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Can Decaf Coffee Cause Migraines

How Caffeine Affects Migraine

Ask Dr. Nandi: Is decaf coffee harmful to health?

You may think caffeine is a good migraine fix. Why not? Its on Excedrin Migraine. Ive even seen it recommended on Pinterest posts for curing a migraine, which is the holy grail of self help/cooking ideas. This is because caffeine has a stimulant effect that opens up blood vessels in your brain, allowing for some relief of the headache. Although it can be an effective abortive when used very sparingly, unfortunately its not a permanent cure. Using Excedrin for every migraine or drinking coffee can even lead to rebound headaches.

Theres still conflicting information on this subject, which is understandable considering the great dependency on caffeine that we have. In my personal opinion, people make excuses to have it around because they are so addicted to it, its unimaginable to give up. In my case, I was so desperate to feel normal again, I gave up all my favorite things like aged cheese, red wine, and even my morning latte.

For Those With Frequent Attacks Or Chronic Migraine

If you drink caffeinated beverages often and/or take medications with caffeine commonly used to help migraine, you may have rebound headache from the caffeine**. Its also possible that you have rebound from the medication. Yes, the caffeine that used to help your pain may have turned on you. Caffeine acts like medications such as triptans and NSAIDs. They are helpful with infrequent use but can worsen attacks for people prone to migraine.

You will not know if caffeine is a problem for you unless you rid yourself of it and see how you feel. Having been involved with helping many people quit caffeine through our for years, a surprising number of people have far fewer attacks and diminished vestibular symptoms when they go without caffeine . I/we highly encourage you to quit caffeine for a few months.

Quitting caffeine has a very nice upside you will have an additional, natural and readily available abortive therapy to use when you have your next migraine attack. For me, coffee and soda are the only good things about migraine. When using caffeine as an acute migraine remedy, the AMF recommends limiting it to twice per week to avoid rebound and allow it to be effective.

What About Regular Use

Caffeinated beverages can be hard to part with even when you find relief from omitting them from your life. The good news is that unless you have a food sensitivity to the coffee, tea, soda or energy drink, you can likely add a small amount back to your routine. The key is ROUTINE. Most experts will advise you that if you must have daily caffeine, a consistent and low amount each day is the way to do it. Most agree that up to 200mg of caffeine per day is acceptable. The caffeine may even be helpful in the 4 ways described above.

An important tip about using caffeine regularly is to only drink caffeinated beverages in the morning. Sleep is critically important to keep the migraine brain calm and happy and caffeine is known to disrupt healthy sleep.

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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.

How To Reduce Caffeine Dependence

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The best way to reduce caffeine dependency is gradually, ideally, by cutting down on caffeine intake by around 25% each week.

Coffee, tea, or soda drinkers may find it easier to transition to decaffeinated versions of their favorite beverages. People could also try mixing decaf with caffeinated drinks and gradually increasing the proportion of decaf to caffeinated.

Several other tricks and lifestyle habits can also help people reduce their caffeine dependence, such as:

  • replacing caffeinated foods and drinks with caffeine free alternatives
  • staying hydrated

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If You Have Migraines Put Down Your Coffee And Read This

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?

Where Is A Caffeine Withdrawal Headache Located

A caffeine withdrawal headache can present as a feeling of pain and pressure that pushes outwards from the brain. Starting behind the eyes, it can move up to the front of the head. Caffeine withdrawal headaches can also present with migraine-like symptoms and as a widespread feeling of throbbing pain.

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What Is The Side Effects Of Decaf Coffee

Caffeine is a stimulant. It gives you energy and helps you stay awake. Caffeine is found naturally in coffee beans and tea leaves. It is also added to many soft drinks and chocolate bars. Decaf coffee doesnt contain any caffeine but it does contain other chemicals called Lignans. These chemicals can cause headache, dizziness and nausea if consumed in large amounts.

Does Coffee Cure Or Cause Headaches

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If youre taking it once in a while, the caffeine may give you acute headache relief along with better endurance capacity and increase focus. However, when you start to take coffee regularly in multiple cups, your caffeine tolerance is gradually increased and your body starts to crave more of the stimulant each time it gets it.

The answer is relative since the effect of coffee on an individuals metabolism will depend on how regularly he/shes drinking it.

This shows that your daily dose of caffeine will become less potent gradually due to your repetitive consumption of coffee and in this way the brain develops a mutual dependency on the drink.

