In this post, we’ll cover what can be done on the dietary front to address a common root cause of headaches.
The vast majority of chronic, recurrent headaches– including tension headaches and migraines—are partly due to a build-up of toxins within the nervous system.
Some of these toxins come from everyday metabolic activities. As your cells go about the daily grind of producing energy to fuel your activities, they generate waste products that can have toxic effects on your tissues before they are eliminated from your body.
Other toxins come from digesting the foods that you eat, particularly protein-rich animal foods.
Breakdown of protein-rich animal foods generates large quantities of nitrogenous waste products which can come into contact with your nervous system before being eliminated from your body.
Your nervous system can become hypersensitive over time
The idea is this: when your nervous system is burdened by a steady stream of toxins for an extended period of time, it can become hypersensitive to all types of stimuli such as strong fragrances, loud noises, bright lights, and everyday stimulants found in food and drinks like sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, and MSG. Tension and migraine headaches are often precipitated by an overburdened nervous system that is reacting to one or more such stimuli.
Other common stimuli that can trigger headaches include
- prescription drugs,
- over-the-counter drugs,
- a change in the weather,
- and menstruation.
So in understanding that headaches can be caused by a hypersensitive nervous system that is the result of high toxic load, when looking to address chronic headaches with what you eat, the goal is to eat a “clean diet” that’s relatively free of hard-to-digest foods.
Beat headaches with a “clean diet”
A clean diet translates to minimally processed fare that is abundant in fresh plant foods and low in protein-rich animal foods.
Here are three specific guidelines to follow to make the switch over to a clean diet that can dramatically decrease and even eliminate your chronic headaches:
Eat mainly fresh vegetables (raw and/or cooked), fresh fruits, vegetable soups, and whole grains.
For more protein-dense foods, focus on eating large quantities of dark green vegetables and small quantities (no more than 2 ounces per serving) of lentils, legumes, unsalted nuts, unsalted seeds, organic eggs, and cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and anchovies.
Strive to avoid flesh meats (other than small quantities of fish once you are better), dairy, and products that contain yeast.
I’ve found that the best results are usually obtained by eating just fruits (mainly fresh melons), vegetables, and whole grains for an initial cleansing period. Lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, and fish are best added in small quantities once there has been substantial improvement in headache intensity and frequency.
Don’t forget to chew your foods thoroughly and to strive to be at rest, physically and emotionally, while you eat – these measures can facilitate optimal digestion, thereby decreasing your exposure to endogenous toxins that can arise from putrefaction of incompletely digested foods in your gut.
Following a clean diet for a few weeks to a few months should decrease your exposure to toxins and give your nervous system a chance to return to a healthier tone, also known as a better balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of your autonomic nervous system, which should in turn, lead to less headaches.
5 stimulants that can cause painful headaches
Beyond decreasing toxic load to address chronic headaches, it’s often immensely helpful to decrease or even eliminate intake of the following stimulants that are known to trigger painful headaches:
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Nitrates (found in highly processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and cold cuts
- Sugary foods and drinks
Please keep in mind that initially while following a clean diet, it’s quite possible to experience more frequent and/or intense headaches. The same holds true if you skip a meal or if you sleep longer than usual. The reason for this is that any time you give your body more rest – which is provided by a clean diet, eating less, and getting extra physical rest – your body accelerates the pace at which it stirs up and eliminates toxins.
Though intense detoxification may be difficult to tolerate, do your best to stay the course with a clean diet, as within a few days to a few weeks, you should feel significantly better for the long term, provided that you continue to live and eat healthfully.
Please also keep in mind that chronic headaches can be caused by specific health challenges such as meningitis, high blood pressure, head injuries, sinusitis, seasonal or food allergies, and even brain tumors. Though the nutritional measures discussed in this post are generally health-supporting and potentially helpful in any circumstance, it’s always wise to be evaluated by a competent physician to make sure that there are no underlying conditions that are causing chronic headaches.
A clean meals sample menu for overcoming headaches
Following is a sample menu of clean meals that can be enjoyed when looking to overcome chronic headaches:
- Fresh melons, grapes, lettuce, and celery
- Bowl of oatmeal
- Smoothie made with fresh melons and grapes and any whole food fruit and vegetable powders that you use
- Large green salad with extra-virgin olive oil
- Steamed vegetables with guacamole
- Steamed baked potato or sweet potato
- Green salad with extra-virgin olive oil
- Steamed corn on the cob, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower
- Whole grain dish (brown rice, millet, or quinoa are good choices) with guacamole
- Pasta with tomato sauce
- Fresh mangoes, apples, pears, berries, melons, grapes, coconut
- Baked sweet potato slices
Dr. Kim studied at the University of Toronto before going on to earn his doctor of chiropractic degree from National University of Sciences in 1997. He graduated summa cum laude, and went on to join multi-disciplinary clinics in Alaska, California, and Ontario.
Today Dr. Kim lives and works in Ontario, Canada with his wife and two children, and is the editor of drbenkim.com, a natural health website devoted to sharing principles of self-care."
You can also find Dr. Kim on Facebook.