If you cut out coffee and quickly start feeling like someone’s banging a frying pan against your head, you’re probably wondering what’s going on so you can stop it. Are you having full-on caffeine withdrawal headaches? Or is caffeine such a magical substance that it was masking underlying head pain from something like migraines all along? It can be confusing to get to the bottom of what’s happening, especially when your head is throbbing so hard it’s tough to even think. Here, neurologists walk you through what you should know about this kind of head pain—and how to stop the pounding.
- Caffeine withdrawal headaches are most likely your issue here.
- It’s unlikely that your post-coffee-cutting headaches are actually migraines you had all along.
- Why a Caffeine Headache Occurs and Caffeine Withdrawal
- What Caffeine Does to the Body
- The Cause of a Caffeine Headache & The Caffeine Headache Location
- Other Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal
- How to Get Rid of a Caffeine Headache
- References for Why a Caffeine Headache Occurs and Caffeine Withdrawal
- Coupons & Offers
- CAFFEINE WITHDRAWAL RECOGNIZED AS A DISORDER
- Anatomy of a Caffeine Headache: Causes, Remedies, Prevention
- Top 5 Causes of a Caffeine Headache
- The Two Best Methods for Prevention
- Understanding Caffeine Headaches
- Caffeine Headache: Symptoms, Withdrawal, Treatment and Alternatives
- What Does a Caffeine Headache Feel Like?
- Understanding The Pain
- Treating Diseases
- Prolonged Use
- Excessive Caffeine Use
- Top 5 Causes of Caffeine Headaches
- How long do they last?
- Treatment and Care
- Finding Alternative Sources
- What to Avoid
- Article Resources:
- 24 Feb Does Caffeine Trigger or Treat Headaches?
- Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches Symptoms
- How Long Do Caffeine Headaches Last?
- How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?
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 let’s 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 brain’s 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 adenosine’s fatigue-inducing effects, so you form a dependence of sorts.
That’s why you can experience caffeine withdrawal if you’re used to drinking caffeine daily and stop abruptly, Lauren R. Natbony, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at the Center for Headache and Facial Pain at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells SELF.
Yes, caffeine withdrawal is a legit phenomenon. It’s actually included in the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which mental health experts use to diagnose various psychiatric conditions. If you experience at least three withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours of stopping caffeine consumption (or cutting back drastically), you could definitely be experiencing withdrawal. Symptoms include intense fatigue, irritability, mental fogginess, and—drumroll please—a horrible headache. (Dr. Natbony says people often describe these headaches as “diffuse and throbbing.” Not the most pleasurable experience.)
While even one-cup-a-day coffee drinkers can get caffeine withdrawal headaches and other symptoms, Dr. Natbony says it appears that there’s “a dose-dependent relationship” related to the amount and frequency of consumption. Translation: The more coffee you were drinking, the worse your withdrawal might be. (According to the Mayo Clinic, 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is the maximum safe amount for most healthy adults. That’s about the amount in four cups of coffee.)
Fortunately, for most people, caffeine withdrawal symptoms usually go away within about a week of cutting out caffeine, Dr. Natbony says (or within an hour or so of consuming caffeine). But you may be able to avoid the headache and other unpleasant symptoms altogether by weaning yourself off caffeine instead of quitting cold turkey. For instance, you could mix decaf coffee with your usual caffeinated stuff in greater proportions over time until decaf is all you’re drinking.
It’s unlikely that your post-coffee-cutting headaches are actually migraines you had all along.
“It’s an interesting theory, but it’s a very unlikely scenario,” Dr. Green says. Neither she nor Dr. Natbony believes they have encountered this situation among their thousands of patients.
Why a Caffeine Headache Occurs and Caffeine Withdrawal
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Medically Reviewed By:
Mary K. Polinard, BSN, RN, CNOR
Many people can’t imagine starting a single day without a morning cup of coffee. Caffeine is a substance that is generally safe for adults in small doses, but it can become addictive when consumed in excess over time.
Interestingly, caffeine withdrawal can lead to headaches in many individuals, but it is also used in low doses to treat headaches with pain reliever medications.1,3
This article discusses how caffeine affects the body and how caffeine withdrawal can lead to a very painful caffeine headache. It will also address how to get rid of caffeine headache symptoms when they occur and preventative tips for safe caffeine consumption.
What Caffeine Does to the Body
Caffeine is a mild stimulant that comes with a risk of dependency. In the human body, it stimulates the release of stress hormones and adrenaline that provide an energy boost. However, this energy boost doesn’t last all day, and many people experience a “crash” followed by a need for more caffeine to re-stimulate the body.
By causing blood vessels to constrict or become more narrow, caffeine is effective in reducing headaches and other symptoms.3 Caffeine is potent, which means that the effects of it can typically be felt in 30 minutes or less.
The Cause of a Caffeine Headache & The Caffeine Headache Location
The most common initial location of symptoms for caffeine headache is behind the eyes. From there, a caffeine headache may spread to the forehead and elsewhere on the head.
Not only can a caffeine headache be caused by withdrawal, but also excessive caffeine intake, an allergy to caffeine, and varying caffeine consumption from day to day. Caffeine withdrawal headaches can be moderate or severe.
