Heading off a headache before it begins

You know the feeling all too well – you begin to feel lightheaded, maybe even dizzy and before you know it, a full blown headache is pounding its way letting you know its arrived.  While there are no definitive answers as to the causes of headaches, there are certain factors that can elicit the likelihood of them occurring.  According to the National Headache Foundation, certain triggers can bring on headaches that can be avoided.  By avoiding these triggers, you can dodge a pulsating headache ruining your day.

There are three categories that can be prompts for the beginning of a throbbing headache lasting for hours.  They are avoiding certain foods, staying hydrated and reducing stress. 

Avoiding certain foods

We’ve all experienced an “ice cream” headache when we eat this frozen dairy treat too fast.  Luckily, ice cream headaches don’t last long at all but they do remind us to slow down when having this dessert.  For some people, cheese can be another culprit, particularly aged cheeses.  Avoid cheeses that have passed their sell-by dates, especially blue cheese, Swiss, cheddar, gouda, and parmesan.

Going too long without eating (more than 5 hours) or skipping meals is another headache generator.  This can bring about drops in blood sugar resulting in a pounding headache that could last for hours.  Keeping a regular mealtime schedule composed of balanced meals is the best option for avoiding this type of headache.

Stay hydrated

Dehydration is often a headache trigger for many people and for those who are experiencing more frequent headaches than usual, this could be the reason.  As little as only a 1-2% drop of body water content can result in a headache and with up to 75% of Americans chronically dehydrated, this could be a major source of the pain.

Causes of dehydration can be a general lack of water or fluid intake, vigorous exercise or strenuous activity causing excessive sweating, alcohol consumption, long airline flights with dry cabin air or sun exposure. 

Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water (at least 6-8 cups a day) and eating plenty of high-water content foods such as fruits and vegetables.  Coffee and alcohol can be dehydrating along with too much fruit juice which can cause diarrhea, also a trigger for dehydration.  If you know you will be more active than usual or out in the sun for a longer period of time, begin drinking extra fluids to avoid dehydration fending off a headache. 

Reduce stress

Stress is a major cause of headaches with frequent headaches being a principal sign of stress.   There is no way we can completely eliminate stress but we can become better at effectively managing stressful situations.  Some ways to do this is to change the source of stress or distance yourself from it.  Finding healthy ways of dealing with stress is important for maintaining stress-relieving endorphin hormones.  Some ways to deal with stress include increasing physical activity, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, get more sleep, try relaxation techniques, talk with someone about your stress, keep a stress diary, and learn to say “no” to reduce your level of stress.