Coffee For Migraines?

I am a former addict (possibly still, but I’m successfully quitting at the moment), and these are really good suggestions. One thing I am very curious about, maybe you would know something: I have a coworker who says her doctor told her to take caffeine (possibly not specifically coffee) for her chronic migraines. Any idea why?

Coffee is sometimes used as a tool to help prevent migraine headaches. Although many sources site caffeine addiction as the cause, and therefore the cure, for migraine headaches, I’ve known several migraine sufferers who’ve said coffee prevents their headaches even if they never have caffeine normally. My understanding is that, if you catch the migraine right at the beginning, a cup of strong black coffee may stop the headache in its tracks. In fact, many over the counter headache medications contain caffeine.

So what’s going on here?

Caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor, meaning that it makes the blood vessels constrict or tighten. Caffeine specifically constricts the capillaries in the head of migraine sufferers which seems to be what stops the migraine headaches. Some research suggests that migraine headaches are a result of the capillaries dilating too quickly which the vasoconstriction of caffeine will halt. Many medications used for migraine relief focus on resizing the blood vessels back to normal before they can stimulate the nerves around them, causing pain.

It’s important to note, however, that this is not a “cure” for migraine headaches. The cause of migraine headaches is not a caffeine deficiency. Taking caffeine for a migraine may give temporary relief, but it doesn’t get to the bottom of why one is suffering in the first place.

The problem is that figuring out the root of a migraine problem isn’t necessarily an easy step. Just as each of us is biochemically unique, there may be a multitude of possible causes of migraines. Problems like magnesium deficiency, B vitamin deficiency (especially B6), food allergies or hormonal imbalance have all been identified as causes of migraine headaches, according to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by Michael Murray, ND and Joseph Pizzorno, ND. Correction of these problems with the help of a health care practitioner is an important step in migraine elimination.

Ironically, caffeine has been shown to deplete a person’s magnesium levels while magnesium deficiency may be the root cause of migraines in some people. I wouldn’t suggest that a migraine sufferer stop taking coffee as a remedy if they feel an attack coming on, mind you. Anything that prevents all the pain and suffering should be continued until the root cause can be identified and eliminated. Regular daily caffeine consumption could be the cause of headaches, however, so headache sufferers may want to try to eliminate daily exposure.

The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale, Holistic Nutritionist and trained chef, living in Toronto. Ask questions via dugdeep dot gmail dot com.