Other Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal
In addition to a caffeine headache, other caffeine withdrawal symptoms include sleepiness, irritability, constipation, and insomnia. Individuals may also experience flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, muscle stiffness, dizziness, and even heart rhythm abnormalities if their bodies are suddenly denied a steady dose of caffeine.2
These symptoms typically last for a few days but can last longer or be more severe in people who have gotten accustomed to consuming significant amounts of caffeine per day.
How to Get Rid of a Caffeine Headache
To treat a caffeine headache, one of the best things to do is to take a nap or get a good night’s sleep. Rest is often enough to get caffeine headache sufferers back on their feet and feeling good again. Staying hydrated is also essential in helping prevent and treat these headaches. Other at-home remedies include ice packs, pressure points, and OTC pain relievers.2
However, it’s important to remember that caffeine isn’t inherently bad and when it is consumed in moderation. Caffeine, when combined with aspirin and acetaminophen, is actually capable of aiding in headache relief.1 If caffeine headaches are an ongoing issue, consider slowly reducing the daily caffeine intake and switching to low-caffeine or caffeine-free tea as an alternative to other caffeinated beverages.
Vanquish® is indicated for tension headaches. If you have a cluster headache, sinus headache, migraine headache or any other type of headache you may want to consult a doctor.
References for Why a Caffeine Headache Occurs and Caffeine Withdrawal
1. Altabakhi, I. W., & Zito, P. M. (2018, December 2). Acetaminophen/Aspirin/Caffeine. Retrieved on August 22, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513274/.
2. Healthline. Caffeine Withdrawal Headache: Why It Happens and What You Can Do. Retrieved on August 28, 2019 from https://www.healthline.com/health/headache/caffeine-withdrawal-headache.
3. National Headache Foundation. Does Caffeine Trigger or Treat Headaches? Retrieved on August 19, 2019 from https://headaches.org/2019/02/24/does-caffeine-trigger-or-treat-headaches/.
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CAFFEINE WITHDRAWAL RECOGNIZED AS A DISORDER
Johns Hopkins Medicine
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September 29, 2004
CAFFEINE WITHDRAWAL RECOGNIZED AS A DISORDER
If you missed your morning coffee and now you have a headache and difficulty concentrating, you might be able to blame it on caffeine withdrawal. In general, the more caffeine consumed, the more severe withdrawal symptoms are likely to be, but as little as one standard cup of coffee a day can produce caffeine addiction, according to a Johns Hopkins study that reviewed over 170 years of caffeine withdrawal research.
Results of the Johns Hopkins study should result in caffeine withdrawal being included in the next edition of the DSM or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, considered the bible of mental disorders, and the diagnosis should be updated in the World Health Organization’s ICD, or The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.
“Caffeine is the world’s most commonly used stimulant, and it’s cheap and readily available so people can maintain their use of caffeine quite easily,” says Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins. “The latest research demonstrates, however, that when people don’t get their usual dose they can suffer a range of withdrawal symptoms, including headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating. They may even feel like they have the flu with nausea and muscle pain.”
Griffiths, and colleague Laura Juliano, Ph.D., of American University published these findings in the October 2004 issue of the journal Psychopharmacology, available online now.
“Despite more than a century and a half of investigation into caffeine withdrawal, doctors and other health professionals have had no scientifically based framework for diagnosing the syndrome,” says Griffiths. “Our goal was to critically review the literature regarding caffeine withdrawal to validate the symptoms and signs of illness associated with it, and to determine how often withdrawal produced clinically significant distress.”
In their review, the researchers identified 57 experimental studies and nine survey studies on caffeine withdrawal, and examined each to assess the validity of the reported findings.
The researchers identified five clusters of common withdrawal symptoms: headache; fatigue or drowsiness; dysphoric mood including depression and irritability; difficulty concentrating; and flu-like symptoms of nausea, vomiting and muscle pain or stiffness. In experimental studies, 50 percent of people experienced headache and 13 percent had clinically significant distress or functional impairment — for example, severe headache and other symptoms incompatible with working. Typically, onset of symptoms occurred 12 to 24 hours after stopping caffeine, with peak intensity between one and two days, and for a duration of two to nine days. In general, the incidence or severity of symptoms increased with increases in daily dose, but abstinence from doses as low as 100 milligrams per day, or about one small cup of coffee, also produced symptoms.
The research also showed that avoidance of caffeine withdrawal symptoms motivates regular use of caffeine. For example, the satisfying feelings and perceived benefits that many coffee users experience from their morning coffee appear to be a simple reversal of the negative effects of caffeine withdrawal after overnight abstinence.
But there is good news for those wishing to quit caffeine: A simple, stepwise approach can often eliminate the need for a “fix” without suffering the most severe withdrawal symptoms.
“We teach a systematic method of gradually reducing caffeine consumption over time by substituting decaffeinated or non-caffeinated products. Using such a method allows people to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms,” says Griffiths.
According to the report, caffeine is the most widely used behaviorally active drug in the world. In North America, 80 percent to 90 percent of adults report regular use of caffeine. Average daily intake of caffeine among caffeine consumers in the United States is about 280 milligrams, or about one to two mugs of coffee or three to five bottles of soft drink, with higher intakes estimated in some European countries. In the United States, coffee and soft drinks are the most common sources of caffeine, with almost half of caffeine consumers ingesting caffeine from multiple sources, including tea.
The study was funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
On the Web:
Roland Griffiths has been a consultant to pharmaceutical companies, the International Food Information Counsel, the International Life Sciences Institute, and the legal profession on issues related to caffeine effects, withdrawal and dependence.
