Beating Headaches with Food

Ingy Deif, Monday 27 Dec 2010

The problem of headaches and migraines affects people around the globe. One of the latest approaches tackles the connection between the gut and the brain

Crippled by headaches
Crippled by headaches

In workplaces, educational institutions or in the streets, meet any group of people and ask them two simple questions: have you noticed an increase in the frequency which you have headaches, whether mild or severe? The answer will probably be yes! The second question: do you  try to solve the problem with pills? The answer will probably also  be yes!

 "Neither answer comes as a surprise to me," says Dr Nadia Nazir,  neuro-psychiatrist and psychologist. "Most of the people we meet through our practice are victims of the stress and tension in our everyday lifes,  resulting in many physical and psychological problems, one of those is chronic bouts of headaches."

The problem of headaches and migraines affects people around the globe, and that is why numerous theories appear every now and then. One of the latest approaches tackling the issue with noticeable success, because it solves the problem without drugs, has been published  in the book , The Second Brain by Michael Gershon, a professor of neuro-gastroenterology at Columbia University, US.

Gershon explains that because of a connection between the gut and the brain, certain food-stuff can cause headaches, and others can actually help prevent and ease symptoms too. Products containing high levels of tyramine, an amino acid, can affect the blood vessels in the brain triggering headaches, while others rich in nitrates can cause blood vessels to expand and dilate which causes pain. Moreover, it had been a well-established fact that the gut and the brain both rely on the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which is mostly made in the gut. When monitoring the level of serotonin in the gut at the beginning of a headache, a remarkable decrease had been noticed.

Watch out for the triggers

More and more people are resorting to the alternative approach, especially after ruling out the other physiological causes of headaches. The following topped the list of headache triggers:

·         Monosodium glutamate.

·         Cheese and peanuts.

·         The artificial sweetener - aspartame.

·         Caffeine, alcohol and chocolate.

·         Old and processed meat.

·         Soya beans.

It is common knowledge that eating regular meals (including breakfast) helps to avoid headaches. Foods that are thought to ease headaches include those that are rich in magnesium to help to stabilise the blood vessel walls.   Calcium is beneficial as this vital mineral is known to relax muscles in the neck and shoulders.

One of the culprits to trigger headaches is eating food that contains proteins which are hard to digest. Finally, in your quest to beat headaches with food, go for these options:

·         Food rich in magnesium like spinach.

·         Fish and fish oils which contains easily-digested protein.

·         Almonds, walnuts, sesame oil, turkey, duck, wholegrain and oatmeal which contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which our bodies can convert to serotonin.

·         Calcium, rich kale and broccoli even if you don’t like it!

·         Cayenne pepper is believed to ease pain.

·         Peppermint and ginger can relieve the nausea that is usually associated with migraines.

Try eliminating one or two of the triggers each week, to identify the cause of your headache until you notice a difference.

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