Headaches can be a big pain-literally. Severe headaches or migraines plague one in four women under the age of 45 according to new research from the CDC, while many women suffer from less intense but more frequent (even daily) headaches. Consistent headaches can impact work, social and home life, and even make day-to-day tasks challenging, but there are ways to combat them.
“A lot of women think headaches are something they must simply endure or treat by taking over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or Tylenol,” pain management specialist Dr. Medhat Mikhael told Women’s Health, “but not only is that not the best treatment it can even be dangerous as using those medications daily can cause serious damage to your kidneys and liver. If your headaches are affecting your daily life, it’s time to see a doctor.”
Dr. Mikhael says your doctor or natural health practitioner will ask a lot of questions, since the trigger could be anything from diet to environmental allergies to your morning cup of coffee. He advises keeping a detailed headache journal noting things like what you ate, exercise, menstrual cycle, and sleep. Keep an eye out for the following common triggers:
Stress is the number-one cause of consistent headaches. Stress causes hormones like cortisol to flow through your body, causing your muscles to tense and tighten. Try a few natural methods to get your stress under control and prevent daily pain.
Hormonal fluctuations often mean menstrual headaches, but Mikhael advises speaking to a doctor if yours last more than one or two days. If your hormones are out of sync, check out these tips to help balance them naturally.
3. Blood pressure
High blood pressure can frequently result in headaches since it also increases the pressure in your head. If this is your trigger, lowering your blood pressure through medication or natural methods will give you some much-needed relief.
Problems in your teeth like cavities, gum disease, pain from clenching or grinding, or other dental issues can cause chronic headaches. Make sure your dental hygiene includes regular checkups, brushing, and flossing, and consider adding oil pulling into your routine.
If you’re not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, that could be the culprit. “Unrested muscles can cause tension headaches and insomnia releases stress hormones, both of which trigger headaches,” Mikhael says.
6. Too much caffeine Caffeine is a common culprit for headaches. Try eliminating it completely from your diet and gradually re-introducing it in small amounts. You can figure out your tolerance for how much caffeine you can handle. Keep time of day in mind as well, you may find a cup of coffee in the morning versus a soda in the afternoon has very different results.
We all know the feeling of having too much to drink the night before, but you don’t have to overindulge for alcohol to trigger a headache. The sulfites found in cheap wines is a common culprit, so stick to higher quality or even organic wine.
8. Processed food
In addition to being full of scary ingredients, processed foods can often cause daily headaches. Stick to whole foods with ingredients you can pronounce as often as possible, or even take our Scary Seven Challenge.
9. Allergies Allergies and sensitivities to certain foods and chemicals can cause a lot of health problems, including frequent headaches. Keeping a dedicated headache journal is a great way to root out any issues you might have.
10. Autoimmune disorders
Chronic headaches can accompany autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, arthritis, and nerve damage, Dr. Mikhael says. Make sure your doctor rules them out.
11. Eating properly
Not eating regularly, eating poorly, or forgetting to eat altogether often result in headaches. Make sure to plan for 3 meals and 1-2 snacks throughout the day so your blood sugar stays steady. Keep healthy snacks on hand like fruit, nuts, and organic yogurt.