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Does Caffeine Help with Migraine Symptoms?

Managing Migraine

March 14, 2024

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Photography by Juanma Hache/Getty Images

Photography by Juanma Hache/Getty Images

by Beth Ann Mayer


Medically Reviewed by:

Susan W. Lee, DO


by Beth Ann Mayer


Medically Reviewed by:

Susan W. Lee, DO


Caffeine can help or worsen migraine symptoms. You can monitor how your body feels after consuming caffeine and make adjustments to meet your unique needs. Here’s how.

Caffeine acts as a stimulant and can affect the brain and nervous system, but can it also make your migraine symptoms worse?

The tl;dr version is a common refrain in the migraine community: It depends on the individual, and researchers still haven’t figured out why.

Here’s what we know about caffeine and migraine triggers and attacks, including why it might worsen or improve your symptoms.

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Is caffeine a migraine trigger?

For some people, it’s believed that caffeine can trigger migraine attacks. But it’s not a universal experience.

Research also hasn’t confirmed a definitive link between caffeine and migraine attacks.

A small 2019 study of 98 people found that consuming high amounts of caffeinated beverages could trigger a migraine headache on the same day.

A 2020 research review of 21 studies suggests two possible reasons that caffeine could result in migraine attacks, including the overconsumption of and withdrawal from caffeine.

The authors also point out that caffeine is a natural diuretic. In other words, it makes you pee more, helping your body eliminate excess water. This can lead to dehydration, another possible migraine trigger.

You may also lose the mineral magnesium when you urinate frequently, which can potentially trigger a headache or migraine attack.

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But … can caffeine also help migraine?

Take a look at the labels of drugs commonly used to treat migraine episodes, such as Excedrin, and you may see caffeine. If caffeine can trigger migraine, why is it being used to help treat it?

In the same 2020 research review mentioned above, the authors suggest that caffeine’s ability to block adenosine may be at play.

Caffeine also affects the trigeminal pain pathway, a nerve involved in relaying pain signals to the brain that’s thought to play a crucial role in migraine.

How to know if caffeine will help your migraine

Since caffeine’s effect on migraine is highly personal, you’ll want to determine which “camp” you fit into — and how much caffeine you can handle.

It may take some trial and error, but keeping a headache journal can help you track symptoms.

Consider logging:

  • the time of day you consumed caffeine
  • what the caffeinated beverage was
  • the amount of caffeine consumed
  • any other food or drink you consumed with caffeine
  • medications you took before or after consuming caffeine
  • the environment you were in during and after, like lighting and noise level
  • where you’re at in your menstrual cycle, if applicable

From there, you can track any migraine symptoms that occur, including when they happen and what they feel like. Armed with this data, you can determine whether caffeine — or a specific amount of caffeine — triggers migraine attacks for you.

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How much caffeine is a good idea with migraine?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, so taking steps to figure out your limits is so important.

The research review authors suggest there wasn’t enough evidence to say that every person with migraine should stop consuming caffeine. They recommended limiting daily caffeine intake to 200 milligrams (mg), or about 1 cup of coffee.

The authors of a 2019 study suggest that 1–2 daily caffeine servings did not appear to increase headache odds, but 3 or more servings seemed to.

However, it’s important to note that the amount of caffeine in one serving can vary. For instance, an 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 135–150 mg of caffeine, while 6 ounces of tea could have between 25–110 mg. The authors didn’t track foods with caffeine, like chocolate.

Still, others may track their consumption of caffeine and find they cannot tolerate any without experiencing a migraine episode.

Frequently asked questions

Get the facts about the relationship between caffeine and migraine:

Does black coffee help with headaches?

Some people find that coffee in any form helps with headaches. However, adding sugar may change that.

Research from 2022 suggests there could be a link between blood sugar imbalances and migraine, and a 2023 study suggests there’s a potential genetic link between blood sugar and migraine.

Minimizing sugar intake might help keep migraine at bay, but again, it depends on the person. Some people may find that any coffee worsens their headaches, whether it has sugar or not.

How much caffeine is too much?

It depends on the person. However, some research suggests that up to 200 mg of caffeine daily — or about one to two servings of it — won’t trigger migraine.

A small study suggests that three or more servings of daily caffeine could increase headache chances. For some, any amount of caffeine is too much and triggers migraine.

Does Coke help migraine?

Caffeine may help some people with migraine feel better but trigger or worsen migraine attacks in others.

A 12-ounce can of soda contains about 46 mg of caffeine, which is less than the approximately 150 mg in an 8-ounce cup of coffee. You’ll want to pay attention to your body’s cues as to whether caffeine helps or worsens your condition and the optimal amount, if any, for you.

It’s also important to pay attention to the effect sugar may have on migraine.

What other drinks help migraine?

Remaining hydrated can be an important way to reduce migraine attacks and help relieve symptoms during episodes.

Plain drinking water is an excellent option because it has no added sugars or caffeine, which might trigger or worsen migraine for some.

Others may find caffeinated beverages help with migraine, so a cup of coffee or tea may provide relief.

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Caffeine may trigger migraine attacks, worsen them, or have a soothing effect. In fact, caffeine is an ingredient in some first-line drugs commonly used to alleviate migraine symptoms.

It sounds contradictory because it is. Migraine research is still limited and inconclusive on the link between episodes and caffeine.

Trial and error and keeping a headache diary can help you determine whether caffeine is a trigger or could help for your migraine attacks.

Medically reviewed on March 14, 2024

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About the author

Beth Ann Mayer

Beth Ann Mayer is a New York-based freelance writer and content strategist who specializes in health and parenting writing. Her work has been published in Parents, Shape, and Inside Lacrosse. She is a co-founder of digital content agency Lemonseed Creative and is a graduate of Syracuse University. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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