For anyone who suffers, or has suffered from headaches, I’m sure you can relate to how much of a pain they are. Aside from literally being a pain, headaches can also significantly interfere with daily life. From taking days off work to cancelling plans with friends to not being able to get to sleep at night, suffering from a headache can really put a wrench in your plans.
Headaches can manifest in a number of different forms although a classic headache consists of mild to severe head pain characterized by a dull, steady ache that is usually on both sides of the head. Headaches can sometimes be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, neck stiffness and excess sleepiness. On the opposite spectrum, migraine headaches can also range from mild to severe head pain consisting of a pulsating or throbbing quality on one or both sides of the head. Migraine headaches also have accompanying symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. About one in five people will also experience aura prior to the onset of a migraine, which can vary from visual symptoms to auditory disturbances like ringing in the ears.
So how do you get rid of a headache?
Identify food sensitivities
Food can have a significant impact on headache management. Depending on the root cause of the headache, various constituents of food can cause problems. For example, L-tyrosine is an amino acid that can aggravate headaches in some individuals. Foods rich in L-tyrosine include cheese, soybeans, nuts, seeds, chicken and whole grains. Identifying specific foods that may be causing your symptoms is an important step in headache management.
Load up on magnesium
Magnesium is what’s called an “NMDA-receptor antagonist”, meaning it helps calm down a reactive brain. Magnesium has also been touted as being an analgesic as well as a muscle relaxant. So whether your headaches are caused from neurological inflammation or neck tension, magnesium will likely help you out. Your naturopathic doctor may recommend oral, intramuscular (IM) or intravenous (IV) administration of magnesium, depending on your health history and presenting symptoms.
Ever notice the more stressed you are, the more headaches you tend to have? Stress causes unnecessary tension in our bodies, particularly in the shoulders and neck. Muscular tension in these muscles can cause headaches with specific referral patterns of pain. From a neurological perspective, prolonged stress can cause an increase in inflammatory mediators in the brain, leading to slow degradation of important systems in our brain. This perpetuating cycle of brain inflammation can lead to mood disturbances and an increased inability to cope with stressors, which is certainly not going to help with reducing the incidence of your headaches. Mindfulness technique is a skill that everyone can benefit from. Understanding to take a step back from our thoughts and become an observer of our feelings is an excellent way to gain perspective in what your stressors are and how to cope. After all, it’s about learning to be calm amidst the storm.
Headache management can easily be accomplished by strategic dietary modifications, lifestyle changes and thoughtful use of specific nutritional supplementation.