Many people rely on pain medication to relieve their headaches, but pill popping isn't the best way tame your throbbing head. More often than not, you can remedy your headaches naturally with a few simple lifestyle changes:
Watch Your Blood Sugar Levels
If you eat processed, prepackaged foods that are high in sugar, your blood sugar levels will spike. This isn't a good thing, because high blood sugar levels can cause headaches and make them worse. When your blood sugar spikes, your insulin level must also spike to get all the excess sugar out of your blood. This is a problem, because high levels of insulin will cause your blood sugar to dip below normal levels, leading to hypoglycemia. Just like high blood sugar levels, low blood sugar levels also cause headaches. The best thing you can do to relieve your headache symptoms is to cut out processed garbage foods from your diet. Stick to all-natural fruits, vegetables and lean meats. If you can buy your food organic, that's even better. Nonorganic and processed foods both contain chemicals that can exacerbate headache symptoms.
Hot and Cold Contrast
A hot and cold contrast can work wonders for relieving headaches. All you have to do is put your feet in a bucket or tub of warm water while having a cold compress on your head at the same time. The cold compress causes the blood vessels in your head to constrict, while the warm water helps open up the blood vessels in your lower legs and feet. This causes the blood flow in your head to be diverted down towards your lower body. When you have a headache, the blood vessels in your head become dilated, so there is more blood pumping. The excess blood pumping through your head is what causes the throbbing pain you typically feel when you have a headache. When you implement a cold and hot contrast you are constricting the blood vessels in your head while increasing blood flow to your lower body. This allows the pain-inducing blood flow to move away from your head down to the lower body, which reduces your pain level.
Drink More Water
Headaches are often caused by dehydration. I have some clients whose headaches go away as soon as they drink a glass of water. But if you think your headaches may be caused by dehydration, don't go guzzle a ton of water all at once. Your body can only absorb a certain amount of water at one time. If you consume a large amount of water all at once, your body won't be able to utilize it all. This could cause you to remain dehydrated. It is better to consume small amounts of water throughout the day than to chug a large amount of water all at once. If you have a headache drink 8 to 12 ounces of water, and then continue to take small, frequent sips throughout the day.
Moving more throughout your day can also help to ease headache pain. The movement doesn't have to be very intense for it to help. Just going on a short walk in the fresh air can do wonders, because it increases oxygen levels. Lack of oxygen can cause headaches, and movement -- especially when done outdoors -- increases your oxygen levels, which helps alleviate your headache symptoms. High-intensity exercise sessions on a regular basis will get your blood flowing, increase endorphins (your "feel good" hormones") and reduce stress levels. All these things help will help you prevent headaches before they start.
Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep is one of the primary causes of headaches. Waking up tired and having trouble falling asleep are both common problems in people who suffer from migraines. But not to worry -- it's also one of the easiest things to fix. If you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (even on the weekends), your quality of sleep will increase tremendously. I know this can be tough to do, but in order to alleviate your headache symptoms, you must make a habit of sticking to a sleep schedule.
Many headaches are caused by stress and tension. Try meditation, yoga and deep breathing to alleviate stress and increase the flow of oxygen in the body. A good massage can help get rid of muscular tension in the neck and shoulders, which is also associated with headaches. Massages also help to increase blood circulation in the body and are a great way to relax and decrease stress.
To recap, keep your blood sugar levels stable by cutting out sugary processed foods; apply a hot and cold contrast to your head and feet; stay hydrated by drinking water frequently throughout the day; increase your oxygen levels with regular exercise; get more sleep; and reduce your stress levels. If you do these things, I guarantee you will win your fight against headaches.
Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN, is a registered holistic nutritionist, fitness expert and highly sought-after high-performance health coach. He's also a former professional soccer player and served as the head strength and conditioning and nutrition coach for men's soccer at the University of Toronto for seven seasons. For more than 13 years, he's empowered more than 86,000 people to greater health with his no-nonsense approach to health, fitness and nutrition. He's made it his mission to empower at least 10 million people to greater health and fitness by 2018. Get Yuri's free "Y-Factor" at www.yurielkaim.com.