What gives you a headache? I’m sure any number of possibilities come to mind. The most common type of headaches are tension headaches, 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 suite of 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 are usually 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 that people experience. Just think, how often do you fall short of the daily recommendation? Did you even realize that you should be striving for 1 oz of non-caffeinated fluid for every pound you weigh? i.e. if you weigh 160 pounds, you should be getting 80 oz (10 glasses/approx. 2.5L) of fluid. Staying hydrated not only helps to keep headaches at bay, but it also improves concentration and extinguishes irritability.
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.
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 and tyramine — a natural chemical that’s 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.
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? Truth is, elevated estrogen levels can have an impact on the frequency and severity of headaches in both women and men. It is why women are 3X 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. Put a couple of drops on your temples and/or the back of your neck just as your headache starts. If you’re like me, the peppermint also helps with the nausea that can accompany some headaches.
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.
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.
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.
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, consult with your natural health practitioner to work to identify your triggers and solutions together.