Last week I put up a blog about the effects that diet can have on headaches. Through my education and past experiences I found out the top 12 health and dietary habits that contribute to headaches. Some of these habits may surprise you. My recommendation is that you first read through each one of these habits and then decide if each habit could be contributing to your headaches in any way. Now I understand that you won’t know for sure if each one is contributing at the time that you read it the first time, but you’ll probably have an intuitive feeling about it immediately or even an internal revelation as time goes on. If the habit could possibly be contributing to your headaches because it is your habit, circle it. One by one, work on eliminating the habits that are circled, noticing your progress. The more habits you can eliminate, the more you are moving towards a headache-free life, life as usual with no headache pain!
1. Bad sleep habits cause headaches
Sleeping on your stomach or with your pillow bunched up is a sure way to a headache. What happens is that your neck becomes twisted for long periods of time as you sleep, putting pressure on the nerves, blood vessels and vertebrae in your cervical (upper) spine. That pressure sends messages to the brain that there’s something that needs to be addressed, and a pain signal is sent to your head. Presto! You have a headache and your neck hurts as well.
The solution is sleeping on your back with a pillow that supports your neck fully. You may also sleep on your side, but check with us at the office about the proper sleeping position that won’t create headaches. If you bring in your pillow to our office, I’ll check it to see if it’s part of the reason you have headaches. For example, a pillow that is too thin or too fluffy will contribute to headaches because it doesn’t support the cervical curve in your neck. The cervical curve is a natural S-shaped curve in your neck. If the pillow is too flat, that pillow flattens your cervical curve. If the pillow is too fluffy, it exaggerates your cervical curve.
In the past 20 years, chiropractors have used a complete range of cervical pillows to fit the necks of those who are young and old.
2. Too much caffeine and/or chocolate causes headaches
Scientists don’t know exactly what it is about caffeine that can cause a headache, but they do know that there is a clear connection. The big question is what is too much coffee? If you’re drinking six cups a day, that’s too much! Four cups a day is too much! Three cups of coffee a day may be too much as well. For some people, any coffee is too much; the caffeine triggers a headache and keeps them away from a headache-free life.
If you are drinking too much coffee, it’s important that you decrease your coffee consumption slowly. DO NOT STOP COFFEE COLD TURKEY! If you stop drinking coffee cold turkey, you will get a headache and it won’t be just an ordinary headache. It will be a monstrous headache!
The best way to cut your coffee consumption is to decrease slowly by 1/2 cup a day.
The same principle can be applied to chocolate. If you eat chocolate every single day three times, decrease it one time a day. Chocolate contains caffeine and you can develop that monstrous headache from its withdrawal.
3. A diet that contains too much monosodium glutamate (MSG), NutraSweet, Aspartame, diet sodas causes headaches
Very clever researchers discovered that certain chemicals, especially MSG added to Chinese food is a strong headache trigger in many people.
Foods that contain MSG might not necessarily list “MSG” or “monosodium glutamate” on the label. Instead, you’ll see: hydrolyzed vegetable protein, natural flavorings, sodium caseinate, yeast extract, hydrolyzed yeast, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed oat flour, calcium caseinate, hydrolyzed plant protein, hydrolyzed protein. Protein isolates of any type may contain MSG, even soy protein. If you eat processed foods, it will be rare for you to see a label without one of these! Every fast food chain uses it in their food ingredients!
You may lose to gain. What I mean by this is that you may lose your present life in the meal department to gain a headache-free life. What you gain is learning how to cook and prepare foods from scratch. You gain the freedom to do things you couldn’t do before and you can do them without restriction. You gain the affection lost by family members who didn’t understand your headaches.
In a few months, you will have adapted so much to your new diet, that your family and friends will want to come over to see what you’re cooking that tastes so good! Natural food cooking is different than what it was like a decade ago. It’s easier to find cookbooks, share recipes, and find near ready-made alternatives at the health food stores and whole food superstores.
