Get rid of your headaches naturallyNutrition
By pH health care professionals
Anyone who has had headaches knows – headaches can really get in the way. They interrupt your work schedule and keep you sidelined from your favorite activities. They can cost you in lost time and productivity at work, plus there may be costs associated with treatment. Usually headaches can be controlled with pain medication and rest. However, painkillers can cause their own set of adverse effects. Researchers studying the financial impact of headaches on a large financial institution found costs of at least $21.5 million in migraine-related absenteeism and lost productivity. Part of the reason for the strong impact is the fact that headaches in general are relatively common.
A recent study found that 16.6 percent of the adult population (age 18+) had experienced migraines or severe headaches within the last three months. Headaches are the fifth leading cause of emergency room visits, accounting for 1.2 percent of outpatient visits overall.
The most common types of headaches are tension headaches, migraines and cluster headaches. Tension headaches tend to feel like dull pressure across the head. Migraines tend to be more severe and throbbing. Cluster headaches tend to feel like a sharp pain around or behind the eyes. Tension headaches are the most common, accounting for approximately 40 percent of all annual headaches, followed by migraines at 6-18 percent of annual headaches, and daily chronic headaches tallying 2.8-5 percent of annual headaches. Migraines and chronic headaches are two times more common among females than males.
How do you know when a headache is more serious and you need to see a doctor?
If your headache is mild and resolves within a few hours by itself or responds to over-the-counter medicine, then you may not need to see a doctor. However, if your pain intensity reaches unbearable levels, is increasing, or if there are other new and unusual symptoms (such as fever, neurological deficits or excessive vomiting), then a doctor’s visit is needed. Having the worst headache of your lifetime after age 40 can indicate a more serious underlying condition. This should prompt an immediate doctor evaluation and you may need a CT scan.
What are some of the root causes of headaches?
- Neck/shoulder muscle tension: This is generally a problem associated with prolonged sitting, lack of motion, awkward body positioning, prolonged computer use and awkward weight/bag carrying.
- Food intolerance: Certain processed meats, smoked and pickled food, nitrates, alcohol and chocolate may be culprits.
- Stress: Prolonged excess stress levels won’t help your headaches and overall health.
- Hormonal imbalances: Hormonal changes can trigger headaches, and so can birth control pills.
- Head trauma: Head injuries may result from falls or blunt trauma with or without loss of consciousness.
- Other medical conditions: Chronic pain syndromes, eye strain, dehydration, ear/sinus infections, temporomandibular joint disorders, meningitis and gluten allergy are examples of medical conditions that may be at the root of the headache.
- Withdrawal headaches: If you go from drinking more than two cups of coffee a day and then try to quit, you may experience withdrawal headaches.
- Headache triggers: Lack of or excessive sleep, medication side effects, sensitivity to certain lights or smells, carbon monoxide, exercise for some people, indoor air pollution and gastrointestinal problems (like constipation, diarrhea, nausea) can trigger headaches.
- Less common but serious headache causes: Brain tumor, brain bleeding, stroke, hypertensive crises and excessive intracranial fluid accumulation (hydrocephalus) may be underlying factors in some cases.
- Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies: if you are low on vitamin B12 or magnesium, you may get headaches.
- Side effects from medication: Make sure you know what side effects your prescription medication may cause.
What are some suggestions for headache prevention?
- Exercise: Moderate exercise was shown to reduce intensity and overall frequency of migraine headaches. But for those individuals who have exercise-induced headaches, this may not be a good idea. Yoga stretching and vibration plates are useful for reducing muscle tensions.
- Adjust your diet: If you have food intolerances, you need to avoid those triggers. If you are not sure which foods might have triggered your headache, keep a log book, test for food intolerances and try to become more aware of what you eat and your body’s responses.
- Behavioral therapy: Strong evidence exists for using behavioral therapy for headache prevention, among other new emerging techniques.
- Correct hormonal imbalances: Excess estrogen may contribute to your headaches. Talk to a doctor skilled in hormone evaluation to optimize your hormones and reduce your headache risk.
- Address nutritional deficits: Supplementing your vitamin B, D and magnesium levels may be useful. Get a blood panel for nutritional deficiencies. Test, don’t guess!
- Reduce your stress and prioritize rest and balance: Being more organized and balanced in life should help reduce the frequency and severity of your headaches.
- Sauna: With sauna use and exercise, you may sweat out toxins, which in turn can decrease your headache frequency.
- Use hot and cold packs: Use them locally on your forehead or try a hot shower.
- Acupressure and massages: Working on trigger points and reducing muscle tension can be helpful in reducing the frequency and symptoms of headaches.
Enjoy Your Healthy Life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.