The Causes Of Caffeine Headaches
When we drink coffee, or any caffeinated beverages the caffeine causes the blood vessels in the brain to constrict. When you stop the caffeine intake, the blood vessels in the brain dilate. This increases the blood flow and can trigger a headache. If you decide to drink caffeine, it is recommended that you increase your water consumption to compensate for its dehydration effects.
Although a caffeine headache is most commonly caused by withdrawal, it can also be triggered by excessive intake, medication overuse, caffeine sensitivity, allergic reaction, or a fluctuation of caffeine consumption from day to day.
Natural Remedies For Migraines
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.
But When Does Caffeine Help A Migraine
Caffeine is what Dr. Crystal calls a âdouble-edged sword,â because while it can trigger headaches, itâs also an active ingredient in some migraine relief medications.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, caffeine affects the activity of adenosine, a naturally occuring and necessary brain substance. During migraine attacks, adenosine levels in the blood rise. Caffeine can block specific brain cell receptors adenosine typically bind to, stopping its effects. Caffeine also has vasoconstrictive properties that can restrict blood flow. Since blood vessels vasodilate, or get larger, before a migraine attack, caffeine can help counterbalance that effect, thus decreasing pain.
âCaffeine helps relieve headaches by its own analgesic, or alleviating, effects, and by enhancing the analgesic effects of aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen,â Dr. Crystal says.
Thereâs still much research to be done to determine exactly how caffeine results in acute anti-migraine and pain control, but the evidence is there: A 2017 study published by The Journal of Headache and Pain found that combining caffeine over-the-counter pain relief medications significantly improved relief compared to using the medication alone. And while treating headaches with non-medical options is sometimes effective, The American Migraine Foundation recommends limiting this to two days a week.
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What To Do If You Cant Avoid Coffee
If youre a diehard fan of drinking coffee, then chances are youve already found ways to prevent migraines from happening. However, it can trigger migraines in a variety of ways. Some people have observed that their triggers include bright lights, strong smells, and alcohol. In some cases, migraines are concurrent with other conditions like allergies and hypertension.
You can still enjoy your coffee while lessening your chances of having a migraine episode. Limiting your coffee intake is one way to prevent migraines. The recommended coffee intake for an adult is four cups a day. As long as these four cups have total caffeine of not more than 400 mg, then you should be fine.
Can Coffee Cause Headaches
There is a continuous controversy about the effects that caffeine consumption has on our bodies.
While some specialists speak of numerous benefits, other doctors point to it as one of the most frequent causes of headaches.
What can be pointed out, due to the large number of studies that have been carried out in this regard, is that coffee intake alone cannot be established as a medical cause of the appearance of migraines or headaches since, to date, there has not been established evidence proven that there is any relationship on this regard.
The reasons why a person may experience a coffee-related headache, in order of probability, are reduced caffeine consumption, varied caffeine consumption, caffeine overdose, caffeine sensitivity, and caffeine allergy.
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Migraine Headaches: Still Mysterious After All These Years
Migraine headaches are quite common: more than a billion people reportedly suffer from migraines worldwide. Yet, the cause has long been a mystery and it still is.
Until recently, the going theory was that blood vessels around the brain go into spasm, temporarily constricting and limiting blood flow. Then, when the blood vessels open up, the rush of incoming blood flow leads to the actual headache.
That theory has fallen out of favor. Now, the thinking is that migraines are due to waves of electrical activity spreading across the outer portions of the brain, leading to inflammation and overreactive nerve cells that send inappropriate pain signals. Why this begins in the first place is unknown.
Migraines tend to run in families, so genetic factors are likely important. In addition, chemical messengers within the brain, such as serotonin, may also play a central role in the development of migraines, though the mechanisms remain uncertain.
People prone to migraines may experience more headaches after coffee consumption , but coffee itself, or the caffeine it contains, is not considered the actual cause of migraines. Certain foods or drinks like coffee are thought to trigger episodes of migraine, but the true cause is not known.
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.
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Should You Choose Decaffeinated Coffee
It depends on what you are looking for. If you are required to restrict caffeine intake due to any reason, decaf coffee could be ideal.
But if you are extremely sensitive to caffeine, we do not recommend it. This also includes pregnant or lactating women and individuals dealing with anxiety or who have trouble sleeping .
Bad News For Coffee Drinkers Who Get Headaches
- The Norwegian University of Science and Technology
- People who consume high amounts of caffeine each day are more likely to suffer occasional headaches than those with low caffeine consumption, researchers in Norway have found. But, oddly enough, low caffeine consumption was associated with a greater likelihood of chronic headaches.
People who consume high amounts of caffeine each day are more likely to suffer occasional headaches than those with low caffeine consumption, a team of researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology reports in a study recently published in the Journal of Headache Pain.
But in findings that had no obvious reason, the researchers, led by Knut Hagen from NTNUs Faculty of Medicine, also reported that low caffeine consumption was associated with a greater likelihood of chronic headaches, defined as headaches for 14 or more days each month.
The results are drawn from a large cross-sectional study of 50,483 people who answered a questionnaire about caffeine consumption and headache prevalence as a part of the Nord-Trøndelag Health Survey , a county-wide health survey conducted in 1995-1997 on a wide range of health topics.
To drink or not to drink
Caffeine is the worlds most commonly consumed stimulant, and has long been known to have both positive and negative effects on headaches. For example, caffeine is a common ingredient in headache analgesics because it can help relieve headaches.
