Headaches: Causes and Natural Tips for Relief

Headaches show up in different ways depending on the situation and severity, but one thing’s for sure — they aren’t fun. In fact, regular headaches can greatly interfere with quality of life. Let’s look at some of the possible common causes of headaches and some tips you can try for relief.

What Causes Headaches?

There isn’t one known cause for headaches, especially since they really depend on the individual, but here are some commonly-known factors that may cause them:

  • Stress or anxiety from daily life
  • Flickering lights, such as from watching TV, flashing fluorescent lights, or sun reflecting/flashing off water
  • Hormone increases or decreases in women due to the menstrual cycle
  • Irregular eating patterns, such as not eating/drinking enough or even binging
  • Lack of or interruptions in sleep
  • Foods with tyramine, an amino acid found in fermented and aged foods like cheese, pickles, soy sauce, pepperoni, and MSG that can cause the blood vessels to expand and constrict
  • Overuse of certain medications
  • Imbalanced diet and/or lack of fluids

Although what’s best for a headache varies per person, here are some healthy habits that may help prevent recurrence:

Pausing and Meditating

Obviously, it’s impossible to avoid stress completely in our lives, but there are things we can do to help reduce and cope with daily stress and anxiety, such as:

  • Yoga or meditation, both of which can help us slow down and focus on the present moment
  • Talking through your worries with a friend or loved one
  • Journaling your thoughts
  • Spending time in nature
  • Getting regular massages

If anxiety or stress is a contributing factor to headaches, incorporating mind-body practices like this can help make coping easier.

Eating Regularly (and Mindfully)

If you find yourself skipping meals often, eating in a rush or having meals poor in nutrition, try planning out your meals so you can eat more regularly. Start with having something nutritionally balanced (a source of whole carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat) for breakfast, since that’s the most common meal people skip during the week.

It can also help to focus on eating mindfully — giving yourself extra time to enjoy your meals instead of speeding through them. This way, you can notice how certain foods may affect you and pay better attention to hunger and fullness signals.

Some people claim certain foods are triggers for headaches or migraines. If you feel this might be the case, try keeping a food diary for at least two weeks, noting what times you eat, how much, and when headaches occur.

Some research has shown that supplementing or eating foods with magnesium, such as nuts, seeds, oatmeal, or eggs, may be helpful for migraines with aura.

Staying Hydrated

Most of us simply aren’t drinking enough water each day, if at all. We need regular hydration to maintain proper levels of hydration and electrolytes in the body, a lack of which may lead to headaches.

Try buying a reusable water bottle to carry around with you. Make a habit of sipping on it throughout the day.

Watch Caffeine Intake

Although many migraine medications contain caffeine because it can be helpful in smaller doses, too much of it may have the opposite effect. Keep this in mind when considering your next cup of coffee and possibly consider other natural forms of energy support.

If the above options aren’t proving helpful, some people may choose to also try alternative methods, such as biofeedback, acupuncture, yoga, ginger powder, or taking specific vitamin or mineral supplements. Overall, it helps to listen to your body and speak with your regular practitioner about your options.

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