Anatomy of a Caffeine Headache: Causes, Remedies, Prevention
A caffeine headache has been experienced by just about anyone who consumes caffeine on a regular basis.
This caffeine-induced headache usually starts behind the eyes and then works its way up the front of the forehead as it develops further, becoming quite debilitating if left unchecked.
For some people, this can trigger a migraine, but for most people, a caffeine headache is moderately painful and varies in severity depending on the cause.
Top 5 Causes of a Caffeine Headache
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Varied caffeine consumption
- Caffeine overdose
- Caffeine sensitivity
- Caffeine allergy
How to Remedy a Caffeine Headache
The number one cause of a caffeine headache is caffeine withdrawal.
Even a small decline (30-100mg) in the amount of caffeine a person usually consumes can result in a mild headache.
People who miss their daily dose, consume less than their average, or who are detoxing from caffeine will most likely experience this type of headache.
If you want to reduce your caffeine intake (or quit entirely), here’s how:
1.Download our book Awake(it’s free).
2. Do the Overcoming Caffeine Withdrawal course at Udemy.
3. Use the Wean Caffeine supplement (something we helped get to market). It helps you avoid the painful withdrawal symptoms that often come when quitting caffeine abruptly.
As many have experienced, you don’t need to be an addict to experience the negative effects of caffeine
People who consume caffeine in a hit or miss fashion tend to have more caffeine-induced headaches than those that have the same amount every day.
Also, those that consume too much caffeine in a short amount of time often experience a headache as a common caffeine overdose symptom.
Finally, those who are ultra-sensitive to the caffeine molecule or who have an “allergic-like” reaction to the substance, can also experience a headache. However, this type of caffeine headache the least common.
If you aren’t intentionally quitting caffeine, the best remedy for a caffeine withdrawal headache is to consume more caffeine.
As soon as a person begins to feel a tightness behind the eyes, he/she should evaluate their recent caffeine consumption and then consume an adequate amount of caffeine to stop the withdrawal.
Pain relievers such as Excedrin also include caffeine and can remedy the caffeine withdrawal headache faster since they contain added pain relievers.
For those that are purposely detoxing from caffeine or for those that have consumed too much caffeine, we recommend the following.
- Take pain relievers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, and naproxen. (use only as directed)
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid medications, beverages, and foods with added caffeine.
Most of the time a caffeine headache will peak in severity and then gradually get better as the body adjusts to having no caffeine.
“I find that most of the time pain killers dull the pain and a good night sleep takes care of the rest.“
Note: For those that had a moderate to severe addiction to caffeine, the headache could last for several days, but usually peaks in severity the first 24 hour period without caffeine.
The Two Best Methods for Prevention
For those that want to prevent a caffeine headache, there are basically two ways to keep a caffeine headache from developing.
- Consume about the same amount of caffeine every day. – Don’t vary consumption by any more than about 30-50 mg each and every day, even on the weekends.
- Consume zero to very little caffeine– Eliminate caffeine from the diet completely. Usually, people who have very small amounts, such as what’s in a serving of dark chocolate, won’t experience any problems with developing a caffeine-induced headache.
By understanding how a caffeine headache develops, how to remedy it, and how to prevent it; this type of headache doesn’t have to be an issue for most people.
Being aware of the caffeine content of your favorite beverages as well as being mindful of how much you have consumed are your best defenses against getting caffeine-induced headaches.
1. Our caffeine content database can help people keep track of their caffeine consumption and be aware of how much caffeine they are consuming daily.
2. Download a caffeine-tracking app. This smartphone application allows users to easily track their daily caffeine consumption.
3. Our Guide to Quitting Caffeine provides a step-by-step plan to quit or cut back on caffeine without all the painful withdrawal symptoms such as headaches.
A Personal Story of a Caffeine Headache
I was recently camping and hiking with friends and mistakingly packed decaf packets of instant coffee instead of regular instant coffee. We all got up early to start our hike and I made my morning coffee and ate a quick breakfast. Not long into our 12-mile hike to the top of a mountain, my head started to hurt just behind my eyes. It continued to get worse as the hike and morning wore on. What made matters worse was the hike’s elevation gain which caused my head to throb with every fast heartbeat.
When we finally got back to camp in the early afternoon, I doubled checked the coffee packets and realized that they were decaf. I quickly borrowed some regular coffee from my friend, took some ibuprofen, and waited for relief. Within about 30 minutes, my caffeine headache had subsided and within an hour it was gone. I was again reminded of how powerful caffeine is and how quickly it can ruin your day if you don’t get your daily dose. A caffeine headache is not fun and I question why I would choose to be dependant on a chemical that has the power to cause such pain and discomfort.
Written by Ted Kallmyer, last updated on November 22, 2019
Understanding Caffeine Headaches
Whether you’re gritting your teeth trying to give up your cola habit, or you’re drinking a strong cup of tea hoping to cure a migraine, you’re probably well aware that caffeine can affect a headache. However, the connection between the two is not yet fully understood.
On average, adults in the United States consume the caffeine equivalent of two to three cups of coffee daily (about 200 to 300 milligrams). And although some believe caffeine may be addictive, it is generally considered safe for most people in reasonable quantities — meaning fewer than five cups a day.
But for headache and migraine sufferers, the relationship between caffeine and their condition 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 headaches.
