What you eat can play a huge role in the amount of headaches you have (headache frequency) and the severity of pain you experience (headache intensity). That is true both with migraines (vascular constriction and dilation) and other types of headaches (vascular constriction). Lifestyle choices and other, often environmental, factors that tend to be a direct cause of individual headache attacks are called triggers. Dietary triggers are extraordinarily common.
The diet is not just about food. It is also about water and eating patterns. Headaches are often triggered by dehydration and not eating on a regular basis. Various foods and beverages are specifically problematic for headaches and migraines, as detailed below.
Keeping a headache journal can help you figure out what food items are most detrimental to your head pain so you can figure out what you need to avoid. The journal should list symptoms and any elements that might be triggers – even emotional factors, such as stress, and environmental factors, such as dust and sustained loud noises.
Common dietary triggers of migraines and headaches
Here are several of the food items that tend to cause the most problems for people with chronic migraines and headaches:
- Sugar – Maintaining balanced blood-glucose levels can prevent headaches and migraines. If your blood-glucose gets too low the brain will not get the necessary glucose and head pain ensues. Or, too high and your body’s response is to produce insulin quickly resulting in a headache. When there are high peaks and low dips in your blood glucose the body reacts with headache and migraine symptoms. The key is to maintain a diet that will keep your sugar levels balanced throughout the day. Snack on low sugar foods, limit sweets, and keep hydrated.
- Alcohol – It may seem that alcohol is a safe bet to get rid of a headache. However, beyond tyramine, another reason to avoid alcohol is that it increases the amount of blood entering your brain. Headaches are probably not caused by the alcohol itself, according to various research studies. The headache is probably due to additives in the alcohol or byproducts created during its metabolism.
- Preservatives – Food companies want their products to have the longest possible shelf lives, a reasonable concern to prevent foodborne illness. However, the preservatives that are used – nitrates are one example – tend to cause vascular dilation, which can often result in extended head pain (a headache or migraine attack).
- Anything frozen – We often want ice cream or an icy glass of lemonade on a hot day. Unfortunately, especially if it’s warm out, cold foods and drinks can lead to “brain freeze.” Brain freeze doesn’t last long (typically two minutes at most) but can be excruciating for those susceptible to migraines and headaches. In fact, 9 out of every 10 migraine sufferers report hypersensitivity to cold foods.
At Pain Stop, we manage pain effectively because we treat it “from the ground up.” Our multidisciplinary approach incorporates manifold techniques, including chiropractic care, licensed massage therapy, physical therapy, and trigger point injections (among others). Stop Headaches today with Pain Stop Clinics headache treatments, which include natural as well as medical options. We can answer any questions you might have at 480-331-4222.