How Does Caffeine Work
Caffeine is a natural stimulant thats found in 60+ different plant sources. The highest caffeine content can be found in filtered coffee , energy drinks , and espresso . Its also found in tea, hot cocoa, and chocolate bars. Youll even find a little in decaffeinated coffee . And youll find it in yerba mate, guarana berries, and yaupon holly. Caffeine is added to sodas as well as energy drinks. And, it is an ingredient in a number of pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter analgesics , cold/flu remedies, and diet aids often as the synthetic powder caffeine anhydrous.
Whats more, the amount of caffeine in your coffee of choice can vary significantly depending on how strong it is, how big your mug is, which type of bean is used, and how the beans are roasted. For example, robusta coffee contains more caffeine than arabica.
Interestingly, at dry weight, tea actually contains more caffeine than coffee beans, but less tea is used to prepare a cup, resulting in less caffeine than found in a cup of coffee .
Within just 15 minutes after consumption, lasting up to 6 hours later, moderate caffeine consumption crosses the blood-brain barrier and begins to stimulate the central nervous system. 1 As a result, its well-known for helping combat fatigue, increase alertness, improve focus and concentration, and enhance mood and feelings of well-being.
How Caffeine Consumption Affects Headaches
We metabolize caffeine at different rates so theres no hard and fast rule on how much caffeine one can consume before experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Your bodyweight also affects how much caffeine is safe the heavier a person is, the more caffeine they can consume without negative effects.
For most healthy adults, an intake of 300-400 mg of caffeine a day is found to be safe in general, which is equivalent to four cups of brewed coffee. However, for some people who are sensitive or allergic to caffeine, even just a small amount can trigger reactions such as headaches.
Be mindful about the various sources of caffeine, such as black tea, green tea, chocolate, some soda, and certain OTC medications, which can add to your daily caffeine and calorie intake.
You Are What You Eat But What About What You Drink Beverages Matter Says Joy Bauer Migraine Drink Triggers Are As Important As Food Triggers
You may know Joy Bauer as the nutrition expert for NBCs Today Show. A contributing editor to Womens Day Magazine, shes a registered dietitian, wellness educator, wife, mother and even a college gymnast. She is one of the few nutritionists and registered dietitians that weve discovered who is educating us on how food can be medicine for migraine sufferers.
This is Part 2 of 4 segments watch for all of them! You can find Part 1 on migraine nutrition here.
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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.
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.
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Study: Excess Caffeine Intake Is A Migraine Trigger
In a study in The American Journal of Medicine, 98 participants with episodic migraine completed an electronic diary each morning and evening for six weeks.
Within the diary, the participants reported their caffeinated beverage intake, as well as their migraine characteristics and other lifestyle factors .
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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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 itâs easy to see why 80% to 90% of all adults in North America consume it regularly.
Hereâs everything you need to know about how caffeine can impact headaches and how much of it you should consume for positive effects.
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.
Caffeine Headaches By The Numbers
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
If you stop caffeine completely, caffeine-withdrawal headache symptoms should go away in about 1 week.
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.
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Should I Completely Stop Or Can I Only Decrease
There are two schools of thought the first is that up to 200 mg of caffeine per day is safe for people with migraine. The other is that people with migraine will be better off over time if they eliminate caffeine completely. If you do choose to continue caffeine, consider making sure you are not having more than 200 mg per day.
According to a study, stopping completely was better than just decreasing .
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:
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Caffeines Effects On Pain And Non
There is evidence that caffeine may reduce pain sensation through its effects on adenosine receptors . The antinociceptive effects of caffeine may be explained by an inhibition of cyclooxygenase activity as well as adenosine receptor antagonism. Caffeine acts not only by central blocking of adenosine receptors, which affects pain signaling, but also by blocking peripheral adenosine receptors on sensory afferents . It was demonstrated that a 200 mg caffeine dose can inhibit the analgesic effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation . Caffeine combined with a standard dose of analgesics led to an increased proportion of individuals with a satisfactory level of pain relief . Laska et al. found that, in combination with paracetamol or aspirin, caffeine reduced the amount of analgesic needed to reach the same effect by approximately 40% . Other clinical effects in these patients may be linked with the promotion of the absorption of analgesics by rapid lowering of gastric pH. Nevertheless, meta-analyses of caffeine combined with ibuprofen, paracetamol, or acetylic acid found only weak adjuvant effects in patients with postoperative pain .
What Are Some Good Caffeine Alternatives To Get The Energy You Need
If drinking coffee is a migraine trigger for you, there are plenty of other ways to get the energy boost that you need.
We polled longtime migraine sufferers to find out their favorite caffeine alternatives:
Fruit and Exercise
After totally detoxing from caffeine due to a correlation with her own migraines, Jenn, 30, finds that a combination of fruit and exercisekeep her naturally energized, perhaps even more so than when she consumed coffee.
Tea, Chocolate, Soda, and Naps
Kelleigh, 32, limits her coffee consumption, but turns to tea and chocolate if she needs to kickstart her productivity at work. Catie, 30, will drink soda from time to time and is a big fan of the power napfor a much-needed energy boost.
When looking for caffeine alternatives, Dr. Crystal says to be mindful of the caffeine content of whatever youâre consuming or ingesting. Green tea is a great option as it contains less caffeine than coffee , while caffeine levels in energy drinks are very high.
âWhen it comes to alternatives for coffee, the caffeine content is the most important factor, but there are other things to consider,â Dr. Crystal says. âFor example, energy drinks contain other ingredients that may be harmful and should be avoided.â
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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.
Can Soda Give You Headaches
While you may find that consuming caffeine whether in coffee or soda helps prevent or ease migraines, you may not want to rely on it every day. Your body could become so used to the caffeine youre drinking that it stops being effective, says the American Migraine Foundation. You might get around this by drinking caffeinated beverages only one or two days a week.
But theres another reason you dont want to go overboard with caffeinated soda or coffee: While small amounts of caffeine can be beneficial for headaches, too much caffeine can lead to headaches, says Danielle Wilhour, MD, an assistant professor of neurology in the headache and neurohospitalist division at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. She typically recommends that people limit their daily caffeine intake to no more than 2 cups of a caffeinated beverage, or 200 milligrams a day.
If you consume caffeine daily and suddenly skip a day, it can lead to whats known as a caffeine withdrawal headache. According to a July 2019 review on the U.S. National Library of Medicine website, within 12 to 24 hours, you can experience headache along with other withdrawal symptoms. You may feel fatigued, drowsy or foggy headed.
So if you find that a soda habit is causing you to have migraines, dont go cold turkey on the caffeine. Reduce your soda intake slowly. Fill that glass up less and less each day until youre able to wean yourself off.
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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.