Hunting Headaches – 2 Years Later

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Two years ago I began tracking headache data. Fresh off of other health victories such as getting lean, curing my rosacea and ending back pain, I was confident that with enough data and experimentation I could eliminate or greatly reduce my night headaches.

I never thought this experiment would go on for two years.

The good news is I’ve eliminated so many suspects. The bad news is I haven’t won this battle and it appears that the one variable that I’ve found is most correlated with the headaches is my good friend coffee.

When I dropped my caffeine levels super low in October, my headache levels dropped to an all-time low. Since then I’ve been gradually increasing my coffee levels with a plan to cut back again once the sun arrived to Seattle. The reintroduction of higher coffee levels would also provide more points of data. I’m not a statistical guru, but this pattern seems clear.

MonthDaily Coffee AverageDaily Headache Average
Oct 20120.000.58
Nov 20121.130.70
Dec 20121.771.10
Jan 20131.711.03
Feb 20132.711.07
Mar 20133.251.46

As the average coffee level increases, so does the average daily headache intensity.

headache-coffee

This chart shows 2 years worth of data. On three cases when my average coffee intake spiked, my average headache intensity increased. And the two cases where I drastically cut back on coffee, average headaches intensity noticeably dropped. Now before someone says correlation does not imply causation, this is all I have to work with. Weather patterns, food restriction or taking a battery of nutritional supplements showed zero correlation.

Espresso Endgame

Why did I increase my coffee levels so much recently? The primary reason is that I pulled my espresso machine out of storage and placed it back on the kitchen counter. Espresso has less caffeine than brewed coffee, but is far more addicting. When you nail a perfect espresso shot, it provides a flavor stimulus that brewed coffee can’t even come close to hitting. As my flavor stimulus increased, so did my consumption level. When I did the detox, I intentionally used a flavor deconditioning strategy which I described in the article A Month Without Coffee.

This sucks, but I’m now convinced I need to sell my espresso machine. I’ll save my espresso drinking for the cafes. Let us hope that is enough. If not, I may have to move away from Seattle. My guess is having an espresso addiction in Seattle is like having a gambling addiction in Vegas.

6 thoughts on “Hunting Headaches – 2 Years Later

  1. @Kara – Thank you for sharing that. This part stuck out the most to me:

    Caffeine destabilizes your nervous system in other ways. A diuretic, caffeine speeds elimination of many minerals and vitamins, such as potassium, zinc, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C and the B vitamins (especially the anti-stress vitamin B1). This can lead to deficiencies, which increase anxiety, panic, mood swings and fatigue.

    Right now I am fighting the urge to turn on my espresso machine. That article is helping.

  2. I had a dream last night where I put on the One Ring of Power and got a chocolate buzz, which scared me more than the shadow world would have.

    You have my sympathies. Quitting a stimulant is hard. What do you replace it with? At least Spring is on its way.

  3. @Anemone – For me half the battle is removing the flavor stimulus. Going from espresso to brewed coffee to tea has worked well for me. Even gradually introducing defects into the beverage helps decouple taste from the stimulate.

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