Headaches suck. There really is no other way to put it. They can range from a slightly painful nuisance to a full-on, lay you on your back in a dark room wishing you no longer had a head kind of pain. Did you know that Sleepy Hollow was really the story of a dude with a massive headache who just got fed up with it? The headless horseman… no head… no headache. Well, maybe that’s not true, but it would have been a more interesting story line…
In all seriousness, headaches are not fun, so let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this so that you can get rid of your headache for good.
The most important thing to understand is that the headache is a side-effect of something else. The headache is a symptom that you experience in relation to a deeper problem. Most people try and attack the headache symptom with drugs and quick fixes, and then wonder why the headache eventually comes back. If you don’t remove the root cause of the headache, then you will continue to experience the symptoms.
Now that leads us to the question: What are the common root causes of these headaches?
In reality, there are so many potential causative factors that it’s really difficult to pinpoint what your trigger is without a detailed self-assessment. Ultimately, you have to have a lifestyle that stacks the odds in your favor for healthy circulation, muscle function, nerve function, and overall vitality and balance. With that said, I’m going to share with you what some of the most common triggers are and what you need to do to stomp them out permanently. Let’s start with what a headache actually is.
A headache, medically known as cephalalgia, is pain that is continuously felt in the head or neck region. Headaches are not actually felt in the brain because the brain doesn’t have any pain receptors. The pain is caused by disturbances to the pain-sensitive structures surrounding the brain (thus the “aching” head).
The American Academy of Neurology states that here are four types of headache: vascular, muscle contraction (tension), traction, and inflammatory. Let’s quickly examine all four.
Vascular – considered to be caused by blood vessel swelling and/or increased blood flow. Migraines and cluster headaches are common forms of vascular headaches.
Muscle Contraction – commonly known as tension headaches caused by tightening/tensing of facial and neck muscles. Statistics show that nearly 90% of all headaches are tension headaches.
Traction – usually caused by pulling or stretching pain-sensitive parts of the head. Common causes are eyestrain and over-stressed eye muscles. In a small percentage of cases, traction headaches are caused by organic diseases involving structures of the head, metastatic tumors, abscesses, or hematoma (a solid swelling of clotted blood).
Inflammatory – triggered directly by other disorders in the body. Systemic inflammation, sinus infection, and even stroke can result in inflammatory headaches.
Now that you know what the 4 types of headaches are, let’s uncover the real culprits behind them.
1. Deficiency – Several nutrients are absolutely critical to maintain the normal functioning of the body. Headaches are extremely abnormal, and often the result of being radically deficient in one or more of these nutrients.
- Magnesium – anti-stress mineral responsible for over 300 biochemical processes in the body. Magnesium is needed to balance blood sugar, relax tense muscles, improve sleep quality, and regulate blood pressure. Magnesium deficiency can easily result in tension headaches because of the impact on muscles, vascular headaches because of the impact on blood pressure, or traction and inflammatory headaches because of its impact on stress and inflammation. Now don’t just go running to take a magnesium supplement (because it may just have you running to the toilet afterward). Find out everything you need to know about getting the right type of magnesium here: Benefits of Magnesium
- Vitamin C – essential nutrient required for tissue repair and production, as well as immune system function, DNA protection, and reducing inflammation. Botanical supplements and dietary sources of Vitamin C are by far the best option. In a comparative study of the most powerful botanicals in the world Camu Camu berry ranks #1 in effectiveness for migraines. Get more info on it here: Camu Camu Berry Benefits
- Vitamin D – a study in The Journal of Headache Pain found that with increasing latitude (moving closer to the North and South Pole and farther away from the equator), the prevalence of headaches increased. This gradual distance from the equator correlates to less and less sun exposure, causing less production of Vitamin D. Other studies have shown that optimizing Vitamin D levels effectively reduces or eliminates headaches. The issue is that getting your Vitamin D levels up takes time. Sunlight, a whole food diet, and safe supplementation are generally the way to go.
B Vitamins – this family of vitamins are well known to reduce stress, reduce inflammation, and reduce allergic reaction. In particular, VItamins B12, B9, and B6 have been shown to reduce migraine disability by 30 to 60 percent. Again, food sources are ideal, but safe supplementation can be helpful.
These are just a few of the main nutrient deficiencies that cause headaches (and most people have no idea about this). Make sure to have these major nutrients covered, and stay connected to the information on this site for more.
2. Chronic Dehydration – Cell dehydration can literally damage your DNA. Because of this, your brain and nervous system take dehydration very seriously. Just a 1% drop in normal fluid balance in your body is enough to cause headaches, fatigue, and damage DNA.
