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Caffeine Wean Take Three

I’m a quitter…again. I quit drinking my daily coffee about a month ago. Last time I weaned myself off coffee, my husband did it with me.  We were still drinking Argentinian maté a lot, but the daily cups of coffee were no longer part of our routine. Then my husband’s sister (now my sister-in-law) visited one summer, and we wanted to be good hosts and make sure we had everything she needed on hand—including morning coffee.  The coffee we usually buy is from my own shop and it’s the official “Avid Blend” (my shop is called Avid Bookshop)—the blend is my idea of perfection simply because the roaster allowed me to do several taste tests until I got the exact right flavor I wanted.

So imagine not having had coffee in weeks when family comes to town, and you brew up not only a fresh pot of coffee but one that is your complete, ideal cup of coffee—a blend that was made, quite literally, for you. “Tempted” doesn’t even touch what I felt.  Pair up the amazing smell of the coffee with the fact that we’d been out late with L., going to rock shows and having drinks and generally not getting enough sleep, and you have the perfect recipe for a relapse.

That was a few years ago. Starting in April of this year, I started weaning myself off caffeine again. This was my third time around. The first time I quit drinking caffeine I determined (with my doctor’s help) that caffeine was not a migraine trigger for me. Instead of just staying away anyway, I gleefully reincorporated it back into my daily life once I knew it wasn’t triggering attacks.

This spring, I found how-to guides online and doubled any time frames they suggested (if someone said to take a week to reduce your portions to zero, I took 2-3 weeks). If only my colleague Kerrie’s article about weaning off caffeine had been published a month earlier, I would’ve had better, more migraine-friendly advice to follow!

I’m here to tell you that it was quite a challenge, even for a one-cup-a-day drinker like me.  I found that what I miss as much as the little boost it gives is the routine of it. I am the maker of the coffee in our house, and I love a good routine. In the morning, I’m first to wake and the cat stretches and jumps out of bed the second I do. After putting my NTI device into its case in the bathroom cabinet and using the restroom (and washing my hands, duh), I walk into the kitchen, the cat still at my heels.  I grind fresh coffee beans (ah, that intoxicating aroma!) and set the coffee maker up. While it’s gurgling and the smell of amazing coffee fills the kitchen, I feed the cat, who by this point is rubbing on my legs and meowing adorably if not desperately and trying to confess his undying love in an effort to get fed immediately. I put food in the cat’s bowl and get him set up, and by then the coffee is done.  In the olden days (i.e., more than a month ago), I’d pour cups for both me and Jim and put his next to the bed. I’d take mine to the porch or my office and read or get some work done while I drank my one cup.

Now that routine is a different just by one step: I don’t pour a cup for myself. It’s such a little thing, but I miss it. I take some extra whiffs of the addictive aroma but it’s getting easier not to tempt myself with even a small cup.  For the first week to ten days, I was exhausted and a little out of it. My biggest challenge was traveling to Denver for a conference (two time zones behind me, plus very early meeting times)—I definitely had a couple cups during that trip when I found myself too exhausted to function well. But when I returned home, I was done.

All that said, I’m not taking an all or nothing approach: I am now trying to use caffeine as a part of my migraine treatment arsenal instead of a daily beverage.  So far, so good—I’ll keep you posted on that front in a later post.

How many of you have weaned off caffeine? Have you noticed any difference? What was the weaning process like, and how did it affect your migraine patterns? 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • RobinBlaine
    4 years ago

    Before my husband died my husband and I journaled for 3 months and recorded everything I ate and drank and also recorded my migraines. From there we sat with my doctors to determine if there was a correlation. I suffer from complicated migraines which often times result in TIA’s and have on 2 separate occasions caused full blown strokes. I have never been a coffee drinker. Don’t care for the taste. I do however drink tea. Plain old Lipton black tea. Nothing fancy. I drink it with 1/2 Tspn raw sugar and a bit of milk. I drink about 4-6 cups a day. That, smoking and chocolate were the only commonalities. I quit drinking tea for 3 months and there was no difference. I also quit smoking and eating chocolate. It was all to no avail. The migraines and the frequency were not impacted in the least by the changes. The only thing that changed was how miserable I was that I still had migraines 9-12 a month, some lasting for days and incapacitating me so that I was unable to see, walk or form a cohesive sentence. I did not have any sort of comfort other than the arms of my loving husband, who has since died by suicide, after the migraine had subsided. Quite often I wish he had taken me with him.

