Caffeine & Migraine: Striking the Right Balance

Welcome to a comprehensive exploration of the intricate connection between caffeine and migraine.

If you’ve ever pondered whether caffeine is a friend or foe in your battle against migraine attacks, you’re not alone.

Keep reading to unravel the mystery surrounding caffeine and its impact on migraine.

What is Caffeine and Where is it Found?

Caffeine, a naturally occurring stimulant, can be found in various beverages and foods. Understanding its sources is essential for those seeking to manage their caffeine intake effectively.

Here are some common sources of caffeine:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Soft drinks
  • Energy drinks
  • Chocolate
image of coffee mug

The Effects of Caffeine

Caffeine exerts its effects primarily by stimulating the central nervous system.

By blocking the action of adenosine, a neurotransmitter responsible for promoting relaxation and sleepiness, caffeine enhances alertness and arousal.

Additionally, caffeine increases the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters associated with mood elevation and increased heart rate.

Think of it as pressing the gas pedal in your brain, giving you that boost of energy to tackle the day.

The Impact of Caffeine on Migraine: Pros and Cons

Despite its potential for triggering migraine attacks in some individuals, caffeine has also been recognized for its ability to provide relief during these episodes.


Caffeine causes constricting (tightening) of blood vessels and reduces inflammation, which may alleviate pain and discomfort.

Also, caffeine can enhance the effectiveness of pain medications by:

  • helping their rapid absorption into the bloodstream,
  • prolonging their duration of action,
  • and even boosting mood through the release of dopamine.

Think of caffeine as a supportive ally that helps your pain medications work more efficiently, providing you with quicker and longer-lasting relief.


While caffeine can offer temporary relief, overdoing it may lead to adverse health effects.

Prolonged intake of high doses of caffeine can result in increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, insomnia, and anxiety.

Also, quitting cold turkey can trigger withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and irritability.

Another major thing to consider is that caffeine ties into the risk of “medication overuse”. Medication Overuse Headache (MOH) is a diagnosis for people with frequent migraine attacks that worsen with excessive medication use.

To prevent MOH, caffeine intake should be limited to 200mg per day, roughly equivalent to about two cups of coffee.

Finding a Balanced Approach: Moderation and Consistency

Developing a positive relationship with caffeine requires moderation and consistency.

Migraine brains dislike change, so keeping your caffeine intake consistent from day to day can help prevent unwanted surprises.

For example, instead of downing a whole pot of coffee, try limiting yourself to one cup a day.

Another example, shifting from a routine of morning coffee at 6 a.m. on weekdays to sleeping in and having coffee at noon on the weekends can disrupt your migraine management efforts.

Tapering Off Caffeine: A Gradual Approach

If you want to move away from your reliance on caffeine or see if your migraine improves with more moderation, a gradual tapering-off approach is going to be the most easy and painless option!

Here’s a simple protocol to follow, and remember, the timeframe of this process is totally up to you:

  1. Start with 100% caffeinated coffee.
  2. Gradually transition to a blend of 75% caffeinated and 25% decaf.
  3. Continue adjusting the ratio until you’re consuming 100% decaf.

(Consider using Swiss Water Processed decaf coffee, which is 99.9% caffeine-free.)

You can also apply this method to other caffeinated beverages, such as soda.

Remember, the key is to listen to your body and find what works best for you. Reach out to your doctor or another healthcare professional for additional support.


Navigating the complexities of caffeine and its impact on migraine requires a nuanced understanding of its effects, risks, and potential benefits.

By adopting a balanced approach, you get all the pros of caffeine and avoid the cons, allowing you to make the most of its benefits while minimizing any potential drawbacks.

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