Headaches involve mild to severe pain in one or more parts of the head as well as the back of the neck. There are many different types of headache patterns and a variety of causes.
Headaches are generally divided into either primary (not related to another disorder) or secondary (caused by another, often more serious, medical condition). It your headache symptoms have come on suddenly or changed dramatically it is important to make an appointment with your GP to rule out any secondary cause.
Primary headaches do not present a danger to health but they can destroy your quality of life. However, identifying and dealing with any underlying triggers and making key diet and lifestyle changes can temper symptoms and keep reoccurrence at bay.
There are several different types of headaches each with their own symptom picture
- Tension headaches – A mild to moderate headache that may last minutes or days and tends to recur. The pain is fairly constant and felt in both sides of the head and neck as a pressure or tension. Most importantly, exercise doesn’t make it worse and there are no additional symptoms such as nausea.
- Cluster headaches – Frequent, short-lived (less than an hour), one-sided headaches across the temple or around the eye and occurring once or more a day, and often disrupting sleep. Headaches recur for several weeks then subside, although another cluster may develop months later.
- Chronic headaches – These may be of any of the above types, and occur for at least 15 days a month for at least three months.
Causes and Contributory Factors
Stress – Stress is a common trigger for headaches. Stressful events during the day create can cause us to contract and tighten muscles in the neck, head, and around the back and spine, leading to the development of a headache. If the stressful situation persists for a long time then headaches can become chronic. The only way to deal with these kind of headaches is to address the underlying stress. Having a stress test can be a great way to start – identifying the stage of stress which your body is key to effective therapy. Adrenal Stress Test.
Blood sugar imbalances – If you skip a meal, your blood sugar level may drop too low for your brain to function comfortably. In order to boost the amount of fuel available for the brain, the body releases hormones. These hormones can also cause an increase in blood pressure because they narrow the arteries. This narrowing of the arteries can contribute to the development of a headache. Problems balancing blood sugar levels comes with a wide-ranging list of other symptoms too. These include fatigue, irritability and inability to concentrate. Blood sugar levels can be greatly influenced by what we eat so if you think low blood sugar is influencing your headaches you might like to use the link below to book an appointment with Smart Nutrition. Book a Consultation.
Diet - Headaches have been linked to a reaction to a number of food components. The top culprits are:
- Caffeine – Found in chocolate and caffeinated drinks
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – A common flavour enhancer, but also found naturally in such foods as tomatoes.
- Nitrites – Preservatives found in processed meats and some cheeses.
- Amines – Found in a wide range of foods, including spinach, tomato, potato, small whole fish, tuna, liver, dark chocolate and alcoholic drinks plus other foods.
These foods need to be identified and then removed from the diet for a period of time to assess the affect on your headaches.
Food Intolerances - A food Intolerance test is a powerful tool for the detection of adverse reactions to foods, beverages and additives, by measuring the cellular reaction to allergens. Once the culprits have been identified, Smart Nutrition could give you practical suggestions on how to avoid trigger foods to reduce your symptoms. If you do not want to carry out a blood test a nutrition consultation can focus on helping you to eliminate any of the offending food and their families. Food Intolerance Testing.
Hormone imbalances – If your headaches follow your menstrual cycle it may be your hormones that are to blame. One theory suggests that low levels of the female sex hormone oestrogen just before menstruation affect the receptors for the important brain chemical serotonin and triggering a headache. There are also a number of other physiological changes prompted by the menstrual cycle that affect pain signally molecules exacerbating headache symptoms. To find out whether your hormone levels are balanced through your cycle why not consider A consultation to help to identify any imbalances. These can then be corrected through a specially tailored diet and supplement protocol, helping to reduce headache symptoms and reappearance. Book a Consultation.
Medications – Certain medications particularly hormone based drugs, such as the contraceptive pill and HRT, can trigger headaches. If your symptoms change or become more severe when taking these medications you should contact your doctor immediately. If you are interesting in discussing alternatives to these hormonal medications please book a Consultation However we do not recommend you stop any medication with out the agreement of your GP. Book a Consultation.