Despite what you may have been told, the particular label you place on a headache is less important than taking a multi-pronged approach to returning your body to its natural, balanced state in which headaches are less likely to occur.
After personally suffering from painful migraines for nearly 30 years, I devised the following “integrated mind/body approach” to preventing headaches of all kinds from taking hold in the body. Indeed, the key to ending headache pain is proactive avoidance of its causes rather than reactive treatment of its symptoms.
Here are 6 simple things you can do that will start balancing your body and aid in preventing headaches:
1. Watch Your Diet: Major headache triggers include chemicals in food and beverages and even toxins in the body and air, as well as the stress you harbor and the sleep you miss. In order to reestablish cellular balance, one must remove the toxins and stressors that tax the body, or learn to deal with them in new ways. For most people, this means a major lifestyle change.
Start by looking at your diet. Eat more fresh and fewer processed foods. Also, try eliminating suspected food triggers one by one from your diet for two to three weeks, and monitor what happens with your headaches. Common culprits include cheeses such as Brie, feta and Gorgonzola, pickles, chocolate, dairy products (goat as well as cow), alcohol (beware the notorious red wine headache), processed meats (bologna, pepperoni, salami, hot dogs, etc.), raw onions, peanuts, raisins and products that contain MSG.
2. Stay Hydrated with Plenty of Water: When we become dehydrated, the digestive system, lungs, liver and kidneys can no longer do their jobs as effectively, and this can lead to headache.
Drink plenty of water every day to help your body clear hazardous chemical residues and toxic build-up. Water cleanses the colon, flushes the liver and kidneys and empties the bowels. I recommend two quarts of bottled or filtered water daily. Please note: caffeinated coffees and teas, carbonated sodas and sugar-filled fruit drinks don’t count toward that total!
3. Break Stress Patterns: Stress, in its many forms, is a leading cause of headaches. So, to control headaches, you must break the pattern of stress. Fortunately, there are many ways to go about doing this.
To reduce tension and tightness in the shoulders, neck and back, which can lead to headache, see a massage therapist or do daily gentle stretches. A chiropractor can work with misalignments that can occur as a result of constantly tensed muscles. I also recommend meditation and deep breathing to quiet the mind and relax the body’s nervous systems. Many benefit from tai chi, yoga, qigong or other gentle exercises that stretch the body and soothe the soul.
Taking a multiple B vitamin, at least twice daily, also helps fight the stress reflex. For many, a magnesium supplement may be useful as well.
4. Oxygenate by Taking Deep Breaths: In addition to stress relief, deep breathing ensures a continuous flow of fresh oxygen into the body. Many people breathe shallowly, which means they don’t take in enough oxygen. To get more oxygen into your system, I recommend progressive relaxation. Lie down comfortably with your arms at your sides, and inhale as you tense your toes. Hold for a moment, and then exhale as you consciously relax them. Gradually and slowly continue up the rest of the body, mindfully tensing and relaxing the feet, calves, thighs, etc. as you inhale and exhale.
5. Get Sufficient Sleep: Everyone knows we get cranky and headachy when we don’t get enough sleep. To prevent headaches, it’s essential to establish deep and constant sleep patterns.
Avoid caffeine six hours before bed, as well as overly stimulating activities such as intense exercise. Stop working at the computer at least an hour or so before bed. Instead, establish a regular, soothing routine, such as a warm bath and a good book before retiring.
6. Engage in Regular Exercise: Exercise reduces stress, releases endorphins and dopamine, improves blood flow, works through muscle tension and keeps the body firm and supple. Engaging in simple, regular activity such as brisk walks and simple stretches will go a long way toward preventing headaches, as well as improving health overall.
Exercise at the same time every day, buddy up with a friend or group for accountability and support, and consider a trainer (if only for a few sessions) to help you establish a safe, personalized program. Even very easy, do-it-yourself stretches are beneficial for headache prevention. For example, try the chin-to-chest. To stretch and release tension in the shoulders and upper back, use your hands to gently push the back of the head forward to the chest. Repeat several times daily.
With the above lifestyle changes, you can reduce the frequency and severity of your headaches. The time to make the change is now. I wish you the best in this life-changing endeavor.
Mark V. Wiley is unique. As a doctor of both Oriental and Alternative medicine, best selling author, martial art master and international seminar instructor… no one does for wellness what he does!
Dr. Mark’s interest in holistic and natural health practices was not just a mere curiosity; he was looking for long-lasting relief from the debilitating migraines and chronic pain that plagued him for nearly three decades.
His passion for wellness has led him to become an innovator in the field of holistic health with the creation of the self-directed wellness model called The Wiley Method. This Method is unlike other healing systems that look at the individual symptoms and diseases and work toward managing them. Instead, it takes a systems view of health as being intimately tied to ones body, worldview and lifestyle choices.