Try Getting Rid of ALL Coffee?
Last updated: October 2020
I really enjoy a good coffee. To me, it's not a beverage to consume on the run in an obscene, mammoth, logo-emblazoned tumbler. (Aghast!) To the contrary, a good coffee is expertly crafted, most often small, and experienced at a civilized table. It's a reprieve from the day, a thing of beauty, a moment of sophistication, bitter yet smooth in flavor, and then sweetened just right.
I fell in love with coffee some 25 years ago, as I studied in Buenos Aires. The confiterias are legendary in that city -- open at all hours, where you can linger over a cortado into the early hours. Today, I have a coffee machine in my home, where frankly I think I make a better cortado than in many of those cafes, as American coffee has come a long way, though I'd take the people-watching in Buenos Aires anytime.
Yet, while my affinity for coffee (even in decaf form) has grown over the decades, so have my migraines -- in frequency and often times intensity. Looking back, they started when I was around age 20, in Argentina. Once diagnosed, it became apparent quite soon that alcohol is a trigger, and wine is pure poison. I have experimented in a whole host of treatments and strategies: preventive medications, vitamins, herbs, diets, removing caffeine, and relaxation. Everything was either partially effective -- or partially effective for awhile. Nothing ever solved the problem.
But I might have stumbled onto something.
In the past couple of months, my headaches have been daily and relentless. While I can stave them off with medication, it's no way to carry on. The headaches leave you fatigued, down, and drained -- which is awful while trying to raise a delightful three-year-old girl. They sap the joy from daily life, because each moment is a fight against the ongoing headache, or the next inevitable headache. They're forever on your mind. You just hope, desperately, you won't wake up the next morning with another.
So I told myself, something's got to change. I began another elimination diet, and this time, even though I've only had decaf coffee for years, I stopped all coffee. Cold turkey. No more coffee at all, decaf or otherwise. I drank coffee nearly everyday, and I had headaches nearly everyday.
I wondered if the coffee itself, and not the caffeine everyone seems to fear, has been the cause of so much havoc in my head and neck.
My experiment is early, less than a week old. But guess what? In five days: Not a single headache, after months of daily headaches and years with headaches on most days. Meanwhile, I've had some caffeinated beverages -- just not coffee.
I'm not ready to make any bold predictions. I still wake up each morning hoping my head won't be hurting. However, my early synopsis is that my body has been reacting to coffee in some way apart from the caffeine -- quite possibly an allergy, or a reaction to some other chemical in the coffee.
To those reading this with daily chronic migraine: If you still drink decaf coffee, try stopping. It pains me to say it, because while on vacation, I've visited coffee farms, sought cities' most famous coffee houses and even purchased the perfect Libby espresso glasses for my home consumption.
But so far, a coffee-free life has seemingly been a game-changer.
Are the family and friends you will be seeing this holiday season understanding about migraine?