Caffeine as a Headache Treatment
“Caffeine does seem to treat headaches ,” says neurologist Mary Quiceno, MD, assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “There are lots of different reasons why caffeine is thought to help people.”
Simply adding about 130 mg of caffeine to the formulation for over-the-counter pain medications improves headache relief by about 40 percent. The problem, explains Quiceno, is that caffeine is rarely taken by itself. As a result it is difficult to know whether the headache treatment is due to the caffeine or other ingredients present in the medicine.
Drinking a caffeinated beverage, like coffee, tea, or soda, is a popular suggestion to cure the average headache. This tactic can work, says Dr. Quiceno, but why it does is unclear. It’s also possible that your headache is due to hunger or low blood sugar, and a dose of cream, sugar, or both in your coffee may help caffeine to ease the pain.
Clearly, says Quiceno, caffeine has an effect on the brain. For some time, experts believed that caffeine had a stimulant effect, opening or relaxing blood vessels to ease headaches. Quiceno says there is no evidence to support this theory.
Caffeine Headache as a Withdrawal Symptom
On the flipside, if you’ve ever tried to cut back on caffeine, you know that headaches can occur as a result. This may not happen if you only have one cup of coffee a day or less and decide to quit. For most people, a caffeine withdrawal headache won’t occur unless they have been drinking about 500 mg of caffeine per day (about five cups of coffee). And it doesn’t 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. Again, the reason for this is not fully understood.
“Maybe it is not the caffeine itself, but being used to a steady intake of whatever you were eating or drinking, that is causing the headache,” suggests Quiceno. The good news is that this experience is temporary and within a few days, you will no longer have to cope with the headache. A good way to minimize caffeine headaches is by cutting down on caffeine gradually rather than stopping cold-turkey. For example, try cutting out one cup of caffeinated coffee a day or drink a half-caffeinated and half-decaffeinated coffee mix.
Caffeine Headache: Symptoms, Withdrawal, Treatment and Alternatives
So, you have had a tremendous headache for the last few months and you cannot figure out why. You think you are having migraine or sinus attacks, but that may not be the case after all. If you drink quite a bit of coffee or soft drinks every now and then, this can explain the sudden episodes of miserable head pain. This kind of discomfort is known as a caffeine headache and can also be felt after taking a break from coffee after drinking it habitually for a long time.
Caffeine is perhaps one of the most widely consumed stimulants in the world today. Studies have shown that it can be used to treat and relieve headaches. In fact, most pain relievers have a trace of caffeine. However, like with all substances, there is still the matter of using it properly. If overused, caffeine can actually trigger this kind of pain, or it may lead to increased incidences.
What Does a Caffeine Headache Feel Like?
These headaches can be extremely painful and could cause significant amounts of discomfort. This can be caused by a number of different factors such as caffeine intake, allergy or sensitivity.
For instance, numerous studies have shown that this pain can be caused by excessive caffeine consumption from a cup of coffee, or from a combination of different sources.
However, to the surprise of most people, these studies have also shown that caffeine withdrawal can trigger a caffeine headache just as well. If you’ve been cutting down on your cups of coffee, whether purposefully or inadvertently, then you may be putting yourself at risk for one of these episodes. In fact, a reduction of just fifty to one milligrams per day of daily caffeine is often enough to set the stage for a tension headache or migraine.
This article presents readers with everything they need to know about a caffeine headache, as well as the effects of caffeine, symptoms and withdrawal. It also delves into the different factors which may cause this kind of pain. It also presents readers with a couple of possible cures and treatments that can help alleviate the pain.
Understanding The Pain
Caffeine(1) is naturally found in different kinds of food. As a stimulant, it is widely considered to be a drug which can potentially cause dependence with prolonged intake. It is extremely potent with its effects being felt in less than half an hour. It has been shown that it stimulates the person’s muscles, heart, and central nervous system (CNS), as well as the centers that control their blood pressure.
The substance has been used in a number of different medical procedures and cures. For instance, caffeine is used to treat conditions like asthma and gallbladder disease. Recent medical treatments have also found that it can help deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) patients as the substance can dramatically sharpen a person’s focus.
This kind of headache does not come with any unusual symptoms. You get a painful headache and that’s just about it. That is why most people tend to think that it is just because of stress or perhaps a migraine. You may have heard that caffeinated beverages often tend to ease body pain, but what you didn’t know is it can also lead to terrible head pain.
When you have coffee or any other beverage with caffeine, the caffeine narrows all the blood vessels surrounding your brain. Once the effect of the caffeine wears away, the blood vessels expand. This causes a sudden flow of blood, resulting in head pain that can prove unbearable at times.
Interestingly, it is also now being used for stimulating weight loss and addressing type 2 diabetes. This is because the substance not only boosts one’s mental capacity, it also pushes the body’s entire metabolic process into high gear. This lets the body process calories at a much faster rate.
However, readers should understand that the law of diminishing returns completely applies to this substance. For instance, while caffeine intake can raise blood pressure, this effect will not be as apparent if a person regularly consumes the substance. Additionally, it also can also increase urine flow but will not be as dramatic a fashion if the person is a regular user.
More importantly, as one regularly consumes caffeine, the body will eventually build a tolerance to it. This forces the person to increase their dosage in order to get the same results. Thus, it fosters in the user a dependence on regular intake.
Excessive Caffeine Use
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse(2), no less than 80% of adults in North America consume caffeine on a regular basis. It can be found in a wide array of dietary sources. More often than not, adults take it through coffee and tea beverages, while young people get too much of it from sodas, candy and some sports drinks.