  • JHawk
    4 years ago

    I was a 2-3 X per week migraine sufferer. About 3 months ago I went on the migraine diet found on this site. I also gave up coffee (although I only drank one cup per day) and I introduced 400 mg of magnesium glycinate per day. After about 2 months I started introducing foods back one at a time with no obvious food triggers found.

    I am now almost 3 weeks without a migraine! I noticed the biggest difference in migraine frequency when I was caffeine free (took about two weeks to eliminate caffeine) . My thought is the caffeine was dehydrating me in the morning , leading to dehydration and a migraine starting mid to late afternoon. Another possibility is that caffeine made me more reactive to other triggers: food, fatigue, aerobic exercise.

    I know it’s early days, but I am more hopeful than I’ve been in years.

  • 8qxbui
    4 years ago

    My neurologist has told me to get off caffeine for a couple months. I havent taken his advice yet. I guess part of me thinks caffeine isnt a trigger. Im reading everyone’s posts and it seems like people are using caffeine to help.

    Has anyone experienced a decrease in migraines since going caffeine-free?

  • jennielucas
    4 years ago

    My migraines began at age 17,(1981) then abated slowly til I was 26. Got married, took on a full-time job, they came back with a vengeance. I have never been a coffee-drinker, so heavy caffeine was not the problem. My doctor (we’really in the early 1990s now; I was about 30) prescribed a new med, Ultram. Non-narcotic pain relief! Had no effect at all. Percocet helped a little. Along came Sumatriptin….it worked, but left me with a serious hangover. I was missing a *lot* of work, and eventually signed up for FMLA (Bless you, President Clinton!), weaning out of my job. This cost me my marriage in 2000. Migraines continued. Besides the throbbing pain, which alternated from L to R with each cycle, I experienced emesis, crying for no reason, eye pain & watering,fatigue, and flares of irrational anger that I repressed. A CAT scan and MRI showed no organic changes or anomalies. By ’03, Migraines were infrequent, usually tied to menses. By ’05, and to ’15, they were rare. As of ’16, they’re back. A minor stroke in May 2016 intensified the frequency. I am awaiting the results of new MRI studies. I keep Sumatriptin on hand. These “new” Migraines have warning signals – the eye pain, watering, burning eyes, blurred vision, and nausea. The wait for test results is maddening. I’m divorced, on disability (for other health problems), have a service dog, and two marvelous grandchildren. That was a crazy string of words…since the stroke I have many thinking & writing problems. Glad to have found this community!

  • BethBlue
    4 years ago

    If I didn’t have caffeine, I’m not sure how I would survive chronic migraine disease. I travel with a bottle of some non-coffee caffeinated beverage everywhere I go, just in case I need a pick-me-up to ward off pain. (I gave up caffeine when I was pregnant, and I was so miserable — and I couldn’t take anything for my pain.) As for the smell of coffee? There really is no more hazardous trigger for me when I’m boarding a plane. I actually have to hold my breath when I pass the kitchen galley as I walk past it while I’m finding my seat, for fear that I breathe in the fumes. And when it’s being served while in flight? I actually put peppermint oil under my nose. Coffee drinkers have NO IDEA how much that smell triggers pain and nausea for migraine sufferers like me. Starbucks be damned!

  • Jojiieme
    4 years ago

    Since February, I’ve been on strictest low food chemicals, what you call Failsafe, I think, and we call Friendly Foods. Massive difference in my migraine patterns! Caffeine never seemed to make a difference, but as part of the whole inflamed-immune-system conversation, obviously it does.
    Yep, I’m allowed one good one a day. And sometimes that’s a Greek coffee 🙂 or, as my ‘milk’ is enriched rice drink, it might be a rice’milk’ latte, or just a white ‘plunged’ coffee at home. All my others are decaf. Eh. But they’re real coffee not instant, and they’re hot – I want the comfort of a warm mug in my hand. I can’t drink tea, not any, and I can’t drink any juice, no fruits. So it’s this or water.
    After the first couple of weeks, I made new rituals – of no-ritual. I wouldn’t have thought it 6 months ago, but finding a way to live pain-free is worth living our way. 🙂 🙂

  • Marjorie Bowers
    4 years ago

    I gave up caffiene when I started to go to Diamond Headache clinic. I tried decaffinated and I just said I would rather do without. I went months without and noticed no difference in the headaches. So I reintroduced it into my daily life. I only have 2 cups in the morning for the most part, and since my headaches are no better or no worse with it, I continue to enjoy the smell and the taste of a great cup of coffee.

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