For me, the smell of freshly brewed coffee is the equivalent of a comforting, warm hug. Those first few sips hardly disappoint either, as I'm instantly energized to take on the day. But, all good things come to an end after too many caramel-infused cups leave me with a headache.
That's just one example of how complicated my relationship with caffeine can be — and I know I'm not alone in feeling this love-hate connection.
"Genetically, we all metabolize caffeine differently. Although caffeine can help to reduce headaches (by restricting inflammation!), it can also bring one on by its impact of narrowing blood vessels in the brain," Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, a Clear Probiotics scientific advisor and the president of KAK Consulting, says.
The amount of sleep you're getting, your diet, if you're prone to migraines, and your water intake directly influences your caffeine-headache vulnerability, she adds. That's why talking to a doctor about your lifestyle and how quickly your body metabolizes caffeine are important steps towards feeling better.
Depending on the medications you take, adding caffeine into the mix can encourage migraines, too — which is another topic worth discussing with a medical professional.
One thing is for sure: it takes some trial-and-error (under your doctor's guidance) to truly understand how caffeine impacts your life and how to adjust accordingly.
"Any amount of caffeine will provide some alertness, so I often tell my patients who get headaches to limit their consumption to safer levels (about 400 mg a day) and to space out their cups," Kirkpatrick says.
"For example, if someone wants about four cups a day, space out every three hours. Or if two cups, then having one cup in the [morning] and one cup in the afternoon."
If you're going above that 400 mg a day quota (your sugary beverage add-ins could be part of that problem!), it could be best to scale back and see how you feel.