The relationship between caffeine and migraines is — to say the least — very complicated.
Some migraine sufferers swear by a cup of coffee for relieving migraine pain, while others believe that it can bring on debilitating headaches.
Of course, every migraine sufferer is different. Not everyone drinks the same type of coffee — or other caffeinated beverages — in the same amounts. Plus, everyone has a different caffeine tolerance. This can explain why some people report that coffee is one of their main triggers, while for others, it’s as close as they can get to a migraine cure.
In this article from Aculief, we go over why caffeine doesn’t necessarily cause headaches, how coffee can be used to relieve migraine pain, and how you should drink coffee to maximize migraine relief.
Does Coffee Really Cause Migraines?
If you search for ways to relieve your migraines, you might stumble upon the oft-repeated advice to steer clear of caffeine.
Considering that our nation has a serious coffee habit, this advice might be hard for you to follow. But do you really need to? In other words, does coffee really lead to migraines?
Well, the answer depends on how much coffee we’re talking about. One study published in The American Journal of Medicine found that three or more servings of caffeine per day can trigger migraines in some people. However, having one or two cups of coffee per day did not have the same effect.
Why is this the case? One likely reason is that the migraine sufferers in the study were using caffeine to treat their headaches. This means that their migraines were triggered by something else. However, once the effects of caffeine wore off, they were able to feel a stronger headache come on — something they (mistakenly) blamed on the caffeine.
Another explanation is that drinking too much caffeine can lead to caffeine withdrawal, which is marked by symptoms such as fatigue, mood changes, and appetite changes.
Initially, caffeine constricts blood vessels, which can help to relieve migraine pain. However, too much of this substance can lead to the opposite effect, in which blood vessels widen more than usual. This can lead to increased pain when the caffeine wears off.
If you think that coffee is a migraine trigger for you, then it might help to experiment with different dosages. Try to gradually decrease how much coffee you drink to see if your symptoms improve.
How Coffee Can Actually Relieve Migraine Pain
During a migraine, blood vessels in the brain go through several changes, which leads to an increase in the brain’s blood flow. This increase in blood flow puts pressure on the surrounding nerves, which is responsible for the pain that migraine sufferers feel.
So, what role does caffeine play in migraine pain relief? Well, this substance works by constricting blood vessels, which takes pressure off the surrounding nerves. On its own, caffeine has potent pain-relieving properties.
However, when combined with a pain-relieving medication, the effects of caffeine increase substantially. Not only does it exert its own effects, but caffeine can also improve the absorption and strength of the medications it’s combined with.
For the above reasons, drinking a cup of coffee — with or without pain meds — can be a great strategy for relieving migraine pain. In the next section, we’ll go over how to drink coffee to optimize pain relief.
How To Drink Coffee for Migraine Relief
Drink “Clean” Coffee
You might notice that you feel different depending on which coffee you drink. Some coffee brands will give you a nice, clean “buzz,” while others will make you feel on-edge with a subsequent crash.
This difference is thanks to potential toxins that are present in some coffee brands, such as mold. In addition, some coffee brands have a much lower concentration of antioxidants, which reduces coffee’s well-known anti-inflammatory effect.
For the above reasons, make sure to stick to reputable coffee brands. Here at Aculief, we’re big fans of Real Good Coffee, which uses small batch processing with a focus on sustainability. High-quality coffee such as this will go a long way in helping you find migraine relief.
Don’t Drink Too Much Coffee
As we explained above, drinking too much coffee can have the opposite effect — the widening of blood vessels. This can increase how severe your migraines feel. To avoid this, try not to drink too much coffee. In general, one or two cups per day is ideal.
Doing this will also help you avoid developing a caffeine addiction. Those with a serious coffee habit begin to experience withdrawal symptoms as soon as the morning after having their last cup of coffee. To keep this from happening to you, try not to drink coffee every single day.
Avoid Adding Certain Ingredients
How you drink your coffee can be just as important as how much of it you drink. Some popular coffee add-ins — such as sugar and milk — can trigger migraines in some people.
If that’s the case for you, then you might want to stick to drinking black coffee to see if it changes anything. Of course, you can always experiment with sugar and dairy substitutes to enhance the flavor of your coffee.
Finding Migraine Relief With Aculief
Many migraine sufferers are advised to avoid coffee for symptom relief. However, coffee — when consumed in moderate amounts — doesn’t necessarily trigger migraines. In addition, it can be an excellent migraine reliever if it’s not consumed too often.
To make the best out of your cup of coffee, make sure to drink “clean” coffee without any added ingredients that can trigger your migraines. In addition, try to keep it to one or two cups per day — maximum.
We think that coffee is an excellent drink for helping with migraine relief. For other medication-free migraine solutions, check out this selection from Aculief — for the relief you need and deserve.