The actual caffeine content of these varies. Typically, coffee has the strongest dose. Readers need to understand that there two major coffee strains, the Arabica (Coffea arabica) and the Robusta (Coffea canephora). The former has a content of 71 to 120 mg per 150 ml for Arabica coffee while Robusta has 131 to 220 mg. Meanwhile, tea drinks have noticeably lower levels at 32-42 mg per 150 ml. Finally, the content in sodas may range from 32-70 mg per 330 ml.
Studies show that most people consume significant amounts from different sources on a daily basis. For instance, in the United States and Canada, an average person will take in 76 mg of caffeine per day but this can also go up to 210-238 mg. Interestingly, in Finland and Sweden, the daily average exceeds 400 mg per day in Sweden and Finland. 80-100% of the average intake in these countries is from coffee alone. The daily caffeine intake level is up to par with that of the United Kingdom with the difference being that 72% of British intake is from tea.
There are many reasons why this type of headache happens.
Top 5 Causes of Caffeine Headaches
- Excessive intake
- Allergy to using it
- Varying consumption
- How a person is affected by caffeine
Like with most drugs, prolonged use will inevitably foster a systemic dependence. It is believed to stimulate the brain by blocking out the sleep receptors and giving the user a boost in energy. Consequently, it also expands the size of blood vessels in the brain (the opposite of a barometric pressure headache where blood vessels actually decrease). Unsurprisingly, most migraine medicines contain a bit of caffeine to help increase the drug’s effectiveness.
Once a person’s system gets used to its effects, the brain will also start craving the stimulation it provides. Going for extended periods of time without it will inevitably lead to a withdrawal headache and other symptoms.
What are the symptoms of withdrawal? These can manifest itself in a number of different ways but headaches seem to be the most common complaint for most people. A caffeine headache can either be mild or extremely painful, similar to a migraine.
Milder headache locations of one are characterized by discomfort felt in front and on both sides of the person’s head. You can get a headache after drinking coffee and if the withdrawal symptoms are really bad, then a person might experience migraines. They are noticeably more painful and can be debilitating at times, with some people
becoming nauseous and experiencing light sensitivity.
How long do they last?
A common question about a caffeine headache is: how long will they last? There is no clear answer, as this will vary from person to person and this is dependent on a number of factors (how much was consumed at one time, are you dehydrated, fatigued etc).
Coffee withdrawal can also lead to feelings of irritability, fatigue, and depression. More often than not, the person will also have difficulty concentrating.
Treatment and Care
There are plenty of ways to cure one. Obviously, sleeping it off is the easiest on the list. Try taking nap or getting a good night’s sleep. For most people, this should be enough to stop the pain and get you back on track. This is because you are essentially hitting the restart button on your brain whenever you go back to sleep. The entire sleeping process is designed to give the body the time it needs to adjust it’s chemistry.
Alternatively, you can make use of over-the-counter (OTC) medications for treatment. You have a choice between acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. Of course, most people find that the pain relief they provide can often be temporary.
Quick relief is also possible with a combination of ice and water. Whenever you have this kind of headache, try putting your hands and feet in warm or cold water. At the same time, take a pack of frozen peas and put it at the base of your skull. After a while, you will notice that the headache is gone.
Another remedy is to drink plenty of water. Instead of having too much coffee throughout the day, substitute it with water. Water has the ability to wear the effects of caffeine. In addition to drinking water, you also need to lower caffeine consumption for optimal results.
However, it is vital that readers understand a caffeine headache are just one part of the entire withdrawal process. It is wholly unsustainable for a person to sleep for most of the day whenever they feel one coming. Similarly, constantly taking too many pain medications can create a whole new addiction problem. Treating only one aspect of the problem is not as effective as finding a solution to the root of the problem.
That being said, we highly recommend that readers explore some home remedies for caffeine withdrawal. For instance, detoxification is an important process that can not only alleviate one but make withdrawal that much easier. It improves better blood circulation and nerve functions. The best way to do it is by consuming organic magnesium-rich food such as spinach, bananas, almonds, and yogurt. Plus drink a lot more water.
Readers should also try eating food rich in Vitamin C such as chili peppers, Brussels sprouts, as well as pineapples and oranges. These can help ease you out of your caffeine dependence by giving your brain a less potent substitute. This is because Vitamin C is also a natural stimulant that can help relax the nerves. Moreover, it helps stabilize the connectivity of brain’s neurons and improves memory.
Most people do not realize that nerve damage is a real danger when it comes to withdrawal. This is because your nerves get used to the stimulant after prolonged use. A sudden stop in the habit will inevitably lead to some form nerve damage. More often than not, this is the main reason why people get a debilitating caffeine headache.
Luckily, with proper Vitamin B supplementation, there is a way for you to rebuild your nerves and address the caffeine headache that plagues you. Vitamin B improves nerve health and is responsible for the formation of red blood cells. That being said, you should really consider increasing your intake of food containing significant amounts of Vitamin B. These include things like cheese, milk, salmon, tuna, and eggs.
Most of these withdrawal remedies entail an adjustment to one’s diet. They are designed in such as way as to ensure that one gets the proper amount of nutrients and vitamins on a daily basis. With the remedies presented above, one will surely have an easier time dealing with the absence of caffeine in your system.
