More than 300 million people worldwide experience severe or debilitating headaches. Migraines alone affect 9 percent of the U.S. population and cost $1 billion a year in direct medical expenses. The incidence of individuals who suffer migraine headaches has increased by 50 percent within the last 20 years with 75 percent of migraine sufferers being women.
There are various types of headaches, including pituitary (pressure type headaches), ovarian (menstrual type), hypoglycemic (worse on an empty stomach), periodic, adrenal, thyroid, hepatic, sinus, occipital, aneurysm, menopausal, and food allergy or intolerance.
A significant number of headaches are due to food allergies or sensitivities, excess refined food in the diet, and dehydration. A study reported in The Lancet found that when allergenic foods were eliminated from the diets of migraine sufferers as many as 93 percent of them found relief.
Pre-Disposing Factors and Potential Headache Triggers
Although this list is lengthy, to accurately determine the underlying reason headaches are happening in the first place, the following should be addressed.
Food intolerances; reactive hypoglycemia; dehydration; Candida overgrowth; consumption of artificial sweeteners, nitrites/nitrates or sulfites; thyroid dysfunction and hormonal imbalances; insufficient stomach acid; genetic pre-disposition; TMJ, cranial or spinal subluxation; postural imbalances and muscle tension.
Simple Solutions to Prevent and Relieve Headaches
Dietary suggestions, lifestyle modifications and nutritional support are often helpful.
• Address food intolerances — 85 percent of those who suffer headaches have food sensitivities.
• Stay hydrated. Drink more filtered water, ginger tea and green tea.
• Eat foods high in magnesium: dark, leafy greens, fresh seafood, sea greens, and raw, organic nuts. Eating 12-15 raw almonds can help relieve a headache.
• Prevent dips in blood sugar. Eat smaller meals throughout the day that are lower in processed carbohydrates and higher in protein
• Drink a mixture of apple cider vinegar in water to often stop headaches within 30 minutes.
• Eliminate the following triggers: gluten, dairy, MSG, sugar, alll artificial sweeteners, processed salt, vegetable oils, preservatives and additives, nitrates/nitrites, MSM products, and acid-forming foods such as cereal, bread and grains. Avoid excess use of caffeine and/or alcohol.
•Acupressure: Headache pressure point is simple to do and one of the most effective methods. Press and hold the area between the thumb and index finger for 9-10 breathing cycles. An acupressure point under the eyebrows at the top ridge of the eye socket causes the pituitary to release pain relieving endorphins. Another acupressure point to relieve headaches, stiff necks and stress is directly beneath the occipital bones of the base skull.
• Deep breathing exercises. Breathe deeply and massage temples for 5 minutes.
• Yoga poses: reclined bound angle, wide legged forward bend (standing or seated), legs up the wall, supported bridge
• Aromatherapy: Either peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender or sandalwood essential oil applied to the temples.
• Consider a detox to help migraines that are related to chemical overload.
• Consider physical therapies: Biofeedback, acupuncture and acupressure, chiropractic manipulation, reflexology, Tai Chi and massage therapy. Studies have shown that over 80 percent of headache patients find some type of relief for their headaches with chiropractic treatment.
• Rule out heavy metal body burdens.
Supplemental support (specific to each individual)
• Butterbur (75 mg twice daily), Feverfew and Ginger.
• Hypoallergenic multi-vitamin (ProMulti Plus).
• Magnesium citrate (400-600 mg). According to a study, magnesium produced a 50-percent reduction in headaches. Those that suffer migraine headaches tend to be significantly deficient in magnesium.
• Omega-3s with GLA – EFA Sirt Supreme (6-15 gm/day).
• CoQ10, 150 mg/day. Supplementation for three months resulted in a greater than 50 percent reduction in headache days in 61.3 percent of 321 patients.
• Vitamins B2, B6, B12, folic acid.
• Vitamins C and E.
If you have headaches, it may be beneficial for you to try some of these remedies. It’s always a good idea to talk with a qualified practitioner before treating yourself for any health condition.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens, M.S., is the author of two books, “The Power of 4” and “Fat Loss Revolution.” She is a nutritionist and fitness expert with more than 25 years of experience, and creator of “21 Days to a Leaner, Healthier You,” an online exercise and fat-loss program. Visit Paula at www.PaulaOwens.com.