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Natural Headache Remedies: What Are You Missing?


Podcast cover art for: Natural Headache Remedies

Join Dr. James Odell for Season 2 of the Science of Self-Healing Podcast! He's the Medical and Executive Director for BRMI, as well as a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 35 years, and he's here to share with you his extensive knowledge of medicine from a different perspective.



Did you know that approximately 16% of the global population experiences a headache daily? This staggering statistic highlights the enormous impact of headaches on global health and quality of life, affecting people of all ages, genders, and cultures. Despite their prevalence, headaches and migraines are often underdiagnosed and undertreated, emphasizing the need for greater awareness, research, and access to effective treatments.


In today’s podcast, we’ll explore the four most common types of headaches: tension, cervicogenic, migraine, and cluster headaches. We’ll delve into their potential causes and effective treatments, including natural remedies, lifestyle adjustments, and holistic approaches. From posture correction and exercise to dietary adjustments and supplements, we’ll provide valuable insights to help you understand and manage headaches better.


We’ll also discuss often overlooked causes, such as dental issues, hormonal imbalances, and thyroid dysfunction, and highlight the importance of getting to the root causes for effective treatment. Learn about the benefits of keeping a headache journal, stress management techniques, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule to reduce headache frequency and severity. Tune in for a comprehensive guide to managing headaches and take the first step towards a headache-free life.


Transcript: Natural Headache Remedies: What Are You Missing?

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Science of Self-Healing podcast. For health and wellness knowledge from a different perspective. Produced by the Bioregulatory Medicine Institute, also known as BRMI. We are your source for unparalleled information about how you can naturally support your body's ability to regulate, adapt, regenerate, and self-heal. I'm your host, Dr. James Odell, the medical and executive director for BRMI, as well as a practicing naturopathic doctor for over 35 years. And remember, this podcast is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the direct care of a qualified health professional who oversees and provides unique and individual care. The information here is to broaden our different perspectives and should not be construed as medical advice or treatment. Let's get started.


Did you know that approximately 16% of the global population experiences a headache daily? This staggering statistic is just the tip of the iceberg. Headaches are such a pervasive issue that they rank as the third leading cause of disability worldwide, behind only stroke and dementia. For women under 50, migraines are indeed one of the leading causes of disability, often ranking as the top cause in many regions. 


These statistics underscore the enormous impact of headaches on global health and quality of life. They affect people of all ages, genders, and cultures, disrupting daily activities, reducing productivity, and significantly impairing well-being. Despite their prevalence, headaches and migraines are often underdiagnosed and undertreated, highlighting the need for greater awareness, research, and access to effective treatments. 


In today’s podcast, we’ll tackle the issue of managing headaches, discuss common types of headaches, and share natural remedies and tips to relieve and prevent them. Whether you're a chronic sufferer or just occasionally plagued by a pounding head, this episode is packed with valuable insights to help you understand and manage headaches better. 


It is said that there are over 150 different types of headaches. What is more important than classification is their root causes. From a bioregulatory perspective, there can be multiple causes for these different headaches, and these must be identified to have success in treating them.  Like any symptom, it is important to get to the root cause or causes to treat them effectively. Unfortunately, most people only use medications to alleviate their headaches without finding and eliminating causes.


I first want to mention four of the most common types of headaches.They are tension, cervicogenic, migraine, and cluster headaches.  


Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache - affecting over 70% of adults at some point.  They present dull aching pain on both sides of the head and are often described as feeling like there is a tight band around the head. They usually present bilaterally (affecting both sides of the head) with tender areas on the scalp, neck, and shoulder muscles.  A few potential causes are stress, poor posture, eye strain, fatigue, poor sleep, dehydration, poor diet, food sensitivities, chronic inflammation, and poor electrolyte balance. Many of these same causes can also elicit migraine and cluster headaches as well.


Cervicogenic Headaches

Next, we have cervicogenic headaches. The symptoms of this type of headache often present as pain that starts in the neck, in the cervical vertebra and back of the head and radiates towards the front, with a reduced range of motion in the neck. The neck can be stiff and occasionally there might be nausea and light sensitivity symptoms.  


They are usually caused by neck injuries, such as whiplash, degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis, herniated discs in the cervical spine, poor posture, or strain or tension in the neck muscles. So, these headaches are caused by problems in the neck joints, muscles, and nerves. In other words, misalignment in the spine can irritate nerves and cause pain that radiates to the head. Massage, acupuncture, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation is often helpful for this type of headache.


