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Don't Feed Your Headache

By Dr Kendra Styron

I've always felt bad for headache or migraine sufferers, namely because it's a completely miserable experience. And for some, it's hard to pinpoint the direct cause of it. It could be as simple as a misalignment issue in the spine to as complex as a specific ingredient in their diet. Typical symptoms are throbbing/pulsating head pain which builds in intensity over hours of time. Some people get additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, visual changes, sensitivity to light, and dizziness; all of which are not conducive to feeling optimal!

Research hasn't completely explained how migraines or headaches develop. People who suffer from migraines have been associated with brain cells that seem to be overly sensitive to stimulation. That stimulation creates a cascade of events in the brain that causes blood vessels to narrow (constrict) and widen (dilate). During this process, chemicals are released into the blood stream which directly promote inflammation and thus pain.

So what causes these changes to happen in the vasculature? Anything. Environment (weather, bright lights, strong odors), diet, hormones, sleep, and personal health score play a huge role. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is one of the biggest triggers. It is found in seasonings, baking mixes, Chinese food, frozen food, anything processed such as meats, soup, condiments, etc. It has been deposited in almost every type of food out there! MSG is an excitotoxin, which directly translates to "toxin that excites". Remember how headaches develop due to oversensitivity? Do you think an excitotoxin will help? The answer is no. MSG is directly counterproductive when it comes to decreasing headache occurrence. It is especially dangerous when someone has low magnesium levels (unfortunately VERY common also). Dehydration is also a big instigator. Headaches are the first sign of dehydration, coupled with decreased energy levels, inability to focus, and a sour attitude. There are actually fibers in the base of your skull that become especially taut and stiff when they are dehydrated, causing flare-ups in misalignments which lead to increased incidence of headaches. It is definitely a vicious cycle!

A common (not optimal) resourced for headache suffers is OTC medication, which is an excellent band-aid for the problem! Headaches are considered a "warning sign" from our bodies to tell us something is wrong internally. Medications do a great job of making us feel better, but all the while that "internal alarm" is still going off waiting for us to notice. A better option, in most cases, is to "starve" your headache of the foods that make it worse. Don't feed your headache MSG, red wine, chocolate, fermented cheese, or sugar. Increasing water intake should be the FIRST thing we do at any sign of headache onset. The addition of water helps to increase flow and "thins" out cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) traveling through the brain canals (headache relief). Increase Magnesium (400mg/day), Omega 3 Fatty Acids (salmon, walnuts), and Vitamin B2 (400 mg/day) with other B complex vitamins for prevention of headache occurrence. Simple changes in lifestyle and environment can make all the difference in improving your quality of life and releasing you from the bondage of headache recurrence.