What is my body trying to tell me? This is the question I ask whenever I am suffering pain from a headache or worse still, a migraine. My body gives me the same answer every time, “slow down” it says. When will I get it! We are hard wired to be busy and achieve in our lives and the expense of doing this is making us very very ill! Combine this with a bad diet, air pollution and a sedentary lifestyle and you have a recipe for disaster.
I just read an article about a Greek man who was in his late 70’s living in a city and was diagnosed with lung cancer. He headed back to his place of birth, a Greek Island, and started to reconnect with his old friends, chatting and drinking wine with them for hours thinking he was not long for this world. He planted veggies, walked to the local café in the evenings to play games and chat, ate good food and relaxed while waiting to die. He lived for another 30 odd years, to well over 106 years old!
What does this tell us? That the simple life is the best life for our health? If you can’t escape to a Greek Island, here are some of my tips to help with headaches and migraines.
Firstly, there are many different types of headaches, according to medical terminology, but for the sufferer, it is still pain. Migraine pain can be more severe, last longer and be associated with nausea and vision disturbance and tension headaches are often associated with neck pain and tight muscles.
- Simplify your life as much as possible by looking at what you can let go of that is not serving you. Ask your body what the message is that is trying to get your attention.
- Around 85% of the population are deficient in magnesium, which relaxes muscles as well as being responsible for many other bodily functions to do with energy and digestion and bone strength. Take 1 tsp of a good magnesium powder daily for prevention of headaches and 1 tsp three times a day for an acute attack. Eat plenty of magnesium rich foods, whole grains, beans and legumes, dark green leafy salad vegetables, seaweeds, nuts and seeds.
- Hydrate your body with plenty of good filtered water. Drink approximately two litres or more in summer and one litre in winter. Drink more if you sweat heavily and do lots of exercise.
- Exercise and stretch daily for at least 30 minutes or more if possible.
- Avoid migraine triggers in your diet. These may be different for everyone but the main ones are: wine, beer whiskey and champagne (alcohol increases blood flow to the head), aged cheese (and other aged or fermented foods that are high in tyramine), chocolate, msg and other preservatives and additives such as nitrates which dilate blood vessels and can cause headaches. Avoid oranges, wheat products, sugar, preservatives in dried fruit and too much rich, fatty food, which places stress on the liver. Cultured dairy products like sour cream, yoghurt and buttermilk can be a problem for some. Avoid Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, which are harmful on many levels. Avoid processed foods as much as possible.
- Eat a simple, mostly vegetarian diet, high in organic foods, containing large amounts of veggies, rice, whole grains, legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds and seaweed products. Include a small amount of Himalayan Salt daily, which contains magnesium and other trace minerals.
- Avoid long periods without food (i.e. over 4-5 hours), which can lower blood sugar levels and trigger headaches.
- Include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. These are ginger, turmeric, garlic and cinnamon, flaxseed oil, fresh fish and fish oils, green tea and blueberries. An anti-inflammatory diet is very similar to The Mediterranean Diet.
- Supplements: There are a few other supplements that may help with supporting the body to overcome stress, pain and inflammation. Vitamin C powder is very effective for supporting the adrenal glands. Add ½ tsp to magnesium powder and take twice a day for those who are overly active and stressed, which could be most of us. If you suffer anxiety and insomnia, take St. Johns Wort, 1 tablet morning and evening (except if you are on other anti-depressant medication). Co-enzyme Q 10 can also be effective to prevent migraines and headaches and to increase energy. Nux Vomica 30, a homeopathic remedy, is very effective for dealing with headaches associated with indigestion, late nights and over-indulging. Take two pills often until relief.
- Establish good sleeping habits by going to bed at the same time most nights, getting around eight hours quality sleep.
- Meditate daily, reduce stress, be in nature as much as possible and be grateful for what you have.
Suzanne Staples ND DBM
Naturopath Herbalist Homoeopath
Copyright Suzanne Staples