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Can Drinking Coffee Give You Headaches?


Lots of folks enjoy a nice cup of joe in the morning. But if you ever get a headache after coffee, you may wonder if your beloved caffeinated beverage is to blame. According to recent research, it might depend on how much java you drink in a day.

An August 2019 study published in The American Journal of Medicine found that consuming three or more caffeinated beverages may trigger migraines that same day or the following day. While migraines are perhaps best known for being excruciating headaches, they can also lead to symptoms of nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and changes in mood. (Believe us, they can make a bad morning even worse.) 

In the study, researchers analyzed 98 adults with frequent migraines and had them complete diaries every morning and evening for six weeks. They recorded headache frequency, how many caffeinated beverages they consumed per day, as well as any other potential migraine triggers, including stress, lack of sleep, or alcohol intake.

“While some potential triggers — such as lack of sleep — may only increase migraine risk, the role of caffeine is particularly complex, because it may trigger an attack but also helps control symptoms,” said lead investigator Elizabeth Mostofsky, ScD, in a press release. “Caffeine’s impact depends both on dose and on frequency, but because there have been few prospective studies on the immediate risk of migraine headaches following caffeinated beverage intake, there is limited evidence to formulate dietary recommendations for people with migraines.” 

While this might seem like gloomy news for coffee enthusiasts, there is a silver lining: Drinking one to two servings of caffeinated beverages was not linked with a higher risk of migraines in the study. So if you’re just worried about getting a headache, you probably don’t have to give up your java for good. “One serving of caffeine is typically defined as eight ounces or one cup of caffeinated coffee, six ounces of tea, a 12-ounce can of soda, and a 2-ounce can of an energy drink,” said Mostofsky. 

If you’ve been dealing with lots of painful headaches, talk to your doctor about your options. They might just have the perfect solution for you!

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