When you lose water and electrolytes through normal daily activity, the composition of your blood also changes. If you lose enough water, your blood volume will drop and you’ll have less nutrition and oxygen getting to your brain. Blood vessels in the brain will dilate, leading to swelling and symptoms of a headache.
The headache is a natural response of your body telling you to drink more water. Yet, most people ass-ume they’re drinking enough water, but they are usually far off the mark. Number one, you need to drink the right type of water that won’t actually make your blood composition worse. Get more info on the right water to drink right here: What’s The Best Drinking Water And How Water Affect Your Body
Number two, you need to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water each day (and more if you’re physically active and participate in exercise). Hydrating yourself properly can clear up most headaches, but because it’s such a simple fix, most people over look it. Remember, dehydration can trigger all 4 types of headaches, so make sure that you’re proactive at staying properly hydrated.
3. Sleep Deprivation – Pain researchers at Missouri State University discovered that lack of REM sleep decreased the production of proteins that suppress chronic pain. They also found that lack of REM sleep increased the production of the “P2X3 protein” that’s been linked to the initiation of chronic pain. What we have here is a recipe for disaster.
Your brain and body require sleep more than most people care to acknowledge (that is, until something goes wrong). Research has also shown that there is a significant decrease in circulation and glycogen (brain food) that can reach the brain when you’re sleep deprived. You can try and game the system for awhile, but when headaches start to show up, it’s basic feedback that you need to get your required sleepy time. Having issues sleeping? Check out these tips -> 21 Ways To Cure Your Sleep Problems
4. Inflammation – No matter where the origin of the inflammation resides, if you’ve got an underlying problem anywhere in your body, it can result in a headache. For example, you might have something as obvious as physical trauma to your leg, “pulling” more blood flow and nutrients that’s causing your headache. Or it may be something not so obvious, like an underlying infection such as gum disease or e. coli that’s heating up your body and disturbing your immune system.
All of these things will affect your stress levels, circulation, and inflammation in your body. Instead of just treating a headache symptom, make sure that you are taking care of your body in a way that minimizes inflammation. Exercise smart daily, eat REAL FOOD (not food-like products), have a good outlet for stress, and sleep like a champion.
Exercise is really important here because it helps to move your blood and lymph fluid through your body. Your lymph system doesn’t have a pump, so if you don’t move then it won’t move. The lymph is a vital channel to eliminate toxins and metabolic wastes that can cause inflammation and pain if it’s not moving properly.
Use exercise and a real food diet as smart medicine because lack of these things can lead to inflammation and all 4 types of headaches.
One other important note is that staring at a computer screen or T.V. all day strains your eye muscles and inherently causes inflammation. This is why people take the day off to kick back and watch television, but end up with a headache after awhile. Take a break from the screen after a set time each day (whether it’s for work or leisure) to ensure your not causing unnecessary traction/inflammation headaches.
5. Allergic Reaction – Many of the foods that are promoted as “health foods” are actually highly reactive and clinically proven to cause migraines (check out this list of the Top 8 Health Foods to Avoid At All Cost). Take wheat for example. A study published in the Lancet showed that 78 percent of people who experienced migraines were reacting negatively to wheat. Wheat is the #1 grain that the processed food industry is promoting as a healthy staple food. But is it a coincidence that the word migraine actually has the word grain in it?
Processed foods have been proven to be a causative factor for headaches, blood sugar disorders, and countless other health problems. One of the big reasons is that most processed foods contain a variety of dyes, artificial flavors, preservatives, and other chemical additives like aspartame and MSG. These are all well known triggers for headaches, but most headaches sufferers have never been informed of that.
The allergic response is your body reacting to toxic compounds in your blood. It’s a side-effect just like taking any other medication or drug. Be aware of the compounds hidden in your food by manufacturers and avoid the whole situation by eating real, unprocessed food in the first place.
With all of this data we can conclude that over 99% of all headaches are caused by nutrient deficiency, dehydration, sleep deprivation, inflammation, and/or allergic reaction. Don’t wait around for the headache to show up. Take action to put your mind and body in order so that your body’s not forced to give you symptoms to alter your behavior. The headache is not a symptom that you’re deficient in Tylenol. The headache is intelligent feedback from your body that you need to change.
Lifestyle is an important factor in preventing headaches in the first place, but for acute headaches and instant relief check out this podcast and exercise right here: How To Get Rid Of A Headache In 30 Minutes Or Less
Now I’ve got a question for you. Are any of these major headache triggers an issue for you right now? Are you not sleeping well, possibly allergic to wheat, or is it something else completely? Please share in the comments below so that others can be helped with your experience as well. Thank you!