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How to Stop Caffeine Headaches

Updated on January 7, 2013

Caffeine is everywhere these days. You can't drink your morning cup of coffee or your daily Diet Coke without consuming it. There are also high levels of caffeine in many high-strength pain relievers. Headaches can occur both from excessive caffeine consumption and caffeine withdrawal.

Caffeine is basically a stimulant and when misused can become highly addictive. Health professionals recommend a daily intake of no more than 300 mg. To put that into some perspective, that's three to four average sized cups of coffee per day. Problems can occur when the daily intake exceeds 500mg.

Excess caffeine consumption can have more serious side effects if the person smokes, takes drugs or is significantly overweight. The most common symptoms are severe headaches with others including muscle tremors and heart palpitations.

Caffeine is a mild diuretic which means it increases the rate of urination and ultimately water loss. A common problem is that many people will substitute drinking water for tea or coffee. The lack of water being drank combined with the dehydrating properties of coffee and tea often lead to severe and prolonged headaches.

Excessive caffeine intake is not the only problem however. When a person is used to large levels of caffeine in their system, the sudden withdrawal or reduction can cause headaches too. Tests have shown that removal of the stimulant increases blood flow to the brain. The effect of this is more severe the more caffeine the person has become used to.

It is recommended that someone used to high quantities of caffeine in their system should gradually wean themselves off the stimulant to prevent symptoms. There is also the risk of a rebound headache when excessive caffeine consumption is combined with high-strength pain relievers. A person consuming large amounts of caffeine may develop a headache and take a high-strength pain killer to fight the pain. Caffeine is an ingredient of many medications as it speeds up the rate at which all the other ingredients take effect. After the initial headache, the combination of two sources of caffeine can actually cause a worse headache than before.

People prone to migraines should avoid high levels of sugar intake. Caffeine will speed up the absorption of sugar significantly which can lead to the onset of a severe and long lasting caffeine headache. It is also thought that many people suffer from what is known as a ‘weekend headache.’ After a week at work and regular coffee or tea in the mornings, a weekend ‘lie in’ means that regular caffeine fix is suddenly withdrawn and the unlucky person wakes up with a pounding headache.

Several experts believe that as well as the amount, the regularity in which caffeine is consumed can bring on caffeine headaches. A person with a high daily caffeine intake should reduce the amount gradually to reduce the risk of symptoms. Following the guidelines of not consuming more than four cups of tea and coffee per day and keeping the intake steady should result in fewer caffeine headaches.

Five Top Tips

  • 1.  Try caffeine free pain relievers
  • 2.  Ice packs or heating pads applied to the head can provide drug free relief.
  • 3.  Develop some stress relieving rituals such as yoga, meditating and focussed breathing techniques.
  • 4.  Healthy living.  Eat a well balanced diet and take at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 times weekly.
  • 5.  Identify headache triggers and avoid them.  These can be certain foods, noises or even lighting.


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    • profile image

      Dennis 5 years ago

      I've realized over the past 3 years that I have allergies to caffiene. It's in so much! Not just coffee and tea , but soft drinks, Meds and even chocolate. The withdrawal headaches are murder.

    • Malcolm_Cox profile image

      Malcolm_Cox 6 years ago from Newcastle, England

      You are definitely right there fucsia. I certainly didn't at first and drink a lot less tea now!

    • fucsia profile image

      fucsia 6 years ago

      I think that many people do not know the link between headache and caffeine. Thanks for the informations!