I am concerned about so many people I know who are having headaches, and that they feel they have no recourse other than to use over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.
So often, people brush aside a headache as nothing more than a trivial affliction and they may look at you as if you are a complainer. But truth is, for lots of folks, the pain of a headache can make day-to-day life miserable and forces many to head straight for the Excedrin or ibuprofen.
Did you know that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is ramping up its warnings (March, 2016) about the risks of NSAIDs Advil and Ibuprofen and other over-the-counter prescription drugs including Celebrex, Aleve, Naprosyn and Toredol. They have been linked to elevated risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and can also cause gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding.
Boy, that’s comforting!
This is a precarious situation, because ultimately taking over-the-counter painkillers masks your symptoms and ignores the real issue of what triggers the headache. Natural prevention and remedies for headaches may take a bit more thought than simply popping a pill, but you shouldn’t underestimate them.
No-Side-Effect Remedies For Headaches:
1.) Drink More Water
On average most of us don’t drink enough water daily and become dehydrated. If your skin is drawn and tents when you pinch it, you are most likely dehydrated. Our cellular and neural transport/pathways become impaired if we are drying up, after all! If you have the choice between a sugary drink and water, choose water as your primary beverage of choice. Drinking water may seem too simple to actually work as a headache remedy but it can, and often time’s does. It is worth its weight in gold to our bodies.
Start your morning off by drinking several tall glasses of water (preferably with organic lemon juice), and then sip more throughout the day.
2.) Avoid MSG and Aspartame
Monosodium glutamate (MSG), in its various forms, is added to food to enhance its flavor. Aspartame is used to as a substitute for sugar. You probably know how bad MSG and Aspartame for you by now, but are you consuming them and not aware of it?
Most of you, I know, are trying to eat healthy, natural foods without harmful chemicals added, but did you know that there are code-words that are used to cover-up usage of seriously dangerous ingredients no informed person would ever consume?
Make sure you read food labels. Watch for some of these words, which are a cover for hidden MSG, and be extra cautious around Chinese food, processed meats, salad dressings, juices, sodas, gravy/soup/dip mixes, and soy-based items.
Stop eating all artificial sweeteners, no matter how “natural” the label says the product is. Stop for 30 days. One physician I know said that about half of all headache sufferers will find dramatic relief in this one step alone.
A deficiency in this critical nutrient makes you twice as likely to die as other people, according to a study published in The Journal of Intensive Care Medicine. It also accounts for a long list of symptoms and diseases – which are easily helped and often cured by adding this nutrient. Up to half of Americans are deficient in this nutrient and don’t know it.
I remember using magnesium when I worked in the emergency room. It was a critical “medication” on the crash cart. If someone was dying of a life-threatening arrhythmia (or irregular heart beat), we used intravenous magnesium. If someone was constipated or needed to prepare for colonoscopy, we gave them milk of magnesia or a green bottle of liquid magnesium citrate, which emptied their bowels. If pregnant women came in with preterm labor, or high blood pressure of pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) or seizures, we gave them continuous high doses of intravenous magnesium.
After reading several reports on Magnesium, I researched the best way to get tested for magnesium deficiency. Some reports say that only a very sophisticated, expensive test can tell you if you’re truly deficient. My doctor friend said: “It’s pretty cheap, so take it for a few months and see if you feel better.” He was right – patience is a money-saving virtue. So start taking regular magnesium supplements and look for results.
Take Magnesium Supplements
- The RDA (the minimum amount needed) for magnesium is about 300 mg a day. Most of us get far less than 200 mg.
- Some may need much more depending on their condition.
- Most people benefit from 400 to 1,000 mg a day.
- The most absorbable forms are magnesium citrate, glycinate taurate, or aspartate, although magnesium bound to Kreb cycle chelates (malate, succinate, fumarate) are also good.
- Avoid magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide. They are poorly absorbed (and the cheapest and most common forms found in supplements).
- Side effects from too much magnesium include diarrhea, which can be avoided if you switch to magnesium glycinate.
- Most minerals are best taken as a team with other minerals in a multi-mineral formula.
- Taking a hot bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) is a good way to absorb and get much-needed magnesium.
I’ve experimented with three types (chelated, glycinate and citrate) and three forms (pill, capsule and powder). The one I’m sticking with is the magnesium glycinate capsule – easy to take, high absorption, no-side-effects, and affordable.
