Most people have suffered from a headache at least once in their life, however many people suffer from headaches regularly. This significantly reduces their quality of life. There are many factors that can trigger or cause headaches including dehydration, food allergies and sensitivities, low blood sugar, poor liver and kidney function, chemical exposure, hangovers, worry, bad posture, arthritis in the neck, whiplash injuries, grinding teeth or an uneven bite, sinusitis, eyestrain and wearing ill fitting glasses. Hormonal fluctuations prior to the onset of menstrual periods, during pregnancy and at menopause often trigger headaches in women.
The dietary link
Many people who suffer from recurrent headaches find that simple changes to their diet can offer fast and effective relief. Eating small regular meals and avoiding sweet snack foods is often a good preventative measure, as skipping meals results in a drop in blood sugar levels, which can trigger a headache. People that wake up with headaches often suffer from low blood sugar and should attempt to maintain their sugar levels by eating a snack last thing at night and again on waking in the morning. The excessive consumption of sugar and sweets results in broad swings of blood
sugar which can also produce headaches.
The caffeine connection
Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine which is present in coffee, tea and cola drinks can trigger headaches by altering the blood flow to the brain. Cutting down on caffeine consumption often helps people who suffer recurrent headaches, however it may produce withdrawal headaches over the first three or four days. Caffeine may
also be a factor in people who wake with a headache. These people are suffering from caffeine withdrawal and they solve the problem with their morning cup of coffee. Coffee and tea can contribute to another
type of headache – the dehydration headache.
Keeping up your fluids
Dehydration is a common cause of headaches, particularly in hot weather, following sport or after the excessive consumption of alcohol, coffee or tea. The solution is simple, ensure an adequate consumption of water, particularly during sporting activities or when drinking alcohol.
Food allergies or sensitivities often cause headaches. Chinese foods prepared
in restaurants can trigger short lived headaches in some people. This is thought
to be due to the mono sodium glutamate (MSG) and fermented soy and fish sauces
that are often used in Chinese cuisine.
Many headaches are caused by tension. If your head is throbbing and you feel there
is pressure behind your eyes and a tight band around your head, you probably
have a tension headache. One of the best solutions to this type of headache is
regular massage or acupunture to the back and neck. Relaxation exercises can also
be a beneficial preventative measure for tension headaches.
A study in Western Australia revealed that up to 90% of people who regularly
used computers suffered from increased numbers of headaches and other injuries.
This was attributed to poor posture and eyestrain.
How to prevent your headaches
Medical studies have demonstrated that rubbing peppermint oil or liniments on
the nape of the neck and on the temples can be as effective as some painkillers in
People who suffer from regular headaches should:
- eat regular meals to prevent low blood sugar levels;
- eat foods that are rich in antioxidant nutrients including fruit and vegetables,
- avocados, nuts and seeds;
- eat foods that are rich in magnesium including nuts, seeds and green leafy
- drink plenty of water each day to avoid dehydration;
- practice relaxation exercises to help reduce tension and stress; and
- book a regular massage or acupuncture session to loosen tight muscles in the
- neck and back.
They should also avoid:
- excessive caffeine in coffee, tea and cola drinks;
- foods that are known to trigger their headaches; and
- eyestrain and bad posture, particularly when using computers.
Most general and tension headaches respond well to rest, relaxation and drinking plenty of liquid. Frequent or severe headaches or migraines may be the result of a more complex condition and are best treated by a practitioner. If you have any questions about headaches of migraines and their treatment, please contact HealthWise.
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