Caffeine Withdrawal – Why It Causes Those Nasty Headaches
Have you ever told yourself you’re going to kick the caffeine habit for good, only to put down that cup of java or refreshing cola and trade it in for a splitting headache? There’s a reason prying your hand off that mug isn’t as easy as you might have thought. Learn more about caffeine withdrawal and why it causes those nasty headaches.
Adenosine – The Caffeine – Blood Pressure Connection
There’s a reason a long-time coffee, tea or cola drinker has difficulty giving it up. Caffeine is a naturally addictive stimulant, which is enough to cause a withdrawal headache on its own. However, the deeper reason behind the sudden headache caused by caffeine withdrawal has a lot to do with blood pressure.
The human body produces a chemical called adenosine, which causes blood vessels to dilate and blood pressure to lower. Ordinarily, the body does not have any negative response to this natural dilation.
However, when caffeine is added for extended periods of time and then abruptly withdrawn, it causes blood vessels to become painful dilated, leading to a caffeine withdrawal headache.
Caffeine – Headache Cause and Cure
This is why caffeine is included in so many headache remedies, because it causes dilated blood vessels to constrict and reduce discomfort. The problem is, using it to treat a headache is one of the major causes of dependence.
According to a research study done by John Hopkins School of Medicine, caffeine changes the way adenosine affects the brain. Ordinarily, it inhibits the communication between one nerve cell and another. Since caffeine is structurally similar to adenosine, it fools the body by binding itself to receptors usually reserved for the naturally-occurring chemical. This causes the stimulant effect.
During one study, rats were fed a small amount of caffeine equivalent to one cup of coffee for an ordinary adult. It was then abruptly withdrawn and blood pressure dropped plummeted. The hypothesis is that when caffeine is taken into the body at regular intervals, adenosine is blocked, causing the body to produce much more of it than it should. Sudden withdrawal of the stimulant causes a flood of it to enter the body and cause an adenosine-induced headache.
When cutting caffeine from the diet, it is best to do so gradually to avoid withdrawal headaches and other withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, shakiness and nausea.