NutraSweet and aspartame are unnatural sugars synthesized in the laboratory. There have been thousands of reports about headaches and even brain tumors linked to aspartame.
The “sugar-free” label really isn’t so sweet after all. Avoid anything that has a list of chemicals in it! If you’re truly serious about eliminating your headaches, try one week without any chemicals. That includes diet sodas, which are nothing more than a chemical concoction!
When you go one week without chemicals, you will be amazed at how different you feel and besides that, you will have a week free from headaches. Tell me what happens because I will want to write it down so other patients will be motivated.
4. Low blood sugar from not eating regular meals causes headaches
When you don’t eat regular meals, you get energy from stored fats and carbohydrates. This happens automatically in response to low blood sugar from not eating. Keep a journal of your diet and look for a pattern of headaches that appear when you don’t eat breakfast, skip lunch or dinner, or go to bed hungry. The best diet you can eat is one that supplies you with three meals a day and snacks in between.
5. Low blood sugar from eating too many carbohydrate foods in a meal causes headaches
Carbohydrate foods are foods such as breads, pasta, cakes, cookies, candy, muffins, rice, beans, whole grains, tacos and tortillas. Starchy vegetables such as peas, corn, potatoes, acorn squash, and other winter squashes also contain high levels of carbohydrates. Milk products are another good source.
It’s okay to have carbohydrate foods in your diet, but limit them to a maximum of three or four servings per meal. Some people must limit them to one or two to become headache-free. Watching your diet for the number of carbohydrates eaten in any one meal can be a big revelation into why you have headaches. Too many carbohydrates cause headaches by raising insulin levels that lower blood sugar too fast and also increase inflammation in the body.
Here’s an example of too many carbohydrates in a meal:
Oatmeal with raisins, orange juice, a muffin, and an apple.
You may think that the oatmeal meal is a healthy meal but it contains too many carbohydrates. The headache-free breakfast would be oatmeal with milk and an apple. You could even add an egg to this new meal.
Here’s another example:
Steak, big baked potato with butter, green beans, peas, corn, salad, and apple pie a la mode.
Here’s your headache-free meal:
Steak, 1/3 to 1/2 baked potato with butter, green beans, salad, one-fourth slice of apple pie a la mode.
6. Low blood sugar from not enough protein in the meal or in the diet causes headaches
Many people believe that it’s not a good idea to eat red meat, so they eliminate it from their diet. Grass-fed red meat is an excellent source of nutrients, including omega-3 fats that prevent headaches! The problem is that when many people eat less meat, they don’t substitute other protein foods for the red meat. Other protein foods include fish, chicken, turkey, wild meats, eggs, cheese and dairy products.
If you don’t have enough protein in a meal, your body cannot repair itself. Without enough protein in a meal, the composition of that meal is primarily carbohydrates and fat. And we already know what too many carbohydrates in a meal can do: cause a headache!
Make sure you eat some form of protein at every meal. Even adding one or two eggs for breakfast can change your life and your headaches! See how good your day goes when you have enough protein! Eat at least three ounces (about the size of a computer mouse) at each meal and you’ll have the minimum amount you need each day.
7. Food allergies cause headaches
Food allergies will trigger a headache quickly. If you’re allergic to a food, whether it’s yeast, milk, peanuts, wheat, or sugar, it’s possible that you will have a headache after eating that food. In children suffering from migraines and epilepsy, eliminating offending foods will result in a reduction of seizures.
What makes food allergies more complicated is that a food essentially stays in the body for four days so you could be reacting to a food eaten four days ago!
While you may not necessarily be allergic to a certain food, you can still be sensitive. Many of us are sensitive to foods and don’t even know it. Food sensitivities differ from allergies as a true food allergy requires the presence of IgE antibodies against the food, while a food sensitive does not. Nonetheless, symptoms can be rather similar. Oftentimes food sensitivities can result in fatigue, headaches, skin irritations, respiratory issues, nausea, abdominal cramping, and so on. It is important to remember that food sensitivities differ from allergies, and as such cannot be tested for in the same manner. If you have any of the symptoms above, ask your doctor or naturopath if they feel a food intolerance test would be right for you.
