A natural approach to headaches

A headache may be defined as any pain in the head, regardless of the cause. Virtually everyone gets a headache at one time or another.

However, people who suffer from frequent headaches should consider that it may be a sign of an underlying health problem or reaction to certain foods or food additives.

Cause

There are many causes of headaches, including

  • stress and anxiety;
  • dehydration or hunger;
  • tension and muscle tightness;
  • allergies;
  • coffee consumption or detoxification;
  • eyestrain;
  • sinus pressure;
  • hormonal imbalances;
  • nutritional imbalances;
  • constipation;
  • alcohol, drugs or tobacco;
  • exposure to irritants, pollutants or allergens (such as perfume);
  • fever;
  • temporomandibular joint syndrome (the joints between the jaw and skull); and
  • trauma to the head.

 

While it may seem relatively simple to alleviate the pain associated with a headache, determining and treating the underlying cause is much more difficult.

Most headaches are thought to be tension headaches, caused by muscle tension that is commonly triggered by emotional stress, anxiety, anger, depression, illness, injury and allergy.

If headaches occur frequently on a regular basis with increased severity, it may indicate an underlying health problem or pathology, including:

  • reaction to certain foods or food additives and preservatives, and so on;
  • anaemia;
  • hypertension;
  • hyperglycaemia;
  • sinusitis;
  • spinal problems;
  • bowel problems;
  • grinding teeth;
  • disease of the eye, ear, nose or throat; and
  • brain disorders.

 

Diet and Lifestyle

Increase consumption of:

  • nutrient dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds;
  • foods with a low glycaemic index (low GI) such as oats, wholegrains, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms and leafy greens;
  • high-fibre foods such as, fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, carrots, sweet potatoes, beans and whole grains, as well as psyllium husks, slippery elm, oat bran, LSA (linseed, sunflower and almond meal); and
  • possible supplements that may help include acidophilus and bifidus, aloe vera juice, and chlorophyll.

 

Decrease or avoid consumption of:

  • high fat foods, dairy, preserved meats and processed foods, refined and convenience foods
  • alcohol and soft drinks
  • coffee
  • MSG
  • aspartame and any drinks or foods containing aspartame

 

Other considerations:

  • eat small regular meals;
  • drink an adequate amount of water each day;
  • assess and reduce stress;
  • practice deep breathing and meditation;
  • use hot wheat packs to help relieve muscle tension;
  • ensure adequate sleep;
  • assess for food allergies and intolerances;
  • tyramine is a substance found in many foods that is a common trigger for headaches and migraines. Try avoiding foods that contain it for a week and see if any differences, and then reintroduce them to see if those certain foods trigger a headache: cheese, sour cream, butter, bananas, citrus fruits, onions, peanuts, chocolate, chicken, pork, smoked fish, vinegar, wine and yeast;
  • known common triggers of headaches include: wheat, chocolate, MSG, sulphite preservatives, sugar, food additives used in processed and preserved meats, dairy and alcohol.


by Sam Sample