Cutting back may help
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Why Does Coffee Give You A Headache
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Accordingly, how does caffeine cause migraines?
Can coffee trigger a migraine?
Can coffee give you tension headaches?
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Vestibular Migraine & Coffee
If you have vestibular migraine or a vestibular disorder, you should consider giving up caffeine. In fact, if you havent yet, you probably arent doing yourself any favors. Tough love over here, but I promise I have your best interest at heart. Over the years I slowly became one of those everyday coffee people. It didnt help that we had a Starbucks in our office and it was my one opportunity to get away from my desk. Not to mention my husband likes to consider himself a coffee connoisseur, which I would probably replace the word “connoisseur” with “addict”but thats neither here nor there.
Coffee has truly turned into a way of life now. Its a fun, quick way to meet up with friends, or a good opportunity for networking. Its frankly just a nice way to spend a Saturday morning. Now when people ask me to meet for coffee I literally dont know what to do with myself. Do I explain my migraine diet? Do I just go and have water? Do I just sit there and try to figure out something to do with my hands?
I have some alternatives for you that arent just tea! In fact, tea can be a huge trigger for me as well. In the beginning of my vestibular migraine journey, I would even have an issue with naturally decaffeinated chamomile teas. But lets start with why coffee should be one of the first migraine triggers you give up.
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Peanuts Headache Or Walnut Headache
According to experts at the Cleveland Clinic, about a fifth of all headaches are triggered by food. Much of the research exploring exact food-headache connections remains inconclusive. That’s because studies often rely on participants’ journals and reports rather than scientific testing. But what we do know from this research is that the list of possible food culprits is quite long. It includes dozens of commonand popularfoods.
The “smoking gun” behind your headache? It could be aged cheeses, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, seeds, nuts and peanuts, which is technically a legume, the Cleveland Clinic reports. But it could also be something harder to uncover, like an ingredient in a prepared food, from the yeast in breads and other baked goods to preservatives, like nitrates and nitrites.
Cleveland Clinic even cites these surprising food culprits:
- Fermented foods, like pickles
How can you tell if it’s a food that’s behind the pounding in your head? One possibility is if it develops within 20 minutes to 2 hours after consuming a particular drink or food, Cleveland Clinic notes. However, the process of uncovering the true culprit is complicated by the fact that headaches can also be caused by dehydration, changes in the weather, not getting enough sleep and even exercise. Pinpointing a guilty food source will take some effort.
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Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches Are Most Likely Your Issue Here
These can happen when your brain becomes used to that regular hit of caffeine over time. But lets back up a bit so you know exactly which processes to blame for your head pain.
Caffeine peps you up by affecting a chemical in your brain called adenosine. Adenosine typically accumulates in your brain over the course of the day, making you sleepy, Lauren Green, D.O., R.D., a board-certified neurologist at the USC Headache and Neuralgia Center and assistant clinical professor of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, tells SELF. As an adenosine antagonist, caffeine is an opposing force that helps wake you up by binding to your adenosine receptors. This blocks your brains absorption of adenosine, preventing the level of drowsiness you would otherwise experience, Dr. Green explains.
All of this can happen with even one cup of coffee. But when you regularly consume significant amounts of caffeine, you can develop additional adenosine receptors, Dr. Green explains. And, in general, your adenosine receptors will become less sensitive to the effects of any caffeine you do consume. This means that over time you need to ingest more caffeine in order to block adenosines fatigue-inducing effects, so you form a dependence of sorts.
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Why Can Coffee Cause Headaches
Some people have stated that they experience a headache after drinking coffee or when they have not had their daily cup.
Both options are valid, and they are not the imagination of those who suffer from these ailments.
There are, in fact, several explanations for this phenomenon, and it is not always directly associated with the elements that are associated with coffee.
If you are asking can coffee cause headaches? Among the most common causes, the following stand out:
Why Does Caffeine Give Me A Headache
The average American consumes 227 milligrams of caffeine every day — equal to about three cups of coffee. For most people, caffeine is perfectly harmless and triggers no side effects. In more sensitive people, however, it might trigger anything from shakiness to dehydration to increased urination. Some people might also develop headaches associated with caffeine.
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Why Not Just Treat Your Headaches With Coffee
Unfortunately, caffeine’s effects on the brain can vary tremendously depending upon how often you use it. With occasional use, it may provide modest acute headache relief, as well as its characteristic satisfying sense of alertness and well-being. However, with daily or near daily caffeine exposure, the brain may develop a tolerance for, and dependency upon, the drug. This means, a given dose becomes less potent following repetitive exposure, and the brain develops an expectation that another dose of caffeine will be coming soon. If that caffeine expectation is unmet, a withdrawal syndrome may result, which includes headache itself as a prominent symptom, along with fatigue, trouble concentrating, nausea, and other symptoms suggestive of migraine. An example of this withdrawal syndrome may be the “weekend migraine” pattern where individuals experience attacks on Saturdays or Sundays associated with sleeping later than usual and delaying their morning cup of coffee.
In daily caffeine users, caffeine has less of an effect on brain activation and blood vessel constriction, and caffeine withdrawal is associated with a significant increase in brain blood flow associated with blood vessel dilation. These chronic effects of caffeine are likely a result of changes in the numbers and types of adenosine receptors expressed on brain cells as well as changes in their functions. These changes may contribute to the development of caffeine tolerance and dependency.
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.
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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.