Finding Alternative Sources
Of course, this article is not disparaging the habit of drinking coffee. Instead, we highly recommend that one uses it in moderation. However, the fact remains that coffee contains the highest level of caffeine across the board.
Keep in mind that excessive intake of caffeine is what leads to increased tolerance and addiction in the first place. The easiest way to getting your fix from sources other than coffee. You might want to give peppermint tea a try as it is a good alternative drink to coffee.
Peppermint is an herb that naturally possesses stomach-soothing abilities. It is also used as a mood enhancer which makes it a good remedy for a headache and other caffeine withdrawal symptoms. This is because, like coffee, it supports blood circulation to the brain and essentially works as a brain stimulant.
Brewing tea yourself is simple. All you need to do is boil 2 cups of water and throw in around 5 to 10 peppermint leaves, depending on your desired taste and potency. Let it sit for 2 minutes and turn off the heat. Let it cool until lukewarm before pouring into a cup. Once that is done, add a teaspoon of honey and a bit of lemon juice for an extra kick.
Alternatively, you can also try drinking ginger tea to soothe your withdrawal. It is an important component to any caffeine withdrawal diet as it is designed not only to stimulate the mind but to also soothe the stomach and detoxify the liver.
What to Avoid
That being said, readers should stay away from energy drinks and sodas as they are wholly unhealthy and will only harm your body in the long-run. This is because aside from the excessive caffeine in these drinks, they are also loaded with lots of sugar. While they may give your energy levels a quick boost, these highs surely will not last long. In fact, it will result in an inevitable crash and an exacerbation of your dependence.
Keep in mind that withdrawal is a totally preventable condition. At the end of the day, it all becomes a matter of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and less consumption. Moderation is always the key to avoiding one, along with the other symptoms of withdrawal.
This article provides important facts you should know about a caffeine headache. It explains why it can be a result of too much or withdrawal of caffeine and offers different ways to help treat and alleviate the symptoms. If you suffer from head pain daily without using caffeine it is advisable to look more into other types of headaches. Everyday occurrences can mean there may be a medical condition and you should immediately consult with a doctor.
24 Feb Does Caffeine Trigger or Treat Headaches?
Posted at 17:03h in Headache Triggers by headache
Caffeine is something that on average 90% of Americans enjoy, but it can also be a headache trigger or headache inhibitor. Caffeine is all around us, and can be found in a number of beverages, chocolate and even in some popular over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers, but how is it affecting our heads?
The Buzz on Caffeine
Before a headache or migraine, blood vessels tend to enlarge, but caffeine has “vasoconstrictive” properties that cause the blood vessels to narrow and restrict blood flow, which can aid in head pain relief. When caffeine is added to the combination of acetaminophen and aspirin, the pain relieving effect is increased by 40%. If you feel a headache coming on, a cup of joe might lessen the severity of your symptoms.
On the other hand, though caffeine does not directly cause headache, too much of the substance can trigger “caffeine rebound.” A caffeine rebound headache occurs from withdrawals of caffeine after a sufferer continually consumes too much of it. Though the physical side effects can be severe, only 2% of the population suffers from caffeine rebound.
Although most headache sufferers can consume up to 200 mg. per day, the NHF advises patients with frequent headaches to avoid daily use. But this doesn’t mean you have to cut your caffeine off, try slowly decreasing your intake, and remember it’s always best to enjoy in moderation.
PRODUCT —MILLIGRAMS OF CAFFEINE (APPROXIMATE)
Coffee (5 oz. cup)
Loose-leaf tea (imported, 5 oz. cup)
Tea (black tea assumed, 5 oz. cup)
Brewed, major U.S. brands
-1 minute brew—20-80 mg
-3 minute brew—21-33 mg
-5 minute brew—35-46 mg
Canned iced tea—39-50 mg
Iced tea (12 oz.)—67-76 mg
Instant tea—22-36 mg
Cocoa and chocolate
Cocoa beverage (mix, 6 oz.)—2-8 mg
Milk chocolate (1 oz.)—6 mg
Baking chocolate (1 oz.)—35 mg
Sweet chocolate (1 oz.)—20 mg
Mr. Pibb, diet (12 oz.)—57 mg
Mountain Dew (12 oz.)—54 mg
Coca-Cola, Diet Coke (12 oz.)—46 mg
Tab (12 oz.)—46 mg
Shasta Cola (12 oz.)—45 mg
Mr. Pibb (12 oz.)—44 mg
Dr. Pepper (12 oz.)—41 mg
Pepsi (12 oz.)—38 mg
Diet Pepsi (12 oz.)—36 mg
Diet Rite (12 oz.)—36 mg
Royal Crown Cola (12 oz.)—36 mg
Cragmont Cola—0 mg
Root beer—0 mg
Club soda—0 mg
Ginger ale—0 mg
Tonic water—0 mg
Orange soda—0 mg
Grape soda—0 mg
AMP tall boy (16 oz.)—143 mg
Enviga (12 oz.)—100 mg
FIXX (20 oz.)—500 mg
Full Throttle (16 oz.)—144 mg
Full Throttle Fury (16 oz.)—144 mg
Monster Energy (16 oz.)—160 mg
No Name (formerly known as Cocaine) (8.4 oz.)—280 mg
Red Bull (8.3 oz.)—76 mg
Rockstar (16 oz.)—160 mg
SoBe Adrenaline Rush (16 oz.)—152 mg
SoBe No Fear (16 oz.)—174 mg
Vault (8 oz.)—47 mg
Foosh energy mints (1 mint)—100 mg
Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream (.5 cup)—30 mg
Hershey’s chocolate bar (1.55 oz.)—9 mg
Hershey’s special dark chocolate bar (1.45 oz.)—18 mg
Jolt caffeinated gum (1 stick)—33 mg
Caffedrine capsules—200 mg
NoDoz tablets—200 mg
NoDoz maximum strength (1 tablet)—200 mg
Vivarian tablets—200 mg
Non-prescription pain relievers
Excedrin Migraine—65 mg
Excedrin Extra Strength (2 tablets)—130 mg
Plain aspirin—0 mg
Aqua Ban—200 mg
Permathene water off—200 mg
Pre-Mens Forte—100 mg
So I’m on day three of no caffeine–and I think I might finally be over the nausea, the shakes, and (almost!) the headache. Would you believe me if I said I had no idea any of that was coming?
