Head mat­ters

The right diet can help to beat a headache, says Liz Connor

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - This Week -

WHEN you’re the un­sus­pect­ing vic­tim of a headache, the pain can be so in­tense, it feels as though it’s pen­e­trat­ing your brain. Thank­fully, most headaches will go away on their own, and aren’t a sign of any­thing se­ri­ous. In se­vere cases, though, they can linger for days, caus­ing vom­it­ing, sen­si­tiv­ity to light and vis­ual prob­lems.

By bet­ter un­der­stand­ing how your brain works, you can find tech­niques to nip the tor­ture in the bud.

Here, reg­is­tered nu­tri­tion­ist Dora Walsh ex­plains the types of pain as­so­ci­ated with headaches and mi­graines, and how what you eat and drink can help soothe them. Ten­sion headache “The most com­mon type of headache is called a ten­sion headache,” says Walsh. “It’s usu­ally char­ac­terised by a dull, pres­sured pain on both sides of the head and fore­head — and you may also feel it in the shoul­ders and neck.

“It’s im­por­tant to note that if you’re suf­fer­ing with any type of headache, en­sure you’re drink­ing plenty of wa­ter to stay hy­drated and main­tain con­sis­tent blood su­gar lev­els by eat­ing reg­u­lar meals. Avoid al­co­hol, too, as it will make the pain worse.” Head pain that’s sim­ply throb­bing A se­vere throb­bing pain in your head is prob­a­bly a sig­nal you have a mi­graine com­ing on.

“Sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered that hor­mones, sero­tonin and oe­stro­gen, may cause in­flam­ma­tion of blood ves­sels, lead­ing to the puls­ing pain,” says Walsh.

She ex­plains that while the cause of headaches and mi­graines are still a bit of a mys­tery, it’s clear that cer­tain foods may trig­ger them. The types of food that bring on pain can vary from per­son to per­son though.

“To help iden­tify your trig­gers, try and keep a food diary to record [what you eat] and how you feel after­wards so you can spot any pat­terns around the times when the next mi­graine strikes.” Headaches that cause vi­sion prob­lems If you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing lines that cross your vi­sion or patches are blurry, then you may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an aura — a symp­tom that of­ten pre­cedes the pain of a mi­graine.

“Mag­ne­sium de­fi­ciency has been linked to headaches and mi­graines. And stud­ies have shown that mag­ne­sium ox­ide may help to pre­vent mi­graines with auras, so it’s im­por­tant to get enough mag­ne­sium in your diet,” says Walsh. “You can try by in­creas­ing mag­ne­sium-rich foods to your diet, like nuts and seeds, while eggs and milk are also good sources.” Headaches and nau­sea Re­search has shown that peo­ple who reg­u­larly ex­pe­ri­ence gas­troin­testi­nal symp­toms — such as re­flux or di­ar­rhoea — have a higher rate of headaches, and that mi­graines may ac­tu­ally slow down the di­ges­tive sys­tem.

“It’s the undi­gested food sit­ting in the stom­ach that may be to blame for the nau­sea you’re feel­ing, which can lead to vom­it­ing. This may also be the rea­son why so many mi­graine suf­fer­ers lose their ap­petite.”

To help re­lieve the nau­sea, Walsh sug­gests gen­tly sip­ping wa­ter, gin­ger or pep­per­mint tea, and try nib­bling on neu­tral foods such as dry crackers or toast.

Mi­graine suf­fer­ers that ex­pe­ri­ence se­vere phys­i­cal ef­fects should al­ways speak to a phar­ma­cist or their GP, to help man­age the symp­toms more ef­fec­tively.

Pic­ture: PA

HEAD PAIN: What you eat and drink can help soothe the aches.

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