Can Too Much Caffeine Cause Headaches?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring drug that increases your brain activity and stimulates your brain to make it more responsive and active. Caffeine is the reason people tend to lose sleep after they have consumed coffee.

can too much caffeine cause headaches
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The level of caffeine in your coffee depends on the type of coffee beans your coffee has been extracted from, the level of roasting of the beans, and a few other factors.

Coffee beans that are lightly roasted have a higher caffeine content as compared to coffee beans that are dark roasted.

Dark roasted coffee beans also have a more enhanced and stronger flavour than lightly roasted beans.

1. Caffeine Headache: Can Coffee Help or Give Headaches?

can too much caffeine cause headaches
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Coffee in itself does not possess the ability to help or give headaches. It is caffeine that does this. And caffeine can do both. Caffeine can help lessen your headache or it can also give you more headaches depending on various factors.

Caffeine helps alleviate the pain of a headache by narrowing the blood vessels in our body, especially the ones surrounding our heads. This is known as vasoconstriction. During most headaches, the blood vessels surrounding our head swell up.

Due to this phenomenon, the blood flow around our brain increases. The increase in blood flow pressure is sensed as pain signals by our nerves and thus, the headache begins. Now, as caffeine narrows the blood vessels in our body, the blood flow pressure also decreases. This helps lessen the pain of headaches.

As is the case with everything in this world, too much caffeine can in fact cause headaches. When one depends on caffeine to relieve them of their headaches, the body gets used to caffeine.

And as caffeine helps narrow the blood vessels, as soon as the body does not get caffeine, the blood vessels enlarge rapidly. This in turn increases blood flow pressure and causes a headache. Also, caffeine can make one urinate more. This may cause dehydration which in turn causes headaches.

2. Caffeine as a Headache Treatment

It has been observed that caffeine can enhance the effect of over-the-counter headache medicines (such as aspirin, paracetamol, and ibuprofen). This means that when caffeine is taken along with these medicines, you may achieve relief from your headache faster.

Disclaimer for all coffee lovers (as well as haters): Coffee isn’t the only beverage that contains caffeine! Caffeine can be found in various other beverages such as black tea, green tea, and energy drinks.

Therefore, if you have a headache and are considering using caffeine to alleviate your pain, but don’t want to consume coffee, no worries! There exists a myriad of other beverages as well as food items you can consume to get caffeine into your body.

Word of caution, though: do not depend on caffeine too much to relieve your headache. An overdose of caffeine can cause headaches and dehydration.

Caffeine can be used as a headache treatment along with other medicines, but it must be used in moderation. Therefore, always keep an eye on your caffeine intake.

3. How Exactly Does Caffeine Improve Headache Treatments?

Does drinking coffee help your headaches?

NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) are a class of drugs that include aspirin, and ibuprofen. They are used to treat headaches and other body pains.

They are also taken in the case of fever to bring down the temperature of the body. When caffeine is taken along with these drugs, it is known to cause wonders in the alleviation of pain. But how exactly does caffeine do that, though?

Caffeine stimulates the brain. It blocks the neurotransmitter known as adenosine thus relieving pain and causing excitability in the brain. When our body is infected or faces any kind of threat, it releases the hormone known as prostaglandin.

can too much caffeine cause headaches
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What prostaglandin does is that it causes inflammation, and discomfort and sends pain signals to the brain to flag that something is not right with our body. Caffeine, along with NSAIDs blocks the activity of prostaglandins and thus reduces the symptoms of pain.

4. How Does a Lack of Caffeine Make Your Head Hurt, Though?

This generally isn’t a concern for someone who takes caffeine in moderation. If a lack of caffeine makes your head hurt, it is more likely than not that you are addicted and dependent on caffeine.

When one consumes caffeine excessively or overdoses on it daily, their body becomes dependent on it. Therefore, like in every other addiction, a lack of the substance sets a withdrawal mechanism in action.

When one consumes caffeine regularly, their body becomes dependent on caffeine to keep the blood vessels narrow and the cerebral blood flow velocity under control.

Therefore, when the body encounters a lack of caffeine, as a withdrawal symptom, the blood vessels enlarge, and the blood flow pressure increases. With no caffeine to control this, it goes on and results in a headache or any other kind of body ache.

If this is happening to you, it is advisable to gradually start decreasing your caffeine intake as dependency on any kind of substance is not a good thing to have for your body.

The initial days may bring on much discomfort, but if you manage to hold up through them, it will be worth the effort in the end. If you consume coffee as your source of caffeine, you may try switching to decaffeinated coffee as it possesses relatively less caffeine content in it.

5. The Causes of “Caffeine Headaches”

can too much caffeine cause headaches
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“Caffeine headaches” or a caffeine withdrawal headache is brought on due to the presence of caffeine in your diet and can happen due to a few causes. One of them is dehydration. Caffeine is known to cause dehydration in a person.

Therefore, if it is consumed without proper hydration then one will get dehydrated, which in turn causes headaches. In cases of people suffering from migraines, caffeine can bring some relief if taken in small doses.

But this is not at all advisable as caffeine dependency in people suffering from migraines can lead to a worse case of the condition.

Caffeine addiction can increase the frequency of migraine headaches and it can also turn this into a chronic condition in people suffering from migraine. Therefore, caffeine in such cases can make things much worse than it can make them better.

6. Caffeine Headaches As a Withdrawal Symptom

5 Signs and Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal

Experiencing caffeine headaches as a withdrawal symptom once one stops consuming caffeine is a pretty common phenomenon. Caffeine is an addictive substance that the human body can get dependent on fairly quickly.

It is always advisable to never consume caffeine-filled beverages as a habit. But if you did have that habit and are now trying to quit for whatever reason, getting caffeine headaches as a withdrawal symptom is pretty common.

This happens because when one consumes caffeine regularly, their body becomes dependent on it. What caffeine does to the body is that it helps narrow the blood vessels in the body, which in turn restricts the fast flow of blood through the body.

This prevents aches or relieves people from aches as the blood flow is slowed down. When suddenly caffeine supply to the body is stopped, the blood vessels widen, and the blood flow pressure accelerates rapidly. This causes aches in the body, especially headaches. This can be seen in the form of caffeine headaches as withdrawal symptoms.

It is important to know that caffeine headaches are not the only withdrawal symptoms one can get when trying to quit caffeine. Following are the 8 most common caffeine withdrawal symptoms apart from headaches:

6.1 Sleepiness

As mentioned before in this article, caffeine blocks the neurotransmitter called adenosine. Blocking adenosine results in the activity of the brain and one does not feel tired or drowsy anymore. If your body is used to feeling like this, then a sudden lack of caffeine can elevate the effects of adenosine and make you feel lethargic.

As adenosine is not blocked anymore by caffeine in the body of the person who has stopped consuming it, the effects of adenosine which are drowsiness and sleepiness are felt very strongly. This causes sleepiness as one of the withdrawal symptoms.

6.2 Anxiety

Abruptly stopping the consumption of caffeine, especially if you used to be an avid drinker of coffee or other caffeine-containing beverages can cause extreme anxiety in you.

It is never advisable to consume caffeine regularly because it has a lot of side effects and can cause utmost discomfort when one finally attempts to quit.

6.3 Nausea

Many people may experience nausea when they stop the consumption of caffeine. They may experience an upset stomach and digestion issues.

6.4 Irritability

Caffeine can alter the moods of people who consume it regularly. If you feel like your day cannot begin until you have sipped on your early morning coffee, this may happen to you when you stop consuming caffeine.

A person’s mood is made better and lightened by caffeine and the abrupt lack of caffeine may cause extreme irritability in them.

6.5 Tremors

This symptom goes both ways. If you are someone who has not consumed caffeine ever before in your life or consumed it on very rare occasions in a low dosage, consuming it may cause tremors in you.

On the other hand, if you are someone who used to consume caffeine viciously but has decided to stop drinking coffee now, then a lack of caffeine in your system may cause you to have tremors. Needless to say, this can be very uncomfortable to experience and it is advisable to contact a medical professional if these tremors don’t stop soon.

6.6 Concentration Issues

Caffeine induces your brain to release chemicals that make you feel more excited and increase concentration. Cutting back on caffeine can cause these chemicals to cease to be produced. This causes one to have concentration issues and a lack of interest in things.

6.7 Depression

As mentioned before, caffeine alters one’s mood for the better and makes one feel more energetic and excited. A sudden cut-off on daily caffeine can cause one’s mood to be low and may be the reason for some to show watered-down symptoms of mild depression.

A lack of caffeine can’t cause actual depression in someone, although it can result in a low and depressive mood.

6.8 Fatigue or Low Energy

Caffeine makes one feel energetic, and when it is not consumed it can result in fatigue or low energy in a person.

7. How to Minimize Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches

Caffeine Withdrawal Headache Relief & Treatment - No Caffeine Day 17!

Caffeine withdrawal looks different in each person but in general its effects last for about a week. An avid consumer of caffeine will start experiencing the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal after about 24 hours of quitting.

Following are the few ways you can minimize caffeine withdrawal symptoms:

7.1 Gradually Decrease Your Caffeine Consumption

Instead of abruptly stopping all consumption of caffeine, it is advised that you go through the process of caffeine discontinuation gradually.

As time passes, keep slowly reducing the caffeine content in your diet. Doing this would not give your body a shock when you null your caffeine consumption altogether as your body would be free of its caffeine dependence.

7.2 Hydrate

Hydration is very important to battle the withdrawal symptoms of caffeine. Dehydration can make the withdrawal symptoms even worse.

7.3 Medicines

You can use over-the-counter medicines such headache medications such as Advil, paracetamol, ibuprofen, etc. to help with these symptoms. These will help with the withdrawal headaches that you might be getting.

7.4 Exercise

Exercising regularly will make you feel fresh and energetic. This can boost your energy levels and you wouldn’t feel the need to consume caffeine to boost your energy.

7.5 Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough hours of proper sleep is also very important to regulate one’s mood and energy levels, and to prevent headaches. Therefore, make sure that as an adult you are getting a minimum of 7 hours of undisturbed sleep.

8. Have a Cup of Coffee or Another Caffeinated Beverage?

Is coffee better or worse than any other caffeinated beverage? There is no objective answer to that question. It all depends on your caffeine consumption.

Coffee is the most commonly consumed caffeinated beverage, but it is not the only one. There exists a plethora of other caffeinated beverages. Here is a list of different caffeinated beverages and their caffeine content so that you may be able to regulate your caffeinated beverage intake:

  • Coffee: The caffeine content in coffee varies greatly depending on the coffee bean it is extracted from. The caffeine content in the coffee extracted from the Arabica variety espresso is from about 80 milligrams to 100 milligrams in one serving (usually 30 millilitres).
  • Decaffeinated coffee: Decaffeinated coffee has a reduced level of caffeine in it as compared to caffeinated coffee, although the amount of caffeine is not nil. The name may confuse some people to believe that decaf coffee does not contain any caffeine at all. But that is not true. Decaf coffee does contain caffeine, just in a very low amount. The amount of caffeine in one serving of decaf coffee is about 2 milligrams.
  • Tea: The caffeine content in tea also varies greatly depending on the type of tea leaves it comes from and the growing conditions it faces. It also depends on the processing methods. However, one serving of tea contains about 30 milligrams of caffeine.
  • Decaf tea: Similar to decaf coffee, decaf tea contains about 2 milligrams of caffeine.
  • Soft drinks: Soft drinks generally contain 8 milligrams of caffeine in 100 grams. Low-calorie soft drinks contain 12 milligrams of caffeine in 100 grams. Reduced sugar soft drinks contain about 9 milligrams of caffeine in 100 grams.
  • Energy drinks: Although the caffeine content of energy drinks differs from brand to brand, in general, 100 grams of any energy drink contains about 30 milligrams of caffeine. Following are some famous brand and their caffeine content:

Red Bull: 30 milligrams in 100 grams.

Monster Energy: 36 milligrams in 100 grams.

Rockstar Energy Drink: 30 milligrams in 100 grams.

Vault: 19 milligrams in 100 grams.

9. Recommendation for Migraine Patients Regarding Caffeine Use

It is known that caffeine consumption can act as a pain relief system for someone having a migraine attack. But as mentioned before, regular and unmoderated consumption of caffeine by migraine patients can lead their condition to become chronic. They may end up getting chronic migraines due to their caffeine overdose.

Therefore, it is a strict recommendation that all patients suffering from migraines must follow: the daily caffeine intake of migraine patients must not be more than 200 milligrams.

This is the threshold that must not be crossed no matter what. However, migraine patients should cut down on their caffeine consumption entirely.

Even if they wish to continue drinking caffeinated beverages, they must keep their intake in check and consume it in moderation.

Anushmita is a motivated fitness enthusiast currently pursuing her degree in English literature. She enjoys researching topics regarding fitness and helping people with their queries. She owns 7 cats and loves to spread knowledge about cat health and…

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