We all drink it in the morning and throughout the day, but could that daily dose of caffeine be the source of your headaches? Caffeine may be our preferred drug, but if we skip a dose, we may experience some unpleasant side effects.
Caffeine is an energizing substance. It enters our brain immediately and disables the (adenosine) receptors that cause brain activity to become dull. After stopping the dulling of our brain, we feel energized, focused, and slightly euphoric. One of the advantages of caffeine is that it can accomplish this. When we expect a boost in mental energy after drinking a cup, the periods when we don't feel much longer and more intense.
The fact that coffee is addictive is a problem. Many people drink caffeinated beverages on a regular basis to avoid feeling this way. If you feel dull and without energy, after quitting coffee you're probably going through withdrawal.
Caffeine withdrawal headaches are by far the most common symptom. They are sometimes referred to as tension headaches because they feel like a tense band is wrapped around your head. Caffeine withdrawal, however, can trigger a full-fledged migraine attack in some migraineurs.
Because our faces and heads are the most sensitive and active parts of our bodies, withdrawal and other factors frequently cause headaches. One theory for headaches is that our hazy brain misinterprets harmless impulses from our heads as migraines.
If their regular medication supply was completely cut off, perhaps half of all frequent tea or coffee drinkers would experience caffeine withdrawal. The more caffeine we consume on a regular basis, the more likely we are to experience withdrawal symptoms if we stop.
However, withdrawal symptoms may appear in people who normally consume one cup of coffee per day and then stop drinking it. Similarly, three days of nonstop coffee consumption is all it takes to make you unhappy once the supply is depleted.
For caffeine withdrawal to occur, abstinence is required. Caffeine in small doses can help prevent headaches (only a quarter cup). If the espresso machine breaks and you have to drink a (half-less caffeinated) latte, you will not experience withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal headaches are common a day or two after abruptly ceasing caffeine consumption. Despite the protests of habitual coffee drinkers, withdrawal does not occur immediately after the last cup. Caffeine-related headaches usually disappear within 30 minutes to an hour of consuming a cup of tea or coffee. According to Australian experts, giving someone experiencing caffeine withdrawal a decaf beverage while informing them that it contains caffeine can help them feel better. Of course, if you buy your own coffee, this method will not work.
Caffeine, however, has a few analgesic properties. Simple caffeine-containing medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, or paracetamol, can be more effective (in each dose about two to three times as much as in a regular cup of coffee).
For some migraine sufferers and others who get hypnic “alarm clock” headaches that wake them up at night, a cup of tea or coffee can be an effective pain reliever on its own.
This analgesia is not simply due to the fact that a cup of tea or coffee makes us feel less anxious or preoccupied with pain. The same adenosine receptors that coffee blocks are thought to be responsible for the development of headaches and other types of pain.
The majority of adults drink coffee or tea on a daily basis, which energizes us and wakes us up from our sleep. It's easy to imagine the headaches that would result if it didn't exist.
Mebely Connors is a retired health care professional. For the past 4 years, she has been working from home, writing for different publications. She specializes in health and nutrition-related articles.