Monday, May 4, 2009

How powerful is caffeine as a migraine trigger?

When I first began the Dr. David Buchholz migraine-free diet two years ago, I went cold turkey on all triggers. I didn't eat any triggers for one whole year. That's right. I didn't cheat once. It took me about 8 months to feel normal as a human being after following a horrible diet my whole life. It doesn't take everyone this long. Usually people notice a difference within two weeks and feel great within two to three months. I noticed a difference within two weeks, felt better within two months, and felt great in eight months. I was an extremely severe case. After about one year, I decided to cheat once with french fries and cheese. I remember feeling a little dizzy the next day. No big deal. I was still on the diet and still in control. Two weeks later I decided to cheat again, this time with chocolate and something else with nitrates, although I don't remember what the other item was. And, this time I had a headache. I am now on a preventive medication (step 3 in the 1-2-3 program) so that I can eat out with friends sometimes, and not be rude at people's houses when meals are prepared. Some people are more sensitive to triggers than others and need preventive help.

A few months ago, I decided to have some Dr. Pepper on an outing with some friends. Before beginning the diet two years ago, I was a Mountain Dew addict of the worst kind. My one Dr. Pepper that day led to one the next day, and a couple the next day, and you get the idea. Now I feel a need to have it and am having a horrible time releasing myself as a slave to it. You might say it is an addiction, and maybe it is, but I actually see it as a trigger holding my body captive. Caffeine shrinks the blood vessels. So, when I don't drink it, they swell. Every time I try to go cold turkey, I get a four day migraine, and eventually can't stand it anymore. So I drink a Dr. Pepper and the next day the headache is gone. It's like a drug that my body can't live without because my blood vessels need to be shrunk or my head feels as if it will explode. When I started the diet two years ago I was used to being in pain daily and didn't notice the difference the lack of caffeine made. Now that I'm not used to the pain, I can't deal with it. The preventive medication I'm on will not help me with this. I can cheat with other triggers and go back to living my life normally. But, other triggers don't shrink the blood vessels. So, Dr. Buchholz was right when he told us DO NOT EVER TRY CAFFEINE AGAIN!

I know that revealing this information may hurt some of my credibility with people who follow my site or who wish to buy my cookbook. But, I feel it is important that everyone know why you should NEVER cheat with caffeine.

Update 05/25/09:
I can happily say I am now completely caffeine free! I had a headache for about three days, but going cold turkey was the best way. It was quick and relatively painless. Few of the symptoms I used to feel with migraine plagued me during those three days. Some people don't feel anything at all. I picked a week when there were no barometric pressure changes to bother me, and I kept all other triggers out of the picture. My last encounter with caffeine was a little over a week ago, and the only side effect I still have is a little bit of what I call "cement muscles". My muscles tend to be a little tight, but that is no big deal compared to a headache. Neck and back stretches can cure that. Please friends, do not be afraid to eliminate caffeine from your diet. I feel so much better overall, and I can't stress that enough. Best wishes to you.

12 comments:

  1. I've had migraines for 27 years needless to say how much pain i have suffer all those years. But i have try to drink coffee with no caffeine or try not to drink coffee at all. Well the migraines are so severe i had to go to the emergency room where they had to inject me. How can i change this? please any answer would be appreciated

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  2. 27 years is a long time to be in pain.
    Even decaffeinated coffee has some natural chemicals in it that can cause migraines in some people. The first thing you can do is find Dr. Buchholz's book. You can probably find it at your local library, but trust me, you will want your own copy. It explains a three step program for healing your headaches. The first step is to rid yourself of medications. Many of the medicines prescribed for migraines can cause rebound migraines themselves. The second step, which can be done simultaneously, is to change your diet. Many people have tried to rid themselves of one trigger at a time. The problem is, then there are other triggers left in the body to cause havoc. If you rid your body of all triggers at once, you will notice a difference in about two weeks. Two weeks is nothing compared to 27 years. Then, you will probably feel much, much better in a couple of months. Read my other post about migraine trigger studies. The final step, if you need it by then, is preventive medication. The diet can be liberalized after strict adherence in the beginning, which means you can start adding back in a few of the less risky food items, and you can start figuring out exactly which triggers are a problem for you. Not every migraine trigger is a problem for everyone. Dr. Buchholz's method has helped many people who were thought to be "incurable". If you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask. Best wishes, and I hope my recipes help you on your migraine-free journey.

