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, caffiene can actually trigger certain cases of caffeine headaches or it may lead to increased incidences.

What does a caffeine headache feel like? Caffeine 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 allergy or caffeine sensitivity. For instance, numerous studies have shown that headaches can be caused by excessive caffeine intake, whether it is from drinking too much 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 headaches just as well. If you’ve been cutting down on caffeine consumption, whether purposefully or inadvertently, then you may be putting yourself at risk for one of these headaches. In fact, a reduction of just fifty to one milligrams of caffeine per day is often enough to set the stage for a tension headache or a migraine.

This article presents readers with everything they need to know about caffeine headaches and caffeine headache symptoms. It also delves into the different factors which may cause these headaches. It also presents readers with a couple of possible treatments that one can use to alleviate the pain.

Understanding Caffeine

caffeine headaches

caffeine atomic structure surrounded by coffee beans

Caffeine 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. Caffeine has been shown to stimulate 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.

Interestingly, caffeine 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, caffeine can also increase urine flow but will not be as dramatic a fashion if the person is a regular caffeine 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 caffeine intake.

Excessive Caffeine Use

headache after drinking coffee

businessman with a big coffee and headache

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, no less than 80% of adults in North America use consume caffeine on a regular basis. Caffeine 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 their caffeine from their sodas and candy.

The actual caffeine content of these varies. Typically, Coffee has the strongest dose. Readers need to understand that there 2 major coffee strains, the Arabica (Coffea arabica) and the Robusta (Coffea canephora). The former has a caffeine 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 caffeine levels at 32-42 mg per 150 ml. Finally, the caffeine content in sodas may range from 32-70 mg per 330 ml.

Studies show that most people caffeine consume significant amounts of caffeine 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 caffeine intake in these countries is from coffee alone. The consumption level is up to par with that of the United Kingdom with the difference being 72% British caffeine intake is from tea.

Scintillating scotoma can also be triggered by excessive caffeine intake. They are also known as the visual migraine and are one of the most common types of migraine.

Top 5 Causes of Caffeine Headaches

These are the most common causes of caffeine headaches:

  1. Caffeine withdrawal
  2. Excessive caffeine intake
  3. Allergy to caffeine
  4. Varying caffeine consumption
  5. Affectibility to caffeine

Caffeine Headaches and Withdrawal

Like with most drugs, prolonged caffeine use will inevitably foster a systemic dependence. Caffeine 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 barometric pressure headaches where blood vessels decrease). Unsurprisingly, most migraine medicines contain a bit of caffeine in to increase the drug’s effectiveness.

what are the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal

patient with headache and doctors

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 a caffeine kick will inevitably lead to withdrawal symptoms.

What are the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal? These can manifest itself in a number of different ways but headaches seem to be the most common complaint for most people. These headaches can either be mild or extremely painful, similar to a migraine.

Milder caffeine headaches 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 caffeine migraines. They are noticeably more painful and can be debilitating at times, with some people becoming nauseous and experiencing light sensitivity.

A common question about these headaches is “caffeine withdrawal headache how long?”, basically, how long will they last. There is no clear answer, as this will vary from person to person and is dependent on a number of factors (how much caffeine was consumed, are you dehydrated, fatigued etc).

Other than headaches, coffee withdrawal can also lead to feelings of irritability, fatigue, and depression. More often than not, the person will also have difficulty concentrating.

Treating Caffeine Headaches

There are plenty of ways to fix caffeine headaches. 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 recalibrate its chemistry.

caffeine headache symptoms

coffee beans and medical equipment

Alternatively, you can make use of over-the-counter pain relievers to help you with the headache. You have a choice between acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. Of course, most people find that the relief they provide can often be fleeting.

However, it is vital that readers understand that caffeine headaches 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 the caffeine headaches coming. Similarly, constantly taking 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 caffeine headaches but make caffeine 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, banana, almonds, and yogurt.

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 caffeine withdrawal. This is because your nerves get used to the stimulant after prolonged caffeine use. A sudden stop in the habit will inevitably lead to some form nerve damaged. More often than not, this is the main reason why people get the debilitating caffeine headaches.

Luckily, with proper Vitamin B supplementation, there is a way for you to rebuild your nerves and address the headaches that plague 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 caffeine 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 Caffeine Sources

good breakfast with coffee

coffee, orange juice, boiled egg, toast

Of course, this article is not disparaging the habit of drinking coffee. Instead, we highly recommend that one does it in moderation. However, the fact remains that it contains the highest level of caffeine across the board. Keep in mind that excessive caffeine intake is what leads to increased caffeine tolerance and caffeine addiction in the first place.
The easiest way to maintain a caffeine habit without dealing with the headaches it can bring would be to try getting your fix from sources other than coffee. For that purpose, we highly recommend that you give peppermint tea a try as it is the best alternative drink available to you.

Peppermint is an herb that naturally possesses stomach-soothing abilities. It is also used as a mood enhancer which makes it a potent remedy for headaches and other caffeine withdrawal symptoms. This is because, like coffee, it supports blood circulation to the brain and essentially works as a brain stimulant.

We highly recommend that you brew the tea yourself as it is simple enough to do. All you need to do is boil 2 cups of water and throw in around 5 to 10 parsley 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 caffeine withdrawal migraine. 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.

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 jammed into 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 caffeine dependence.

Keep in mind that caffeine withdrawal is a totally preventable condition. At the end of the day, it all becomes a matter of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and proper caffeine consumption. Moderation is the key to avoiding caffeine headaches, along with the other symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.

This article presented readers with everything they need to know about caffeine headaches. It briefly explained why it can be a result of one’s caffeine withdrawal. It also presents readers with a number of different ways to treat the problem and alleviate the symptoms.