We have all experienced a headache at one time in our lives, but do we understand what causes it? The most severe type of headache can be a migraine or cluster headache which, as those who suffer know, can be very painful and disruptive.
There are many factors that can contribute to headaches, but most are caused by stress, tension and dehydration. Other causes may be allergies, anemia, bowel problems, grinding your teeth, TMJ, a reaction to food additives, or high or low blood pressure. Frequent and reoccurring headaches – especially those located in one spot – can be a sign of brain disorders and/or tumors which should be considered and ruled out.
I have worked with many clients over the years whose main reason for starting a wellness program was to alleviate a constant headache lasting all day from the time they awoke until bedtime. Most had taken tests to rule out any major medical issue and felt it was something with which they must learn to live. However, in many of these cases, a diet analysis revealed that they were lacking in trace minerals (often due to prescribed medication) or consuming too much caffeine and not enough water and were in a constant state of dehydration. Once we corrected the nutrient deficiency and omitted the wrong ones, presto – no more headaches.
Other factors may include supplementation. Some people take too many vitamins or vitamins with too many additives and eat foods with too many chemical additives, both of which can result in headaches.
Eating a diet balanced between complex carbohydrates, proteins and fats and eliminating all foods with supplemental additives is a good place to start. Primary suspects may include dairy, wheat, soy, MSG, artificial sweetners, nitrates, soda, caffeine, alcohol, red meat and additional inflammatory foods such as night shade vegetables. Too much protein and sodium can also dehydrate you and further cause problems; stay hydrated and drink at least 64 ounces of water per day.
Herbs that can help relieve headaches include ginko biloba extract which improves circulation to the brain. Skullcap can help with muscular tension headaches while peppermint oil and wintergreen oil topically rubbed on your temples can relieve tension headaches. Melatonin taken before bed has shown to be effective in reducing cluster headaches. Lastly, cayenne can create blood flow and increase oxygen which in turn will reduce pain.
Vitamins that are helpful to replace certain trace minerals which may be lacking are calcium/magnesium, CoQ10, bromelain, B-complex, vitamin C with bioflavonoids, potassium, and vitamin E. A good multi-vitamin can also be helpful especially if you do not eat enough green leafy vegetables as a lack of antioxidants which deliver oxygen to the brain can be part of the problem. But remember, it is good to be tested for nutrient deficiencies before adding too many supplements.
A last consideration is a chiropractic adjustment as poor vertebral alignment may cause reduced blood flow to the brain and in turn cause tension headaches.
Instead of putting a band aid on the symptom, look at potential causes. Eliminating those causes can eliminate the symptom as you are enabling your body to fix the actual problem.
Dr. Amanda Beckner is owner of Your Body Code ™ in Palm Desert which offers personalized nutrition and wellness programs. For more information visit www.yourbodycode.com or call (760) 341-BODY (2639).
Sources: 1) Roberta Wilson; Aromatherapy for vibrant health & Beauty 1994/1995; 2) Dr. Amanda Beckner PhD; Your Body Code personalized nutrition & wellness programs 2009; 3) Mary Courtney Moore 4th edition; Nutritional Care 2001 Mosby, Inc.