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 headache from the lack of caffeine.
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.