Study Explores How Much Caffeine is Too Much for Migraine Sufferers

It's important to know your limit
Women drink caffeinated coffees which can help with migraines

If you have a migraine, the last thing you want is to consume more caffeine and trigger more pain, right?

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Don’t put your mug away so fast. According to research from the American Journal of Medicine, for patients who experience episodic migraines, one to two servings of caffeine may limit headache occurrence throughout the day. Once a person reaches three or more servings, though, that’s where you can run into trouble.

Director of the Cleveland Clinic Headache Center, Emad Estemalik, MD, offers some practical advice to have your coffee and drink it too.

Breaking down the data

A sample of 98 adults with frequent episodic migraines completed electronic diaries each morning and evening every day for six weeks. The total servings of caffeinated coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks consumed were recorded each day, along with twice daily headache reports documenting the onset, duration, intensity and medications used for each migraine since the previous diary entry. Other common migraine triggers that each participant normally experiences was recorded as well.

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A self-matched analysis was used to evaluate the link between caffeinated drinks and migraines on the same or following day. Researchers compared each participant’s occurrence of migraines on days with and without caffeine intake, eliminating the chance of factors such as age, sex, and other behavioral and environmental factors to intrude with data. This strategy also accommodated for various caffeine dosages and serving sizes consumed by participants.

The end result? For regular caffeine consumers, one to two servings — that’s 8 oz. of coffee, 6 oz. of tea, 12 oz. of soda, or 2 oz. of energy drink — had no effect on migraines on the same or following day. Headaches were more often onset by three or more servings of caffeinated drinks for regular consumers, and one to two servings for those who rarely consume caffeine.

So, what now?

“The biggest thing to be aware of is the serving size of caffeinated beverage you are consuming,” says Dr. Estemalik. “Drinking one Venti at Starbucks is far different than drinking one Tall.”

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Dr. Estemalik recommends to:

  • Pay attention amounts of caffeine in the serving sizes of drinks: try to limit yourself to 150-200 mg each day.
  • If you are traveling, know that you might be able to enjoy two cappuccinos instead of just one. The amount of caffeine in beverages in the U.S. is usually higher than other countries.
  • Don’t forget to read the ingredients on your food labels, too: avoid items with MSG and nitric oxide, which are both causes for migraine occurrence.

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