Headaches are something of a modern plague, affecting the majority of the population from time to time, and some people on a very regular basis. While they can range from very mild to severe and debilitating, they are almost always bothersome enough to warrant doing something about. So what causes them? And what can we do about it?
Tension headache – a modern plague
Headaches can occur for myriad reasons. The most common type amongst adults is tension headache, affecting around 80% of the population at least occasionally, with some people affected on a daily basis. Caused by stress, poor posture, tension in the neck and scalp muscles, or lack of food or water, these can last from a few hours to a few days, and present as a feeling of a tight band or pressure around both sides of the head, radiating particularly behind the eyes and in the forehead, and at the back of the head. While not normally serious enough to stop daily activities, they can be very painful.
Migraines are another relatively common form of headache that involve the neurological system, differentiating them from other types of headache. They are generally highly debilitating and extremely painful, lasting anything from a few hours to a few days. Symptoms vary from person to person, but often include light sensitivity and visual disturbances (flashing lights, rainbows, and other anomalies in the visual field) that may preclude or accompany the excruciating head pain, as well as nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Migraines tend to progress in phases unique to that particular person. Triggers vary but often include genetics, stress, fatigue or lack of sleep, hormonal changes throughout the month, changes in weather, bright light, movement and certain foods.
Basic tips for headache relief
Both forms of headache – though different in origin – may be alleviated by a number of similar means, depending on the cause. Stopping regularly to move around and get some exercise – or at least move ones’ head and neck – can be helpful for those who work office jobs and are prone to tension headache. Osteopathy and chiropractic may be useful for those who are suffering on a chronic basis. Ensuring you drink enough water during the day is a very simple solution for many people, as often dehydration can be a major trigger of headaches.
Magnesium, calcium and other minerals
Making sure you eat foods rich in magnesium and calcium can also be helpful. These minerals are both heavily involved in the tension and relaxation of muscle fibres, and without them people may experience muscle pain and cramping, including headaches. Magnesium sulphate (Epsom salt) baths or topical magnesium oil may be of use to people who find it difficult to take supplements or include enough magnesium-rich foods in the diet, which include sunflower seeds, vegetables – particularly leafy greens – and fruits, nuts, coffee and cocoa. If tyramine is a known trigger for you, it is best to avoid coffee and cocoa, however. Any nuts should be soaked for several hours in water prior to consuming to ensure optimal nutrient absorption.
Certain foods can be helpful to avoid, as they are known triggers for many people. These include caffeine, monosodium glutamate (MSG) – a flavour enhancer used in many processed foods and takeaways – and foods rich in the amino acid tyramine. Tyramine-rich foods include red wine, cheese (especially aged or cured cheeses), chocolate and many fermented foods. Other people may find that their food sensitivities can trigger headaches, with gluten sensitivity and coeliac disease both associated with them.
Helpful herbs and specific supplements
Other things that may assist with the relief of headaches and migraines are co-enzyme Q10, found in organ meats, fish, meat, eggs, whole grains and nuts, and vegetables, and vitamin B2 (riboflavin), found in eggs, meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The herb Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) has traditionally been used in the relief of headaches and migraines, and may help with the relief of symptoms. Other anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, ginger, kawakawa may also help relieve pain and inflammation, and adaptogens such as ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) may be of use for those whose migraines are triggered by stress.
HealthPost carries a wide range of products that may assist in the relief of migraines and headaches. These include numerous mineral supplements, herbal medicines, homoeopathic formulas and nutrients. You can buy them from our secure online shop.
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