What to Eat to Treat Headaches
Headaches affect the cardiovascular, nervous, and glandular immune centers.
There’s Motrin and then there’s minestrone when it comes to migraines or even a garden-variety headache. Whole foods that supply muscle relaxants like calcium, magnesium, and nerve-nourishing vitamin B2 as well as EFAs can be both prescriptive and preemptive for cranial aches and pains.
What happens when your head aches? There is inflammation of the membranes lining the brain, the nerves of the cranium, and the upper neck, as well as dilation of blood vessels, with or without muscle spasms and with or without sinus congestion.
Behind the Pain
Headaches come in several varieties—cluster, tension (the commonest), simple and combination (tension headaches can trigger a migraine), and migraine, each originating in a different spot on the head—from the eyelids to the top and back of the skull. Ninety percent of us have had or will have tension headaches sooner or later (likelier for women than men). Causes are just as varied, so the first step is detecting the cause or triggers. Besides genetics, there is gender: 85 percent of adult migraine sufferers are female and 90 percent of all cluster headache victims are men (average age is twenty-eight to thirty). If you’re female, falling estrogen levels can be the culprit.
Then there’s stress, sleep disturbances, and food allergies, which are major factors in migraines, with many victims demonstrating sensitivity to one or more foods or to food additives such as the flavor enhancer MSG, the artificial sweetener aspartame, or the nitrite and sodium nitrate in luncheon meats and hot dogs. Tyramine is a substance found in caffeinated beverages, some cheeses, sour cream, red wine, and yes, despite its antioxidant content, chocolate. Tyramine increases blood flow to the brain in some people, causing headaches and migraines.
Other foods that can affect blood pressure and precipitate headaches in the susceptible include cow’s milk, citrus fruit, yeast products, dried fruit, and saturated fats, which contain arachidonic acid. Headaches can also be brought on by contraceptives or by overdoing alcohol and nicotine. A misaligned spine can create muscular tension in the cervical spine, which can progress, in a true head-boneconnected-to-anklebone fashion, into a chronic cranial ache. Migraines can even be triggered by falling or rising barometric pressure, as well as by heat, humidity, and even electrically charged dust particles.
What to Eat
Use soups formulated from whole organic or organically grown produce whenever possible, concentrating on fresh vegetables, rather than frozen or canned ones, and fruits that are sources of vitamin B complex, magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, and EFAs. Think (and shop) onions, garlic, soybeans, sesame, whole grains, and dairy or nondairy yogurt, plus cold-pressed oils, including olive and flaxseed. Eat regularly—preferably six small meals, avoiding caffeine and sugar.
And when you break for tea, before, during, or after that next headache, make it ginger, which decreases production of pain-producing prostaglandins. The substance called gingerol, which it secretes, is often as effective as aspirin in reducing inflammation.