Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sniffing out the Enemy

Do you love the smell of a freshly brewed cup of coffee the way I do? I can almost taste it. But recently I’ve concluded that coffee is probably the culprit.

I realized that my headaches had actually started in Italy, when I was availing myself of espressos and cappuccinos at every opportunity and delighting in using our Italian coffee pot in Praiano. I had attributed those headaches to dehydration, but maybe not.

When I was talking to my friend Lora who had been troubled with migraines all her life, she mentioned that she had gone through a food elimination test and determined that coffee was definitely her trigger. She hasn’t had a migraine in two years since giving up coffee.

Note that I didn’t say caffeine, just coffee. She can still drink tea with no problem.

This was at about the point where I was going in for the MRI’s. I decided to go off the coffee wagon just to see if it made a difference.

Since then, no more headaches, not even one. My whole body rhythm seems to have been restored, leaving behind the highs and lows that had come to so characterize my day.

Does this mean I will never again drink a cup of coffee? Probably not. But it will be only occasionally.

I confess that I do miss my morning jolt, but I much prefer to have an untroubled head and not be on such a caffeine roller coaster.

I would love to better understand the chemistry of coffee and how it can have such far-reaching effects.

Anybody else out there with an opinion on coffee?


Blogger Kristin said...

I have several problems with caffeine, in general, from anxiety and jitters to other more personal issues. That doesn't mean I don't drink it but I know that I might be in for a world of hurt when I do.

1:13 PM  
Blogger media concepts said...

Maybe you hit upon a new discovery. The cw is that it's the caffeine, which constricts blodd vessels and which some say causes headaches. On the other hand, some also say that migraines are caused by the blood vessels being dilated (open too far), and guess what many migraine meds have in them -- caffeine! That happens to me, and Excedrin (with caf) works for me every time. When did headaches develop niche specialties?

2:30 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Oh, I can SO identify with this post.

A couple of weeks ago, I began having mysterious stomach trouble. It went away and then returned, and I think one of the culprits may be coffee. I don't drink much of it, but I think I'll have to give it up. *sigh*

Maybe we can just brew it in the morning and SMELL it??

3:03 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- It's interesting that we often throw caution to the wind and do things we know will affect us adversely.

MC -- I just spent the last 5 minutes Googling CW to decide you probably mean "conventional wisdom", right? I would love to see a scientific study of how this all works. What I least understand is why caffeinated tea doesn't have the same effect on me. Maybe it's the amount of caffeine?

When I was 12 years old I was somewhat addicted to Excedrin. I came home from school everyday with a killer headache and proceeded to pop an Excedrin and wash it down with a bottle of Pepsi. Plenty of caffeine to get rid of the headache and get the homework done fast!

3:07 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- Coffee is not kind to my stomach either, especially the strong kind I like so much. I'll bet someone has packaged the aroma, so we wouldn't even have to brew it! I wonder if the smell itself sets off any chemical reactions in the brain? Sounds like a good science fair project...

3:09 PM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

I once had an autistic student who had migraines. Because of his lack of communication, he couldn't tell us as they were gathering, he would get sick and start banging his head on any hard surface. I did a little research and found that most migraines are caused from caffiene withdrawal. I was surprised at how many food naturally have caffiene. Or drinks, such as hot cocoa.

I drink coffee during the school year, but not during the summer. I allow my body to rest and after the withdrawals, only make cappucinos for breakfast on the weekends.

I think you probably can still drink decaffienated coffee... and they make some very good decaf these days. Also, different types of coffee have more caffeine.... perked versus drip versus steamed. French Press has the most (no duh!).

3:23 PM  
Blogger steve said...

Coffee don't affect me no more...takes something considerably stronger, and I don't go there. I drink about a pot a day at work, but its just a beverage.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kelly -- I do like decaf, but not as much as the real thing. I love that initial jolt, even though in the long run I think that's the problem.

Interesting story about your student. Were you able to work with his parents to cut out the caffeine in his diet? If so, did that decrease the number of headaches?

Steve -- I'm going to have to call you Steve #1 to distinguish you from Steve #2 (NYC) who already commented. You are way too tough to let caffeine get the better of you. Of course you can drink a pot of coffee a day and not feel at thing. If I did that, I'd be bouncing off the walls and have terminal insomnia!

4:42 PM  
Anonymous lr said...

Barbara, you mentioned in your post that you thought your headache problem could have been dehydration. You may have been right on the money. If you were drinking much more coffee, you needed much more water, as the caffeine dehydrates a body. Definitely you should be able to drink decaffeinated coffee or less coffee and more water to reach a balance.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

LR -- Makes perfect sense. Coffee does tend to dehydrate a person.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

I love coffee, but I always become dependant on my one cup a day, so I periodically give it up - almost. I'm down to about once a week at the moment. The worst thing for me is if I have coffee after 3 pm or so, I'm completely wired until about 5:00 in the morning. That's the only way I ever see the sun come up!

1:09 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

You always feel better when you don't drink coffee, but coffee doesn't cause cluster headaches at the back of the head - it's a forehead headache.

And it certainly didn't cause the blurry vision. There's something more afoot with your head, but it certainly can't hurt you to switch to tea.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Cyndy -- I have the same reaction to coffee after 3 PM: guaranteed insomnia! That's what convinces me that that lovely fragrant brown liquid is BAD for me.

Reya -- I'm still on high alert for another cause, but will probably lose interest if I continue to be headache-free.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I always have coffee in the morning and usually it's 1/2 decaf and 1/2 regular. The smell is unbeatable, almost better than the taste! Same with chocolate...well, the taste is pretty darn good on that too!

Hope you're having a great summer. We're pretty wet up here but still warm and lots of bugs!

9:40 AM  

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