If you’ve ever suffered from headache pain, you know just how debilitating it can be. You simply can’t look, feel or perform your best if you have a headache. Two days ago I stayed up late, and had to wake up kind of early. That, plus juggling a lot of client stuff (it’s Oscar week!) and projects lead me to have a massive headache for a few hours. So this topic is very much on the forefront of my mind.

If you know and love a headache sufferer, or are one yourself, help is here!

Causes of Headaches

Headaches can be a symptom of all kinds of conditions, from allergies to migraines. Some common headache causes include:

  • Migraines: While medical science doesn’t know for sure what causes migraines, a number of things that may trigger their onset including certain foods, hormones, stress, and sunlight.
  • Allergies: Food allergies can trigger migraines. They can also cause sinus headaches due to congestion, as well as painful cluster headaches according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
  • Stress: Not only can stress trigger migraines, but being stressed out can cause tight muscles. These muscles may squeeze nerves leading to the head, causing a headache. Stress also releases stress hormones such as cortisol, which can unbalance hormone levels in the body leading to headaches.
  • Hormones: According to the Mayo Clinic, fluctuating hormone patterns can cause headaches, particularly in women.
  • Alcohol: If you’ve ever over-imbibed only to wake up to a raging hangover, then you know exactly what I’m talking about! And really, few among us have not had this experience, right? Headaches from alcohol are likely due to inflammation and/or dehydration from alcoholic beverages, which also deplete B vitamins. This kind of headache is enough to swear off drinking- at least as long as you remember the extreme pain of the aftereffects. Tip: take a picture of yourself not looking so hot, lying in bed with “the spins” after a self-induced alcohol overindulgence, so you can look at it on your phone while you’re out and considering ordering another round of shots. 🙂 
  • Inflammation: Inflammatory processes in the body can pinch nerve pathways, leading to headaches and pain.

Tips for to Avoid Headaches

It’s worth a shot! You may be able to minimize the number of headaches you have by trying the following.

1. Avoid foods that trigger migraines

A number of these foods exist, so minimize or avoid them and you may have fewer headaches. Foods associated with triggering migraines include

  • Smoked or cured meatsavoid wine
  • Dairy products, especially cheese
  • Foods containing nitrates
  • MSG
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Canned soups
  • Food additives
  • Red wine
  • Pickles
  • Extremely cold foods, like ice cream

2. Avoid common allergens

The most common allergenic foods include:

  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Peanuts
  • Dairy products
  • Shellfish

3. Get plenty of sleep by following a regular sleep schedule

4. Stay hydrated

Pay attention to what that yellow pee is telling you and drink up!

5. Moderate alcohol intake

I know that “moderate” means different things to different people. You may go out a lot, but just know that as you work to balance your diet and lifestyle, you really won’t need to drink as much as you did in the past to get a buzz. Really!

6. Minimize chemicals in your food by eating whole, organic plant foods and avoiding processed foods.

7. Get regular exercise

avoid headaches with regular exercise

Exercise reduces stress, which can help reduce the incidence of tension headaches. Yoga, which is my main form of physical activity (plus so much more), is highly recommended.

8. Having a Glowing Green Smoothie for breakfast is a great way to start with healthy, organic foods that support your body instead of stressing it

9. Engage in regular stress reduction activities such as meditation

Even sitting quietly and practicing deep breathing for a few minutes per day can help reduce stress.

10. Avoid caffeine, which can trigger headaches. Instead, drink water

11. Don’t smoke – Period

No compromises here. Also though, avoid second-hand smoke.

12. Eat foods with omega-3 fatty acids, which have an anti-inflammatory effect

Leafy greens, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts are a few great sources. 

13. Avoid using chemical-based cleaning products and air fresheners around your house

14. Learn your headache triggers

By keeping a headache journal, you may be able to discover which foods and activities are triggering your headaches. What may trigger your headaches may be different than from your mother, roommate or hubby.

15. Use a humidifier

Dry air can irritate the sinuses, triggering a headache. Using a humidifier when you sleep may help keep your sinuses from growing irritated.

Tips for Headache Relief

Since headaches have very different causes and are such a common symptom, what works for one person may not work for another. Before you reach for that aspirin to fight your headache, however, you may want to try the following:

16. Listen to (calming) music

A 2001 study showed the benefits of music therapy for chronic headaches.

17. Take a whiff of lavender

lavender to stop headaches

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some people have experienced success at alleviating headaches by sniffing lavender essential oils.

18. Use ice

An ice pack on the top of your head may relieve a headache. You may also have success by placing an icepack on your neck.

19. Drink some ginger tea

Steeping some grated ginger in hot water and drinking it will reduce inflammation and may provide relief.

20. Eat some pumpkin seeds

Studies have shown that magnesium sulfate can relieve all types of headaches. Raw pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, so they may be worth a try.

21. Exercise

Even a brisk 10 minute walk around the block releases endorphins, which have natural pain and stress fighting properties according to MedicineNet.

22. Use moist heat

If you feel your headache arises from tension in your neck, then dampen a towel with hot water. Place the towel on the back of your neck. I don’t own a microwave, but if you have one, one good use for it would be to reheat the damp towel!

23. Meditate

meditate to relieve headaches

Sit in a quite, comfortable place, close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing. Try visualizing relaxation throughout your body as you do this.

24. Eat something spicy

Studies have shown that capsaicin can relieve headaches, so have eat some hot peppers or sprinkle some cayenne or pepper flakes on your food.

25.  Massage your neck

If your headache is related to tension or stress, this can help relax the muscles and relieve your pain.

26. Take a fairly hot shower and be sure to get your head under the water

The heat of the water can help alleviate muscle tension that may be causing pain. This always seems to help me!

27. Lie down in the dark

Sometimes minimizing sensory input is the best way to stop your head from pounding. Take ten minutes in a dark, quiet room. This may be one of my favorite ones! Just chill out and tune out.

Hope this helps you and your head to feel your best! Have you ever beaten a headache with one of these tips, or do you have another to share?

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New York Times Bestseller and Nutritionist