Nothing can bring your day to a screeching halt quite like a headache. Everything was going great. You were feeling productive and accomplished, and an hour after lunch, bam! Headache!
Take a moment for your favorite curse word and then take a deep breath. If you don’t want to pop a pill for headaches, here’s a few suggestions.
As you probably know, headaches can have many different triggers and characteristics and can be addressed by many different healing modalities. I intend to address headaches from a nutrition perspective. For our first type of headache, let’s talk about the one we love to hate.
If you suffer from chronic migraines, you may have a delayed food allergy. The best way to find out for sure is to get a food allergy blood test (IgG) from a reputable lab. Step two is removing discovered allergens from your diet and seeing if your migraines go away completely.
Magnesium deficiency by way of poor diet or poor absorption, can often be the cause of migraines or cluster headaches. Try some magnesium rich foods like almonds, bananas, dried apricots, avocados (yum!), cashews, brown rice, legumes, and sesame seeds. Ladies, sesame seeds also improve circulation and the vitamin E may stabilize estrogen levels, so these may be helpful if you get headaches around that time of the month. If you have frequent migraines or cluster headaches, you might try adding a magnesium supplement to your daily regimen, but make sure to consult your nutrition professional.
The hangover headache! UGH!
Some version of “I really wish I didn’t drink so much last night” usually precedes “pass the aspirin.” If you’d like to get rid of this headache without the drugs, you could try a couple of things. First, drink a lot of water. Whether caused by alcohol consumption or just plain forgetting to drink water, dehydration is my first thought when I have a headache. I live in the desert; dehydration is often the culprit. Besides promoting dehydration, alcohol can cause you to lose electrolytes such as potassium. If after drinking water, that pounding in the temples still persists, try eating some potassium rich foods like sweet potatoes, tomato sauces (not in a bloody mary), beet greens, beans, yogurt, clams, prunes, molasses, fish, soybeans, winter squash, bananas, and my favorite, which is also rich in magnesium: artichoke.
Also called a sinus headache, this one hurts in the forehead and behind the eyes. An elimination diet is often helpful in finding out if some foods you are consuming contribute to your allergy symptoms. A couple common food allergens are dairy and gluten. Some essential oils work very well for sinus congestion too. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, eating spicy foods can help clear the sinuses and relieve pressure. Pass the wasabi!
The tricky thing about caffeine is that you have to be careful in the way you consume it. When overly consumed, it can cause headaches when suddenly stopped. But used in moderation and/or in combination with some pain killers, caffeine can prevent or stop a headache. If you are a daily consumer of coffee or energy drinks, I definitely don’t recommend stopping cold turkey. Slowly weening off it will be much less painful. Sensitivity to caffeine is also very individual and some people are greatly effected by the small amounts in green tea and chocolate. Others can drink cup after cup and not feel buzzed at all. If you think your headaches might be associated with caffeine, talk to your doctor or health coach to help you find your individual consumption balance.
This one can come from eating greasy food on an empty stomach. This feels like a migraine and you might feel like puking or your eyes might hurt or be sensitive to light. A great remedy for a liver headache is lemon. Lemon tea does the trick for me. That and remembering to skip the onion rings for an appetizer.
Expansive (sugar) or Contractive (salt) Headaches
There is a concept in Chinese medicine known as Yin and Yang qualities of energy. Foods can also have yin and yang qualities, also known as expansive and contractive respectively. Many times a headache will result in an imbalance of expansive and contractive foods. Expansive foods include grains, fruits, alcohol, fats and oils, milk, soft cheese, and sugar. Foods that are more contractive include salty foods, fish, hard cheeses, eggs, and meats. Many times when I have a headache and I’ve ruled out dehydration, I think about what I ate that day. If it was a lot of expansive, I’ll eat something contractive and it takes care of the headache quick. A few months ago, my dad had a pounding headache. I asked him what he had eaten that day and he named of quite a few expansive foods. I told him to eat a couple of olives. He was skeptical, but desperate. So, he tried it and was very grateful that it worked. Its simply a balancing of Yin and Yang.
For more information on this topic, research the works of Annemarie Colbin. http://www.foodandhealing.com/
Some other options include herbal teas like Feverfew that are known for stopping and preventing headaches. See your local herbalist for more expertise in this area.
Additionally, the source of your headache could be structural or stress. In that case, you might want to consult a chiropractor or a muscle balance therapist.
Good luck zapping that headache and may it never come back!