Drug Free Migraine Treatment Advice: What’s the Deal with Caffeine?

July 19, 2012

You are very likely part of the estimated 90% of the population in the United States who regularly partakes in this psychoactive drug.  Some say it’s the world’s most popular drug.  That’s right…caffeine.  Even if you aren’t a coffee drinker, this central nervous system stimulant known as a chronic migraine trigger, can be found in teas, soft drinks, chocolate and energy drinks.  It’s also an ingredient in various migraine medications and over the counter pain relievers, as it enhances the effectiveness of the other elements.  The Mayo Clinic lists caffeine as a migraine trigger if ingested in large quantities, and the University of Maryland indicates the sudden withdrawal of caffeine as a cause for headaches.  Depending on your sensitivity and personal migraine history, eliminating caffeine could be an effective drug free migraine treatment or migraine trigger.

During a migraine attack, the amount of the brain chemical adenosine is elevated, which causes a dilation or widening of blood vessels.  Adenosine binds to neuroreceptors, which cannot tell the difference between adenosine and caffeine.  So when caffeine is introduced to the chain of biochemical events during a migraine attack, it has the effect of blocking the effects of adenosine, binding to the same neuroreceptors, and constricting the blood vessels, thereby relieving painful symptoms.  For those who are highly sensitive to environmental or physiological triggers, caffeine’s stimulating effects may actually trigger a migraine.  A drug free migraine treatment for these individuals would be the elimination of all caffeine products.

Withdrawal effects of caffeine are often linked to migraines and headaches.  The physical and emotional uplifting qualities of caffeine cause some to gradually increase the amount consumed, in their attempt to self medicate and maintain the feel-good effects from the stimulant.  The University of Maryland Medical Center indicates that sudden change or withdrawal of caffeine consumption allows for increased blood flow to the brain, triggering ‘withdrawal headaches’ or migraines.

To determine the effect caffeine has on your chronic migraine condition, you should maintain a ‘migraine journal’ to look for your symptomatic reactions to caffeine.  If your migraines are triggered, by all means include avoidance of caffeine to your list of drug free migraine treatments.   If you are one of the migraineurs who benefit from regular and moderate amounts of caffeine to manage your pain effectively, you can go ahead and add coffee to your bag of therapies.

Photo courtesy © Can Stock Photo www.canstockphoto.com

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