Can Foods help Fight Headaches? Here Are Some Handy Tips
We’ve all heard of foods that trigger migraines and headaches. But are there foods that can help us ward off the headaches in the first place? A sort of anti-headache diet? There are certain combinations that do help. Make these a part of your daily diet and you’ll see results.
9 Tips to Get Rid of Headaches
Before we get into the tips, here are some common food triggers for migraine you should know about: Bananas , beans, chocolates, cultured dairy products, cheese, tomatoes and even onions. Avoid foods that have additives. Alcohol can also be a trigger for some.
1. High Fibre + Protein
Fasting and skipping meals can put you on a quick path to cranial calamity as hunger sparks headaches due to dipping blood sugar. So it is a good idea to eat regular meals and a diet that is rich in fibre and protein. Our brain runs on two things: oxygen and energy converted from the food you eat. Once that energy is depleted, you need to feed your brain. Lack of essential nutrients can cause throbbing pain.
Make sure you eat small meals every three to four hours and don’t skip breakfast.
2. Eat Vitamin E
Vitamin E helps stabilize estrogen levels, warding off period-related migraines.
What to do: Eat sesame seeds. Besides Vitamin E, sesame seeds are also rich in L-arginine, a precursor of nitric oxide, that may help protect against tension headaches and migraines. Beetroot and beetroot juice also have the same effect.
3. High Magnesium + Good Fat
Magnesium is an important mineral that relaxes blood vessels and reduces the likelihood that migraine-inducing electric signals in the brain will be generated, both of which can cut your chances of getting a headache. Good fat helps keep the blood pressure stable.
What to do: Foods rich in magnesium are fish, beans and dark green, leafy vegetables and pumpkin seeds. Even simple steps help - replace white-flour breads and pastas with whole-wheat versions to get a magnesium boost.
Avocados are a headache-relieving double-whammy, rich in magnesium and healthy fats that stabilize blood sugar and balance hormones. Plus, they’re easy to eat on the go and you can add them to everything: smoothies, soups, salads, or just snack on them. If avocados are hard to find, just snack on nuts and seeds with some fruit - this can also help to manage blood sugar levels in between meals.
4. Get Caffeine Smart
Often when I cut off tea consumption for my clients in an effort to keep their weight in check they complain of headaches. Similarly some people get weekend headaches. That happens usually because these two days are minus the endless cups of coffee that they devour as a habit during office hours. Common culprit in both these cases is caffeine (tea, coffee, colas). But while caffeine can help help treat headaches, it can also cause headaches.
What to do: Best way is to taper off the consumption. Gradually decrease the amount of caffeine in your diet instead of kicking the habit cold turkey, which can bring on headaches. If you have episodic headaches, limit your intake to 1 or 2 beverages daily.
5. Get Omega 3
This wonder nutrient helps reduce inflammation and pain to a great extent. It helps lower blood pressure and is extremely helpful in reducing other symptoms of headache attacks.
What to do: Include fatty fish like salmon and mackerel in your diet. If you are vegetarian then zero in on flaxseeds.
6. Get GI Wise
Steer clear of foods that raise the blood sugars quickly and lead to a quick drop again (high Glycemic Index, refined, processed and sugary foods) - as that is a sure fire way of triggering a headache.
What to do: Stick to complex carbs and also up your intake of good quality protein (dairy, fish, nuts) and nutrients that boost the immunity (greens, legumes and fruits), as low immunity leads to frequent colds, and nasty headache are usually part of the cold and flu package.
7. Increase Your Intake of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is produced when ultraviolet rays from sunlight hit the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis by the liver and kidneys. Low vitamin D has been linked to headaches. Small, low sunlight days can lead to D deficiency and thus aches and pains (head included).
What to do: Make sure you get your time in the sun everyday, however feeble the rays may be.
8. Prevent Dehydration
Yes, dehydration is often a reason for blinding headaches. Dry mouth = a debilitating headache. Our brain is more than 75% water, and is very sensitive to the amount of water available to it. When it is dehydrated, it produces histamines to hold on to water, which may lead to pain and general fatigue.
What to do: So make sure you sip enough H2O (7-8 glasses) everyday. Yes, even if you don’t feel like it. And I say eat your water too: include a lot of water vegetables like the gourds and cucumber, and fruits like watermelon in your daily diet.
9. Have Ginger
This spice is a storehouse of a number of nutrients that help ease migraine pain, due to its ability to block inflammatory substances called prostaglandins.
What to do: Begin the day with ginger tea everyday.
(The author is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).)