I honestly didn’t! I have one latte a day, with the occasional Diet Coke (I know, I know). I thought it would be easy-peasy to call off the caffeine, but it’s been anything but. Once my temples reached the point where it felt like an ’80s metal drummer was using them to record an extended cut, it was time to find a remedy. Like one of these:
Peppermint: peppermint has been used for centuries to treat everything from digestive issues to headaches. You can dab a little peppermint on your head to help ease a headache, or even drink peppermint tea (it’s non-caffeinated, and it will help you hydrate–water is also good for headaches).
Aromatherapy: ginger, lavender, or eucalyptus oils have all been shown to help beat a headache into submission.
Sleep: it’s kind of a non-option for busy days that won’t let you stop everything and nap, but it’s possible to simply sleep through the pain (caffeine headaches eventually go away on their own–usually after about 48 hours). If sleep’s totally out of the question, a short rest in dark room with soft music could help.
Give yourself “the pinch”: I did a lot of this yesterday. With your thumb and forefinger of one hand, squeeze the area on your palm halfway between your thumb and forefinger of your other hand. Massage gently.
Do you ever get caffeine withdrawal headaches? What other non-caffeine ways do you use to soothe them? Share!
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Caffeine, regardless of the source, can be both a headache trigger or headache inhibitor. Caffeine withdrawal headaches, however, occur when someone normally dependent on caffeine (like one or more cups of coffee or tea a day) decides to skip out their usual caffeine routine.
You’re most susceptible to experiencing caffeine headaches and other withdrawal effects if you regularly consume large quantities of caffeine.
Coffee is the caffeinated drink that’s responsible for the majority of caffeine headaches, and that makes sense, considering it’s one of the most highly consumed beverages in the world following water and tea. But you can also experience headaches if you quit using energy drinks, soda or some caffeine-containing medications.
Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches Symptoms
If a headache sets in after skipping caffeine but your symptoms start to subside after having some caffeine, this is a good indication that you’re experiencing caffeine withdrawal (also called “caffeine rebound”). Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within 12 to 24 hours after stopping caffeine.
Some of the most common caffeine withdrawal symptoms include:
- Headaches (usually felt behind the eyes and in the front of the head)
- Fatigue, lethargy and sleepiness
- Trouble concentrating
- Brain fog
- Low motivation to focus
- Irritability, anxiety and moodiness
- Stiffness and cramping
- Dizziness, clumsiness, lack of coordination
What’s happening in the body when someone’s going through caffeine withdrawal?
Caffeine impacts the way your brain and body work in a number of ways. The chemical caffeine is considered a stimulant of the methylxanthine class of psychoactive drugs. It affects the central nervous system (CNS) and has other effects including elevating your heart rate, altering blood flow, increasing alertness and decreasing fatigue.
One reason why quitting caffeine causes headaches is because of caffeine’s “vasoconstrictive” properties. Caffeine narrows the blood vessels that surround your brain, but when you stop using it, the blood vessels expand again, triggering pain since your body needs time to adjust.
Caffeine abstinence also produces changes in certain brain wave rhythms linked to increased fatigue. It also allows a chemical called adenosine to accumulate in the body. Adenosine is involved in energy metabolism and is responsible for making you feel sleepy.
Does caffeine ever help headaches?
According to the American Migraine Foundation, “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.” In fact, a number of popular over-the-counter headache medications contain caffeine as a key active ingredient.
Caffeine itself may temporarily help reduce headache pain in some people, but it doesn’t address the underlying causes of headaches, and therefore isn’t a good long-term solution.
Using meds that contain caffeine can also cause dependence, which means over time you’ll need more to feel the same relief.
How Long Do Caffeine Headaches Last?
Research gathered by the team at Caffeine Informer suggests that caffeine headaches typically last a few days to two weeks for most consumers.
However, among those that consume lots of caffeine very regularly — such as 1,000 milligrams or more daily — symptoms can linger for 2 months or more.
How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?
The effects of caffeine vary from person to person. Some people can periodically enjoy one or more sources of caffeine, and then skip out on caffeine other days, without experiencing any headaches. Others are more sensitive and susceptible to the effects of withdrawal. It’s still possible to develop negative symptoms when quitting caffeine even if you only consumed it for a few days in a row.
If you know that you tend to experience headaches easily and somewhat frequently, experts recommend either avoiding all caffeine or limiting your caffeine intake to one or two beverages daily.
This amount is roughly equivalent to 200 milligrams of caffeine, or about 2 regular-size cups of coffee.
