As it’s Migraine Awareness week (September 1 – 7), here at Lorisian we wanted to look at the relationship between coffee and migraines. After all, 14.3% of the UK population (that’s 1 in 7 of us) are affected by migraines.

Migraines usually come with the following symptoms: a throbbing headache, pain felt in the head, face and neck lasting anywhere from 4 hours to 3 days, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, increased sensitivity to light and sound, and even stomach pain.

How much caffeine should I have?

For an average adult, 400 mg of caffeine is recommended as the daily limit. This amount can fluctuate with factors such as weight and common health factors, but it does provide a guideline to avoid effects on our hearts, bones, fertility, behaviour, and headaches or migraines.

But how much is 400 mg of caffeine? This is approximately four cups of brewed coffee, ten 330ml cans of fizzy drinks, and two energy drinks. However, caffeine content varies wildly, especially in coffee. This can depend on the grind, how it has been roasted and brewed.

Certain individuals also may not have the same threshold for caffeine consumption; they may even be intolerant to coffee. It’s important to listen to your own body, monitor your intake, and decide what suits you.

Can coffee trigger headaches?

Coffee can trigger headaches or migraines in three main ways:

  • Caffeine causing the narrowing of blood vessels around your brain
  • As a result of an intolerance
  • As a result of caffeine withdrawal

Having regular headaches that you think might be related to coffee? Firstly, make sure you are not consuming more than the recommended daily limit of 400 mg of caffeine. Suddenly cutting it from your daily routine may result in unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal that include headaches, lethargy, irritability and more. Consider taking a food intolerance† test to decipher whether you are intolerant to coffee, including the milk that tops your daily latte, or any other foods that may be interacting in a way that increases migraine triggers and symptoms.

Is coffee good for migraine headaches?

Strangely enough, while caffeine is a frequent cause of headaches or migraines, research shows that it might have the power to help them. Found in many medications for pain relief, it works by reducing inflammation in the affected part of the body. When working in tandem, caffeine may make ibuprofen, aspirin, and paracetamol work better and more effectively.

Perhaps coffee can help your migraine headache then, but only in a small and certified dose. Too much caffeine and you may increase vulnerability to migraine triggers.

Can you be intolerant to coffee?

A reaction to coffee can either be attributed to a food intolerance, caused by a component of your coffee drink, or might show a sensitivity to caffeine. If symptoms persist even after switching to decaffeinated beverages (coffee without caffeine), it’s likely that you could well be intolerant to coffee. Intolerances are not life-threatening but can cause great discomfort.

What are the symptoms of coffee intolerance?

Finding yourself often with joint pain, anxiety, stomach pain, headaches or migraines, fatigue, or IBS? They could be a result of your reaction to the ingredients in tea or coffee – or even a range of other food ingredients.

Carefully eliminating foods that you have an intolerance could have an incredibly beneficial effect on your symptoms.

†Lorisian define food intolerance as a food-specific IgG reaction. Food intolerance is a condition with a range of symptoms including gut symptoms, bloating, headaches, migraines, low mood, fatigue, weight gain and skin problems. These symptoms must always be checked out by a Medical Professional. If you have clients that have seen a Medical Professional but have not been given a diagnosis for their symptoms, then they may be suffering from food intolerance.