Nine out of ten Americans suffer from headaches. Some have them occassionally, some are frequent – even occurring daily. Headaches are debilitating. They can cause a loss of concentration, throbbing, pounding, nausea, moodiness, inability to work, and a diminishment in quality of life. Most Americans use over counter pain medications in the form of aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a variety of muscle relaxors to combat a headache. The problem is that this only covers up the symptom and the headaches will return. There are also side effects from use of over the counter pain medication listed above including ulcers, liver damage, and kidney failure.
Here are 12 tips to help naturally control your headaches:
1. Avoid Stress: Anything that boosts your stress levels will aggravate a headache. Tension headaches occur with increase in muscle tension at the base of the skull or the upper neck. Migraine headaches are caused from altered blood flow from within the brain itself. Stress changes both the tension of the muscles and the amount of blood flow to the brain. Control of stress will mean less muscle tension, balanced blood flow and less headache. Exercise, consistently good diet, proper sleep, and a healthy spine and nerve system are ways to help your body disappate stress.
2. Heat: Statisically, headaches increase by 7.5% for every 9 degrees of rise in temperature. As summer approaches, monitor your time in the sun. Drink a lot of water and allow your body time to cool off in the shade.
3. Strong Smells: Pleasant smells like perfume and deoderants, or toxic smells like paint or gasoline can be triggers for headaches. If you are sensitive to smells, avoid them.
4. Hair Accessories: Believe it or not – pulling your hair tightly into a pony tail can trigger headaches. Let your hair down…literally.
5. Cheese: Certain aged cheeses have a chemical called tyramine which, when broken down, creates a protein that some people are sensitive to. Blue cheese, cheddar, brie, feta, mozarella, parmasean, and Swiss all contain tyramine. The longer a cheese ages, the more tyramine it has.
6. Red Wine: Tyramine is also found in red wine, beer, and hard liquors according to the University of New Hampshire. If these trigger your headaches, avoid them.
7. Diet Soda: Diet sodas contain a toxic chemical known as Aspartame. It is also known by the trade names of Nutrasweet, Equal, Spoonful, and Equal Measure. According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, a professor of neurosurgery at the Medical School of Mississippi, an excess of Aspartame kills neurons (brain cells). This can result in headaches in addition to a host of neurodegenerative diseases. Watch for more on Aspartame in another post. For now, ditch the diet pop.
8. Caffeine: Caffeine can both be the cause and the cure for headaches. According to a Norwegian study, those with low caffeine consumptions tended to have more chronic headaches and those who consumed higher doses of caffeine tended to get occasional headaches. Their recommmendation: If you have chronic headaches (more than 14 headaches per month) increase your caffeine intake slightly. Occasional headache sufferers should try cutting back on caffeine.
9. Pain Medications: I know, these are supposed to help headaches, and many do. However, if you take them consistently, it can lead to rebound headaches. If you can, it is best to avoid them.
10. Skipping Meals: Low blood sugar is a problem that is interpreted as a chemical stress by your body. Headaches are often the first symptom of low blood sugar. Be sure to eat three balanced meals a day.
11. Dehydration: Much like low blood sugar, dehydration is also a chemical stress to your body that can trigger headaches. Children and seniors are more susceptible to dehydration, especially on hot days. The best way to judge your level of hydration is through the color of your urine. White or pale is good, dark yellow is bad. Plan your water consumption throughout the day so your urine is consistently pale yellow or clear.
12. Subluxation: Poor posture, inadequate movement of the spinal bones (vertebrae), stiff neck, and poor range of motion are all causes of headaches. Subluxation is most often the underlying cause of most of the “triggers” noted above. This means that if the subluxations are removed or reduced, you are less susceptible to stress, heat, strong smells, etc. that are the “triggers” ofyour headaches.
There are many more causes for headaches, these are some of the more common ones that I see on a daily basis in practice. Hope this helps!