Using Energy Drinks

Many clusterheadache patients have heard that drinking energy drinks can abort an attack just about as well as oxygen. Most of us have discovered that they also stop those nasty shadows we all experience that most doctors still refuse to acknowledge are part of the cluster headache symptomology.
I was hoping to find some great clinical studies on the effectiveness of taurine and caffeine as a cluster headache abortive to help support our anecdotal evidence. Unfortunately, there’s just not much available.
Well shoot. I guess I can give you what I found, and then share my personal experiences.

  • Taurine has been found working deep in the brain in the regulatory area of the thalamus and is possibly involved in regulating the sleep/wake cycle
  • Taurine helps regulate the level of water and mineral salts in the blood
  • Taurine supports neurological development
  • When combined with caffeine, taurine may improve mental performance
  • It is safe to take up to 3000 mg a day, but long term or heavy use effects are unknown
  • What is not used by the body is excreted by kidneys
  • Taurine is the building block of protein and can be made by the body with proper nutrition in most people
  • Taurine improves glucose tolerance
  • Taurine is vital for proper functioning of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium
  • Taurine regulates heart rhythm and blood pressure
  • Taurine regulates neuron excitability
  • Taurine detoxifies liver by helping to form bile acids
  • Taurine reduces cholesterol
  • Natural sources of taurine are milk, meat, fish, eggs, and seaweed

My experience…

My first experience with energy drinks had nothing to do with cluster headaches. I was in graduate school, taking classes 2 nights a week after work. These classes would last until 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. After working all day, it took a lot to keep me alert. In a desperate attempt to stay awake, my classmates and I started chugging energy drinks. At that time, my favorite was Rockstar. I probably drank at least 4 or 5 of them each week.
I started getting nasty rebound headaches from caffeine withdrawal, so I backed off on the Rockstar. Then a classmate was taken to the ER after having a seizure. She had no history of epilepsy and the seizure was attributed to her use of energy drinks. Her driving privileges were suspended for 6 months. I couldn’t afford to not drive (it was required for my job) so I swore off energy drinks and even banned them from the house so my teenagers wouldn’t get them either.
Fast-forward about 5 years..
I started working online with a great group of clusterheads. Many of them swore by Red Bull, Rockstar, and other energy drinks. They specified that only the ones with taurine seemed to be effective. I was still hesitant. I also get migraines and didn’t want to worsen one headache disorder by trying to treat another. I was concerned that all the artificial additives in energy drinks might be a migraine trigger. So I waited and slowly began to read labels, trying to find one that might be safe enough to try.
In time, I discovered that the AMP brand might be an option. I purchased one to try, making sure I had plenty of other abortives on hand just in case it failed. It wasn’t long before I had an opportunity to try it out. It wasn’t bad. The trick was to chug it quickly while still cold. I found this easier to accomplish by using a straw. Basically, it helped the shadows about as well as a soft drink helped a migraine. It doesn’t always work, but when used in combination with abortives and other comfort measures, it’s a nice-to-have in the arsenal.
I also tried taking two 500 mg Taurine capsules. They didn’t work as well. My best guess is that it took too long for the capsules to digest in order to do any good. I’ve thought about taking it daily for awhile or finding it in a liquid form. I might do that someday if my current preventive regimen loses its effectiveness. For now, I’ll just stick with what’s working.

In summary..

Unless you have a medical condition that contraindicates the use of energy drinks, it might be worth keeping a few cans available in the refrigerator in case of an attack. It is my opinion that drinking more than one a day or combining it with alcohol or other caffeinated beverages might not be such a good idea. If you feel jittery or have difficulty sleeping, energy drinks might not be right for you. As always, check with your health care provider before starting, stopping, or changing any medications or supplements.

Online resources:

What’s inside: Red Bull
The Forgotten Longevity Benefits of Taurine
Men’s Fitness Supplement Guide: Taurine

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