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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why Caffeine Withdrawal Produces Headaches

Most coffee drinkers get a headache if they don't have their morning fix. Scientists now know why. The caffeine in coffee is similar in structure to adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that causes calming, relaxation, sleep, and also a dilation of blood vessels and a lowering of blood pressure. Adenosine is essentially a tranquilizer. When coffee is consumed caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in the brain. The body then produces extra adenosine receptors to soak up circulating adenosine. But when caffeine is stopped, those extra adenosine receptors soak up all the circulating adenosine and this causes a dilation of blood vessels in the brain which leads to a headache. After a day or two (or up to a month in some coffee drinkers) caffeine withdrawal headaches cease because the number of adenosine receptors diminishes to a normal level again.

  1. Brody, Jane E. 1982. "Bodily Interaction Found To Explain Caffeine Withdrawal Headache." New York Times. April 24. (Accessed Mar 2, 2009.)

1 comment: said...

Good information. When my wife stops drinking Dr. Pepper, as she has quit several times, she too gets headaches from the caffeine withdrawals.


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