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Home > Newsletters > September 2009 > Ask the Doctor

Points -  Ask the Doctor

Q: I get frequent, pounding headaches. What can I do to prevent them or relieve them when I have one?

A:  Something in your life is creating an adverse environment that causes a headache. For instance, most people are familiar with the occasional headache that comes from a cold, staying up too late, or drinking too much. Other common culprits include sinus problems, muscle tension, eyestrain, stress, jaw clenching, a virus, allergies, poor eating habits, and a muscle injury in the neck and back. Some women may experience headaches due to a hormonal imbalance. 

The Food Factor 

What we eat on a regular basis affects the energy flow in our body. Proper eating habits can help maintain a good flow of energy and blood to the head, preventing headaches. Eat frequent smaller meals and choose wholesome foods, with no preservatives, additives, or artificial compounds. 

For headache relief, eat more: whole grains, fiber-rich foods, green leafy vegetables, parsley, chrysanthemum flowers, mint, green tea, onions, ginger, pearl barley, carrots, prunes, buckwheat, peach kernels, and almonds. 

Stay away from: alcohol, chocolate, MSG, nitrates, sulfites, sugar, salt, caffeine, and oily, greasy, or fried foods. Consider that caffeine, because it affects your blood vessels, can provide instant relief from a migraine headache. But be cautioned that regular use will make you dependent; meaning when you don't have it, the withdrawal will give you a painful headache! Do not eat late at night, while on the run, or under stress. Spicy, stimulating foods and heavy starchy foods should also be avoided. 

Remedies for Relief 

Here are some remedies and suggestions to help you tame the pain: 

Make fresh carrot juice. Drink a glass of carrot juice every 4 hours until your headache subsides. 

Prepare a compress. Put 5 drops of lavender essential oil in 1 cup of warm water. Soak a towel in the water and then wring it dry. Place it on your forehead and/or upper neck as a compress during a headache. 

Try making this herbal tea: Boil 2 tablespoons each of chrysanthemum flowers, cassia seeds, and mint in 4 cups of water for 15 minutes. Drink 3 cups a day until the headache subsides. These herbs will help clear the sinuses and reduce head pressure. Other herbs that may prevent or temporarily relieve headaches include feverfew, peppermint, wintergreen, chamomile, and passionflower. 

Regularly stretch your neck and back muscles and pay attention to proper posture and ergonomic positioning during work and play to avoid tension headaches. 

Nip your headache in the bud before it starts with a gentle walk. Taking a walk in fresh air will help stimulate blood flow and increase the flow of oxygen to the head. So when you feel a headache coming on, step outdoors and go for a 10-minute walk, breathing deeply and vigorously. 

Headaches can typically be prevented by relaxation and stress-releasing techniques like meditation and tai chi. Practice these daily to maintain a healthy lifestyle, free from headaches. And please note that vigorous exercise during a headache episode is not recommended because it can worsen the condition. 

Take note: When you experience severe, debilitating headaches that don't respond to over the counter medication, or wake up in the middle of the night with excruciating head pain, visit your physician or the emergency room immediately. 


About our Doctors

This month's Ask the Doctor question was answered by:

Dr. Maoshing Ni, L.Ac., D.O.M., Ph.D. from his website:

 

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