Headaches – Root Causes & Remedies
Headaches are deeply destroying! There was a time many years ago, when my headaches were so blinding, that I spent the entire evening walking around with a wet cloth tied to my forehead. That was the only way I could cope with the pain. Without that cloth, I felt that I would simply fall down and pass out. The mistake I made back then was to keep asking myself how I could fix my headache. Not once did I thought to ask myself what were the root causes of my headache. That was the reason that I failed in treating it for years. And then, it changed suddenly.
How can the principles of Functional Medicine help?
Functional Medicine gets deep into personalised clinical assessment to understand what are the root causes of headaches. As a general idea, some of the root causes of a headache, especially if they are frequent and perpetuating, are listed below. Do understand that they might vary person to person. Often times people might refer you to a Neurologist, but the thing to understand is that the root causes or causes of your headache may not be within your head at all. Let me take you through some of the root causes so that you can then understand the simple ways in which you can begin to support yourself. Remember that doing a little bit regularly is much better that promised remedies from a short term magical cure.
What are some of the root causes of a headache in your body?
Headaches can have multiple roots, yet, some of them might be interconnected as well.
- Blood Sugar Imbalance. This is so common, with the solution being simple, yet hardly anyone gives it the importance that it deserves. Your body regulates glucose in your bloodstream very carefully. Sudden spikes caused by too much sugar or starch or imbalanced meals without fats and proteins, causes a sugar spike and a subsequent crash. When blood sugar is too high, insulin response gets weak. Cortisol is also released, which is the stress hromone. When blood sugar is not stable and keeps peaking and crashing, one of the most common symptoms is a headache. I’ve learned from clincial practice, while closely monitoring blood sugar of clients, that more of them are super sensitive than they think they are.
Chronic Inflammation. Eating highly inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy and sugar on a regular basis, can be the simplest reason for a headache. Giving yourself even a few weeks of an elimination diet can result in reduced inflammation and less headaches. Finding specific food allerges can also be helpful, but the common mistakes that most practitioners make is to do extensive allergy tests, where the results are in fact flawed when you test at a time where overall inflammation is very high. Simple elimination can be a better approach.
- Toxic Overload. When you are allowing excessive toxic overload from frequent hair colouring, perfumes and even petrol fumes, your liver gets congested and then starts to buildup on metabolites such as estrogen and cortisol. These then start to behave like endogenous toxins, further aggravating the picture. In clincical practice, I make sure that clients, especially women, first reduce the load from outside like chemical hair colours, before even working on the inside. If you would like to have a deep clincial assessment and a personalised Bioindividual Detoxification contact us. General cleanses will likely not benefit you.
- Hormone Imbalance. Low Progesterone and Estrogen Dominance can be a major reason for headaches that go along with different phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Low Progesterone can be triggered by age, liver congestion, anti-depressants, high stress, excessive alcohol, nutrient deficiencies, poor sleep and high sugar diets. In stress, your body also does not require an active reproductive system, so it can cause challenges with fertility. In women, since cortisol and progesterone are manufactured from the same cholesterol, in stress, the body prioritises cortisol over progesterone, so that might cause a lack of ovulation and insufficient progesterone, which then causes anxiety.
- Poor Omega-3 Status. This is also a common challenge in restrictive diets. If you are on a diet which provides you inadequate levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids, then headaches can be a problem. It can cause congestion in your glymphatic system, which is the waste disposal system of your brain, and cause brain fog as well. If you do have ethical reasons for not consuming fish, then you need to make sure that you get algae as a replacement. Multiple studies found the link between headaches and poor omega-3 status.
- Phenols in Foods. Phenols are compounds comprising salicylates, histamines and glutamates. Glutamates can be a big trigger for headaches. Most people are only aware of MSG in chinese foods, but glutamates are also found in common foods such as yeast, soy sauce, vegemite, sauerkraut, gelatine, peas, corn and tomatoes. In many people, certain genetic predispositions prevent metabolism of these compounds leading to symptoms such as a headache. Sensitivity can also be increased by deficiency of many B Vitamins.
How can you address the root causes of a headache and protect your body to get beyond a headache?
- Improve Blood Sugar Balance. Fat, fibre, protein and colour is my mantra. While analysing daily meals of clients, I found it was far more common to have meals devoid of blood sugar balance than I thought. Make sure that every single meal has enough fat, fibre, protein and vegetables, and the starch or sugar is very low. In traditional meals, avoid skipping components that then impact blood sugar balance.
Reduce Inflammation. Try a four week elimination diet wthout gluten, dairy and sugar. Track your foods and your symptoms throughout and support yourself with ample phytonutrients and vitmains so that there are no deficiencies. You can get my Vibrant Vitamins Mighty Minerals E-Book here.
- Remove Chemical Hair Colours. This one thing alone can be immensely helpful in getting over headaches. Hair colours are loaded with toxic chemicals that are a major root cause of many other health challenges. Either throw them out, or find natural options for yourself.
- Address Hormonal Imbalance. You can begin to do this by reducing stress, getting better sleep, eating more phytonutrients and seeing that you are not eating a low fat diet. The low fat diet is a dangerous one for hormone health. Clinical assessment can actually show women with frequent headaches having poor cholesterol status, where cholesterol is the building block of your hormones.
- Increase Omega-3. If you are open to eating animal protein, then increasing fresh wild caught fish and free range eggs can be helpful, not just for omega-3 but also for Choline, another important nutrient. If you have ethical reasons, then you have to get ample algal sources. If you have been on algal sources for a long time and still suffer from headaches, experimenting with some animal sources to see if that changes can be beneficial.
- Reduce Glutamates. Try a short period of reducing glutamates. These include yeast, soy sauce, vegemite, sauerkraut, gelatine, peas, corn, tomatoes and parmesan as well. Reducing fermented foods can also help. I know that the general trend is to advice fermented foods for gut health, but I am always cautious of this generalised advice by health practitioners, who do not take individual sensitivites seriously, and more people are sensitive to these than you might think. I only suggest trying a short phase to see if anything shifts for you.
My Headache Curing Plate:
Here’s my headache curing plate, which helps me to deal with headaches much better.
- Fats – Half an avocado with ample olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Protein – Two free range eggs in ghee, a slice of fish or a bowl of hummus.
- Vegetables – Purple cabbage, leafy greens, apples and redcarrot shredded into a salad with roast cashew nuts.
- Drink – Elixer of gorund green pumpkin seeds, mint, raw honey and coconut milk.
Taking fifteen minutes in your day to put this together is not challenging at all, and beats ordering from anywhere. Isn’t taking that little bit of time in your day worth all the positive change this can do for you? Let me know!