Most everyone has had a headache at some time, but there are people who cannot function on a daily basis due to headache pain. Many people go to physicians for headaches, in fact, headaches are the ninth most common cause of physician visits. Some headaches are caused by serious medical conditions and may need medical treatment.
Migraines, which come on an average of 1-2 times per month, may last anywhere from 3 hours to 3 days each. The pain, may vary from throbbing to moderate, often comes on gradually. Sometimes it starts on one side of the head and then switches sides. People report seeing lights, rainbows and blurred vision. There may also be loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting.
More women than men complain of headaches. Usually migraine patients have a family background of headaches 80% of the time. 43% of migraine sufferers complain of eye symptoms. According to many studies, most sufferers have other symptoms: hay fever, eczema, travel sickness and a history of digestive tract problems.
The Allergy Connection
Migraines are often a reaction to an allergen, which in turn, irritates the blood vessels. In migraines, an artery, most commonly the superficial temporal artery, becomes constricted at first, then the same segment of the artery becomes widely dilated, and overstretched. The pressure of the blood carried in the artery increases the pain, whereas compression of the artery with the hands on the side of the head over the dilated segment will cause relief of pain. The control of blood vessel tone is through the autonomic nervous system. Thus many natural treatments are directed at the nervous system and blood vessels.
The most common triggering agents for migraines are alterations in serotonin metabolism (a deficiency), food allergies (in order of the most common- wheat, citrus fruit, eggs, tea, coffee, chocolate, milk, salt, corn, cane sugar, yeast, alcohol, cheeses, onions), low magnesium levels, hormonal imbalances, histamine-induced platelet aggregation (blood platelets sticking together). Migraine headaches can also be triggered by eyestrain, poor posture, stress, sleep excess or deficiency, weather changes, blood sugar imbalances and drug use. (Dr. Dana Myatt)
Other studies cite triggers like hypoglycemia, tension, depression, tobacco, birth control pills, vasodilator drugs, water retention, menstruation, wind exposure, and sun exposure. There may also be factors that aggravate migraines such as poor air, constipation, getting cold, noise, carbon monoxide poisoning, very low / high blood pressure, altitude changes (air travel), bright or flashing lights (a recent study showed 30% were in the sun when the migraine started), loud or low frequency noises, electromagnetic fields (cell or portable phone), emotional stress or trauma, strong odors (including news print), pet allergies, and others. (Dr. Ron Roth and Lancet)
Can Foods Cause Migraines?
When allergy producing foods were avoided there was a dramatic fall in the number of headaches per month, 85% of patients becoming headache-free (Lancet) Migraine users may want to stay away from food with dairy and wheat.
Eating too many varieties of foods at one meal is a common cause of headache. The many chemicals from the various foods, even though naturally produced, still make war inside the system. For people with headaches it is wise to take two dishes at a meal of very simple foods. (Dr. Agatha Thrash).
* When the headaches first starts, applying an ice pack can provide quick relief. The ice pack can be placed on the top of the head or on the forehead.
* Tension headaches result from stress and reduced blood flow to the brain, causing the neck muscles to tighten. To soothe the neck muscles apply heat. Applying a heating pad or taking a hot bath can provide relief.
* A massage can relieve stress and relax the muscles in the neck and other parts of the body. With the fingertips, massage the scalp and temples, using a circular motion.
* A hot foot bath with a cold compress or ice pack over the painful area can also be helpful.
* Studies show that Feverfew and Ginkgo reduce migraines and vascular headaches. The leaves of the Feverfew contain parthenolide, which inhibits the production of substances that dilate blood vessels and cause inflammation. Ginkgo also relieves ringing in the ear, and dizziness often associated with headaches. Feverfew and Ginkgo are available at health food stores.
* Ginger relaxes blood vessels in the head and reduces swelling in the brain. It activates natural opiates in the brain that relieve pain. Ginger can be taken in the form of tea or in tablets available at health food stores.
Where to Find Help
For information on headaches contact: The National Headache Foundation (888) NHF-5552. Always consult a physician before proceeding with any remedies. Headaches can be a sign of a very serious medical condition that can lead to death.
Since diet can play a part in migraines, reducing allergy producing foods is recommended. If you can’t afford the $100 food allergy test from your alternative medicine provider, you can instead try going 1 month each without wheat, dairy, and yeast. Those are the most common offenders. If any of them is involved, you should notice a difference!
Although it can be a challenge to change your diet, if the end result is migraine headache relief, it will be well worth your effort. There are an increasing number of non-allergenic food mixes and seasonings on the market today that have no dairy, are easy to make and healthful and fun to eat. You may want to consider some of those options while testing your diet to see if you can determine what foods, if any, are the ones that give you a headache.