Headaches

What do Vince Lombardi, the movie The Karate Kid, and natural health cave have in common? Success is achieved by doing the simple basics and by doing them well. Vince Lombardi is known for stressing basic football skills, like blocking. In The Karate Kid, the main character, Daniel, wins a tournament: his training consisting of doing a few basic moves (like “paint the fence”) over and over again. Similarly, in natural health care, simple basic things work and they work well.

Susan (not here real name) suffered from headaches. She had one or two headaches each week. Occasionally they were incapacitating. She went to a doctor and was given a prescription headache medicine that worked well enough. Here’s the rub—no one told this patient to avoid aspartame (Nutrasweet), MSG, food additives or refined sugar. She continued to drink a diet soda every day and consume canned soup (containing MSG). She works hard and often skips meals.

While a drug can relieve the symptom, (although not all of the time, and not immediately) it may be more useful to find and correct the cause of the headaches. Bringing her blood sugar under control (get her to stop skipping meals), and avoiding the additives (which can often trigger headaches) might be a good way to begin to find the cause of the problem and correct it.  If you can find a natural method that works, it is better than taking a drug with possible side-effects and burdening the body with a foreign substance.

These two simple steps may solve the problem; they may not. It is better to try simple, natural things first. You wouldn’t pull the engine out of a car that doesn’t start before checking to see if there is gas in the tank. Paying attention to basic health issues, while not solving every health problem will give good results to most patients.

Patients suffering from headaches often don’t realize how some of their habits can contribute to their symptoms. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the simple, obvious things you can do to correct the underlying cause of many headaches.

  • Chiropractic: Headache patients are among the favorite patients of chiropractors because they get such good results. Of course no therapy can make guarantees, but chiropractic care has a pretty good track record with headaches. Chiropractors are doctors of the nervous system, relieving pain and restoring normal nerve function. Headaches in particular respond to this approach.
  • Pay attention to blood sugar:Hypoglycemia is one very common cause of headaches. People often know this; the headache comes in the late afternoon before dinners or when meals are delayed. Some people may not make the connection between blood sugar and headaches. People who skip breakfast, or who eat only refined carbohydrates for breakfast (donut, bagels, white toast etc.) can have blood sugar swings that contribute to headaches. They often get headaches later in the day without making the connection between their eating habits and their headaches. Eating a lot of refined sugar (in the form of cookies, ice cream, candy, soda pop, etc.) can cause blood sugar swings and contribute to headaches. In general, people suffering with headaches should eat all of their meals (if hypoglycemia is very bad, snacking with protein between meals may be short-term solution; also, protein should be eaten for breakfast). They should absolutely avoid refined sugar and refined carbohydrates. Sometimes vitamin supplementation helps. Please feel free to call us to set up a consultation to discuss this or any other health issue.
  • A possible need for B vitamins: It is not a good idea to self-medicate with supplements. However people who a lot of sugar and white flour probably need B vitamins. High doses of riboflavin (a B vitamin) have been shown to give relief to patients suffering with migraine headaches.
  • A possible need for magnesium: Magnesium supplementation has been known to give relief to women suffering from headaches related to their menstrual cycle (other kinds of nutrient support help this symptom as well). A woman who needs magnesium has mood swings while menstruating and/or her breasts become tender during certain times during her cycle. Magnesium supplementation has also been shown to reduce symptoms for migraine sufferers. There is growing evidence that magnesium deficiency can be a trigger for migraine headaches. Magnesium is required for normal neuron and cellular function. One study found a deficiency of ionized magnesium in about 40% of the patients with migraine headaches. Magnesium is nature’s muscle relaxer. It can help with tension headaches. It can also help to control blood sugar. A highly refined diet is low in magnesium. High doses of magnesium can cause loose stools. Once again, don’t try to self-medicate with supplements. Please feel free to contact us and schedule a consultation to discuss this or any other health issue.
  • Be concerned about the kinds of fats and oils you consume (see the sections on pain and on essential fatty acids):Strictly avoid hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oil. These oils interfere with normal fat metabolism and, among other harmful things cause an increase in inflammation. In fact, if you suffer from any kind of pain or inflammation, avoid hydrogenated oils. They will make your symptoms worse. People who need essential fatty acids  may have dry skin, tight muscles and their muscles may fatigue easily.

Obviously the causes of headaches need to be found and treated. There are life-threatening causes of headaches like brain tumors and aneurisms. If the headache is unusual or has additional symptoms like dizziness, nausea, or loss of coordination, seeyour doctor. It is best to rule out serious pathology. More often than not, once serious pathology has been ruled out, natural approaches for treating headaches work very well.