Migraines and caffeine: an introduction

Caffeine is a drug that has no flavor and occurs naturally in food. It can be made synthetically also. 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 is a main ingredient in many migraine over-the-counter medications. It is also well-known to

  • Improve muscle coordination
  • Increase alertness and attention
  • Decrease fatigue
  • Increase thought speed
  • Reduce the need for sleep

Foods containing caffeine

It is found in leaves, seeds and fruits of at least 60 plants, including:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa
  • Kola nuts
  • Sodas, soft drinks

Migraines and caffeine

Just as caffeine – which is a stimulant – gives people a boost, it boosts the effectiveness of painkillers up to 40 percent. Caffeine also helps the body absorb medication faster and relieves pain on its own. Caffeine may block certain receptors that lead to migraine headaches.

Studies on Caffeine and Migraines

Caffeine has been studied extensively in combination with other painkillers, including Aspirin and acetaminophen.

Formulations of Caffeine available

Caffeine is available alone in numerous forms, including:

  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Liquids
  • Chewable snacks
  • Edible bars
  • Gels
  • Candy

List of migraine medicines containing Caffeine

Several medications pain killers 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.

Side effects and other precautions

People react differently to caffeine. When too much is consumed, the following side effects might occur:

  • Headache
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle twitching/tremors
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal heart rhythms/palpitations
  • Excessive urination
  • Nausea and/vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Indegestion

Who should not take Caffeine for Migraine

Women who are pregnant, may become pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t take large doses of caffeine. It might slow fetal growth, particularly at high doses. It may also be harmful at prior to conception. High doses may also increase the risk of miscarriage.

Smokers metabolize caffeine more quickly.

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, vomiting, drowsiness and other symptoms.

Inform your doctor about any and all medications and supplements you are taking. Caffeine interacts with several medications including: some antibiotics, bronchodilators and ephedra, which has been banned in the U.S. as a supplement but is still available in teas.

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 physician. Again, this information should in no way substitute or be mistaken for medical advice.