Headaches are not fun, especially if you get them regularly. Over-the-counter painkillers abound for migraines and minor headaches, and medical treatments exist for conditions causing severe headaches. But what about good old-fashioned natural, affordable remedies?
What's Causing My Headache, and What Helps?There are a variety of factors that can cause headaches of minor to moderate severity. There are two types of common headaches: migraines and tension headaches. Migraines are directly caused by irritation of sensitive nerve endings in the brain, while tension headaches are directly related to tension in the muscles in the head and neck.
The triggers for tension headaches are often pretty simple: lack of sleep, stress, fatigue, caffeine withdrawal, and physical overexertion. These factors can also contribute to the occurrence of migraines, as can other factors. These include taking or abruptly stopping certain medications, exposure to bright light or smoke, and consuming certain food additives. Migraines are often caused by a variety of factors acting together.
It's self-evident that avoiding triggers is extremely important in avoiding headaches; If you experience headaches, reflect on which environmental factors or decisions precipitated your pain and try to avoid them. If you find that avoiding triggers doesn't help, or that your headaches become significant enough that they're affecting your quality of life, seek medical attention. It might also be useful to try some of the following natural remedies, and incorporate those that help into your routine.
Note: These remedies are potentially useful for migraines and tension headaches, not for cluster headaches or other severe head pain. Be sure to discuss your possible use of them with your physician just to be thoroughly informed and safe.
Vitamins and Supplements
Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, can help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches, including migraines. This vitamin serves a variety of roles in promoting good health, so its efficacy in helping prevent headaches is no surprise. You can get riboflavin from some foods such as eggs, meat, and leafy vegetables. It is also commonly available as an oral supplement.
Coenzyme Q10 is a substance, commonly available in supplement form, that might help decrease the frequency of migraines. The American Headache Society lists Coenzyme Q10 as "possibly effective" for decreasing headaches (there is still insufficient evidence for a definite link). Talk to your doctor before starting supplementation with Coenzyme Q10.
Vitamin D is a universally acclaimed vitamin, and one in which many people are deficient. Scientific studies have shown a noticeable link between Vitamin D deficiency and headache occurrence. You can get Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, but it is also available as a supplement and is present in many foods. Make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D!
Melatonin is a naturally occurring substance in the brain, and is commonly taken in supplement form as a sleep aid. Melatonin is also known for its potential as a migraine deterrent. If you are experiencing migraines, try taking a 3mg melatonin tablet 1-2x during the day, and in the evening before bed. It might help alleviate your migraines, and it won't make you drowsy, since melatonin interacts with low light and other environmental triggers to initiate sleepiness around bedtime.
Helpful Lifestyle MeasuresStaying hydrated is important for a myriad of health reasons. Drinking 8 to 16 ounces of water every few hours has been shown effective in decreasing migraines. Avoiding dehydrating beverages such as alcohol and coffee can also make a noticeable difference. Caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches in those who drink coffee frequently, and hangovers are a clear cause of headaches in alcohol drinkers.
Relaxation techniques that make use of meditation and breath exercises can be extremely useful. Stress is a common precipitator of migraines and tension headaches, and relaxation techniques are a direct way to mitigate stress. These can bring momentary relief, as well as long-term relief, as they increase mindfulness and decrease stress that can cause headaches.
Adjusting your diet might be a critical measure in lessening the frequency and severity of your headaches, It is important to first determine if foods are indeed contributing to your headaches, and to then narrow down what those are. This takes trial and error of removing foods from your diet and then adding them back in one by one to see what triggers your headaches. The payoff is very worthwhile, as you learn what food(s) cause your headaches and can avoid them.
The next time you are struck with a headache, hopefully one of these remedies can help bring a little relief. As a reminder be sure to discuss your possible use of vitamins/supplements with your physician just to be thoroughly informed and safe.
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