by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN, NP
There are some natural headache remedies or “rescue treatments” available and if you are in pain and need immediate relief, it’s good to know you have options. But as I always tell my patients – headaches, like all symptoms, are a call to pay attention to something else that is going on in your body and/or your life.
Whether your headaches are a regular event or an occasional experience, there is much to be learned about what’s going on to cause them. At Women to Women, we think that knowledge is power and understanding the circumstances around a symptom like headaches can yield a goldmine of information about what your body responds to – and what situations will throw you off balance.
The good news is that most chronic headaches, including tension, cluster and migraines, can benefit from nutrition and lifestyle changes. The first step in developing a natural headache prevention strategy is to begin a headache diary. Unlike other diaries that require recording every little thing you do, keeping a headache diary is relatively simple – whenever you have a headache. you record the details that will help you and your practitioner better diagnose your type of headache and its possible triggers.
In your diary, you’ll record the date and time of the headache; how long it lasts; what it felt like; how intense it was (a scale of 1-10 works well); any other symptoms you are aware of before, during or after; any medications including Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or birth control pills you’ve taken; any triggers you might be aware of, such as a change in sleeping habits, stress; what you ate over the past 24-48 hours (especially anything you don’t usually eat); sounds, smells, or physical activity; what you were doing (computer time, watching TV, etc.); and finally, what kind of relief you experienced. No stress – just remember what you can and continue to do so with each recurring headache.
It would also be very helpful to note where you are in your menstrual cycle. Over time (and we’ve found if you have regular headaches, it can sometimes take as little as two or three weeks), you and your practitioner may begin to see patterns. It’s amazing some of the stories my patients have told me about their discoveries after keeping their headache diaries. Food sensitivities, environmental concerns, especially smells from certain chemicals, night teeth grinding (which can cause TMJ headaches), stress from deadlines at work, a mother-in-law visiting – even disrupted sleep due to uncomfortable bedding or restless sleeping partners – have all emerged as triggers for some of my patients!
At Women to Women, we tell our patients that what you are experiencing now is often the result of many months or years of habits. Understanding your body is essential for making health changes, but it won’t happen overnight, just as the reasons causing your symptoms likely took time to build and develop long before the symptoms appeared – or the headaches began. But if you are committed to making some changes in order to feel better, there are things you can do to address the imbalance and get your body back on track.
1. Nutrition and Supplementation
After treating thousands of patients at our clinic, one common theme has emerged: most of us are nutritionally deficient in some area. We all have our ingrained eating habits that may not be ideal, and even if we are doing fairly well, there are challenges getting the nutrients we need from today’s food supply. I see over and over again in my patients that most all of us have faced nutritional challenges and may experience nutritional gaps.
For many of my patients, sugar, alcohol and caffeine are prevalent in their lives and these are all major headache triggers. I realize that going cold turkey is not the answer, but if you suffer from headaches, it may well be worth gradually cutting back and seeing what happens. You can learn more about how to beat your sugar cravings and why sugar is so damaging to our bodies in our article, “Sweet Poison – Kicking Your Sugar Addiction.”