People who suffer from headaches are near and dear to my heart. Because I am one of those “headache people.” I have suffered from headaches since I can remember… starting with sinus headaches around age 10 (maybe earlier), and culminating to migraines at least twice a week in high school and college. In my experience, headache pain has different connotations than any other type of pain in the body.
To be honest, this is a difficult post for me to write. Not because I don’t have enough experience in this area, but because I have too much. I have experienced countless hours of pain from this virtually invisible malady. And it’s not something I want to relive.
But the very reasons I want to avoid this subject are the same reasons I want to speak about it. Because I know what it means to live in fear of headaches, and the sinking feeling that comes when yet another one appears. I know what it feels like to feel helpless, panicked even, when the pain medications you took do nothing to help. I know what it feels like to miss out on things because you have a headache, or avoid making plans because you are worried one might come while you’re out.
And I know what it feels like to pretend you are enjoying an event when all you want to do is cry from pain. To stay as long as you can, trying to leave others with the best memories possible, even though your pain will likely make it impossible for you to look back with fondness. And I know what it is to finally leave the event, breathing and talking yourself all the way home with sunglasses on, trying not to throw up because your headache has turned into a migraine. Then making it home and trying for some relief, because it doesn’t just come for the asking. That. I don’t miss that.
My headaches and migraines are ultimately the reason I started down this natural health journey. That, and memory loss—my poor brain! And a relief from headache symptoms was one of the first things I experienced that convinced me that I was on the right path!
Before I go on, I want to be clear. I still experience headaches sometimes. But they come only a couple times a month, and usually I know why. Migraines I will get occasionally as well, but these are much more rare… less than once a month, and often less severe than they used to be. When I get a headache or migraine, it’s easy for me to feel like all the choices I have made for my health were in vain. When I have a headache it’s hard to think about anything else, and really hard to have hope that things can be better.
But my headaches do pass. They are less frequent. And there is hope!
The choices I am making are bringing improvements to my health. From my experiences, experimentation, and through studying I have learned quite a lot about headaches. There are different types, stemming from different root causes. Some are easier to identify or treat than others. And sometimes you can’t figure it out at all (yet).
Today I’m going to share with you from my experience with headaches. And if you want to learn more, a great resource for identifying headaches is a pamphlet called “Headaches by Type” sold by Selene River Press. I have experienced many, if not all of the headache types listed in that book at some time or another, and if you also experience frequent headaches, I recommend you purchase a copy for yourself to help you figure out what is going on.
Sinus headaches (allergic headaches):
For me these headaches consist of a low-level, constant pain. They are relieved with warm, moist heat (showers, warm washcloths on the face, steam tents), and warm teas. They are triggered usually by something environmental or a food, or when I get any kind of “head cold” illness. When I am having these symptoms I focus on avoiding anything I know can trigger me, and do good things like taking a detox bath, putting on essential oils, hydrating (including electrolytes), oil pulling (very helpful!), and if all else fails, I make it through the day by taking showers every few hours.
Low blood sugar headaches:
The cause of this is self-explanatory… low blood sugar from delayed eating or poor blood sugar control. For me it was poor blood sugar control because I ate a lot of carbs, which caused a spike in my blood sugar leading to a drop shortly after. These headaches used to be the most common cause of migraines for me, and I would panic if I realized I left the house without a snack. My health journey began with the Paleo diet, and when I removed sugar and refined carbs, my blood sugar became stable.
I now rarely get these headaches, even when I haven’t eaten in 5 or more hours (instead of eating every 2 hours). This type of headache must be addressed by focusing on blood sugar regulation. By removing refined carbs and sugars, and adding more protein and animal fat, you will regulate your blood sugar. When I started GAPS, I ate a mixture of coconut oil and a tiny bit of honey in between meals to teach my body how to regulate blood sugar again.
“Heart Weakness” headaches:
The main identifying factor in these headaches is tiring quickly after wakening, or getting headaches that start after exercise or exertion. Sometimes these headaches are also accompanied by chest pain. This makes sense because the root cause of these headaches is a deficiency in the nutrients that the heart needs to pump strongly. I started getting these headaches/migraines in high school. Because of these headaches I had an MRI of my brain to rule out an aneurism. The brain MRI was negative, which makes sense because the trouble wasn’t in my brain, it was in my heart! Treating this headache type means making sure the heart has what it needs. What the heart likes best is vitamin B (especially B3 or niacin, and B4 or adenine). It also needs minerals (including calcium) to function properly. Most Americans are deficient in vitamin B. You can get vitamin B from food: beets and liver are very high in it. This is not a headache to mess around with. If this is something you are experiencing, a supplement from a true whole-food, only-food source is probably a good idea to help you replenish your body’s vitamin B deficiency more quickly. I found a whole-food supplement I trust, and when I get this type of headache, sometimes taking a few of these can cause my symptoms to reduce or disappear sometimes
Many of you women know what I am talking about with these headaches. These are headaches that happen around ovulation and/or menstruation. In my experience, it feels like your body just doesn’t do a very good job adjusting to the hormone shifts that happen a couple times a month. If I get any headaches or migraines anymore, this is usually the type I get. Balancing hormones is key for this type of headache. If you want to be balanced, the first step is to get off of any external hormones you may be on (including all IUDs, creams and pills).
Next, there are herbs and specific glandular supports that assist (rather than force) your body to come into balance hormonally. For me it’s also seemed helpful to take what’s called in Chinese medicine “blood-nourishing herbs.” I theorize that beet kvass may also have a similar effect. Female hormones are commonly assaulted by many things, including: beauty and cleaning products, food we eat, chemicals in plastic and pesticides, and more. Because of this, balancing female hormones can seem like an uphill battle. But keep persevering! When you find the right thing, it will get better!
Well, I hope your brain isn’t exploding! In some ways headaches are complicated. But when you can identify what type(s) you have, you can begin addressing the root cause and start seeing relief. I’m here to help!
Please contact me if you want to schedule an appointment to identify and address your headaches. Let’s do this part of your health journey together. As we go,