Drinking 3 Cups Or More Coffee May Trigger Migraines?

Drinking 3 Cups Or More Coffee May Trigger Migraines?


Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages. Studies show that coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of several serious diseases and caffeine can also blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain, which causes a stimulant effect. This improves energy levels, mood and various aspects of brain function.

What Causes Migraines?

Migraines can be caused by a variety of triggers. These include everything from:

  • Fasting or skipping a meal
  • Alcohol
  • Stress
  • Strong smells
  • Bright lights
  • Humidity
  • Hormone level changes

Medications can also cause migraines, and foods can combine with other triggers to bring on a migraine. Caffeine can be both a treatment and a trigger for migraines. Knowing if you benefit from it may be helpful in treating the condition. Knowing if you should avoid or limit it can also help.

According to new study, drinking too much coffee or other caffeinated drinks may be a trigger for migraines among people prone to these severe headaches.

The study researchers found that, among people with periodic migraine headaches, consuming at least three caffeinated drinks a day was tied to a higher likelihood of experiencing a migraine on that day or the following day. However, consuming only one or two caffeinated drinks a day was generally not associated with migraines, the study found.

Although many people anecdotally report that caffeine tends to trigger their migraines, few rigorous studies have examined this link. Indeed, the new study, published today (Aug. 8) in The American Journal of Medicine, is one of the first to examine whether daily changes in caffeine intake are tied to the onset of migraines.

“Interestingly, despite some patients with episodic migraine thinking they need to avoid caffeine, we found that drinking one to two servings [per] day was not associated with higher risk of headache,” study senior author Dr. Suzanne Bertisch, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a clinical investigator in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in a statement. Still, more research is needed to confirm the findings; “but it is an important first step,” Bertisch said.

The role of caffeine in triggering migraine headaches may be particularly complex, the authors said, because its impact depends on how much people consume and how often. Caffeine may trigger an attack, but it could also have a pain-relieving effect, they said.

In the new study, the researchers analyzed information from nearly 100 adults who were diagnosed with episodic migraines, which means they experienced migraine headaches at least twice a month, but no more than 15 times a month.

Participants filled out an online survey twice a day for six weeks to record their caffeine intake — including the number of servings of coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks they consumed — and whether they experienced a migraine headache that day.

On average, participants reported experiencing about eight migraines during the six-week study period. All of the participants reported consuming caffeine at least once during the study period, and on average, they consumed about eight servings per week.

For each participant, the researchers compared reports of migraines on the days they consumed caffeine with reports of migraines on the days they did not consume caffeine.

Overall, participants were more likely to experience migraine headaches on days they consumed three or more caffeinated beverages, compared with days they didn’t consume caffeinated beverages. But there wasn’t a link between migraine headache and consumption of one or two caffeinated beverages.

However, among people who rarely consumed any caffeine, even one to two servings of caffeine increased the chances of having a headache on that day, the authors said.

Women More Affected By Migraine Than Men

Migraine affects about 1 in 10 people worldwide, according to recent research. It affects women roughly twice as often it does men.

“About 9 percent of men and 16 percent of women suffer from migraine, and the tendency for migraine can run in families,” said Dr. Julia Jones, a neurologist at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas and not associated with the study.

“Everyday things can trigger migraine headaches, like certain foods or drinks, stress, too much or too little sleep, hormones, or even things like bright lights, hunger, and smells,” Jones said.

How Can Caffeine Make Migraines Worse?

Caffeine can make migraines worse. You can also become dependent on it, which means you’ll need more to get the same results. Increasing caffeine levels excessively can harm your body in other ways, causing tremors, nervousness, and sleep interruptions. Caffeine use disorder was recently  Trusted Source as a significant problem for some people.

2016 of 108 people found that people who experience migraines reduced the intensity of their headaches after discontinuing the use of caffeine.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a cup of coffee or tea when you feel a migraine coming on. Caffeine doesn’t cause headaches, but it can trigger what’s known as caffeine rebound.

This occurs when you consume too much caffeine and subsequently experience withdrawal from it. The side effects can be severe, sometimes worse than a typical headache or migraine itself. An estimated 2 percent of people experience this.

Should You Treat Migraines With Caffeine?

Talk to your doctor about your caffeine intake and whether you should avoid caffeine. Be mindful that caffeine is found not only in coffee and tea, but also in:

  • chocolate
  • energy drinks
  • soft drinks
  • some medications

As part of a 2016 study, Vincent Martin, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Center at UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, said that people with a history of migraines should limit caffeine intake to no more than 400 mg daily.

Some people shouldn’t consume caffeine, and therefore it can’t be part of their treatment plan. That includes women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.

Causes And Risk Factors Of Caffeine Overdose

A caffeine overdose occurs when you take in too much caffeine through drinks, foods, or medications. However, some people can ingest well above the daily recommended amount each day without issue. This isn’t recommended because high caffeine doses can cause major health issues, including irregular heartbeat and seizures. Consuming high caffeine doses on a regular basis can also possibly lead to hormonal imbalances.

If you rarely consume caffeine, your body may be especially sensitive to it, so avoid ingesting too much at one time.

What Are The Symptoms Of Caffeine Overdose?

Several types of symptoms occur with this condition. Some symptoms may not immediately alert you that you’ve had too much caffeine because they may not seem serious. For example, you may experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Irritability

Other symptoms are more severe and call for immediate medical treatment. These more serious symptoms of caffeine overdose include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Uncontrollable muscle movements
  • Convulsions

Treatment For Caffeine Overdose

Treatment is meant to get the caffeine out of your body while managing the symptoms. You may be given activated charcoal, a common remedy for drug overdose, which often prevents the caffeine from going into the gastrointestinal tract.

If the caffeine has already entered your gastrointestinal tract, you may be offered a laxative or even a gastric lavage. A gastric lavage involves using a tube to wash the contents out of your stomach. Your doctor will likely choose the method that works fastest to get the caffeine out of your body.

To prevent a caffeine overdose, avoid consuming excessive amounts of caffeine. In most cases, you shouldn’t have more than 400 mg of caffeine per day and even less if you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine.

This article on "Hkitnob: Health Columns" is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to offer medical advice.