot water can help, though, because you wont drink it as quickly.

Light Roasts

Some of the caffeine in coffee beans is lost during roasting. The longer the beans roast, the lower the average caffeine content. Along with that, roasting converts some of the acids in the beans into sugar. This means the average light roast is more acidic and has more caffeine than the typical dark roast, both things that make them more likely to cause the jitters.

Sugary Coffee Drinks

Adding milk can help reduce the jitters, but adding sugar does the opposite. Breaking down simple sugars gives the body a quick, intense burst of energy, similar to the effects of caffeine. When you drink a caramel latte or other sugary drink, these effects are compounded.

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Its Unlikely That Your Post

Its an interesting theory, but its a very unlikely scenario, Dr. Green says. Neither she nor Dr. Natbony believes they have encountered this situation among their thousands of patients.

The pathophysiology of migraines is complex and not yet completely understood, Dr. Green explains. However, doctors do know that small amounts of caffeine can sometimes help relieve migraine pain, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke . It appears as though caffeine may do this by narrowing dilated blood vessels that might contribute to migraine discomfort. But doctors believe theres much more to migraines than fluctuations in blood vessel width. The vasodilation and vasoconstriction component is not thought to be as important as it , Dr. Green says.

Second, although caffeine can help treat migrainesespecially in combination with other drugs, like typical pain relieversit has not been established as an effective preventive drug for migraines, Dr. Green and Dr. Natbony explain. Its potential lies more in treating pain that has already begun, and even that power appears to be limited. If its a mild migraine, there are some people that do respond to just a cup of coffee, Dr. Green says. But thats not the case for most people with moderate to severe migraines.

Why Does Caffeine Help With Headaches

Caffeine Headaches: What Every Headache Sufferer Should Know

a headachemigrainecaffeine

Similarly one may ask, is caffeine good or bad for headaches?

Caffeine can provide some headache relief. For example, one small controlled study found that caffeine was better than placebo, and as good as acetaminophen, in relieving tension-type headaches. However, with daily or near-daily caffeine exposure, the brain may develop a tolerance for the drug.

Likewise, how much caffeine does it take to get rid of a headache? Cleveland Clinic recommends limiting the use of pain relievers and reducing caffeine consumption to the equivalent of two cups of coffee a day. If you experience rebound headaches, you can only treat them fully by coming off all headache medications.

In this way, does caffeine help tension headaches?

When your head hurts, you want relief fast. Whether it’s a run-of-the-mill tension headache or a migraine, caffeine can help. That’s why it’s an ingredient in a lot of popular pain relievers. It can make them as much as 40% more effective.

Can caffeine cause migraines?

Caffeine doesn’t cause headaches, but it can trigger what’s 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.

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