Headaches never occur at an opportune time. They can range from a dull ache which feels like a nuisance to a full-blown migraine that leaves you all but incapacitated. I do not (thankfully) get headaches very often but if I do, I have my arsenal of natural options that I go to first before trying anything else. If you are one to immediately reach for the Motrin, Tylenol, Excedrin or any other type of over-the-counter drug, here are some other natural options to consider that may bring some relief.
Millions of Sufferers
It is estimated that more than 45 million Americans suffer from have chronic and recurring headaches. And, it’s estimated that 1 out of every 4 homes has someone who suffers regularly from migraine headaches. This takes a toll on the nation because billions of dollars are lost annually due to absenteeism related to headaches and migraines.
Americans spend more than 4 billion dollars each year on headache medications alone, and many of these medications are not effective.
It is also interesting to note that 70% of migraine sufferers are women.
Diet And Lifestyle Related
Headaches can also be brought on by caffeine, a poor diet and the consumption of alcohol. Caffeine withdrawal is just one way to trigger a headache. Adenosine is the chemical that helps in the regulation of the diameter of arteries in the head. Caffeine constricts the arteries and the body will react by producing more adenosine. During sleep (when you’re not consuming coffee), the adenosine will work to dilate your arteries and the result can be a massive headache.
A low blood sugar attack can be the result of a diet that contains too many sugars. Sugars cause insulin levels to spike dramatically and a diet rife with sugars will have high and resulting low levels of insulin. These low blood sugar attacks are also sometimes referred to as ‘reactive hypoglycemia.” Low blood sugar attack symptoms include headache, confusion, shakiness, anxiety to just name a few. A diet rich in nutritious and varied foods will help to keep blood sugar levels stable and under control.
Most people think of the typical ‘hangover’ after a night out and having a ‘few too many’ as the only type of headache related to alcohol. But, even moderate consumption for those who are sensitive can result in headaches. Alcohol is a vasodilator which simply means that it helps to dilate or expand blood vessels and these vessels expanding in the brain can cause a headache or migraine.
Natural Headache Remedies
Get rid of headaches without drugs! Here are a some tried and true remedies that will help to tame a throbbing head in no time.
Dehydration can be a cause for headaches. When bodies become dehydrated there is a loss of water and also electrolytes. Those electrolytes which contain sodium, potassium and chloride are necessary for everyday function of the body. Symptoms in addition to headaches can include rapid heart rate, muscle cramps, weakness and dizziness.
To prevent headaches, make sure to drink enough water throughout the day. There is conflicting information about what is ‘enough’ water. I, personally, drink water with my meals and a few times throughout the day when I’m thirsty. There is no need to be fanatical about intake because too much water can be detrimental to one’s health.
2. Cold pack (find it here)
Depending on the type of headache that is occurring, a cold pack or some type of cold therapy may do the trick. A study that was published in 2006 by the Oxford University Press revealed that applying cold to the affected region was highly effective with the study’s participants. Applying cold helps to constrict blood vessels and brings down inflammation. This, in turn, relieves the pressure and reduces pain. It’s not necessary to use a medical cold pack either. A bag of peas from the freezer will work just as well.
3. Hot Bath/Hot Shower
Hydrotherapy can be very effective at relieving headaches. If the headache is sinus related, the heat from the bath or shower will work to loosen pressure and facilitate drainage. If the headache is tension related then the heat will help to loosen muscles.
Acupressure might not be the most comfortable option while in the midst of a headache but it may just be the treatment needed. This is also a treatment that can be done alone or with the help of a partner or practitioner. A two year study was conducted in which over 500 patients were evaluated and acupuncture and acupressure were administered to the patients. A significant number of patients found relief especially with the acupressure.
Self-acupressure can be done by placing thumbs near the base of the skull. Locate the depressions on each side where the head and neck meet. Press these locations slightly in and upward until some discomfort is felt. Move the fingers around in small circles for approximately 2 minutes.
Sleep habits play a big role in the frequency and severity of headaches. People who practice good ‘sleep hygiene’ (go to sleep at a regular time and wake up a regular time) tend to have fewer headaches. Here are some tips for good ‘sleep hygiene.’
- Avoid taking a nap during the day
- Exercise regularly
- Do not eat before going to bed
- Get plenty of natural light during the day
- Establish a relaxing nighttime routine
- Keep lights low
- Keep the temperature cool
Staying in tune with your body and understanding the type of headache you are having will help to determine which treatment will be most effective. I hope one or more of these work for you. Let me know!
Live well and be happy!