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  3. Thanks for your comments about caffeine. It is the one thing I am having a hard time giving up from the list of migraine triggers. Your comments have helped me to focusore on living a caffeine free life, and ultimately putting an end to my migraine issues.

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  4. I'm so glad! It was the hardest thing for me to give up too. It seems to be extremely addictive! However, it is not healthy for us, and I know you will be able to to rid your life of it too. Best wishes. :)

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  5. Ironically lots of migraine sufferers use caffeine to combat migraines. Cafergot, one of the first medicines used to treat migraines contains two active ingredients: ergotamine and caffeine. "Although the cause of migraine attacks is not fully understood, it is thought that widening of blood vessels in the brain causes the throbbing pain of migraine headaches. Ergotamine relieves this pain by causing the blood vessels in the brain to narrow." And the caffeine helps the ergotamine. So I think it depends on the person - this whole caffeine issue. Cafergot is still widely used for those who cannot tolerate imitrex and other medicines that really effect your cardiovascular system. I for one use caffeine, whether in coffee or soda form, whenever I get a migraine if I don't have other medicine available.

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  6. Hello truebluemeandyou, everything you mention about medicines containing ergotamine, as well as many over-the-counter migraine treatments, is true. The reason we need to avoid caffeine is BECAUSE it narrows the blood vessels, and then they widen again. It is a quick-fix remedy, not a healing remedy. When the blood vessels widen, they can widen to a larger degree than they were previously, which is rebound. It may take a couple of days, even a couple of weeks, or just a few hours, but it can happen. If food triggers are eliminated, headaches will be much less severe, but if caffeine is still getting in the way, this can't happen. Also, if food triggers are eliminated, unavoidable triggers such as stress are less likely to cause headaches as well. The elimination diet (including elimination of caffeine) is itself a preventive.

    On a personal note: I do understand the urge to reach for caffeine. I was given many goodies over the holiday season by students, friends, and family - and by goodies I mean chocolate and other such yummies. I didn't want to throw gifts out, and I happen to love chocolate, so I ate them. I also ate some other food around Thanksgiving time that I wasn't supposed to eat, so I had a massive headache. It wouldn't go away, so I reached for caffeine and ibuprofen. (Triptans don't work for me.) I thought that if I only did it once, I might be okay. I didn't drink caffeine for several days, but then I had another headache because of the chocolate, so I reached for more caffeine. I was then in a rebound cycle, and I could tell. I would have been better off to go one more day and let the headache subside, but I didn't, and now I'm hooked on caffeine WITH a rebound headache cycle. I will need to go cold turkey again to eliminate my symptoms. Please take my advice friends: caffeine is not your friend, even though it may seem like a welcome friend in the midst of a terrible headache.

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  7. I just began the diet - it has only been 3 days. I am completely miserable. The headache is 10x worse than it's been over my past 28 years of my headache history... is this REALLY how it's supposed to be? Will this eventually stop?? HELP???!!!!

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  8. To your first question: for some people, yes, in the beginning. To your second question: yes. Hang in there. You should come through better than you were for the last ten years. If you're seeing a difference, obviously something needed to change, yes? Be strong. Many of us have been there. You can make it too! Think about what's on the other side.

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  9. I have a gal-pal who has a multitude of allergies, aches and pains, and personality querks. She drinks Diet Dr. Pepper constantly because, she insists, it keeps her from having migraine headaches. Aspartame is the third ingredient, preceded only by water and caramel color. I'm very concerned for her health and would appreciate any advice. We are both senior citizens.

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  10. Hi. I just started the diet three weeks ago for chronic, daily headaches. After 3 weeks, my headaches have lessened in terms of severity, but they are still present nonetheless. My doctor says that it will take 4-6 weeks for the inflammation to heal and the headaches to disappear. Does this about right to you? I've read lots of reviews on this book and many people seem to feel better much faster.

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  11. Hello, for me its now week 3 with the Dr. Buchholz Diet, and I am excited to say that the migraine has lessened and I have whole days and nights with no headaches. I avoid all known triggers, stay away from caffeine and alcohol. I also live gluten and dairy free for the last 1 year. Dr. Buchholz' regimen is fantastic.

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  12. New Diet Taps into Innovative Plan to Help Dieters Get Rid Of 23 Pounds within Just 21 Days!

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