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We’ve all been there, we didn’t get our morning (or mid-morning/afternoon/mid-afternoon/evening) cup of coffee and you feel a dull ache starting to develop. If you’re a caffeine lover (like myself) your dull ache might develop into a raging headache within the next couple of hours unless you can find some liquid caffeinated relief.
While the exact reasons that caffeine and caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches are not well understood, there are several things you can do to get rid of a caffeine headache and prevent them in the future.
With that being said, If you want to get rid of caffeine headaches permanently, detox from caffeine. It may feel like you have your head in a vice for a few days but the end result may be worth it to you: no more caffeine aches in your head, increased energy, improved gut health, etc. If that’s appealing, check out our Caffeine Detox Guide.
What Causes A Caffeine Headache?
Caffeine related headaches can occur if you’ve had either less caffeine than usual or more than usual. Or if you had a normal amount of caffeine but not enough water. Or if you’ve had a normal amount of caffeine but had it on an empty stomach. Long story short, there are lots of reasons.
The prevailing theory about the cause of caffeine withdrawal headaches (important to understand if you want to get rid of caffeine headaches) goes something like this: when you intake caffeine it causes the blood vessels in and around your brain. Over time your body recognizes this and, since your brain is pretty important, increases the diameter of your vessels, even when you’ve had caffeine.
If you don’t have caffeine in your body to restrict their size, the vessels end up larger than they were to begin with. The increased swelling and pressure in your head end up manifesting as a headache.
In this article, we’ll be focused mostly on caffeine headaches that are caused by caffeine withdrawals or skipping your daily cup.
7 Ways To Get Rid of a Caffeine Headache
One of the most widely accepted facts about caffeine is that it acts as a diuretic in your body or, in other words, it makes you pee. If you regularly drink caffeine (especially if you drink it in place of water) then some of the headaches that you experience are likely a result of dehydration rather than caffeine.
A dehydration headache occurs when the body is low on water causing your brain to shrink, giving you a headache. If you want to get rid of a caffeine headache before it really hits you, drink 16oz water as soon as you feel it coming on. This is typically enough for me to escape the worst of it.
Gatorade can also be helpful in rehydrating and avoiding a headache if your body is low on fluids for any reason.
2. Eat an Apple
If you’re looking for something solid to add to your 16oz of water, an apple is a solid choice. If you typically have headaches later in the day, eating an apple in the morning (especially on an empty stomach) can help prevent them.
Not only are apples hydrating, but they are also packed with flavonoids which can help lower your blood pressure and reduce the effects of a pounding headache.
3. Use Peppermint Oil
One of the main problems with headaches is that it’s extremely difficult to know what causes them. Tension or stress headaches are often confused with caffeine headaches. This is especially true in my case as I tend (or tended) to drink huge amounts of caffeinated drinks when I was stressed. The ensuing headache could have been from either the caffeine or the tension I was experiencing.
Massaging peppermint oil (or lavender oil if you dislike peppermint) into your temples and the back of your neck (you’ll probably need help for that one) can not only relieve migraines but can reduce feelings of anxiety and even nausea.
If your headache is characterized by dull constant pressure or pain instead of sharp or throbbing pain, it’s likely a stress headache. However, this type of aromatherapy can be effective for getting rid of a caffeine headache as well.
In addition to headache relief, peppermint oil is also a natural remedy for gas, irritable bowel syndrome, itching, and muscle pain.
Some people use peppermint leaf or peppermint oil as a dietary supplement, and others use peppermint essential oil applied directly to the skin.
4. Take a Magnesium Supplement
One of the main reasons that people experience significant caffeine withdrawals (including caffeine headaches) is because they have several deficiencies caused by their extended caffeine use.
One of the main areas where caffeine-lovers fall short is in their magnesium absorption. In fact, the majority of people who have been using caffeine long-term have a magnesium deficiency which can be a significant source of headaches.
Luckily, the solution is quite simple. Just take some magnesium. Once you’ve stopped using caffeine your body can absorb all the caffeine you need so nearly any supplement with highly bioavailable magnesium will do the trick.
5. Take a Nap
When the leading headache pain medication tells you that a nap can be effective in treating a headache, I’d be inclined to listen to them.
In fact, a small study performed in 2009 found that 81% of people who regularly had tension headaches used naps as their #1 treatment for headaches. If you a prone to migraines, a similar study that a whopping 90% of people used sleep as a method for migraine relief.
While it isn’t foolproof, taking a nap can be a great way to reset and release some tension, both of which can be effective in providing some relief.
6. Try Other Adrenal Support Supplements
If you’re constantly stressed, there is a good possibility that you’ve been overtaxing your adrenal glands. This is especially true if you’ve been using caffeine which puts your body into a heightened state of stress as long as caffeine is in your body.
Any sort of chronic stress, caffeine-induced or not, can lead to adrenal imbalances or, as many people call it, adrenal fatigue. If this is the case for you, your headaches may arise in direct relation to caffeine use or stressful situations. While detoxing from caffeine is really the only effective way to allow your adrenal glands to recover, you can band-aid the situation short term by supplementing with either DLPA or Tyrosine, the building blocks for most of what they do.
7. Take an OTC med without caffeine
If you’re withdrawing from caffeine or simply have a headache from missing your morning coffee, getting caffeine into your system is the most effective way to get some relief. In fact, caffeine is an incredibly effective headache reliever and also increases the effectiveness of many medicines (which is the reason it’s included in headache meds)
However, if you’re trying to avoid caffeine (good for you!) then you’ll want to try an over-the-counter pain reliever that does not contain it. Different medications would well for different people but, personally, I ended up taking Aleve that last time I had a tension/caffeine headache and it worked wonders!
It has probably become painfully obvious at this point that you should be getting off caffeine. While all the above methods will help you get rid of a caffeine headache, it’s only a temporary respite if you keep punishing your adrenal glands, stress hormones, and stomach with even the healthiest caffeinated beverages. So, once you get over your current headache and can think clearly again, consider a detox!