Going without your daily cup of coffee can lead to a blinding headache, even if you only drink one or two cups a day. A headache is only one withdrawal symptom of the dependency that this popular beverage causes. Fortunately, a headache caused by coffee withdrawal is easy to treat, and you may even be able to prevent one if you prepare your exit from the ranks of coffee drinkers with care.
Coffee is popular the world over and many people can't seem to start the day without a freshly brewed cup. But the caffeine content of coffee doesn't only perk you up and increase your energy levels. It also can affect your brain in ways that make you suffer withdrawal symptoms when you have gone without coffee for only a day. Brewed coffee contains about 100 to 150 mg of caffeine, while espresso contains 80 to 120 mg per shot. The more coffee your drink, the more likely you are to experience withdrawal symptoms, including headaches.
Caffeine withdrawal occurs because the daily ingestion of caffeine changes the blood flow in the brain. In particular, blood flow is slowed when you ingest a daily cup or two of coffee and increases when you have gone without a caffeine infusion for a while. It only takes seven days of regular coffee consumption to create a dependency that can cause withdrawal symptoms when you stop. Consuming as little as 100 mg of caffeine can keep withdrawal headaches at bay for most people, and some people avoid headaches with as little as 25 mg of daily caffeine intake, according to the American Headache Society. However, some people may have a genetic resistance to developing dependency and never notice withdrawal headaches or other symptoms.
People who are experiencing caffeine withdrawal might also feel less alert and energetic in addition to developing a headache. Other symptoms include fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Some people also become irritable and anxious without their daily cup of coffee.
Drinking a small amount of coffee generally relieves a caffeine-withdrawal-induced headache. If you don't want to start drinking coffee again, over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen can all help ease your headache. If you have to stop drinking coffee, gradually reducing the amount you drink instead of quitting cold turkey might help prevent the development of caffeine withdrawal symptoms.