Wellness 104 Headaches – A right pain in the head

Are Headaches driving you crazy?  

Check out the Common Causes list to work

out what may be contributing to your headaches.

Then check out the What to do list.

It may not be all in your head.  It may in fact be in your gut.  The brain gut axis is very powerful and may contribute to numerous conditions if dysfunctional.

If your headaches are chronic, preventing sleep or you are waking up with them please consult a professional as they may be symptomatic of other conditions.

Some Common Causes

  1. Dehydration – This is one of the most common reasons for suffering from headaches.  Culprits include lack of drinking fluids, too much tea, coffee or alcohol, exercising intensely and not drinking enough fluids to compensate loss through perspiration.  Over exertion can also lead to headaches developing.
  2. Food allergies and intolerances – Undiagnosed foods sensitivities are quite a common cause of headaches.
  3. Gut dysbiosis/overgrowth – An overgrowth of  “bad” intestinal bacteria can also contribute to this problem as they release endotoxins.
  4. Hormonal imbalances – As one of my clients recently identified hormones can trigger headaches and migraines.  This is usually due to an excess of oestrogen relative to progesterone levels.
  5. Stress – Can cause headaches through tension and can also reduce your progesterone levels as cortisol levels(your stress hormone)  increase.
  6.  Hypoglycaemia – This is a drop in blood sugar levels, which can cause rebound blood vessel dilation.
  7.  Tension headaches – often due to too much time spent in one position, e.g. in front of the computer and being stressed.
  8.  Eye strain – Another overuse issue or may be due to an undiagnosed eye sight concerns.
  9.  Spinal issues – if your vertebrae are not aligned correctly it can reduce blood flow to the brain.  Flat feet or wearing high heels regularly can cause issues.
  10.  Raised body temperature – Dilates blood vessels can contribute to cluster headaches.
  11.  High blood pressure – Throbbing hypertension headaches.
  12.  Caffeine, sugar or alcohol withdrawal – Any substance you have in excess or are addicted to whether you know it or not can cause headaches when stopped.  Alcohol is dehydrating, dilates blood vessels and dampens down pain receptors so that you become more sensitive to pain when it is cleared from the body, thus the hangover headache.


What to do

  1. Dehydration – Ensure adequate intake of fluids.  Generally 1.5-2 litres of filtered water or caffeine free herbal tea is sufficient.  More if you are exercising but don’t over hydrate as this may cause hyponatraemia if you are involved in endurance sports.
  2. Food allergies and intolerances – Keeping a food diary is a good way to help identify any offending foods.
  3. Imbalanced Gut Bacteria – remove bad bacteria and replenish with good bacteria.  Make sure you also include lots of prebiotic foods to support the good bacteria to flourish.
  4. Hormonal imbalances – Reduce exposure to xenooestrogens (more information on this to come in the next blog) as they mimic the actions of oestrogen in the body, e.g parabens & phtalates.  These substances are found in some cosmetics, processed foods, plastics, paints products, etc.  Generally reduce exposure to pesticides and other chemicals.  Ensure your liver is detoxifying well to clear exposure to pollutants and other toxins and to clear and balance hormones.  Cruciferous vegetables, e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc help clear oestrogen. x  Reduce excess weight particularly if it’s around the abdomen.  Manage stress as raised cortisol levels will lower your progesterone levelsThe oral contraceptive pill (OCP) may also causes nutrient deficiencies, e.g. vitamin B6 amongst others that may cause headaches.
  5.  Stress – Adopt lifestyle strategies to counter stress, what ever works for you.  Also eating nutritionally dense healthy foods adjusts and balances moods and help you manage the stressors in your life better.
  6.  Hypoglycaemia – Eat regular smaller meals with low GI carbs (whole foods not white or sugary) and some protein.  Avoid high GI foods and long intervals between meals.
  7. Tension headaches  – Regular exercise and moving around every 20mins or so when seated for long periods may help.  Regular massages to ease tension held in muscles.  Ensuring correct posture.
  8. Eye Strain – Give your eyes a rest from staring at a computer screen every 20minutes or more, focusing on something in your mid and long vision range.  If it persists, see an ophthalmologist and have your eyes tested.
  9. Spinal issues – Refer to a good chiropractor or osteopath.  Alternate wearing high heels with flat heels.   Get support for flat feet.
  10. Raised body temperature  – Cool the temperature in your environment, particularly at night when sleeping.  Remove excess bedding.
  11.  High Blood pressure – Reduce weight if overweight.  Change diet including anti-inflammatory foods.  Take hypertension medication if required particularly if genetic predisposition.
  12.  Withdrawal headaches – Gradually reduce and omit substance for at least 2 weeks, ideally 6 weeks to break cycle.  Small amounts may be tolerated.  Test yourself after you have had a purge to check


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