6 Headache Triggers that May Surprise You

We’ve all had them before, and they tend to strike at the most inopportune moments. Headaches can be a real pain in, well… the head! And whether you experience more of the dull ache variety or the near-crippling pain of a migraine, specific triggers may be completely unknown to you or your doctor.

Rather than popping pills the next time you feel a headache coming on, pay attention to your activities, foods and even the weather pattern, as these can play a role in headache development and severity. Here are six headache triggers that are often the culprit; some may surprise you:

#1 Gluten. Gluten is a complex protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It is difficult to digest, particularly the more modern variety, for a much larger percentage of the population has issues with gluten than is acknowledged by the medical community. One of the very well known triggers for headaches and particularly migraines is gluten.

So if you are a frequent headache sufferer, and particularly if you suffer migraines, try cutting out gluten completely for two to four weeks to see if this has a positive effect. For a lot of people, gluten is their main headache/migraine trigger.

#2 Weather. You may have heard of arthritic individuals complaining of achy knees when a storm is brewing, but the weather patterns can influence what goes on upstairs, too. Fall and spring can be difficult times for headache sufferers, as drastic changes in temperature are often a trigger. This is especially true for migraine sufferers, who can be particularly sensitive.

Dips in the barometric pressure often stimulate the trigeminal nerve in the sinuses or eyes, which can trigger headache pain. It’s also worth considering your reaction to different weather situations. When it’s sunny out, you may tend to squint more, and these tightened facial muscles are often a trigger. In extreme cold conditions, tight shoulders and tensed neck muscles can also lead to headache flare-ups.

#3 Cheese, meat and leftover meals. It may come as a surprise to deli-lovers, but those cold cuts and cheese platters may just be the worst foods for headache sufferers. Two amino acids, tyramine and phenylethylamine, are known headache and migraine triggers. They’re most commonly found in hard aged cheeses such as cheddar, or the fermented moldy varieties such as blue cheese.

Aspartame-containing diet sodas are also a source of phenylethylamine, while packaged cold cuts contain a hefty helping of nitrites (another known headache trigger), which are preservatives added to most processed meats. Want to save that other half of a sub for tomorrow’s lunch? Bad idea, as tyramine content increases over time.

#4 Spinal alignment. For many people, the services of a chiropractor are needed because their headaches are triggered by structural problems in their spine, as well as muscular dysfunction. A reputable chiropractor should be able to help you determine if this is a significant trigger in your case.

#5 Scents. The dubious term “fragrance,” found in everything from shampoo to deodorants, cleansers and cosmetics, can contain any number of the thousands of toxic ingredients that fall into this category. Strong scents in particular can be a quick trigger for sensitive noses. Headache specialist from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Dr. Vincent Martin, notes that certain scents activate the nasal nerve cells, which in turn can stimulate the nerve cells associated with head pain.

#6 Hats and hair bands. Strapping on the latest hair accessory or donning your newest cap may be the source of your nagging head pain. Aside from you hair, your head consists of a fair amount of connective tissue and nerve endings. Pull that ponytail too taught or tighten up the band of your hat, and you reduce blood flow and may strain these sensitive tissues. Hair bands, clips and even sunglasses resting on top of your head can all have the same effect.

Halt headaches for good

While medical professionals aren’t always entirely sure of the exact cause for headache flare-ups, they’re often quick to prescribe a healthy helping of medications. Skip the pills and instead listen to your body. Keep a trigger journal and record any possible triggers that may be the culprits.

Plan ahead for seasonal changes with proper clothing and accessories. Skip foods that may be lead to flare-ups (packaged meats and diet sodas shouldn’t be on anyone’s menu to begin with, and gluten is a problem for approximately half of the population). Avoid strong perfumes or scented cleansers.

headacheInstead, incorporate organic essential oils (or unscented products) for a natural scent with healing properties. A few drops of peppermint oil can freshen a room for hours. Don any hair accessories or hats loosely. If it feels at all snug within the first few minutes, there’s a good chance a headache is not far behind.

-The Alternative Daily


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