5 Ways of combatting headaches

Henrietta Norton BSc, Dip NT, MBANT, AFMCP Co-founder of Wild Nutrition and Nutritional Therapist.

A headache is one way your body can tell you that something is out of balance – whether this is a psychological pressure or a hormonal imbalance. Using it as an opportunity to delve into the cause, especially if they are reoccurring, can be a really productive approach to wellness.

 

There are many causes of headaches; high blood pressure, low or high blood sugar, dehydration, tension, hormones, medications and infections to name a few. Here are some actions you can take to support your body to reduce the chance of suffering from headaches.

 

 

1. Support your liver

 

The liver is responsible for many functions including cleansing our blood, digesting our food, producing energy, and metabolising hormones. If any of these functions are under performing due to poor diet and lifestyle, a headache could develop.

 

You can support your liver with food and herbs like garlic, onions, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, broccoli, watercress), dandelion root, artichoke leaf, burdock root, milk thistle and extra B vitamins. Extra protein will also help to support the liver. If you have a headache, try eating a protein-rich meal or snack and you may find this will alleviate the pain. A well-used naturopathic remedy is to undergo a gentle liver and gut cleansing programme.

 

2. Blood sugar

 

When you eat high sugar foods, or go too long without eating, your body can swing into high or low blood sugar which can cause headaches. Poor blood sugar control will also impact other hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which will increase your susceptibility to head pain.

 

The solution is to eat protein-rich meals with plenty of vegetables and healthy fats. Avoid or minimise all refined, processed foods and ingredients you do not recognise. Better still, stick to foods that don’t need a lengthy ingredients label at all. Focus on real food that is as natural and unprocessed as possible. Some foods will impact your blood sugar more than you realise, the worst offenders are bread, cereal, white rice, high sugar fruits such as grapes, bananas and mangoes, low fat yoghurt and sauces such as ketchup.

 

3. Specific nutrients

 

Headaches can also result from a deficiency in certain nutrients, most commonly magnesium, Vitamin B6 and folate (also known as vitamin B9). Magnesium and Vitamin B6 support the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, blood sugar regulation and the efficient metabolism of oestrogen (excess or deficiency of which can lead to headaches). Similarly folate and magnesium influence blood circulation by contributing to vasoconstriction which can generate pressure headaches. You can boost your dietary intake of these nutrients by eating more green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Supplements wise, try Wild Nutritions Food-Grown Magnesium and B complex plus.

 

4. Rehydrate

 

An obvious solution to start with but it’s surprising how many people forget to drink enough water throughout their day or only drink coffee and tea. If you don’t like water try adding some fresh lemon or lime to improve the taste.

 

The quality of water is also important as you don’t want to burden your body with more chemicals, such as chlorine, from unfiltered water. An excellent investment is the British Berkefeld water filter.

 

You could also start the day with a fresh vegetable juice to provide condensed nourishment from the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Cucumber, celery, lettuce, fennel, ginger, lemons, limes and herbs like parsley, basil and mint all work well in green juice.

 

5. Lifestyle

 

Most people will have experienced a tension headache at some point from staring at a computer screen for too long. We are constantly surrounded by mobile phones, wifi and portable house phones so it’s impossible to avoid the electromagnetic radiation they emit. However, we can switch them off at night, have regular breaks from electronic devices and get out into nature. It is also important to note that children absorb more radiation than adults as they have thinner skin and bones and a higher water content. It is therefore wise to limit their exposure.

 

For more on keeping your body balanced see 'Magnesium: are you getting enough?' and '6 Nutrition tips to help manage your blood sugar'

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