headacheFrom time to time it seems all of us get a headache. Whether a symptom of the common cold or flu, eye strain, or another reason, we’ve all experienced the headache. However there are some people who seem to suffer more frequently from headaches than the rest of us. And then there are those who suffer from such excruciating headaches they are rendered useless until the suffering passes.

According to the National Women’s Health Information Center 45 million Americans are victims of chronic headaches with 20 million of those being women. That’s a lot of people suffering from painful headaches every day.

What’s more according to the 2001 National Hospital Ambulatory Care Survey more than 9 million people in the United States alone visits the doctor for a headache. One would imagine this isn’t just a mild passing headache that sends these people to the doctor’s office.

Do you suffer from chronic headaches? Do you find yourself popping pill after pill in hopes of relieving the pain in your head that prevents your from living life at its fullest? If you are one of these millions of people suffering with headaches listen up! There are steps you can take to not just treat the headache but get to the root of the problem and solve it.

No More Headaches! Determine the Cause of Your Headaches

In the Western world we have become accustomed to treating symptoms while essentially ignoring the root cause of the problem, in this case headaches, leaving our minds divorced from the pain while our bodies continue suffering.

The key to effectively treating any problem is to first determine the cause. Causes of headaches range from eye strain to brain tumors so obviously the way we treat each case can vary greatly. However once you’ve ruled out a head injury or any other serious medical condition such as a brain tumor (which sadly many people rush to conclude they have when suffering with chronic headaches) it’s time to take a look at the real cause of your headache.

Most Common Causes of Headaches

The list of headaches causes is long. In this context we’ll be discussing headaches that aren’t caused by serious medical conditions.

Some of the most common but least recognized causes of headaches are the following:

  • Food allergies
  • Nutrient Deficiencies
  • Vitamin or mineral toxicity
  • Skeletal structural issues
  • Pharmaceutical side effect or allergy
  • Chemical toxicity
  • Anemia
  • Thyroid issues
  • Hormone imbalances

As I said, the list of headache causes is very long and in this discussion we’ll focus on three of the most common, yet least recognized causes of headaches. These are food allergies, structural skeletal problems, and vitamin deficiencies.

Food Allergies as a Cause of Headaches

One of the most common problems not only with headaches but also other health issues is that the foods some of us put into our bodies are actually causing us health issues, including headaches.

Headaches are one of the first signs of an allergic reaction to a particular food. As we rush through life, stuffing whatever we can grab in our mouths, we seldom stop to take notice of how each food choice impacts our bodies. If we slow down to listen to our bodies they’ll reveal to us if the food choice we’ve made is having a positive impact or negative impact on our delicate body systems.

When it comes to food allergies and headaches the first step is to begin keeping a headache journal. You can pick up a composition book at the store for just a couple dollars to begin tracking your headaches. This step is key not only for food allergy induced headaches but to determine the real cause of your headaches whatever that may be.

When you get a headache write down the time, day, and what you ate and did up to two hours before the onset of your headache. Also jot down when the headache began and when it ended.

Some of the most commonly eaten foods produce allergic reactions in many people. These common allergy producing foods are:

  • Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Egg
  • Shellfish
  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts

The key to beating food allergy induced headaches is to determine which food or foods specifically you’re allergic to and avoid it. The FDA mandates that these eight above listed common food allergens be listed on all product labels. So even if you’re not eating that food specifically, for instance peanuts, it’s essential to be sure it’s not hidden in another food you’ve selected. Again, reading labels of what you buy is essential to healthy eating especially if you have food allergies.

Remember food ingredients can change so be sure you’re checking the labels to avoid any food you should be avoiding.

Structural Issues as a Cause of Headaches

We often overlook a previous head, neck, or spinal injury as the cause of ongoing headaches. In fact, many simple strains or misalignments of the neck and spine can cause headaches that, if left untreated, continue for years.

According to a recent study released by the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research, those people who took part in ongoing chiropractic care experienced a reduction in headache severity and frequency as compared with those who took a commonly prescribed pharmaceutical for tension headaches, amitriptyline.

Many people report to their chiropractors the same. These same people often say they wish they had visited the chiropractor earlier but had misconceptions about exactly what this type of health care practitioner does.

The best way to choose a chiropractor (DC or doctor of chiropractic) is to ask a family member or friend for a referral. If you don’t know anyone who currently uses a chiropractor you can visit the American Chiropractic Association to find a reputable practitioner in your area. I recommend finding someone who practices wellness, or corrective care, treatment.

Magnesium as a Treatment for Headaches

Magnesium has been thought to be connected to headaches, particularly migraines, for many decades now. Magnesium plays a vital role in body functions including blood vessel stabilization, bone strength, enabling sleep, and nerve and muscle function.

In fact many of the causes of depleted magnesium are also connected with chronic headaches; alcohol consumption, excess stress, and also menstruation for women.

Low magnesium isn’t as common as a vitamin D deficiency but if you suffer from headaches this is one of the most important things to consider. According to Dr. Sarah DeRossett, a headache specialist, many people suffering with from migraines also have been found to have lower levels of magnesium compared with those not suffering from migraines.

Again the best way to boost your magnesium is through real foods. Great sources of magnesium include beans, dark leafy veggies, and seafood like wild caught salmon. As you can see from this list, rich sources of magnesium such as seafood are also common food allergens. This is why the first step to curing your headaches all naturally (rather than simply treating them with drugs) is determining the real cause.

If you find you need to supplement a healthy diet with magnesium, I recommend finding a high quality brand that does not contain magnesium stearate.

Keep a headache diary, pay attention to what you eat and then how your body responds, and be sure you are eating an all around healthy diet.

Sources

National Headache Foundation (2010)

Mayo Clinic (2009)

American Chiropractic Association (2010)

Mayo Clinic (2010)

Dr. Axe's Action Steps

Dr. Axe
  1. Buy a simple journal to keep track of your headaches for one or two months.
  2. Once you have a few weeks or months of headaches tracked looked for patterns. Do you get headaches after eating certain foods, cleaning, or engaging in certain activities?
  3. Reflect on when you first began having these chronic headaches. Did you have any type of head, neck, or spine injury?
  4. Consult with a doctor to help you determine the cause of your headaches. Be sure you tell the doctor you don’t just want a medication but first to determine exactly what your unique headache cause is.
  5. Consult with a doctor to help you determine the cause of your headaches. Be sure you tell the doctor you don’t just want a medication but first to determine exactly what your unique headache cause is.
  6. Buy a simple journal to keep track of your headaches for one or two months.
  7. Once you have a few weeks or months of headaches tracked looked for patterns. Do you get headaches after eating certain foods, cleaning, or engaging in certain activities?
  8. Reflect on when you first began having these chronic headaches. Did you have any type of head, neck, or spine injury?