The first step in the nutritional management of diet-triggered headaches is eating a well-balanced diet. It is especially important to eat three meals a day with a snack at night or 6 small meals spread though out the day. You should include a good protein source at each meal/snack (i.e. milk, meat, fish) and should avoid eating high sugar foods by themselves, especially when excessively hungry. These actions will help to prevent the ‘hunger headache’.
Here are some of the most important facts about caffeine and its relationship to headache.
Most people feel the effects of caffeine within 30 minutes.
Generally, the effects of caffeine last 3 to 5 hours.
The average American consumes about 227 mg of caffeine daily, or the equivalent of about 2-3 cups of coffee.
People who get headaches should clearly understand how caffeine affects their headaches.
Caffeine in headache medications
Adding 130 mg of caffeine to a regular, two-tablet dose of common ingredients found pain relievers (aspirin and acetaminophen) makes them relieve tension-type headache pain about 40% better than they do without caffeine. Caffeine also helps your body absorb these medications, allowing you to get back to your daily life faster.
Because analgesics work better when they have caffeine added, you may be able to take less medicine when you have a headache. And because even non-prescription medications are real medicine with the potential for side effects, taking less reduces the risks associated with inappropriate use.
Caffeine and medication overuse headache
Medication overuse headache is a serious problem that develops from taking headache medications too often, even at the recommended dose. Medication overuse headache is constant-it won’t go away until you completely stop taking the drugs that are causing the problem.
Any headache medicine can cause medication overuse headache-taking caffeine-containing headache medications doesn’t appear to increase the risk.
Medication overuse headache is rare; in fact, only 1% of the general population is reported to have it.
Addiction or dependence
According to the American Psychiatric Association, caffeine is not addictive, and it does not resemble addictive or habit-forming drugs that lead to severe physical and social consequences.
Significant caffeine abuse has not been reported by any culture in the world.
When used according to label directions, headache medicines with caffeine pose no risk of addiction or dependence.
Caffeine withdrawal headache
Technically, a person needs to use more than 200 mg of caffeine every day for at least two weeks before they can be diagnosed with a caffeine withdrawal headache.
Caffeine and Headache
You know your body best. When you visit your doctor regarding your headaches, keep these few tips in mind. They’ll help you and your doctor make the most of the visit, and allow you to get back to your life quickly.
1. Make an appointment specifically about your headaches. Headache is a legitimate medical disorder. There are physicians who are headache specialists, and have a tremendous understanding of the causes of headaches and the many different treatment options available today. We suggest that you begin your headache care with your primary care physician (family physician, internist, or OB/GYN). Within a reasonable amount of time (approximately three months), if you don’t find adequate relief, ask your doctor to refer you to a headache specialist in your area. Or, call the National Headache Foundation at 888-NHF-5552 for a state-by-state list of physician members.
2. Bring a list of current medications. Sometimes it’s hard to remember every medication you take. Since some medications have different ingredients, you doctor will be able to tell you what they are and how much you take. Be sure to include over-the-counter products, as well as any natural supplements you may be taking.
3. Prepare for a dialogue with your physician. Keep a headache diary. Be organized, specific, direct, and ready to talk details. Use the “Weekly Caffeine Counter” to track your daily caffeine consumption, and bring the information with you to your appointment. Be prepared to provide information on your headache history and general medical history. Track your attacks and how you treat them. Note the date, length of each migraine, severity, symptoms, triggers, and impact on your life (i.e., how many days lost from work, how many family/social activities missed). Track medication taken, when, for how long, and its effectiveness in relieving pain and symptoms. Get to know your headache pattern and triggers so you feel more “in control.”
4. Be proactive. Ask questions. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms; don’t wait to be asked. Be sure to ask your doctor about new medications in development, have all the options explained to you, and work with your doctor to choose the treatment plan that’s best for you.
Caffeine and Headache
People have been enjoying caffeine in foods and beverages for thousands of years. Here is a quick glimpse of some of the little-known events in the history of caffeine:
The major natural sources of caffeine are coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans and cola nuts
Tea was accidentally discovered nearly 5,000 years ago when leaves from a nearby bush fell into Chinese Emperor Shen Nung’s pot of boiling water Coffee beans were originally consumed as food and used as money
Spanish conquistadors were the first Europeans to enjoy chocolate, given to them by Aztec Emperor Montezuma in 1519 in the form of a drink
The world’s first caffeinated soft drinks were introduced in 1880
When it was first introduced, Muslims in Arabia used coffee to help them stay awake during prolonged religious vigils
Captain John Smith of England was the first person to introduce coffee to the Americas in 1607
In America in 1683, 12 ounces of coffee cost the equivalent of a full meal
The average Cafeto tree yields about 1 pound of roasted coffee per year
Bach once composed a “coffee cantata”
The first cafe serving coffee opened in Paris 1686
Caffeine becomes soluble in water at 175 degrees Fahrenheit
Caffeine and Headache
Despite the fact that there have been numerous studies conducted on caffeine, there is no compelling evidence that supports the misconception that caffeine is addictive or habit forming for the vast majority of people.
A habit caused by a psychological and physical dependence on a substance or practice that is beyond voluntary control.
Caffeine is not an addictive drug. According to the American Psychiatric Association (which does not recognize a condition called “caffeine addiction”), addiction is characterized by:
- The inability to stop taking drugs
- Interference with everyday activities, either social or work-related
Even people who consume large amounts of caffeine do not meet these criteria. However, consuming too much caffeine can have consequences for headache sufferers. Caffeine overuse by people who have occasional migraine attacks increases the chance that their condition will become chronic. Over time, occasional attacks can become more frequent and, eventually, constant. Still, despite the widespread availability of caffeine-containing products sold for alertness, such as energy drinks, foods and, supplements, reports of deliberate caffeine abuse are extremely rare.
It is important to note that moderate caffeine consumption is completely safe, and caffeine itself is not classified as an addictive drug. For some people, depending on the amount of caffeine ingested and their individual sensitivity to caffeine, caffeine can be a mild stimulant to the central nervous system. When consumption of caffeine is stopped abruptly, some people may experience “withdrawal” symptoms, including:
- Impaired concentration/lassitude/work difficulty
- Muscle aches/stiffness
Actual rates of people suffering from withdrawal are disputed by the experts, but evidence suggests that it may be less common than previously thought. In a scientific study of more than 11,000 people, only about 11% of the people who consumed caffeine daily reported any withdrawal symptoms once the caffeine consumption was stopped. And only 3% of those with symptoms said they were severe enough to interfere with their daily activities.
Caffeine withdrawal is an uncommon condition. Still, you can take steps to limit your chances of experiencing it:
- Limit your daily consumption of caffeine. You can use the Caffeine Content Chart to figure out your current intake and decide where you can cut back.
- Don’t eliminate caffeine abruptly. Gradually decreasing your caffeine consumption may help to lessen the effects of withdrawal.
- Enlist the help of family members. Friends and family can provide great support during the transition.
- Consult with your physician about the withdrawal process so you can determine the best way to use caffeine-containing pain relievers during the transition and in the future.
Caffeine and Headache