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Nutrition help for headaches

Headaches seem to have been a bit of theme for me over the last couple of weeks.  I’ve seen quite a few clients complaining about thumping headaches that are becoming far too regular a feature in their lives.

We’ve all had the occasional headache, and often even know the cause of it.  The heavy night out, working late to reach a deadline or general lack of sleep can all be triggers.  Most can be treated with painkillers, but many don’t like taking them on a regular basis.

The problem with painkillers is also the fact that although they make the pain go away, the underlying reason why the headache started in the first place may still be there.  As soon as you stop taking the painkillers, the headaches often return.

So what are the alternatives?  As this is a nutrition column, I’ll talk about how your diet can help, but there are also other disciplines, such as acupuncture that can be extremely helpful and are also worth exploring.

One of the simplest ways to reduce your chances of getting headaches is to keep well hydrated.  Dehydration is almost certainly also contributing to those morning after headaches and most people know that drinking plenty of water before you go to bed after a boozy night out can make big difference to how you feel the next day.

But you can also get dehydrated during the day.  Drinking endless cups of tea or coffee, or cans of fizzy drinks all rob your body of its most important nutrient – water.  So cut back on your caffeine, and put a large bottle of water on your desk in the morning and sip from it throughout the day, aiming to finish by the time you leave work.

Other areas we nutritionists look at when rooting around for the underlying cause of the headaches are levels of certain nutrients and possible food intolerances.

I recently saw a client who had suffered from recurring headaches for as long as he could remember.  He had got to the stage when he almost didn’t notice the milder aches, and it was only when I asked that he realised that he had a headache even as we spoke.

His food intolerance test indicated a handful of problem foods, so I asked him to eliminate those from his diet for a trial two week period.  I also gave him some extra magnesium and vitamin B3, both of which can make a big difference to the severity and frequency of headaches.

After the two week period he reported a gradual decrease in the number of headaches he was getting.  We decided to continue with the same approach for another four weeks, and this time also eliminate caffeine and increase water intake.

After two months the headaches were no longer chronic, and only seemed to appear on a more occasional basis.  He also confessed to me that those occasional bouts were mostly caused by a night out, or stress at work.

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