What gives you a headache? I’m sure any number of factors come to mind. The most common type of headache is tension headaches which are often brought on by stress. And who hasn’t felt the stuffy sting of sinus pain? Then there are those awful migraines, the angriest of the headaches, accompanied by a load of terrible symptoms including nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, and/or sensitivity to bright lights, loud noise and strong odours. Sometimes smells can even trigger a migraine!
Did you know there are 150 different types of headaches?
A headache is always a good indicator that something is off with your body. They can be triggered by a wide variety of factors that can be easy to pinpoint by simply tuning in to your body and its needs.
Common Headache Triggers
Research shows that water-deprivation headaches are among the most common types of headaches people experience. Just think, how often do you fall short of the daily recommended eight glasses of water? Staying hydrated not only helps to keep headaches at bay, but it also improves concentration and extinguishes irritability. If you’re drinking water but constantly going to the bathroom to urinate, we need to address this issue as well.
Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve experienced a stress or a tension headache. You’re barely treading water, with too much to do and not enough hours in the day. Your baby just won’t stop screaming, but you need to get the grocery shopping done. Your boss is in a foul mood — again. Your head begins to pound. Stress happens. It’s not always easy to avoid a tension headache, but taking a mindful approach to life, whether through yoga, meditation or gratitude journaling, can help us to manage stress better when those tricky moments arise. If you need more stress-busting power, this is where naturopathic medicine comes in.
We all know how alcohol can trigger a headache – especially when combined with dehydration, resulting in the ever-dreaded hangover. But have you ever been drinking diet pop and suddenly felt headache-y afterward? You wouldn’t be alone. Aspartame and caffeine can also act as dietary triggers that lead to headaches. Other food intolerances known for influencing headaches include Monosodium glutamate a.k.a. MSG, nitrates found in processed meats, tyramine — a natural chemical that’s also found in processed meats, as well as aged cheese; pickles and olives; snow peas, fava and broad beans; and nuts.
Other foods that can trigger migraines include bread and pastries, cultured dairy products and yes, even chocolate. Moderation is key, as well as taking note of what you were eating before a headache occurred. If you suspect food sensitivities are at the bottom of the issue, we can test for these to make elimination easier.
Oh, those hormones sure have a way of impacting all areas of our bodies, don’t they? So, is it any wonder that they could also be to blame for headaches too? Elevated estrogen levels can have an impact on the frequency and severity of headaches in both women and men. It is why women are three times more likely to experience a migraine than men. If you experience headaches or migraines on a regular basis, it is worth speaking to your healthcare practitioner about getting your hormone levels tested. Getting back into balance won’t only help your headaches, it can also change your life.
Natural Headache Treatments
Essential oils – A wide variety of essential oils can have a calming effect on headaches and also help to soothe migraines. Some good options include lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus oils. I personally use peppermint when I get a stress headache, but use caution as it sure can make your eyes water!
Herbs – Butterbur and feverfew are two herbal remedies that have long been used to help treat headache pain; however, like with most herbal supplements, it is important to consult the guidance of a healthcare professional to ensure you are taking them safely and effectively. Herbs can interact with medications.
Yoga – Yoga is proven to be among the most effective forms of self-care to help reduce headaches. In fact, one study actually demonstrated a significant reduction in migraine headache frequency when yoga was practiced regularly over a period of just three months.
Visit your Chiropractor – Sometimes the root of your issue starts well below the neck and you just need to get your body back in line, literally. Encouraging results have been seen in a variety of studies, suggesting that a visit to your Chiropractor can help to reduce migraines. Participants in these studies have rated the results between good to excellent versus no treatment, mobilization, and ice.
Get a Massage – Related to dehydration and tension, a major source of headaches are trigger points (commonly known as knots). What better way to ease tense muscles than a massage? Although not entirely related to muscle tension, studies show massage can even help migraines as well. Need a referral for a bomb RMT? I happen to know quite a few wonderful ones in the GTA.
Acupuncture – If you suffer from frequent headaches and want to avoid popping pills on a regular basis, you might wish to consider acupuncture. One study showed that after 3 to 4 months of treatment, patients receiving acupuncture had higher response rates and fewer headaches, with results that were possibly more effective than prophylactic drug treatment – and with fewer adverse side effects. Did you know, for example, that chronic painkiller use is associated with an increased risk of ulcers? The occasional Advil is fine, but if you’re using anti-inflammatories like candy, we should talk.
Headaches are common, but they don’t have to be. If you feel like you’re getting more than your fair share and are having trouble pinpointing the issue, please do not hesitate to contact me at 647-772-4396 or email@example.com and we will work to identify your triggers and solutions together.
Your Hormone Advocate,