When the brain wont be getting its desired caffeinated boost, certain withdrawal symptoms are seen that include headache, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea. Note that all these are symptoms of migraine as well.

Even the real mechanism behind the effects on the brain is still a debatable topic, I can clearly state that caffeine affects the naturally occurring brain substance adenosine which leads to certain triggering functions.

So, in the case of occasional drinkers, caffeine may help in eradicating the tickling sensation of headaches but for regular avid drinkers, the same drink might be the cause of headache. This is because whenever your body wont be getting the caffeine, itll show the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal that includes a headache.


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Is Your Headache Related To Caffeine Withdrawal

If your headache occurs a few hours after you last consumed caffeine or missed your normal cup of coffee or energy drink, that could be a sign that its related to a caffeine deficit, says Spears.

Typically, the mid-to-late morning is a common time for a caffeine withdrawal headache, because a lot of people with start their day with coffee or something like that, he says.

A caffeine withdrawal headache can feel different from a migraine attack, he says. The headache has a mild to moderate profile, and it tends to not have the migraine-like features, says Spears.

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Tips For Reducing Or Eliminating Caffeine

If you decide that cutting down or quitting caffeine is the way to go, start slowly. If you like caffeine in the form of cold beverages such as sodas or energy drinks, the Cleveland Clinic suggests trying to drink water instead. Caffeine-free unsweetened iced tea might also be a satisfying substitute.

If youre a coffee drinker, try cutting out one cup of caffeinated coffee a day, or drink a half-caffeinated and half-decaffeinated coffee mix. Slowly shifting to higher ratio of decaf over a period of weeks can help reduce your intake while minimizing withdrawal symptoms.

But keep in mind that decaffeinated coffee still contains a small amount of caffeine, which can keep you dependent on caffeine and lead to withdrawal headache if you stop the decaf abruptly.

Another idea for reducing caffeine intake: Exercise instead.

Ive seen people substitute exercise at that time when they would typically have coffee, and that seems to help them through the withdrawal process, says Spears.

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Could Decaf Coffee Be Bad For You

There is no evidence suggesting that drinking caffeinated coffee is bad for your health in fact, it might even contain some of the health benefits of caffeinated coffee.

However, decaf coffee uses methylene chloride in the caffeine removal process, which has raised concerns within the coffee community.

Breathing in small amounts of methylene chloride can slow down the central nervous system for a short time, affecting a persons hand-eye coordination and attention span.

Mild exposure to this volatile liquid can cause headaches, irritability, drowsiness, and light-headedness. The FDA already approved the use of methylene chloride in the decaffeination process once the product contains less than 10 ppm of residual methylene.

There is much research suggesting that coffee contains many compounds that are beneficial to our health. Drinking coffee often can significantly lower your risk of developing specific cancers, including:

  • Skin cancer
  • Sleeping difficulties

Final Thoughts

Giving your child a few sips of decaf coffee is unlikely to do much harm as decaf coffee contains very little caffeine. Of course, other beverages are better to offer your child than decaf coffee, but decaf coffee is honestly not that bad.

Most children are just curious about what their parents find interesting and want to know what the fuss is all about so, naturally, they want to explore the taste of coffee, they are unlikely to develop an addiction.

Table Of Content

How Does Coffee Affect The Heart Rate And Blood Pressure

Drinking Coffee Cause Headaches

The stimulants present in coffee have the ability to cause an increase in blood pressure thus affecting heart rate and blood pressure.

Though the main reason behind this is still unclear, it can be assumed that the neuro stimulating effect of caffeine indirectly plays a part in regulating arterial pressure.

Its clear that the changes in heart rate or pressure are more prominent for the occasional drinkers. For regular drinkers, their body gradually increases the tolerance level due to repetitive exposure to caffeine so in this case, caffeine wont have a long-term effect on their blood pressure.

This rise in blood pressure differs from person to person depending on the potential moderators such as caffeine tolerance, age, family history of hypertension, borderline hypertension, etc.

However, if you have high blood pressure already, consult your health care provider for a healthy amount of intake. Avoid caffeine right before exercise. The recommended amount of intake is 400 milligrams of caffeine a day as set by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Id suggest keeping the intake amount within 50-100 milligrams since this amount is enough for a quick boost and most importantly, this wont exhibit any side effects.