4.) Do Almonds
Take a handful of almonds when you feel the first signs of headache. For everyday tension-type headaches, almonds can be a natural remedy and a healthier alternative to other medicine.
Almonds act as a pain reliever because they contain salicin, which when consumed form salicylic acid, the primary byproduct of aspirin metabolization. Besides the natural pain reliever, almonds are rich in magnesium, a mineral that helps to lessen nerve excitability and decreases muscle tension.
Note: People who suffer from migraines may find that almonds are a trigger food.
5.) Green Aspirin ~ Feverfew
Studies in Great Britain on migraines found that more than 70% of them felt much better after taking an average of 2-3 fresh or dried feverfew leaves daily. See Discover No-Side-Effect Migraine Remedy.
In the beginning stages of a migraine your blood vessels are changing, and theories suggest that the vessels in your head are expanding and pressing on nerves. Feverfew has been confirmed to relax the tension/constrict blood vessels, easing the painful pressure. It also reduces inflammation and pain overall with a substance called parthenolide, which has results similar to taking a daily aspirin, but without the side effects.
To make a tea, you will need…
-1 tsp. dried feverfew leaves
-1 pint of boiling water
Add fresh or dried feverfew flowers to 1 pint of boiling water. Let it steep for 10-20 minutes until it is strong and then strain off the herb.
Dosage: Drink half a cup twice a day as needed. Studies show that long term use yields best results for most people.
I get our feverfew from Bulk Herb Store, and it is easy to grow yourself. This is a perfect plant for those without a green thumb.
6.) Relax Your Shoulders and Breathe
I hear so many moms talking about the stresses of daily life. Our overworked bodies and minds react by tensing up.
Breathe: When a person is relaxed, they breathe through their nose in a slow, even and gentle way. When a person is under stress, their breathing pattern changes to shallow breaths, using their shoulders rather than their diaphragm to move air in and out of their lungs and can prolong feelings of anxiety by making the physical symptoms of stress worse. Deliberately copying a relaxed breathing pattern seems to calm the nervous system that controls the body’s involuntary functions including:
- Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
- Reduced levels of stress hormones in the blood
- Reduced lactic acid build-up in muscle tissue
- Balanced levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood
- Improved immune system functioning
- Increased physical energy
- Increased feelings of calm and well-being
Move your shoulders back and down: It helps to be aware of how we carry our shoulders. When you think of it, tell yourself to ‘drop the shoulders down’. It is surprising how often we carry our shoulders pulled up high and tight, often causing soreness and possibly a tension headache.
7.) Take Your Cod Liver Oil or Fish Oil
Many cultures in history had one food which they relied on to ensure strong mind and body: fermented fish/fish liver oil. The Roman soldier was given a daily ration. The stoic Viking had a drum of fermenting cod livers outside the door of his home. Grandma always had a bottle of cod liver oil in the cupboard.
The National Headache Foundation states, “Recent reports of the beneficial effects on migraine from the ingestion of fish oils have caused excitement among millions of migraine sufferers.”
There are studies that show the ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce headaches. Ramsden and colleagues report that increasing omega-3 fatty acids (n-3)and reducing omega-6 fatty acids (n-6) reduces headache pain and improved quality of life in the 56 (of 67 patients) who completed the intervention. That is really excellent!
Green Pastures Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil is the only cod liver oil that the Weston A. Price Foundation recommends at this time. (See the subsection entitled “New Products”, but read it all to understand what has happened to the world production of quality cod liver oil.) I respect WAPF and their recommendations.
You will need…
-1 tablespoon of Cod Liver Oil
-1/4 glass of orange juice
Just mix a tablespoon into cold orange juice or take it right off the spoon like we do. It’s really not as bad as it sounds.
8.) Cold or Hot or Alternate?
Headaches can be tricky things, with what clears them up for one person totally triggering them for another.
Some headaches are caused, at least in part, by expanded blood vessel pressing on nerves (see inset). For these, applying something cold to the area can constrict those vessels and relieve some of the pressure causing the throbbing ache. Other headaches are caused by tension and anxiety, and heat works well to relax muscles that were pinching nerves. You’ll have to experiment to see if you’re someone who benefits from cold, hot/warm, or alternating between the two.
