What is a migraine? Why migraine happens. Who gets migraines? Treating migraines.

Caffeine And Migraine

The relationship between caffeine, the nation's favorite drug, and migraine, is a complex and controversial one - is caffeine the cause or the cure...?

What Is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a legal drug consumed by 90 % of adults in the United States each day. We turn to caffeinated beverages and high-caffeine foods because they stimulate our central nervous system and provide a certain "high" that helps to us stay focused at work or even just enjoy our day. Overuse of caffeine, however, can have negative consequences for our health, and some migraine sufferers claim this is especially true for those of us who are afflicted with migraine headaches.

The Caffeine Trigger

Many people who suffer from migraines are convinced that certain foods and drinks trigger their attacks. If we were to list here all the food and beverages which migraine patients consider to be triggers, that list would be extensive and would probably contain products from every food group. It would also, without doubt, include foods which contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola drinks, chocolate and even certain beans and vegetables.

Cause Or Cure?

Headaches are a known symptom of caffeine overuse, even in people who don't suffer from migraines. Migraine sufferers are therefore recommended (as is the rest of the population) not to consume too much caffeine. Some migraine patients may find that even one cup of coffee is enough to set off a migraine attack, in which case they may choose to cut caffeine out of their diet as far as possible.

On the other hand, caffeine also has some pain-killing properties and is therefore an ingredient in many over-the-counter pain-killing medications. Some people even find that drinking a cup of coffee helps to relieve headache pain. However, overuse of caffeine can end up causing or worsening headaches in the long-term due to the excessive intake of caffeine. Some experts think that most headache sufferers can drink up to four cups of coffee a day, or take a pain killer up to two days a week, before they experience headaches as a consequence of caffeine overuse. This does not mean, however, that consuming that amount of caffeine per day is safe for you, particularly if you suffer from heart problems or you are pregnant. You should speak to your doctor or migraine specialist for professional advice.

Is Caffeine Your Trigger?

There is some disagreement in the medical world as to whether or not certain foods and drinks really do trigger migraines. Some experts say they have found a pattern of attacks suffered by their patients after consuming certain foods, which indicates that food and drink do set off migraine headaches. These experts believe that each migraine patient is different. It's therefore perfectly possible for one to suffer attacks after drinking coffee and another to get a migraine after eating cheese, for example.

Other medics have put forward the view that the list of foods and drinks thought to trigger migraines includes such a disparate collection of food groups that these couldn't possibly be the trigger. It has been argued that migraine patients tend to focus on certain foods as trigger of their migraines because avoiding these foods gives the patients a sense of control over their condition.

If you believe that caffeine may be starting off your migraines, you should keep a migraine diary in which you record all the foods and drinks you consume prior to the beginning of your migraines. If you start to see a pattern, consider reducing the amount of caffeine in your diet and talk to your doctor about the possibility that caffeine may be setting off your migraine headaches. It's very important to talk to your doctor before making any radical changes to your diet, particularly if you are considering cutting out a certain food group altogether.