The Migraine Research Foundation estimates that migraine headaches affect 38 million Americans, (about 13% of the US population.) Of this 2-3 million are chronic disorders. Women are three times more likely than men to suffer from headaches. However severe symptoms are, there are solutions available to minimize, diminish, and remedy this common condition.
All pain is a result of inflammation. However, headaches have the additional attribute of muscle spasms. Defining the sources of inflammation is essential to the resolution, and prevention. Migraines are typically characterized by additional symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and light and sound sensitivities. Headaches can often be alleviated by correcting what is often either an excess, or a deficiency.
Sources of Excess, and Deficiency
*Frequent consumption of blue lights, or low quality screens from phones, computers, and electronics;
*Overconsumption of certain vitamins, minerals;
*Overconsumption of supplements, or medications
*Vitamin and mineral deficiency;
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Eating whole foods is one of the most solid ways to get the natural, and essential vitamins and minerals required for the body to function properly. CDC statistics conclude that less than 13% of Americans meet the minimum daily recommendation for fruit and vegetable consumption. They suggest a daily minimum intake of 1,1/2 cups of fruit, and 2 cups of vegetables. Diets rich in processed foods will invariably contribute to nutrition deficiencies. This can be corrected by replacing processed foods with whole foods such as fresh produce, fish, naturally raised, and organic poultry and meats, and whole grains such as brown rice.
Essential Nutrients for Headache Prevention
The following vitamins and minerals are essential to preventing headaches due to their effects on blood vessels, regulation of blood pressure, and regulating muscle contractions.
USRDA, (US Recommended Daily Allowance)
Nutrient, USRDA, Food Sources
- Vitamin C: Men: 90mg; Women: 75 mg; Smokers: additional 35 mg; Foods: Oranges, strawberries, citrus fruits, pomegranate, cranberries, kiwi, peppers, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli,
- Vitamin E: Adults: 15mg; Foods: Corn, nuts, seeds, whole grains, broccoli, spinach, vegetable oils, green vegetables, wheat germ.
- Calcium: Adults: 100mg; Over age 50: 1200mg; Foods: Oats, dairy, broccoli, kale, collard greens, figs, kale,
- Magnesium: Men: 420mg, Women: 320mg: Foods: Avocados, beans, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, potatoes, raisins, bananas, kiwi, pumpkin, whole grains
- Potassium: 2000mg; Foods: figs, dates, oranges, pomegranate, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, prunes, yogurt, prunes
- Sodium: 500mg; Foods: Most foods
Electrolytes ensure the body’s healthy blood Ph, and adequate hydration. They are essential for proper function of muscles, and nerves. Deficiency in the electrolytes, Potassium, Calcium, and Sodium can cause muscle weakness, or muscle spasms.
The average person loses about 3-4 liters, (10-15 cups), of fluid daily through perspiration, respiration, kidney, and colon elimination. Thirst is an indicator of dehydration. The effects of dehydration include: Fatigue, blood pressure changes, headache, and stress. The body requires about half of the body weight in ounces. So, for a 200 lb. person, 100 oz., or 3.13 Qts., (10-12 cups), daily. A 100 lb. person should consume 50 oz., or 4 12 oz. cups of water per day. Increased physical activity, and hot climates result in increased fluid loss, requiring more water to replenish the system.
Soda, tea, and coffee flush water from the body, though they do not replenish lost fluids. In addition, they contain enzymes and additives that block the body’s absorption of certain vitamins and minerals; which can ultimately contribute to headaches, and inflammation.
The brain weighs 2% of total body weight. Although it receives 20% of its oxygen consumption. Brain cells are extremely sensitive to inadequate oxygen supply. Air pollution, smoke, and chemicals in and around your environment can lower oxygen intake, and consequently result in fatigue, depression, irritability, and inflammation.
Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body to carry out necessary functions. Oxygen oxidizes, or burns food to create energy, and heat for the body. Deficiencies, such as Anemia is characterized by an inadequate supply of oxygen to the cells. Deficiency in iron can result in Anemia. It’s symptoms include chronic headaches.
Other important nutrients that carry, and regulate the flow of oxygen to the cells include calcium, and Vitamin C.
Excessive Nutrients and Behaviors that Contribute to Headaches
The body only requires a minimal quantity of certain nutrients. Iron is a mineral that is critical for blood-oxygen functions.Though, too much iron in the system can cause a headache. The RDA for Iron is 18 mg. for women, and 8 mg for men. For men, and women over 50 the RDA drops to 8 mg. Shellfish, such as oysters contain up to 27% of the RDA per 4.9 mg. In addition, they have a high protein content. This is one food that can easily be eaten excessively.
Moreover, diets high in proteins, and low in carbohydrates can also bring on headaches, as well as fatigue.
Blue lights are the lights present in electronics, including phones, and laptops. Viewing these screens at night is not only harmful to the eyes, it also disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, which is the body’s internal clock. This can disrupt sleep patterns.
Additionally, staring at screens excessively can also cause eye strain, and headache. Avoid the harmful effects of staring by blinking often. Vision researcher, Orlin Sorensen recommends the 10-10 rule. For every 10 minutes of screen viewing, focus on a distant image for 10 seconds. A final note, sleep deprivation, stress, and visual impairments can all cause inflammation.
Rapid Healing Foods
There are certain foods that are immediately effective in alleviating headaches, if the condition does not stem from a more serious problem. Ground cinnamon from the bark of the cinnamon tree helps prevent inadequate blood flow by inhibiting the release of an anti-inflammatory fatty acid called Arachidonic Acid. To prepare, combine 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon with 1 liter of bottled water. Shake vigorously, and sip as necessary.
Though its action is instantaneous, it is necessary to use caution with this common spice. Cinnamon contains Coumarin. At high levels, this substance can cause liver damage in those that are susceptible. In 2008, the European Union passed strict limitations on the amount of Cinnamon allowed in foods. Although no such restrictions are imposed in the US, over consumption can be toxic.
Initially developed as a medicine, tonic water contains the anti-Malarial drug, Quinine. Though Quinine is associated with extreme reactions in some people, in tonic water, it is diluted. Avoid tonic water if pregnant, sensitive, or allergic to Quinine.
The juice from red fruits such as pomegranate, and cranberry also provide relief from headache. Make sure the juice label states, 100% juice. The ingredients should list the fruit, and water, or minimal added ingredients. The high vitamin C content that is naturally contained in the fruit, provides a natural, and effective remedy.