You will need…
1. A cold compress, such as a bag of frozen corn.
2. A hot compress, such as a hot towel or a microwaveable hot/cold pack.
3. You will need 2 packs if you plan to alternate between hot and cold.
Applying both cold and hot compresses to manage migraine headaches may be helpful, according to a 2006 study published by the Oxford University Press. Ice or cold therapy makes your blood vessels constrict and calms inflammation. This can reduce the pressure in your head, which will ease your pain. Cold compresses also have a natural numbing effect. In contrast, warm compresses will relax your muscles. If your headaches are caused by tension in the jaw, neck or shoulders, applying heat relaxes tight muscles and eases your pain. Heat tends to relax you all over, which can help to manage stress as well. It is important to know what type of headache you have and its trigger. If you are dealing with a lot of inflammation, avoid a warm compress. Heat will open the blood vessels and increase blood flow, which will create even more pressure. If your headaches are due to tight muscles, a cold compress may tighten them even more.
9.) Get Moving
U. S. News and World Report: “Thirty minutes of walking, biking, or other moderate physical activity at least three times a week is good for managing headaches, says Richard Lipton, a neurologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Exactly how exercise helps isn’t clear, he says. It may reduce stress, a recognized cause of headaches. Following treadmill and other aerobic workouts, participants in a small Turkish study reported fewer and milder migraines, which researchers think was due to the rise in pain-fighting endorphins from the exercise.
Warm up: Jumping into strenuous activities and then abruptly stopping is more likely to cause a headache then stop it. Stay regular: Exercising only when you feel like it is less likely to prevent headaches than exercising on a regular basis. Enjoy the outdoors: Fresh air and change in scenery does something that just makes our bodies and minds feel better.
10.) Sit Up Straight
Dr. Adalbert I. Kapandji, an orthopedic surgeon and author of numerous textbooks such as “Physiology of the Joints,” states, “Poor posture pits muscle control against the forces of gravity. In addition to causing strain on the hamstrings and large back muscles important in maintaining posture, a condition called “anterior head translation,” or “forward head posture,” also places strain on your upper back and neck muscles. To keep your head upright these muscles must work as though they are supporting an additional ten pounds of weight for every inch your head moves forward. The added strain puts pressure on the nerves in your neck and keeps upper back and neck muscles in a constant state of contraction, causing headaches.
11.) Use Essential Oils
I found this: “Aromatherapy really proves its worth with headaches. Peppermint, eucalyptus, and lavender are especially helpful in reducing headache pain. If your headache is caused by dilation of the blood vessels, peppermint, which also expands blood vessels, will most likely cause a worsening of the headache. However, if your headache is caused by constriction of the blood vessels, you will most likely feel almost immediate relief.
A tincture of lavender called “Palsy Drops” was recognized by the British Pharmacopoeia for more than 200 years and used by physicians to relieve muscle spasms, nervousness, and headaches until the 1940s, when herbs and aroma preparations fell out of favor and chemicals became more popular.
In a 1994 U.S. study by H. Gobel, the essential oils of peppermint and eucalyptus relaxed both the mind and muscles of headache sufferers when the oils were diluted in alcohol and rubbed on their foreheads. Essential oils can be also used to make a compress to place on your forehead whenever a headache hits.
12.) Avoid Triggers
The top 5 triggers for headaches according to MedicineNet.com are:
~Tyramine containing foods such as aged cheeses, processed meats, and soy-based foods.
~Food additives such as MSG and nitrites/nitrates .
13.) Butterbur and Vitamin B2 for Migraines
Butterbur Extract (Petasites hybridus) has long been used by Native Americans as a remedy for headaches and inflammation, and now butterbur has gained recognition in the world of western medicine. The American Academy of Neurology and American Headache Society both endorse butterbur for preventing migraines based on at least two strong clinical trials.
It is thought to work through its anti-inflammatory effects, and it functions as a natural beta blocker, which results in normal flow of blood to the brain. That in turn can help control blood pressure/the spasmodic capillary action that can causes migraines.
Please Note: Look for a brand of extract labeled PA-Free, which ensures that it was safely processed to remove potentially harmful, toxic, chemicals found naturally in the plant. Check with your doctor before using butterbur for migraines.
14.) A Thankful Heart
“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” ~Proverbs 17: 22
Science has now linked a positive outlook on life to increased pain tolerance, proving what God knew all along this to be true. See ‘How the Power of Positive Thinking Won Scientific Credibility‘.
And ABC News explores the Science of Thankfulness: For those who are more like ‘Grinch-ish than grateful’, there’s some hard evidence that might make you want to turn that frown upside down. A positive outlook and feelings of thankfulness can have a direct and beneficial effect on the brain and body.
Thanks for reading!