Does Caffeine Cause or Remedy Migraines?

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Migraines can be caused by a variety of triggers, including hormonal changes, skipping meals, alcohol, stress, bright lights, and some foodstuffs, including aged cheeses, chocolate, nuts, dairy, eggs, tomatoes, onions, wheat products  and food additives such as MSG.

Some medications can cause migraines, while, surprisingly, a variety of medicines used to treat migraines contain caffeine.

Caffeine doesn’t cause headaches, but it can trigger what’s known as caffeine rebound or caffeine withdrawal headaches. This occurs when you consume too much caffeine and subsequently experience withdrawal from it. Each person reacts differently to caffeine, you may be able to drink a daily cup of coffee and be fine, whereas someone else could get rebound headaches from having one cup of coffee a day. The side effects can be severe, sometimes even worse than a typical headache or migraine.

Studies have found that people who discontinued the use of caffeine, experienced a significant reduction in the intensity of their headaches/migraines. Pay attention to how much caffeine you consume and how it affects you. Keep a headache diary, including what seems to help or hinder them. If you have frequent headaches, consider slowly reducing your caffeine intake and consuming it in moderation.

So how does caffeine ease migraines? Blood vessels enlarge prior to experiencing a migraine and causes increased blood flow and pressure around the nerves. This sends pain messages to the brain and brings on the headache. Caffeine has vasoconstrictive properties that can restrict blood flow, meaning that ingesting caffeine can decrease the pain caused by a headache/migraine.  When caffeine is taken in combination with pain medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, it increases the absorption and strength of the medication to provide up to 40 percent pain relief. This combination has been shown to be more effective and faster-acting than taking medications on their own.

 

The American Migraine Association warns against treating headaches and migraines solely with caffeine. And even though caffeine may aid in the absorption of migraine medications, it has not been proven to be a foolproof remedy. It is best to chat to your doctor about your caffeine intake and whether you should avoid caffeine entirely, or just cut down. Be mindful that caffeine is not only found in coffee and tea, but in other foodstuffs as mentioned above.