Migraine Headaches

Moving forward, let’s talk about migraine headaches. These are severe and commonly occurring headaches. They are often accompanied by throbbing pain, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to smell, sound, light and noise. They typically last for hours and even days.  


They are often caused by a mix of genetic, environmental toxic exposure, endocrine imbalances, and neurological triggers. Changes in brain chemistry, especially involving serotonin, and how the brain interacts with nerves can trigger migraines. Common triggers include hormonal changes, particularly in women during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause. Certain foods and drinks, like alcohol, aged cheeses, salty and processed foods, and additives such as aspartame, aspartame!, and MSG, can also provoke migraines.  Stress, bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, and changes in sleep patterns are other triggers. Environmental changes, such as shifts in weather or altitude, can also trigger migraines. Some medications might induce or worsen them.  


Migraines are more common in women and those with a family history or certain medical conditions like depression or sleep disorders. Understanding these causes and triggers can help manage and prevent migraines. 


Cluster Headaches

Lastly, I want to mention cluster headaches. These are rarer than tension headaches and migraine headaches. They are one of the most painful kinds of headaches.  

People report intense pain on one side of the head especially around the eye, with symptoms including tearing, nasal congestion, drooping eyelids, and restlessness.  

These headaches occur in cyclical patterns, or clusters, often waking sufferers from sleep with intense, piercing pain. The episodes, or cluster periods, can last for weeks or months, followed by remission periods when headaches cease entirely. 


The National Library of Medicine reports that they have been referred to as suicide headaches because they are “arguably the most severe pain condition that afflicts humans” They usually occur close together in clusters which is how they got their name. 

The exact cause is not fully understood, but they are believed to involve the hypothalamus and may be triggered by factors such as food sensitivities, chemical sensitivities, alcohol, or stress. 


Hidden Causes of Headaches 

There are often hidden causes of migraine and cluster headaches. One of the most overlooked is dental issues. Particularly root canal-treated teeth.  These are non-vital or dead teeth left in the mouth that remain infected and release toxins that can irritate the CMS. To determine if a root canal-treated tooth is a problem it is usually necessary to conduct a special X-ray called a cone beam CT of the jaw. Do not expect your dentist to know about the dangers of root-canal-treated teeth. You need to seek out a bioregulatory dentist who is familiar with this issue.


Other dental conditions may participate in chronic headaches such as cavitations and mercury amalgam fillings. Again, a good bioregulatory dentist would be able to advise and correct these issues.


Hormonal imbalances can also be a co-cause of migraines for many young women. Estrogen dominance can cause meningeal swelling and create a cycle of headaches every month. 


Another overlooked cause is low thyroid function. Typically, a classic headache pattern from hypothyroidism is morning headaches. Thyroid chemistry should always be conducted. To be complete this would include TSH, free T4, free T3.


Natural Remedies for Headaches

So now that we’ve identified the various types of headaches, and some of the overlooked causes, let’s move on to what you can do about them. I'll briefly discuss…Exercise, Yoga, Stretching, Massage, Relaxation, Diet and Food Supplementation and a few other therapies.

As you all probably have already heard, poor posture can contribute to tension headaches. Holding your head forward for extended periods can strain the muscles in your neck, upper back, and scalp which can contribute to headaches. Forward head posture causes tension in the neck and upper back muscles putting extra stress on the vertebrae in your neck and upper back which can cause headaches. It also can compress blood vessels and restrict blood flow to the neck and head, reducing oxygen and causing headaches. 


To help reduce tension and pain: check in with yourself and your body during the day and adjust as needed.  When standing or sitting, aim for a tall posture with ears aligned over shoulders, shoulders back and relaxed, and a slight arch in your lower back. Consider ergonomic furniture to help maintain good posture when working at a desk.  Take stretching breaks and walking breaks every half hour to keep your body loose and relaxed. 

Incorporate a stretching routine into your life that focuses on stretching your neck, shoulders and upper back to stay flexible and reduce muscle tension. Practice yoga to strengthen your core and improve your posture. It’s good at improving headaches because it helps muscles to relax and helps the body to relax through breathwork and meditation while improving circulation. 


Yoga

If you are new to yoga, it is best to find a qualified instructor and start slowly. Focus on your breath, inhale deeply and exhale completely. Do not push yourself and if a pose causes pain stop doing it or look for a modified gentler pose.  


Practicing downward facing dog which is an inversion pose that releases tension in the head and neck strengthens the core and improves circulation and child’s pose which lengthens the spine, stretches the hips and thighs, and relaxes both the body and mind good for your overall body and target headache prevention. 


