Prevent Headaches by changing your diet
-17.6% women & 6% men in the US experience headaches on more than an occasional basis
-20M experience cluster or migraine headaches regularly.
Why do headaches make your head “ache”?
-Blood vessels may overreact to various food triggers, causing constriction and then dilation of the arteries that supply blood to the brain.
-The result is a pulsing, often incapacitating pain that is sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
-When food is the culprit, reactions are often within 24 hours after a suspected food has been consumed.
What can cause headaches?
-Food isn’t the only thing that can cause headaches
– Tension headaches are usually caused by muscular tension and stress
-Other causes include: eyestrain, anxiety, hunger, sinus pressure, constipation, hormonal imbalances, weather changes, irritants such as odors or pollution, and of course food allergies/intolerances, and nutritional deficiencies.
-Delaying a caffeine fix could trigger a throbbing headache
-Researchers found that those who had headaches on their days off consumed twice the amount of caffeine than those who didn’t have weekend headaches.
-The reason caffeine is in most headache medications is because caffeine constricts the dilated blood vessels around your temples.
-Caffeine and a compound called theobromine in coffee, tea, chocolate, and cocoa are the causative factors, which is why more than 1 or 2 cups a day for those who suffer from migraines- can actually trigger headaches.
-TIP: If you want to cut out caffeine- don’t go cold turkey! Instead, gradually taper off your caffeine intake, which gives your body time to adjust to the lighter dose day by day.
-Alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning that it expands blood vessels, which can trigger a migraine.
-Amines & yeasts found in wine and beer have also found to be common culprits that cause headaches.
-Champagne and red wine contain phenols, tyramine, as well as sulfites, all of which can lead to a whopping headache.
Tip: Treat yourself to a spritzer! Just mix seltzer water with a little juice, and whahla! And just think of all the calories you’ll be saving!
-Tyramines cause a rapid increase in blood pressure.
-Found predominantly in strong, aged cheeses and foods like pickled herring and liver, wine, beer, chocolate, and bananas, and surprisingly, lima beans and snow peas.
-Nitrites can cause your blood vessels to dilate setting the stage for a migraine.
-Commonly called “hot-dog headaches”.
-Found in cured meats such as hot dogs, bacon, ham, and salami.
Tip: Go for fresh meat instead of preserved products.
MSG (Monosodium glutamate)
-Most widely used in Chinese food cooking as a flavor enhancer
-Chinese restaurant syndrome: Burning sensation in the neck and forearms, chest tightness, sweating, tingling in the fingers, cramps, and of course…headache.
-Thought to be toxic to the brain.
-Certain foods such as dairy, citrus, simple sugars, or wheat proteins may cause headaches in some people.
-An entire food group may be responsible such as the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers, garden peppers, eggplant and paprika).
-Root vegetables, Berries, Shellfish, Meats, Grains, and Legumes are just a few examples of other food families that may be causing intolerance, and consequent headaches.
Tip: If you suspect certain foods are causing headaches, try an elimination diet. Eliminate all foods that you think may be causing headaches for at least 10 days, or until your re-current headaches are gone. Then gradually re-introduce one food at a time, until the offending food is found. The rotation diet may also be helpful. Simply rotate various foods, assuming symptoms are kept to a minimum by not consuming them.
Vitamin/ Mineral Deficiencies
-Low-Magnesium and/ or Vitamin B-6 levels have also been found to trigger migraines. –These nutrients can be found in whole grains, nuts, legumes and seafood.
-Dehydration can also cause headaches.
Tip: Eat a well-balanced diet & try not to let 2 hours pass with out drinking a glass of water.
-Fasting, or skipping meals can cause a dip in blood sugar and bring on a headache.
Tip: eating small meals, and snacks between meals. This will help to stabilize wide swings in blood sugar.
– To find your worst offenders, keep a food diary that lists when your headaches occur, how severe, additional symptoms, what you eaten, sleep patterns, menstrual cycles, other pertinent factors. You can prevent headaches at least 40% of the time just by making dietary changes. You may also benefit by getting tested for food allergies/ intolerances.
-Promote regular mealtimes, including a little protein with each mini-meal.
-Read labels on spices, bouillon, and packaged dishes.
-Practice deep breathing, and relaxation.
-If you feel a headache coming on, drink a large glass of water.
-Use a heating pad to relax the neck and shoulders.
-Apply a cold compress to the spot of radiating pain. This helps to constrict blood vessels, and ease muscle spasms.
-Avoid aged cheeses, cured meats, beer, wine, coffee, cocoa, and pickled products.
-Get sufficient sleep & regular exercise.
-Eat a well-balanced diet.
-Take a Multivitamin.
-Always seek & treat the cause of a headache, not the symptom. Long-term over reliance on aspirin, and other non-prescription painkillers can make chronic headaches worse by interfering with the brain’s natural ability to fight headaches.
For more help…
-If you experience a headache everyday, or if you do not find relief with over-the-counter pain medications and/or by avoiding the above foods, see a doctor or health care provider immediately.
-For more information on headaches, visit the National Headache Foundation’s website, or call toll-free (888) 643-5552
-Looking for a book on headaches? “Dietary Triggers for Migraines” by Agnes Peg Hartnell, RD and Scott Tyler, MD, contains over 200 migraine free recipes, a food purchasing guide as well as lists of foods to be avoided.
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