8. Faulty elimination causes headaches
For a minute, think back to a time when you were constipated. How did you feel? Miserable! I must tell you how important it is to have a bowel movement at least twice daily. If you don’t, you are constipated!
What happens inside the body when you are constipated is not pretty! All that waste matter sitting inside your intestines is rotting! Forgive me for being so graphic, but I want you to understand this. There is a process in the body called diffusion that happens inside the cells that works like this: wherever you have a higher concentration of something, it will flow to an area of lower concentration. When you have a high concentration of wastes in the intestines, they start “polluting” the rest of the organs in your abdomen. This is part of the reason why so many men have prostate problems!
Those wastes in your colon are in such a high concentration that they start “flowing” to other places in the body. Countless patients have told me over the years that part of the reason why they got headaches was because they were constipated.
So stop carrying around those old meals as a suitcase in your colon and start feeling better. You will clearly have fewer headaches as a result. Some simple ways to do this:
- When you get up in the morning, drink two to three 8-oz glasses of water within five minutes. This will result in a bowel movement within about 30 minutes.
- Consume food high in natural fiber (such as various seeds, vegetables, and fruit)
- Obtain a colon cleanse formula and use it for at least six weeks.
- Take a probiotic daily for proper digestion and absorption and to maintain a normal flora.
- Add 3 oz. aloe vera juice to every meal.
9. Dehydration causes headaches
Your body uses water to dissolve EVERYTHING except fats and fat-soluble vitamins. When you don’t have water, you can’t dissolve toxins and get them out of the body. Your blood has a high percentage of water. When your water levels are only 5% lower, your efficiency suffers by 30%. Aim for 1 oz. water for every 2 pounds you weigh. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need a minimum of 75 oz. water per day. That’s equivalent to a little over nine 8-oz glasses water. If you drink three in the morning when you wake up, you only have six more to go for the rest of the day. That’s easy!
10. Malnutrition causes headaches
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies cause headaches. I’m not going to go through every one of the vitamins and mineral deficiencies that do this because you’ll rush out and try to buy them. The problem with that thinking is that it doesn’t work. You must have balanced nutrition, a balanced amount of vitamins and minerals to make nutrients work. A good vitamin/mineral supplement plan is important.
11. Stress causes headaches
I understand that you may be experiencing a very difficult time in your life; during difficult times, there’s a lot of stress. For every problem, there’s a solution. Some of the top ways to beat stress are:
- Exercise! When you exercise, you purposefully stress your body, teaching it how to overcome this stress. That’s why you feel so good after exercising!
- Let all your frustrations be dissolved by taking a walk in the mountains or by visiting a lake or river. Go somewhere peaceful; the energy of that place will be transferred to you.
- Play an instrument or listen to music or sing.
- Jump up and down on a rebounder and yell at the top of your lungs! With three or four screams, you’ll notice the stress is gone.
- Add an extra B vitamin to your diet: pantothenic acid. This B vitamin, which is vitamin B5, helps support the adrenal glands and makes a big difference in stress levels in three days. Take 500 mg.
- Laugh belly laughs!.
12. Processed foods cause headaches
Processed foods cause headaches by causing inflammation; the more inflammation, the more frequent you’ll have headaches. The way that processed foods cause inflammation is by the chemicals in them called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. These AGEs are worse than free radicals, causing mini explosive reactions inside the body’s organs that lead to aging, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and inflammation.
Once you commit to not eating processed foods, your life actually becomes simpler and you end up saving money on the grocery bill. Your lunch and dinner meals are similar: protein food (meat), grain, vegetable, and fruit for dessert. The simpler they are, the easier they are to prepare. For example, one meal could be chicken breast, brown rice, green beans with almonds, applesauce, and beverage.