Holding your legs up on a wall for 5 minutes daily can also help ease headaches and regulate blood flow. 


Regular exercise including stretching and strengthening exercises and cardiovascular exercises including walks in nature are all helpful in reducing headache frequency and intensity. 


Massage Therapy

 Massages hold great promise as a tool to prevent headaches and reduce both their severity and frequency.  Getting professional massages and using self-massage can reduce tension. Staying hydrated before and after massages is essential in avoiding dehydrated headaches.  


A cautionary note is in some cases deep tissue massage can trigger headaches. To avoid this, make sure to record the date of massages in your calendar and record headaches to try to see if massage is helpful or whether it is triggering headaches. 

 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can also help both cervicogenic headaches. Manual therapy can be used to improve joint mobility and soft tissue function, and physical therapists can demonstrate and teach exercises that improve posture and flexibility and strengthen neck muscles. 


 Chiropractic Therapy

 Chiropractors can also be helpful for cervicogenic and tension headaches especially if they are severe or chronic. Chiropractors can help by using techniques that improve joint mobility and reduce muscle tension in the neck and head. They can help to get the spine in better alignment and help to make postural corrections. At this time, chiropractic care is classified as complementary therapy for headaches. 


 Acupuncture

 Acupuncture can help manage headaches by triggering the release of endorphins which are natural painkillers by improving blood flow which can improve oxygen and reduce inflammation, promote stress reduction and regulate the nervous system.


Diet Remedies for Headaches & Other Considerations

If you’ve listened to some of my other podcasts, you know that diet is so important to overall health. So, aim to eat organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein which provides your body with nutrients and reduces inflammation.  


 Thus, a healthy whole foods diet, proper supplements such as magnesium and EFA’s along with staying hydrated all help to minimize headaches.  


Noticing if consuming foods such as cheese, wine, and sausage within a couple of days of a headache is an important strategy to identify your own unique personalized headache triggers. Headaches are individualized and triggers can differ between people.  


It can not be over emphasized that dehydration can contribute to headaches. It's important to drink plenty of pure water throughout the day especially when active and when it is hot outside. 


 Limit processed foods and sugar as these can trigger headaches. Consider getting tested for food sensitivities and or pay attention to food triggers and monitor your reaction to aged cheeses including Swiss, parmesan, brie, and cheddar which are high in tyramine which can contribute to and cause headaches by constricting blood vessels. Consuming dairy can cause skin breakouts, sinus congestion, joint pain, and headaches. Avoiding and limiting the consumption of alcohol has been found to help reduce headaches.  Particularly wine may elicit headaches.


 Drinking something with caffeine can help certain types of headaches. When you feel the beginning of a migraine try to remove visual stimuli and slowly drink mold-free black coffee.


Supplemental Remedies for Headaches

Of course, some supplements can help. 

  • Magnesium is helpful for all types of headaches. Start with a low dose and gradually increase it by taking it twice or three times during the day. Many people with migraines often have lower levels of magnesium.

  •  Vitamin D deficiencies can contribute to migraine headaches. Vitamin D fights inflammation and supports nerve health so supplementing with vitamin D can help prevent and treat migraines. 

  • Vitamin B2 or riboflavin can help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. Researchers believe there may be a link between riboflavin, mitochondrial cell function, and migraines. Mitochondria are your body’s energy makers. Riboflavin may also ease stress and minimize nerve inflammation that contributes to migraines. In one study, people who took 400 milligrams of vitamin B2 every day for three months had fewer migraines each month than those who took a placebo. Another study found similar effects in children. Even better, the children saw a decrease in migraine pain for up to 18 months after they stopped taking riboflavin supplements. The active form of riboflavin is 5′-phosphate. 

  • Coenzyme Q10 may help reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches as it targets the mitochondria and improves energy and oxidation of the cells. 

  •  Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and may help reduce headache pain. Sources are fish oil or alga oil.  

  • The herb Feverfew is worth trying.  A 2023 study suggests that feverfew is an effective migraine treatment

  • Butterbur is another herb to try. The name, butterbur, is attributed to the traditional use of its large leaves to wrap butter in warm weather. Today, butterbur is best known as a treatment for migraines and allergic rhinitis (hay fever).


 Aromatherapy

And some people find Aromatherapy helpful. Adding essential oils to a diffuser can help create a more stress-free environment. Diluting essential oils in a carrier oil such as jojoba oil allows it to be massaged into the body including massaging the temples and neck areas which help to relax the body. Adding a few drops of essential oils to a hot bath with Epsom salts can be relaxing and help ward off tension, and sinus and cervicogenic headaches.  


