People suffer headaches for a variety of reasons, not all of them are related to diet or nutrient deficiencies however, there are a number of factors which can impact the severity of headaches. We must highlight here that if you’re suffering regularly with headaches or are concerned about your headaches please do seek personalised advise from a healthcare professional.
Additionally, when it comes to headaches, the symptoms and the intensity of the symptoms can vary greatly so please do bare this in mind whilst reading this article.
Some of the common triggers of severe headaches can include caffeine (and caffeine withdrawal – it’s difficult to win this one!) Caffeine is often associated with coffee but can also be found in chocolate, tea, kombucha and energy drinks too. Other triggers can include; alcohol, spicy foods, high sugar foods and some food additives too.
Nutritionally speaking omega-3 may help to reduce the intensity of the headaches and therefore obtaining adequate omega-3 status is vital. It’s recommended to consume 1-2 portions of oily fish per week or one portion of a plant source of omega-3 daily. Plant sources include; seaweed, flaxseeds, almonds and walnuts. Plant sources contain the inactive form of omega-3 ALA, ALA is converted into the active forms, EPA and DHA in the body. The conversion process causes a loss of omega-3 which is why when you’re relying on plant sources a higher intake is required. Additionally, there is some research to suggest that diets lower in omega-6 and higher in omega-3 may help to reduce the intensity and the duration of the headache although more research is required in this area.
Magnesium may also help with muscle and nerve relaxation and therefore consuming magnesium rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, beans, almonds (or almond butter), pumpkin seeds and avocados are great ways to increase magnesium status. Magnesium is required in over 600 processes in the body and therefore it’s needed in considerable amounts.
Water consumption is another vital player when it comes to headaches, headaches can sometimes be caused as a result of dehydration. Ensure you’re consuming around 2L of water per day to help prevent dehydration induced headaches. If you’re exercising a lot you may need slightly more than 2L.
Ensuring adequate status of B-vitamins may also help to reduce the impact of headaches. Some research suggests adequate status of B-vitamins may help to reduce the symptoms of headaches. Vitamin B12 can be challenging to consume on a plant based or vegan diet however, other B-vitamins are relatively abundant in a variety of foods including; eggs, meat, fish, beans, wholegrains and dairy products.
Remember factors such as sleep, stress, exercise, screen time and smoking can also impact headaches, should you be concerned please do seek advice from your GP.