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The Science Behind Decaf Coffee

Coffee is decaffeinated using 4 different methods, all performed before roasting while the bean is still green. Water, by itself, cannot decaffeinate the bean without washing away other soluble substances like sugar and protein. A decaffeinating agent must be added to aide in the process. There are 4 different agents used: activated charcoal and CO2 being natural, and methylene chloride and ethyl acetate being chemical solvents.

Something really interesting that I learned fromthis article, is that ethyl acetate is considered a more natural solvent because it can be found organically in ripening fruits. This raised a red flag for me as ripening fruits can be a powerful migraine trigger for some. Because this solvent can be found in nature, producers are allowed to mark the bags as naturally decaffeinated, even though the chemical used is actually synthetic. All of this to say that even with your coffee you should check your labels! Just because one says naturally decaffeinated or water processed does not mean its actually Swiss Water Processed or does not contain chemical solvents.

Caffeine And Migraine Trigger Or Treatment

This post may contain affiliate links. Migraine Strong, as an Amazon Affiliate, makes a small percentage from qualified sales made through affiliate links at no cost to you.

This is an evidence-based article from the authors of Migraine Strong. It includes scientific evidence from studies and peer-reviewed research papers. References to the evidence may be reviewed by clicking the hyperlinked words and/or numbers in parenthesis within the article.

Medically reviewed by Danielle Aberman, RD

Does caffeine help migraine attacks or is it a trigger? This is one of the most frequently asked questions of neurologists. The topic of caffeine and migraine is often hotly debated on social media and is usually eye-opening.

In general, caffeine helps the average person with headaches and occasional migraine attacks. They may enjoy a rich cup of coffee each morning to get things going as well as an afternoon pick-me-up. And, some people love to relax after a nice dinner and sip an espresso, cappuccino or cup of decaf. They may notice that their occasional tension headache or even migraine attack vanishes after enjoying a strong cup of coffee. Some people swear by chugging an ice cold Coke or Mountain Dew to fix their raging head pain.

While Migraine Strong writes about the latest in migraine treatments, this is not medical advice. We are patient educators and all information you read should be discussed with your doctor.

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What Causes Migraine Attacks

People living with migraine typically deal with recurrent, pulsating headaches that can be severe.

These headaches can last anywhere from a few hours to almost 3 days and sometimes include symptoms like sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting.

While researchers are still trying to get to the bottom of why migraine attacks happen, they can be caused by a variety of known triggers, including:

Medications used to treat migraine also sometimes cause more attacks if theyre used more than 10 days out of the month.

Does Coffee Cause Plaque In Arteries

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Coffee does not cause plaque in the arteries. The claim over the association between the drink and the artery was affected due to the presence of contributing factors such as age, height, weight, gender, ethnicity, health condition, high blood pressure, and alcohol intake by the individual.

Stiffness of the arteries increases the pressure on the heart and the chance of a person having a heart attack or stroke. This is why studies have shown a concerning view on the effects of the regular consumption of coffee on arterial pressure.

In most cases, caffeine is always considered as the factor behind several disruptions in the nervous and cardiovascular system since its a neuro stimulant.

However, modern research has been preassuming that there might be other substances present in the beverage that might affect the arterial pressure as well.

The study from the British Heart Foundation, it is shown that the results on the effect of caffeine on arterial pressure have varying conclusions depending on the hypertensive, stress factor, and age of the population group.

The final conclusion stated that as the tolerance of the body increases, the caffeines effect on arterial pressure diminishes for a significantly good amount of time.

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How Is Coffee Decaffeinated

There are three common ways to make decaffeinated coffee beans : by using water, organic solvents , or carbon dioxide. The solvent-based processes use chemicals to treat the beans, whether the beans are directly immersed in the solvent or if they are processed by a method in which the solvent never touches the bean. The process not only removes caffeine but some of the taste too, making it a milder, less richly bodied beverage, and thats where a lot of the problem lies with decaf coffee for many people.

The chemicals used, such as methylene chloride and ethyl acetate, are considered safe by the FDA in the amounts used in the decaffeination process. In fact, the FDA allows 10 parts per million of residual methylene chloride, but the coffee industry tends to use only 1 ppm. Furthermore, any residual solvent is likely to be burned away through the process of roasting the beans and later, brewing them. Still, if that chemical process bothers you, even though the risks are basically nonexistent, then look for beans that have been decaffeinated by using the Swiss Water Process or carbon dioxide. The process by which its been decaffeinated should be indicated somewhere on the bag of beans.


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