While you’re cutting out processed foods, you’ll also start to notice that you aren’t aging fast anymore. Your waistline is returning without trying. You have more energy and more concentrated brain power. And you’re headache free!
Diet that Reduces Inflammation
A diet that controls inflammation is high in antioxidants from fruits, vegetables and foods in that category that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Incorporate these foods in your diet and monitor the number of headaches you have.
Fruits: Apples, acerola berries, fresh pineapple, guavas, grapefruit and rhubarb, kiwi fruit, lemons, limes, oranges, kumquats, black currants, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries and strawberries, papaya, cherries, and tomatoes
Vegetables: Spinach, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, cabbage, bok choy, onion, leeks, garlic, green onions, broccoli, cauliflower, broccoli sprouts, brussel sprouts.
Herbs & Spices: Basil, oregano, mint, cloves, turmeric, cayenne peppers, chili peppers, parsley, rosemary.
Fish and Meats: Cod, halibut, salmon, snapper, bass, whitefish, herring, trout, sardines, grass-fed beef, pork, naturally raised (not on grain) chicken and turkey.
Whole Grains: Brown rice, whole wheat, buckwheat, barley, rye, millet, spelt.
Fats: Extra virgin olive oil, avocado, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts.
Natural Remedies that Help Decrease Headache and/or Inflammation
Ginger contains over 500 different compounds, many of them which are anti-inflam-matory in nature. Try a 500 mg capsule when you feel a headache coming on, or about one third of a teaspoon. Cook with ginger regularly. One simple recipe is to braise beef or chicken strips with broccoli and one-half cup diced or sliced ginger. Use pineapple juice as a sweetener in this dish.
The average American has eaten too many omega-6 fats in their diet over the last 20 years that has resulted in a widespread omega-3 fat deficiency. Omega-3 fats prevent inflammation in the body. The tie in to a headache is that inflammation can lead to a headache. Make sure you have omega-3 fats in your diet by adding two to four capsules of 500 mg EPA withDHAdaily.
Did you know that increasing your vitamin C intake could reduce inflammation in the body by 45%? That’s what researchers reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in March of 2006. A level of 2000 mg is a good start to decreasing inflam-mation in the body that may be related to headache. You can always increase it later. Make sure, also, that you get at least 400 IU vitamin E in your supplements daily. Vitamin E is responsible for reducing inflammation of the muscles, which may occur in the neck and cause headache.
This vital mineral has been found in deficiency levels in those who have migraines. It’s an essential mineral for contraction of the blood vessels. Adding 300-400 mg magnesium per day is probably safe, however, without a hair analysis test to see where all your mineral levels are, you’re taking shots in the dark.
This herb has been used traditionally for treating headaches. Use as directed on the label.
Germanium has been used to oxygenate the system and provides pain relief in many different situations. When using it, take it on an empty stomach, and never at the same time with any prescription medications. 200 to 300 mg may prove extremely helpful.
Now it’s Time to Eliminate Those Headaches
Remember that you must decrease all the reasons for having a headache in the first place, not just use a supplement as a remedy. Address the 8 health and dietary habits discussed in the beginning of this report and use the supplements to fill in the gap and you headaches should decrease. Keep in mind, however, that these tips may only address the symptoms, Chiropractic however can addresses the cause. I urge you to make an appointment today to visit your local chiropractor for your Headache Assessment and still living a headache-free live!
Dr. NathalieBeauchamp, B.Sc., D.C. is an Ottawa based chiropractor, a certified personal fitness trainer, a professional natural figure/bodybuilder, a wellnessconsultant, lecturer and local TV personality She is the co-author of the published book—Wellness On The Go: Take the Plunge- It’s Your Life! and the creator of the Roadmap to Wellness, an online coaching program, designed
to teach clients how to live a wellness lifestyle. She is the owner of Beauchamp Chiropractic: A Creating Wellness Center, and is the recipient of the 2009 Chiropractor of the Year award from the Chiropractic Leadership Alliance. You can reach Dr. Nathalie’s Wellness Centre at 613-837-2883.