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Extra Help with Relieving Headaches

Common causes of headaches include allergies, constipation, eyestrain, sinus pressure, hypertension, low blood sugar, dehydration, hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, stimulant intake such as coffee, alcohol, drugs or tobacco or be due to exposure to irritants such as perfumes and aftershaves.


  • Eat a well-balanced diet consisting of complex carbohydrates with protein to balance blood sugar levels, as sudden dips can lead to the changes in blood vessel pressure that can lead to headaches.
  • Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids – always eliminate dehydration as a possible cause for headaches.


  • Sugar and stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
  • Avoid foods that contain phenylalanine such as aspartame (NutraSweet), MSG (monosodium glutamate) and nitrites (preservatives found in processed meats). Although phenylalanine is an essential amino acid (protein ‘building block’), bound up in these forms it can have damaging effects.
  • Check for food allergies and sensitivities to food additives. Common allergens associated with headaches include wheat, chocolate, MSG (monosodium glutamate), sulphites (additives that prevent food discolouration), luncheon meats, dairy, nuts, fermented foods (eg cheese, sour cream and yoghurt), alcohol, vinegar and marinated foods.  Symptoms can occur within minutes or up to 72 hours later, so patterns are often hard to detect, but suspect foods you crave or those you eat the most of and experiment with avoiding in turn. Some people find that just cutting out wheat can help, as wheat has the highest concentration of gluten of all the grains.
  • Avoid salt and acid-forming foods (inflammatory) such as fried foods, meat, cereal, bread and grains.

Other considerations:

  • Do not overheat rooms – headaches are more frequent when environmental heat increases body temperature, causing blood vessels to dilate.
  • It may be a good idea to see an osteopath in cases of tension headaches, as there may be a structural problem, for example a misalignment of the spine causing muscular tension in the neck.
  • Apply a cold compress to the head from where the pain is radiating, this may help with muscle spasms by constricting blood vessels. Conversely, use a hot towel to relax the neck and shoulder muscles.
  • If your headache persists, go to your GP for further investigations, especially if accompanied by blurred vision, fever, pressure behind the eyes that is relieved by vomiting, sensitivity to light, visual colour changes or if you experience a headache after a head injury.

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