Solving the Migraine and Headache Puzzle
Headaches and migraines in particular can have extremely debilitating effects on our lives and those who suffer from them say that they will do anything to stop the pain. Pain in itself is a big stress on the body and creates a vicious cycle of dependancy on over the counter and prescription pain medications.
Addressing nutrition, lifestyle and environment are powerful ways to significantly reduce and in many cases eliminate headaches and migraines. There are several factors involved outlined below that will benefit most headache sufferers, however, as always- a personalised nutrition approach is the best strategy. I have now developed proven and effective treatment strategies for headaches and migraines that are changing people’s lives significantly for the better by solving their individual pain’puzzle’.
Keys to Puzzle:
It amazes me every day in clinic just how many people are not drinking enough water and are not drinking the right type.
Firstly- quantity: 8 glasses for an adult is a MINIMUM. Absolute minimum. 9-10 is better. However, quality is the bigger issue-drinking tap water is NOT hydration, it’s a toxic cocktail of fluoride, chlorine, antibiotics, pesticides and heavy metals. Have a google and see what is actually in your drinking water.
Getting a proper water filter that removes fluoride and chlorine (which are highly dehydrating) is the first step. Adding some lemon juice or a small amount of coconut water is a great way to enhance hydration and ensure that blood flow is optimised, leading to pain reduction. Depending on your individual mineral make up (best tested via Hair analysis) it may be beneficial to add a pinch of Himalayan sea salt to your water to improve hydration.
This of course is a massive area, but there are a few key foods that will benefit all headache and migraine sufferers and several that are a must to get rid of if you want to stop the suffering. More specific foods are listed below.
Get rid of:
All gluten, dairy, sugar and processed foods- anything in a branded packet. Gluten and dairy are highly inflammatory foods that impair gut function and generate inflammation in the body. Gluten and dairy contain morphine like compounds that can cross the blood-brain barrier and trigger brain disturbances leading to headaches and migraines. Read more about this here.
Added sugar creates dysregulation of blood glucose that can trigger inflammatory headaches as well as inflammation in the optic nerves that can trigger ‘behind the eyes’ headaches. Sugar is highly inflammatory and leads to the production of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that lead to artery damage. This is a major issue for headache/migraine sufferers.
Get rid of barbequed, smoked and aged foods. These contain AGEs as well as acrylamide, and other carcinogenic compounds that can lead to headaches.
Get rid of any branded packets with additives and preservatives. Not only do these contribute to hyperactivity, they overload the liver with toxins making it more difficult for the body to efficiently detoxify hormones thereby contributing to ‘hormonal’ migraines.
Caffeine and Histamine Trigger Foods: caffeine is not beneficial for most headache sufferers and also contributes to anxiety and insomnia. Most sufferers will know to avoid high histamine and tyramine foods like aged cheeses, all alcohol, fermented and pickled foods and leftovers that are high in histamine. Histamine intolerance is a big area and requires an individualised approach.
Histamine overload is a common problem in susceptible people who are genetically predisposed to poor histamine handling. Enzymes such as DAO, NHMT and MAO which degrade histamine can be functioning sub-optimally in many people- I regularly undertake genetic testing in clinic to identify these malfunctioning enzymes.
Histamine overload is a common headache and migraine trigger driven mostly by histamine rich foods as well as infections. For example, Helicobacter Pylori is a common bacteria that is found in the stomach and contributes histamine and ammonia to the metabolism, creating headaches and migraines in susceptible individuals.
Vegetables! I don’t need to tell you about the benefits of vegetables. Suffice to say that the antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals and polyphenols found in vegetables help the body function on every level and will help reduce the severity and frequency of headaches.
Fruit- especially the low sugar high antioxidant varieties such as berries, kiwi and citrus fruits.
Fresh, lean, organic meats- providing adequate, low histamine protein will improve the liver’s ability to detox and reduce susceptibility to headaches.
Organic olive oil- highly anti-oxidant and helps improve histamine degradation.
Getting adequate sleep is paramount for reducing headaches. Avoid caffeinated drinks to reduce stimulation.
Follow a sleep hygeine routine – take out phones and other electronic devices from your bedroom, turn off wifi, turn off bright lights, avoid screens up to 1 hour prior to bed or wear orange light glasses. Make sure your room is fully dark and cool.
Getting a restorative 7-9h sleep EVERY night will go a long way to reducing headaches.
Exercise is a major tool against headaches and migraines: the toxin release through sweat is a great help with clearing, endorphins for good mood, improved stool transit avoiding constipation (see below why this is vitally important).
Eliminate heavy metal and environmental toxicity
I regularly test for copper as well as heavy metals in the body and ask my clients to complete detailed questionnaires that help understand toxic exposure. Many people have a poor genetic capacity to detoxify these and have impaired liver function from consuming too many pesticides and alcohol. We are all exposed to some degree, but eliminating toxins properly is a key step in overcoming headaches.
Mercury/metal dental fillings are common and highly toxic. Every time you have a sip of hot tea or coffee, a small amount of mercury vapour escapes directly into circulation. Dental toxicity is a major factor in headaches.
Look into a full genetic evaluation to understand YOUR personal and very specific drivers of headaches. There are numerous glitches that come up, especially with neurotransmitters and nitric oxide metabolism as well as detoxification and B vitamin metabolism. Highly recommended for chronic sufferers.
Address your Gut
Look for underlying gut infections such as H.Pylori and gut flora imbalances (dysbiosis). The likelihood of intestinal permeability (leaky gut) is extremely high in headaches and migraines.
I think there are vast numbers of people who get headaches purely because they are constipated. Ensure smooth stool transit. Aim for perfect poo. It’s important. Avoiding constipation is critical because toxins and hormones such as estrogen get re-absorbed rapidly back into circulation during constipation. This is where the water comes in of course. As well as adequate fibre. And exercise.
Specific Headache Types
Tension Headaches: usually triggered by physical or emotional stress. There are many techniques to address these including mindfulness meditation and healing modalities such as Reiki. Fell free to contact me for recommendations.
Also, talk to a holistic chiropractor or osteopath about addressing underlying structural issues or past injuries that may be contributing to the headaches.
Sinus headaches: very common with underlying chronic infections and mold/environmental pollutants exposure. There are great tests available to get to the bottom of your sinus issue and strategies to improve immune function.
Hormonal headaches: many neurotransmitter fluctuations, serotonin in particular, are involved in headaches and migraines. Many women experience severe period symptoms surrounding the headaches and this is a key issue to address. Lots can be done to improve period symptoms and provide headache relief by balancing neurotransmitters.
Several key nutrients are essential for addressing headaches and migraines and these need to be administered in doses much higher than recommended daily requirements.
All nutrients and dosages need to be individually determined and tailored to your symptoms and health history. A comprehensive detoxification program is also essential.
I can tell you that even long-standing headaches and migraines are reversible and you can have a full life back by addressing several key factors and changing your diet and lifestyle. So if you are suffering from headaches and migraines or know someone who is, don’t despair but be prepared to take action.
About Maria from True Foods NutritionMaria is a fully qualified Clinical Nutritionist who runs a busy clinic in Sydney. Maria uses a functional medicine approach to find the real causes of illness. She is a firm believer in the principle of ‘food as medicine’ and focuses on diet, nutrients and lifestyle when addressing the conditions of her patients. Contact Maria for a free 15 min phone ‘strategy session’ today: 0466 802 058.
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