Recurring headaches successfully treated with diet
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Client name and identifying information changed
Sarah had been getting headaches over many months. Sometimes 2-3 times per week; sometimes they would last for a week. They didn’t appear to have a pattern, so I asked her to keep a diary of food, mood, events, how her body felt and what she did to cope.
Sarah’s initial food diary was short of information without any clues, so I asked her to write a much more detailed diary which she did for three weeks.
Then a story unfolded. After a stressful day at work (which was most weekdays) Sarah was tired and wired when she got home and would often drink a glass of red wine or a beer to relax. Often too tired to cook, she sometimes ordered take away Indian food, which contained more salt than she would normally eat. Other times she made something simple like corn chips with avocado & tomato.
Yet on other days when stressed, Sarah came home and took the dogs for a walk in the park, taking a bottle of water to drink. Back home and feeling more energised, she prepared a salad with fresh fish or chicken, followed by her ‘relaxation piece’ of chocolate.
I could see that Sarah was consuming high histamine foods with the corn chips, red wine, beer and chocolate and dehydrating on the days she drank alcohol rather than water.
The stress and tension was constant, but how she dealt with it varied.
We spoke about her being more aware of her cycle and to be gentler with her body, especially leading up to and during her period, and to avoid excessive activity when she was feeling extra pre-menstrual stress.
We set up a trial to replace high histamine foods with low histamine options that were quick and easy to prepare when she was tired, cut out salt to reduce dehydration, drink more water and walk regularly after work. We included more magnesium and vitamin B rich foods and supplements, as magnesium helps to relax the muscles and B vitamins can help to reduce stress.
Very quickly (by the second week) Sarah’s headaches were completely gone and only returned if she snuck in some chocolate on a super-stressful day. It appeared that chocolate was fine to eat when she wasn’t stressed and premenstrual.
After the trial, I also suggested that Sarah have a massage once a fortnight.
With headaches, it’s a good idea to observe what the main triggers are. Sometimes it can be a combination of 2 or 3 things that trigger headaches. It’s all about balance and thresholds, but having said that, the more triggers you remove, the more vitality you will feel.
In Sarah’s case, we discovered her headaches were triggered by a combination of stress, neck tension, high histamine foods/drinks, hormone shifts and dehydration.