When it comes to coffee consumption specifically, most research suggest that adults consume no more than about 3 - to 4 cups a day. This amount is considered a “moderate caffeine intake” and provides about 300 to 400 milligrams a day of caffeine. Other research suggests that more coffee, up to 5 or 6 cups, is even okay — as long as it doesn’t interfere with quality of life.
Below is a list of the most common sources of caffeine that can wind up contributing to withdrawal effects, according to the National Headache Foundation:
- Coffee: Amount of caffeine varies depending on the type and brand. One large McDonald’s brew contains about 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine, while a venti at Starbucks contains roughly 415 milligrams. Weaker brews, instant coffee and espresso tend to have between 50 and 160 milligrams per small cup.
- Ice tea: 16-ounces, about 100 milligrams
- Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper (or Diet Varieties): 12 ounces, about 45 milligrams
- Mountain Dew Soda: 12 ounces, 55 milligrams
- 10 Hour Energy Shot: 422 milligrams
- 5 Hour Energy Shot: 200 milligrams
- Most commercial energy drinks: 160 milligrams
- Average latte: 150 milligrams
- Lipton Black Tea: 55 milligrams
- Matcha green tea: 25 to 70 milligrams
- Bottled Frappuccino: 90 milligrams
- Iced espresso or cappuccino: 225 milligrams
- Decaf coffee: 10 to 25 milligrams
- Chai tea: 47 milligrams
- Black tea: 42 milligrams
- Green tea: 25 milligrams
- White, jasmine, oolong tea: 25 milligrams
- Herbal tea: 0 milligrams
It can be hard quitting caffeine; in fact, studies show that more than 90 percent of people with caffeine dependence struggle to quit due to side effects. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, you just need to have patience and should expect your body to take time to adjust.
Tips for Cutting Back — or Weaning Off of — Caffeine:
- Don’t try to quit “cold turkey,” which can quickly trigger withdrawal effects. Reduce caffeine intake slowly, by 25 percent each week. Aim to cut yourself off of caffeine over the course of several weeks for the least withdrawal effects.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration. Aim to drink at least eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day.
- Be careful about sneaky sources of caffeine. Check ingredient labels of teas, chocolate, non-cola sodas and even decaf coffee.
- Take a pain medication if needed, but choose one that doesn’t contain caffeine, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Midol) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- Apply a drop of peppermint essential oil to your head where it hurts.
- Get plenty of sleep and rest. While your body adjusts, try to give yourself an hour of extra sleep per night.
- Eat a nutrient-dense diet and skip refined grains and too much sugar, since this will help to keep your energy up.
- Get moving. Exercising is a natural way to lift your energy and mood.
- Consider taking CBD oil to help you deal with discomfort, or applying a topical CBD balm.
If you want to avoid caffeine headaches, one of the best things to do is nix your dependence on high-caffeine drinks and sources. Try these alternatives instead:
- Herbal tea — If you wish to avoid caffeine entirely, herbal teas are your best bet. Teas like peppermint, dandelion, decaf chai are great options. Herbal teas also offer benefits like improving digestion and creating a sense of calm.
- Grain/herbal coffee subs — Roasted grain beverages are commonly made with ingredients other than coffee beans because they’re intended to be better tolerated by caffeine-sensitive people. What kind of ingredients are used in popular coffee substitutes? These include: chicory, barley, rye, cocoa, wheat, molasses and other syrups/sugars. Toasted grain beverages are good options for people avoiding caffeine entirely. They taste similar to coffee and are low in sugar. Chicory root for example also provides fiber and has a smooth, creamy feeling in the mouth.
- Adaptogen herbal teas — These contain ingredients such as ashwagandha that are beneficial for balancing stress hormones, including cortisol. They can also support thyroid and adrenal function, leading to less fatigue and burnout.
- Hot cocoa/chocolate — Cocoa is high in antioxidants and contains a low amount of caffeine, making it suitable for those who can tolerate some in small amounts, or those weaning off of caffeine.
- Mushroom teas — Medicinal mushrooms like reishi, lion’s mane and cordyceps, much like adaptogens, can help you cope with stress. An added bonus? They reduce inflammation and possibly allow you to think more clearly.
- Yerba mate — This type of tea is also low in caffeine, similar to black tea. It’s popular among people looking for improved concentration/focus who don’t want to over-consume caffeine.
- Matcha green tea — If you’re okay with having some caffeine, matcha is a great choice since it’s nutrient-dense and high in antioxidants that can help protect brain health. It contains about one-third the amount of caffeine as coffee.
- White tea, rooibos tea and oolong tea — These teas contain about one-third the amount of caffeine compared to coffee, plus they offer benefits due to their antioxidant content.
- Can caffeine cause headaches? According to many studies and lots of anecdotal evidence, it certainly can. Withdrawal symptoms typically begin 12 to 24 hours after stopping caffeine.
- Here’s a summary of the connection between caffeine and headaches: abstaining from caffeine increases blood flow to the brain which triggers pain, while changes in brain function temporarily increase fatigue and moodiness.
- How long do caffeine headaches last? They can take several days to several weeks to go away completely. The more hooked you are, the longer it takes to resolve withdrawal effects (sometimes up to one to two months).
- To reduce headaches and other symptoms, wean yourself slowly over two weeks. Stay hydrated, try exercising, resist the temptation to fill up on sugar and get plenty of sleep.