Supplements May Help Ease Your Headache Pain

Paying attention to what you eat -  along with trying natural remedies  - may help relieve chronic headache and migraine.

If you are a long time sufferer of headache or migraine attacks, consider putting down the pain medications and exploring natural remedies. These natural remedies are often inexpensive, have little to no side effects, and can help prevent pain associated with headaches and migraines. Choose some of these options for a new, supplemental way to relieve your pain.

Build the Foundations

According to Perth, Australia’s natural wellbeing professional institute, Functional Medicine in Perth, a group of professionals aiming to help individuals reach their health and wellness goals, the foundational principles of health are:

  • Organic whole foods
  • Adequate hydration
  • Quality sleep patterns
  • Active lifestyle
  • Mental health
  • Spiritual health
  • Emotional health
  • Optimal breathing patterns.

Although the ideas of healthy living standards vary between cultures, these principles are constant no matter where you live. More than 20 of the 40 headache causative factors may be in direct violation of one of these principles, such as the consumption of alcohol including red wine and beer, matured cheese and yogurts, and smoked meat products and foods. Following a whole food diet may eliminate another 12 of the 40 causative factors.

Many health practitioners believe that food is a foundational medicine and that “food consciousness” can be a vital component of any healing therapy. There is ample evidence to support the benefits of a whole food diet. Although slower to take effect, diet and food habits affect all systems in the body. If diet is used correctly to heal the body and maintain health, other treatments and remedies may be used less or not at all. Although diet is not the only contributing factor to headaches, other therapies may be more effective when used in conjunction with a solid dietary shift.

The US National Headache Foundation has identified some foods that are more likely to induce headaches or migraines:

  • wheat
  • yeast
  • eggs
  • grain cereals
  • corn
  • citrus fruits
  • cane sugar.

By eliminating processed foods, you may also eliminate headaches. This includes limited exposure to artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors, and any other unnatural additives. However, some natural compounds found in foods can also be triggers.

Foods rich in tyramine, produced when the amino acid tyrosine begins to break down, has been found to worsen symptoms in those with allergies, autoimmune conditions, and migraine and headaches, according to the National Headache Foundation. Aged or fermented foods are naturally high in tyramine, as are:

  • breads, cereals, pastas
  • fermented sausages
  • raw onions
  • pepperoni, salami, sausage
  • citrus
  • aged cheese
  • sugar, chocolate
  • beans, legumes, soy
  • vegetable and processed oils
  • dried fruit, fruit juice
  • roasted nuts
  • alcohol
  • vinegar
  • excess caffeine
  • foods high in MSG, nitrate, yeast.

Foods rich in histamines can also be triggers for headaches in some individuals. Histamine is a “vasoactive amine,” meaning it is a compound that induces mucus production, blood vessel dilation, and bronchoconstriction. Histamine is contained in most body tissues such as the nose, sinuses, skin, blood cells, and lungs; allergens (pollen, dander, dust mites, etc.) cause the release of histamine. Foods that are naturally high in histamines include:

  • fish
  • eggplant
  • mushrooms
  • spinach
  • bananas
  • pineapple
  • ketchup, relish
  • chili
  • chocolate
  • soy sauce
  • shellfish
  • pickles
  • dairy, eggs
  • paprika
  • pickled beets
  • strawberries
  • cider, beer, wine
  • vinegar
  • bacon
  • yogurt.

How Do I Know if My Diet is Causing My Headaches/Migraines?

Determining whether your headaches or migraines are caused by food sensitivities can be a challenge. Consider keeping a food journal to keep track of your diet, tracking your food and alcohol intake, as well as documenting how you’re feeling. This process can help you recognize foods or eating patterns that may contribute to your headache. An integrative health practitioner can support you through this process and help identify sensitivities.

Does Gluten-Free Mean Headache Free?

Going gluten-free is not just a long-term health fad, it can have a range of health benefits for those with gluten sensitivities and for sufferers of migraines, according to the Gluten Free Society. A recent study highlighted a strong link between migraines and celiac disease, suggesting that gluten can affect the nervous system leading to migraines, headaches, depression, and learning disorders.

The Importance of Hydration

Childhood adages will tell you to drink more water if you have a headache. Although the medical literature for this causation is weak, overall hydration can affect all of your body and cognitive functions. Hydrating regularly may prevent headaches and relieve pain; an easy way to test the cause of your headache. Consider hydration before any other option.

Drinking pure water with no additives is the quickest and easiest way to hydrate your body. Consider eating foods with high water content for added hydration, including cucumbers, melons, oranges, zucchini, spinach, celery, kale, and citrus fruits.

Avoid Certain Medications & Eliminate Toxic Chemicals

Migraines affect 39 million adults and children in the United States and 1 billion worldwide, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States, including those for pain, blood pressure, and cholesterol, can impact headaches.

Toxic chemicals are found in more products than you may realize. Make-up, shampoo, cleaning products, and even toilet paper have been found to contain chemicals that can worsen headaches and even cause migraines. Consider using natural products for all your needs and educating yourself on toxic chemicals so you know what to look for in everyday products.

Natural Options

Instead of reaching straight for pain medications, consider these natural remedies:

  • Magnesium: Deficiency in magnesium has been linked to migraine attacks, and ingesting an extra 200 to 600 mg of magnesium a day may reduce the instances of these attacks. Foods naturally high in magnesium include legumes, almonds, broccoli, spinach, avocado, dried figs, and bananas.
  • Peppermint and lavender essential oils: Both of these remedies have a natural numbing and cooling effect, making them perfect for relieving headache pain. Peppermint oil has also been found to be a natural antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-parasitic and pain reliever. Lavender oil can eliminate nervous tensions, enhance blood circulation and relieve pain. Inhaling these oils has been found to be an effective pain relief tool for headache and migraine sufferers.
  • Feverfew: A herb plant native to Asia but becoming common all over the world, these dried leaves have been found to relieve symptoms associated with headaches, migraines, menstrual cramps, asthma, dizziness and arthritis. Feverfew can be found in supplements with a recommended dosage of 100 mg to 125 mg daily for the prevention of headaches and migraine.
  • Butterbar: This shrub grows in Europe as well as some parts of Asia and North America. A 2004 study found that 48% of patients who consumed 75 mg of the extract, twice a day, were able to reduce the frequency of their migraine attack.
  • Ginger root: A common cooking spice, ginger root is a natural remedy for nausea, diarrhea, upset stomach, and indigestion. Ginger root is very versatile and adding it to your cooking can relieve symptoms, as well as drinking fresh ginger tea or consuming ginger root extract.
  • Celery or celery seed oil: These can improve digestion, purify the blood and benefit the liver and pancreas. Ingesting this oil regularly can improve acne and treat bloody or burning urine, canker sores and cool the internal heat of the stomach and liver. When the stomach and liver are hot, this can cause headaches to develop.
  • Coriander seeds: Coriander seeds have been used to treat allergies, diabetes and relieve sinus pressure. To relieve a headache, pour hot water over fresh seeds and inhale the steam. To increase the effectiveness, place a towel over your head and the bowl of seeds.

These remedies may or may not work for patients. Most often, a safe combination of natural remedies and therapeutic options is the fastest and most effective way to relieve headache and migraine pain. Keep in mind that there are many types of headaches and your specific type can affect how each remedy may work for you. Consider working with an integrated health practitioner to understand your headache and how you can prevent, treat, and relieve your pain.

*This article is adapted from the Body Genius Institute’s Guide on Headaches and Migraines, and based on the expertise of the Perth, Australia integrated healthcare practice. The information included herein does not constitute professional medical advice.

Updated on: 06/16/20
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