Migraine Trigger: Caffeine
Over-consuming caffeine is known to cause caffeine withdrawal headaches and trigger migraines.
Caffeine is also used to immediately treat migraines.
Seven reasons why caffeine triggers migraines in the long run:
1. Caffeine Withdrawal
Caffeine withdrawal is a common migraine trigger.
It typically happens 12–24 hours after your last coffee, peaks at about three days, and can affect you for up to nine days (study link).
2. Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
Athletes that consumed caffeine before a 15 km run showed significantly higher levels of inflammation and oxidative stress (study link).
3. Caffeine is Hard on the Gut
Caffeine is a common trigger of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (study link).
IBS and gut symptoms will increase migraine probability (article link).
4. Sleep Disruption
Caffeine is the first thing that is eliminated for people with sleeping disorders (Study link).
Poor sleep can trigger migraines and migraines can trigger poor sleep—a vicious cycle (study link).
A new study found that melatonin, used to help regulate sleep, was more effective at migraine prevention than amitriptyline (study link).
Eliminate caffeine to improve sleep and headache health.
5. Abnormal Blood Flow
Caffeine withdrawal results in an abnormal increase in blood flow to the brain (study link).
The peptide associated with triggering migraines (CGRP) plays an important role in the regulation of blood pressure (study link).
The release of CGRP as a result of caffeine withdrawal may be the reason migraines are triggered.
6. Reduced Adenosine
Adenosine helps control epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease (study link).
Don’t let caffeine take away your adenosine.
7. Increased Stress
A 2006 study found that including coffee with mental exercise magnified cortisol secretion (study link).
Cortisol is a stress hormone and stress is a top migraine trigger (study link).
Reduce stress by reducing caffeine.
Two reasons why caffeine immediately, but only temporarily, stops migraines:
1. Caffeine Temporarily Blocks Inflammation and Increases Energy
Dopamine is a happy chemical in the brain that reduces stress, a top migraine trigger.
Migraines are associated with decreased energy metabolism—mitochondrial dysfunction (study link).
Blocking inflammation will act similar to anti-inflammatory medications (Excedrin Migraine) that are used to stop migraines.
2. Caffeine Helps Speed Medication Through the Body
Migraine medications are most effective when taken immediately after the first signs of a migraine emerge (study link).
Once a migraine is in full swing, it can be nearly impossible to stop. Caffeinated migraine medications (Excedrin, Midol, Migranal, Anacin, etc.) understand this very well.
Caffeine helps accelerate anti-inflammatory drugs through the system to halt a migraine as soon as possible.
Caffeine can temporarily stop migraines and make you feel great.
Over time, caffeine is more likely to negatively impact migraine health.
As little as one cup of coffee per day can cause caffeine withdrawal when you miss that cup of coffee.
This is one of the top causes of the Saturday morning migraine—when people sleep in and caffeine withdrawal triggers a migraine (study link).
The research is mixed:
For every negative study I mentioned about coffee, I could find a positive study.
Here are over 30 studies that show the health benefits of coffee, including the benefits of antioxidants: Authority Nutrition. Antioxidants fight oxidative stress, the largest migraine trigger.
However, coffee and caffeine are not recommended for migraine sufferers.
Caffeinated beverages are a big trigger of gut symptoms and should be avoided by all migraine sufferers (article link).
Should I quit caffeine?
Absolutely. Will you? Probably not. Caffeine is hard to kick.
At the minimum, limit caffeine to less than two eight-ounce cups of coffee per day.
Mold is a powerful migraine trigger that you should avoid (study link). Decaf coffee contains more mold because it uses lower quality beans. Plus, caffeine prevents mold growth (study link). Avoid decaf coffee.
How do I quit?
Johns Hopkins Medical School recommends that you slowly taper caffeine down to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
You can reduce the amount of caffeine each day depending on how you feel (full cup, ¾ cup, ½ cup, ¼ cup, etc.).
Green or black tea contains low levels of caffeine and can also be used to taper off caffeine.
Reduce or eliminate caffeine for migraine prevention.