In answer to this question, a client recently said, “Well you know, twice a month or so….a normal amount.”
News flash: headaches, however infrequent, are NOT normal.
There are many potential causes for headaches, and curing them takes a lot of trial and error. That said, if you tweak these five things, there’s a pretty good chance the frequency and intensity of your headaches will subside.
1. Drink More Water
Look. I know I’m a broken record about the water – it’s not like I want to be, any more than you want to hear about it for the thousandth time. But…it’s so important! And easy! And free! All you have to do is drink some!
Headaches are practically a guaranteed symptom of dehydration. Even if your headaches are caused by something else, ample hydration is vital for your energy level, sleep, effective weight loss, appetite control, digestion, craving management, healthy skin…can I stop now?
Try to drink between two and three liters of water a day. Another guideline is to drink half of your body weight in ounces. So, if I weigh 145 pounds, I would drink about 73 ounces of water per day (which, as it happens, is just over two liters).
2. Cut Out Sugar
Reducing your sugar intake will go a long way toward alleviating your headaches. Headaches can be caused by blood sugar imbalances – all those spikes and valleys. When you get the sugar levels down and rebalance your blood sugar, you should see a definite difference in the intensity and frequency of your headaches.
Start small – cut your orange juice with half water, and increase the water until it’s just a splash of juice. Cut your soda intake in half (replace the other half with – yup, you guessed it – WATER.)
I’ll admit this is one of the hardest dietary changes to make, but it also yields the biggest reward. Contact me if you want some help with this.
3. Eliminate Processed Food
Processed food contains several preservatives and chemical additives that have been linked to migraines. The most common are nitrites, a preservative found in cured meats, pickled products, and deli meat. Look for nitrite-free products, and be careful to avoid these foods at restaurants until you know for sure.
Other additives, like monosodium glutamate (MSG), can also trigger migraines. Like I said, it’s mostly trial and error here. The best bet is to eat a diet comprised of whole, real food. You don’t have to bother with decoding food labels if your food doesn’t have labels.
4. Eat More! (Especially Fat)
One often overlooked cause of headaches is undernourishment. It sounds insane, in a world where everyone is struggling to lose weight, right? But it’s actually more common than you’d think – because everyone is trying to lose weight.
Most weight loss programs utilize a calorie-counting approach, which encourages participants to eat the least amount of calories possible to make it through the day. And fat-rich foods have the most calories, so it makes sense to avoid those.
The problem is, we’ve confused dietary fat with the fat in your love handles – it’s not the same thing, and one doesn’t cause the other. It would be great if they weren’t called the same thing, huh?
Trans-fat (goes by ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ oils on your food label)? That’s bad. The saturated fat in your Quarter Pounder (which also contains trans fat)? Also bad.
But the fat in fish, coconut oil, eggs, nuts, avocados, and even grass-fed butter and beef? Go to town. If you can increase your healthy fats while reducing your sugar intake, I guarantee you’ll feel a heck of a lot better.
Try supplementing with a quality Omega-3 product. I like Nordic Naturals (and no, they don’t pay me to say that).
Also, make sure you’re eating enough throughout the day. This whole “healthy” lunch of a salad with grilled chicken is just not enough. You need robust, satisfying meals, with ample levels of protein, fat and fiber. A good gauge of whether you’re eating enough is whether you can make it from one meal to the next without a snack.
5. Try Some Green Juice
Alright – bear with me in my health-freakiness here. Not everyone has access to a juicer, and the idea of drinking a glass full of green stuff is disgusting to most people…until they try it. It’s actually quite refreshing. And, an instant headache reliever.
The fresh nutrients and enzymes are instantly absorbed because they don’t have to wait to be digested. Often, regular juicing is the pivot point that makes all these other changes possible, because the body needs the nutrients so badly.
Head to Whole Foods or Earth Fare – they’ve got juice bars, where they’ve already perfected combinations that taste good. You can usually add what you want or customize your ingredients. A 12oz. juice will run you around six dollars.
By the way, bottled juices DO NOT COUNT. These have been pasteurized, killing all the enzymes and phytonutrients that make the juice so good for you in the first place. Don’t waste your money on anything but the fresh stuff.
If you do have a juicer collecting dust, here’s my go-to green juice recipe:
- 2 celery stalks
- 3 kale leaves (or chard, or 3 handfuls of spinach…any green will do)
- 3″ piece of cucumber
- 1 small apple
- 1/2 a bunch of parsley or cilantro
- 1/2 a lemon or lime
Run everything except citrus through the juicer, leaving the hardest vegetables for last. Squeeze lemon or lime juice into juice, stir and drink ASAP. Wash (or at least rinse) your juicer right away for easier cleanup.
There you have it! Have any other headache busters? Let us know in the comments!