Did you know, 45 million people suffer from headaches yearly in the US? Headaches often limit everyday activities and may decrease productivity due to the pain. There are different types of headaches, such as tension, sinus, migraine, hormone, cluster, exertion, and hypertension. However, there are some general tips for headache sufferers. The 5 tips below may help you with the prevention or management of a headache.
1. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise not only decreases stress levels but may also help manage or prevent headaches. Exercise releases endorphins, which are hormones that help relieve pain throughout the body. Participating in 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week may help reduce how often headaches occur. Exercises such as yoga, walking, HIIT, and aerobics specifically help with headaches.
2. Manage Stress
Headaches are more common when experiencing stress, therefore tension headaches may be prevented or better managed by reducing stress. Although it’s impossible to completely eliminate stress, the following ideas may help you better manage:
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule (more on this below!)
3. Establish a Sleep Schedule
According to the American Migraine Foundation, it’s important to establish a sleep schedule for your overall health and cognitive function. Lack of sleep may also contribute to more headaches. If you think your headache may be related to a sleep disorder, you may benefit by keeping a headache/sleep diary to track any correlation between sleep and your headaches.
If you have trouble falling asleep, try incorporating these tips close to bedtime:
Maintain a sleep schedule, even on weekends
Follow a nighttime routine
Avoid using blue light screens (cellphone, TV, iPad) at least 30 minutes before bedtime
4. Stay Hydrated
When you don’t drink enough water, do you ever get a headache? This is because dehydration may cause headaches. If you are suffering from a dehydration headache, it may go away about an hour after drinking 16 to 32 oz of water. Dehydration can be avoided by making sure to drink enough water throughout the day. Typically, it’s recommended to have 8 glasses of water daily, but individual’s needs may vary. Having beverages with electrolytes may also help boost hydration.
5. Maintain Proper Nutrition
Have you ever noticed that you get a headache when you haven’t eaten enough? When you skip a meal or wait too long to eat, this may cause headaches. Eating foods that contain certain chemicals may also trigger headaches. It may be beneficial to try an elimination diet, to determine what specific foods bother you.
Potential foods to avoid include:
Alcohol: Consuming alcohol may cause dehydration and make headaches worse. Women should not consume more than one per day, while men should avoid consuming more than two per day.
Caffeine: Depending on the amount consumed, caffeine may both contribute to or help prevent headaches. Many headache medications contain a small amount of caffeine that may provide relief. It’s best to limit caffeine to one coffee per day, and to avoid energy drinks.
Food Additives: Food additives may also trigger headaches. Nitrates/nitrites, MSG, aspartame, or yellow dye No. 6 are among the common ones that may cause headaches. If you are sensitive to these additives, you may benefit by avoiding them.
Aged Cheese: Certain aged cheeses (swiss, cheddar, brie, parmesan) contain a natural chemical called tyramine. Some people lack the enzyme to break down tyramine, which may result in a headache. You may benefit by avoiding aged cheese, as pasteurized cheese has lower levels of tyramine.
Although the tips above may help relieve symptoms, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider if you suffer from constant headaches or migraines.
Written by: Skye Pietrzykowski, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern