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Try Getting Rid of ALL Coffee?

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.

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.


  • RobertCan
    3 years ago

    I tried giving up coffee, with no success in reducing or eliminating my migraines. Further confirmation that migraine relief means different things to different people. That’s what makes it so mysterious. There is no silver bullet…no single cure. That said, I’m always thrilled to hear and read when someone has landed on something that works for them! Congrats!

  • Danielle E.
    3 years ago

    That’s really interesting! Do you consume gluten as well? I know coffee can be problematic for people with a gluten sensitivity. Thanks for sharing! I’ve never thought about giving up ALL coffee before. I don’t consume gluten and I love coffee so whenever I read that coffee can be a “no no” for those sensitive to gluten, I dismissed it. Apparently, it’s time to give it a try.

  • Mr FBP
    3 years ago

    This is interesting ie that decaf elimination has worked. Have you looked at the decaf process for the coffees you buy. Some producers use ammonia in the decaf process, which doesn’t sound very healthy. some producers use a CO2 method (usually carried out in Germany, so readlily available here in Europe), and others use water.

    You can probably tell that I’m a bit of a coffee snob myself and like to check the origins of the stuff I buy.

    Maybe yiu could try coffee again to see if the lack of caffeine is the issue?

  • Jojiieme
    3 years ago

    Went totally caffeine free and coffee free for 7 seven years: drank only water, home-squeezed apple juice or pear juice, or very occasionally warm water with two fresh mint leaves. Didn’t make any difference once my migraines turned chronic, after a massive six-week nonstop horror.
    I can’t drink cheap stuff, I can’t drink it when the migraine is already underway, and I can’t drink too much. Some days I can’t even look at my mug; some days I need two Greek coffees as well. Today is a water-only day.
    Good luck with your new approach! It’s worked for my brother, I’m glad it’s working for you!

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi EverydayMigraineMan,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I understand about the caffeine issue; a few years ago I slowly stopped having two cups of coffee every morning and have seen a modest reduction in my migraine frequency. It did take longer than three months however, for me to see a difference.

    There is a small subset of us who are particularly sensitive to caffeine. Here is an article about it;


  • LindseyLiving
    3 years ago

    I love wine like you love coffee and have had to eliminate alcohol. I still get migraines, but am not ready to drink wine again — don’t think it will help. I’m wondering if quitting coffee will help, but I’ve already quit drinking and gluten… coffee is all I have left! 🙂 Thanks for sharing. You’ve given me some more “food” for thought.

  • blueangel1980
    3 years ago

    I tried the no coffee thing for over three months, and it changed nothing. I’ve don’t the elimination diet and nothing changed. I am so glad you are not suffering with the daily migraines anymore. Hope I can get that far sooner than later

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