Caffeine and Migraine
Caffeine is a drug that has no flavor and occurs naturally in food. It can also be made synthetically. Caffeine is somewhat addictive and is added to some products, such as soft drinks and medications. The body quickly absorbs caffeine, and it moves rapidly to the brain. It doesn’t stay in the bloodstream but is removed in the urine.
Caffeine can be a trigger for a headache, or it can help stop headaches or migraine attacks. Although it doesn't directly cause a headache or migraine disease, too much caffeine can cause a rebound or withdrawal effect if too much is consumed and then stopped. Conversely, caffeine can also aid in pain relief from migraine, and it is a main ingredient in many migraine over-the-counter medications.1
Foods containing caffeine
Caffeine is found in varying levels in many foods and drinks, including:
- Sodas, soft drinks2
How caffeine works on migraine
Caffeine can shrink or constrict the blood vessels, called vasoconstriction. During a migraine, the blood vessels to the brain enlarge, and it is believed that the vasoconstrictive properties of caffeine help to ease the pain of migraine. Studies have found that by adding caffeine to a pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin, the pain relieving effect can be increased by 40%.1
Migraine medicines containing caffeine
Several medications for migraine contain caffeine, including:
- Anacin—Caffeine and aspirin
- Excedrin Migraine—Caffeine, aspirin and acetaminophen
- Midol—Caffeine, acetaminophen and pyrilamine maleate
- BC Powder—Caffeine and aspirin
- Norgesic—prescription containing caffeine, aspirin and orphenadrine
- Fioricet—prescription containing caffeine, acetaminophen and butalbital
This is not a complete list. Always consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice on medications.
Was Caffeine effective in relieving your migraine symptoms?
Side effects and other precautions
People react differently to caffeine. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine than others, and in certain people, caffeine may cause side effects such as:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Muscle twitching/tremors
- Abnormal heart rhythms/palpitations
- Excessive urination
- Indigestion or upset stomach3
These are not all the possible side effects of caffeine. Patients should talk to their doctor about what to expect with caffeine as treatment.
Who should not take caffeine for migraine?
Women who are pregnant, may become pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t consume large doses of caffeine.3
Children and adolescents should limit caffeine.3
Caffeine is addictive, so if it is stopped abruptly withdrawal symptoms might occur. It is best to gradually discontinue use. Stopping caffeine quickly can lead to headaches, irritability, nausea, drowsiness and other symptoms.
Inform your doctor about any and all medications and supplements you are taking. Caffeine may interact with other medications.
How would you rate the side effects you experienced with Caffeine?
As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your health care provider and should let them know of any other prescriptions, OTCs, and herbals you are taking to ensure there are no interactions.