When asked about headaches, a large majority of my clients share that they experience them on a regular basis. This can range from minor headaches to debilitating migraines but all in all, they are nuisance to their every day life.
The common go-to when a headache comes on is to pop an Advil , Tylenol or some sort of pain reliever. Although these can be helpful, they really are not getting to the root issue which is why the headache is happening in the first place.
Prevention is key here when it comes to managing headaches. Most of us have hectic schedules and stress alone can make us more susceptible to that pounding up above. Rather than run for the pain pills when the feeling comes on, try implementing preventative measures to help decrease the occurrence of your headaches.
I have laid out below some of the best prevention tips to avoid getting a headache, as well as how to get relief when a headache happens and the foods that most commonly cause headaches. Even the most minor changes can help decrease your chances of getting a headache or at least reduce their severity.
Watch as I share these headache prevention tips on The Morning Blend.
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Headache Prevention Tips
Magnesium is a mineral that is highly deficient in our population. Stress, coffee, alcohol and poor diet can cause deficiency, as well as a lack of intake. However, magnesium is a powerhouse mineral that has been shown to help with muscular aches, restless leg syndrome and poor sleep. Add to that, it is a big player in headache prevention. One small study found daily magnesium supplements reduced migraine frequency by nearly 42 percent, compared to only about 16 percent in people given a placebo pill.
Suggestion: Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, almonds, spinach and bananas are good sources of magnesium the “relaxation” mineral. You can also supplement with Magnesium Bisglycinate at 500mg/day.
*Note: Certain forms of magnesium (oxide/citrate) can cause a laxative effect in some people.
One of the biggest causes of headaches is dehydration. Most people don’t drink nearly enough water as they should and tend to opt for beverages that only further dehydrate the body (coffee, tea, soda, alcohol). Some people can find immediate relief when they start to feel a headache coming on by drinking a large glass of water right away.
Suggestion: Drink half of your body weight in fluid ounces of water each day. Start the day with a large glass of water and continue to drink it throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
B-Complex Vitamins (Riboflavin)
Many B vitamins, specifically riboflavin, are involved in the formation of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which may be deficient in people who suffer from headaches, especially migraines. B-vitamins are also important when it comes to stress management, another trigger to headaches.
Suggestion: Avocado, turkey, beans, wheat germ, nutritional yeast, legumes. Make sure to choose a high quality, B-complex when supplementing.
One of the most important macro-nutrients for optimal health also keeps those headaches at bay. A dose of Omega 3 fatty acids can fight inflammation, which is a likely culprit in many headaches and possibly some migraines.
Suggestion: Fresh water fish, like salmon and cod, flaxseeds, avocados and walnuts. Molecularly distilled, 3rd party tested fish oil supplements can also be used.
You may not think your bowel movements have anything to do with that midday headache you get. However, constipation is a condition that plagues a large population and can be a root cause to headaches. If you are not going to the bathroom 1-3 times per day everyday, you are technically constipated.
How does this effect your headache? When waste matter is not removed from the colon on a regular basis, the body is susceptible to toxic reabsorption meaning that the toxins accumulated for removal are reabsorbed. This can lead to a number of different health issues with headaches being one of them.
Suggestion: Eat 6-8 cups of vegetables/fruit each day.
Most people don’t think about jumping up and down when their head is pounding. However, exercise is a great at preventing a headache from coming on. A small Swedish study attempted to find out just how good exercise is at preventing migraines and discovered a solid sweat session was just as effective as migraine medications at keeping the debilitating headaches at bay.
Suggestion: Aim for at least 15-20 minutes of movement 5 times per week. (Yoga, walking, bike riding)
Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. If there is one thing I see over and over again in my practice, it is poor sleep hygiene. Know that when you go to sleep is as important as how much sleep you actually get. Also, try setting an electronics curfew (phone, television, computer, nook, iPad, etc.) for an hour before you bedtime to reduce the amount of blue light before your bedtime. Blue light has been shown to interrupt your sleep patterns, meaning that even though you may be asleep, you’re not getting as sound of a slumber as you may think.
Suggestion: Try to head to bed by 11:00 pm at the latest. Keep your room dark and cool to help increase a more sound sleep.
Headache Relief Tips
Ginger can help reduce inflammation of the blood vessels in the head providing relief from the headache. Suggestion: Chew on raw ginger pieces or drink a shot of fresh ginger juice.
Although it may sound unpleasant, chewing on a raw garlic clove can give quick relief to a pounding headache. Typically one clove will do the trick. It will also help keep the vampire away.
For some temporary relief, try reversing the feelings — cool your head with an ice pack while warming the body in the bath or placing a hot water bottle/heating pad on your feet. This dilates the blood vessels in the body and helps blood flow away from the head which can reduce some of the pain.
Essential oils such as lavender and peppermint have been used for ages to help calm the body and relieve headaches. Try using a diffuser or placing the oils on your wrist during the day and/or pillow at night.
Foods that Cause Headaches
Potential food allergen – Food allergies can trigger headaches. Most people don’t even know that a certain food may be a potential allergen for them, however, I find that a large majority of my clients find relief when completely removing certain foods. The most common allergens are gluten, cows dairy, corn, peanuts, eggs, soy and shellfish. An elimination diet can help you figure out which foods may be a possible allergen.
Foods that contain tyramine – Foods such as cheese, chocolate, citrus, coffee, cold cuts, smoked fish, wine, pork, and vinegar should be avoided.
Alcohol – Alcohol causes dehydration and usually and increase in sugar, which can both lead to a potential headache. Sulfite in wine are also a common trigger for headaches.
Sugar – Spikes in blood sugar are a common cause of headaches. Make sure to read your ingredient labels and look for added sugar.