One of my favorites for treating headaches is Frankincense. It’s an aromatic resin derived from Boswellia trees, and it is known to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.  When inhaled as an essential oil or applied topically in diluted form, frankincense may help reduce tension and promote relaxation, which can ease headache symptoms. 


Other Remedies to Try:

  • Lemongrass promotes relaxation and eases headaches. 

  • Lavender oil may help reduce headache pain. 

  • Peppermint oil can help relieve tension headaches. 

  • Chamomile oil may help reduce headache pain and promote relaxation. 

  • Eucalyptus helps to clear sinuses and relieve headaches caused by congestion. 


Hot and Cold Therapy 

Try using hot and cold therapy by putting ice on the highest part of your neck for 10-15 minutes. This can improve your mood and reduce migraine headaches. It can also help you to sleep better.  


Heating pads or hot compresses can also help as well as soaking your feet in hot Epson salts water before bed.  


Headache Journal

Consider keeping a headache Journal. A headache journal can help identify headache triggers. Journals can track sleep, stress, diet, weather, hormone cycles . Knowing and identifying triggers helps to avoid them. Journals also track lifestyle factors and how things like practicing yoga and progressive relaxation reduce the severity and frequency of headaches. The journaling method allows a holistic view of headaches to occur and helps you craft an individualized plan to reduce headaches.  

 

Here are some final thoughts that might help prevent headaches.  

Getting proper sleep and keeping a consistent schedule of when to go to bed and when to get up along with sleeping in a cool dark quiet environment has been found to reduce the frequency and duration of headaches. 


Stress is a common trigger for headaches and migraines. So, practicing stress management is a key tenant of keeping headaches to a minimum. There may be walks in nature, yoga, conscious breathing, reframing stressful thoughts into more positive manageable thoughts, and practicing gratitude are all important practices that help to manage and minimize stress. Rather than overscheduling yourself and putting commitments too close together- put time in between so you have time to physically and mentally prepare and to ensure that your days are optimally designed. Remember you are the architect of your life, and you design its success including relaxation and rejuvenation breaks.


Green Light Therapy

Green light therapy is being looked at to help reduce the photosensitivity associated with migraine headaches. More than 80 percent of migraine attacks are associated with and exacerbated by light sensitivity, leading many migraine sufferers to seek the comfort of darkness and isolate themselves from work, family and everyday activities.


In a 2020 study, patients with migraines saw a 70% reduction after 10 weeks of exposure to green. Greenlight can reduce the intensity of headache pain and improve sleep quality. A quick Google search will bring up a smattering of green bulbs, lights, and even tinted glasses. Just be sure to focus on migraine-specific lights and bulbs that emit only green rays.


Speaking of lighting, minimizing exposure to fluorescent lighting can be helpful. In work environments or other environments where fluorescent lighting is present, try getting light covers to cover the lights can help improve focus, mood and reduce headaches.  


Final Thoughts

Lastly, if you notice that you are starting to get a headache, lessening the pressure on your scalp or head by taking off tight glasses, headbands, tight ponytails, even taking off necklaces and earrings can be helpful, turning lights off or dimming lights and using relaxation techniques all contribute to a calm environment and reduce tension.

Well, this concludes our podcast. Please listen in two weeks to another episode of the Science of Self Healing. Be Well.


Thank you for your time today, and remember that this podcast is made possible by the Bioregulatory Medicine Institute, also known as BRMI, a nonprofit, global, non political, non commercial institute to promote the science and art of bioregulatory medicine. We extend our gratitude to each and every one of you for listening today, and if you haven't already, make sure to visit us at: brmi.online. A treasure trove of invaluable information awaits you there. Connect with us across various social media platforms as well. Come and become a member of our thriving tribe. If you've enjoyed today's episode, we invite you to show your support by rating us, leaving us a review, or sharing the podcast within your circle. Our podcast and mission flourish through sharing, and your participation means the world to us. Our organization is sustained by donations, each of which is tax deductible and fuels projects like this. Visit our website, brmi.online, to contribute or simply to explore the wealth of uncensored and impartial information we offer. No contribution is too small. In just two weeks, we'll be back delving into another captivating topic. Until then, we thank you once again for listening. May wellness and wisdom be your path. Be well.




1 Comment


Aaron Jacobson
Aaron Jacobson
Jul 08

It's fascinating to learn about the different types of headaches and their root causes. The statistics you mentioned highlight the significant impact of headaches on global health and quality of life.

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