How To Curb Caffeine Headaches When You're Trying To Cut Back

If caffeine is a large part of your diet, you're not alone. Caffeine is one of the most consumed substances in the world, perhaps due to the extra energy boost it lends us during busy days (via Front Psychiatry). It's present in coffee, certain tea leaves, chocolate, soda beverages, and more. Unfortunately, there is a such thing as caffeine withdrawal, per Healthline. What's more, according to research published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, caffeine is a methylxanthine stimulant and one of the most widely used drugs in the world. If you consume it regularly, it's very possible to develop a dependence on it and which can create uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, which can include fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, nausea, and almost always a headache. 

Caffeine constricts blood vessels in the brain, slowing down blood flow (via research published in the journal Nutrients). By reducing your regular caffeine consumption, you suddenly open back up the blood vessels sending more blood flow back into the brain. It's believed that this rapid change is what leads to painful headaches. If you're one of the many people hoping to break free from the chains of caffeine, there are ways to minimize withdrawal headaches.

Take over the counter pain relievers

According to Medical News Today, the fastest way to treat a caffeine headache is to consume more caffeine. But if your goal is to reduce caffeine intake, over-the-counter pain medication, like Tylenol, ibuprofen, and aspirin, is your best bet to quickly relieve head tension due to their compound formulas that block pain signals. Be cautious of certain headache medicine like Excedrin and Excedrin Extra Strength as these formulas include caffeine, which will promptly get rid of your headache but unfortunately adds to substance attachment, creating the urge for more caffeine later down the line. 

Drink water and stay hydrated

If you feel a withdrawal headache coming on, immediately grab a cup of water. According to Medical News Today, when the body is dehydrated, it causes the brain to shrink in size and triggers pain receptors in the skull. Dehydration can also heighten other withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue and inability to concentrate (via research published in Stat Pearls). It's important to keep the body hydrated, as water can act as fuel and helps to maintain the body's energy level, per NBC News.

Cut back slowly

If you're deciding to ditch caffeine for good, going cold turkey could be the culprit to your headaches. It's important when curbing caffeine to work slowly to gently ween the body off. According to medical professionals at the Cleveland Clinic, it's crucial to incrementally decrease your intake to avoid headaches. They recommend setting a time limit of 2 p.m. to restrict caffeine drinks and allow the body energizing rest for the latter half of the day. You can also swap your caffeinated drinks for decaf options like hot tea or sparkling water. 

Eat nutrient rich foods

Caffeine is not the only source of energy and when looking to curb your withdrawal headaches, it's important to eat a balanced diet that continues to fuel the body. Consuming high-processed, sugary foods, and alcohol will only further contribute to low energy levels and withdrawal symptoms, per Healthline. Instead, choose to eat a well-balanced highly nutritious diet that will send vitamins to your system and increase energy levels. Foods that specifically help with headache relief include leafy greens, nuts, fatty fish, hot peppers, and ginger (via the Spin and Pain Clinics of North America). Increase these in your diet as you create a lower-caffeinated lifestyle. 

Get enough sleep

As you start to decrease your caffeine, it's common to feel fatigued or unable to concentrate. This stress on the body could also be contributing to your withdrawal headaches (via Healthline). It's important at this time not to put pressure on the body to perform or create strain for yourself. Allow for restorative rest when you feel called to and honor the transition your body is going through as it continues to detox. Make sure your body is getting enough sleep, and create a new healthier sleep pattern now that you aren't relying on caffeine for energy.

Take magnesium for headaches

According to the American Migraine Foundation, magnesium is one of the best natural medicine to both prevent and treat migraines. Researchers have found that it may prevent the wave of brain signaling and block pain-transmitting chemicals in the brain such as Substance P and glutamate. Magnesium may also prevent the constriction of brain blood vessels caused by the neurotransmitter serotonin which typically occurs during caffeine consumption. One study found that people who took magnesium supplements regularly experienced 43% fewer headaches than participants taking placebos while another study found that magnesium users had fewer migraine attacks than nonusers (via WebMD). Making magnesium supplements part of your dietary lifestyle could be a great way to help curb the onset of withdrawal headaches.