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Why Does Caffeine Give Me a Headache?

The average American consumes 227 milligrams of caffeine every day -- equal to about three cups of coffee. For most people, caffeine is perfectly harmless and triggers no side effects. In more sensitive people, however, it might trigger anything from shakiness to dehydration to increased urination. Some people might also develop headaches associated with caffeine.

Amount of Caffeine

You might be getting headaches if you’re consuming very high amounts of caffeine. According to Ask the Dietitian, this is particularly common in people who get caffeine from multiple sources. For example, you might be getting caffeine from coffee and thinking that’s all you need to consider. However, caffeine can also be found in soda, energy drinks, chocolate, tea, sport drinks and certain pain medication. Headaches might develop if you consume 200 milligrams to 500 milligrams of caffeine per day.

Dealing With Caffeine Excess

Can Too Much Caffeine Give You a Headache?

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If you believe you’re consuming too much caffeine, write down everything you drink or eat that contains it. Look for other symptoms that might indicate you’re consuming too much caffeine, such as tremors and irregular heartbeats. Also, try eating something along with your coffee, so the caffeine won’t hit you on an empty stomach. Caffeine on an empty stomach can trigger side effects more rapidly.

Lack of Caffeine

While you might think that your headache is connected to consuming caffeine, it might actually be the opposite. If you’re used to drinking large amounts of caffeine, significantly reducing the amount you consume might trigger a withdrawal headache. For example, let’s say you normally drink a 16-ounce cup of coffee in the morning. Then you decide to switch to a regular 6-ounce cup of coffee. Anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes after drinking that small cup of coffee, you develop a headache. As your body processes the caffeine, your body might realize there’s not enough of it and a headache ensues.

Headache Relief

Can Excess Caffeine Cause Rashes?

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Although caffeine can cause headaches in some people, it can also have the opposite effect. In some people, caffeine helps relieve headaches. In fact, caffeine is also added to over-the-counter pain relievers. According to the National Headache Foundation, pain relievers with caffeine are up to 40 percent more effective than those without caffeine.