Millions of Americans suffer from headaches. Although each individual’s symptoms may be similar, there can be numerous causes behind this painful condition. Foods, allergens, stress and even eye strain are common headache triggers. Below, we will discuss a few of the most common causes of headaches and how you can treat them without reaching for an over-the-counter pain medication.
What can cause a headache?
According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the most common causes of headaches is dehydration. The body requires ample amounts of fluids in order to perform its basic functions. When the body loses fluids, such as through sweating as a result of extreme physical activity, the blood vessels constrict. This reduces the amount of blood flow received by the brain, resulting in a throbbing pain.
Another common cause of headaches is the consumption of foods high in nitrates and nitrites, such as smoked meats. Nitrates are naturally occurring and can be found in many unprocessed foods. Once they are consumed, the body converts them into nitrites, which can be just as harmful as consuming foods containing synthetic nitrites. Both nitrates and nitrites are preservatives used in foods like pastrami, beef jerky and deli meats. These preservatives can trigger severe headaches by dilating the blood vessels in the brain.
Stress is also a culprit, as it can cause you to tense the muscles in your neck and shoulders, causing what is referred to as “tension headaches.” These types of headaches can also be caused by poor posture, certain sleeping positions, or sitting at a desk for long periods.
Types of headache remedies
The cure for headaches caused by food ingredients or dehydration is fairly simple; eliminate the foods that trigger pain and stay well hydrated; however, because there are numerous causes of this condition, sometimes finding relief isn’t so simple. It can be easy to reach for a bottle of pain reliever from the pharmacy, but there are also many alternative methods of eliminating a headache that are more gentle on the body.
Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce a headache in the same amount of time as an aspirin. Ginger tea can be found in many health food stores, but it is best to use fresh ginger root. To make your own ginger tea, simply peel and crush an inch of fresh ginger root and let it steep in one cup of boiling water for a few minutes. Strain the tea into a clean cup and drink.
For tension headaches, peppermint essential oil can be of great benefit. Add four or five drops of peppermint oil to a teaspoon of a carrier oil, such as olive or coconut oil, and massage it into your hairline or on tense neck muscles. The cooling sensation will help relax your muscles and provide fairly quick relief.
Feverfew is an herbal remedy that is quite effective in relieving headaches. In clinical trials, it has even been shown to reduce the severity of migraines. It works by taking the pressure off of nerves by reducing inflammation. Because it is so popular in the treatment of headaches, it can easily be found in many pharmacies.
When to see a doctor
If you find that you are experiencing a sudden, severe headache or a headache that is accompanied by dizziness, nausea, speech difficulties or loss of balance, contact your physician immediately. These symptoms could be pointing to a serious underlying condition that requires urgent medical care.
Everyone experiences a headache at some point in his or her life. Although they can be painful, they do not have to be a mainstay. By identifying the root cause and following a few of the remedies mentioned above, you can reduce the pain of headaches and possibly eliminate them altogether.