Most people have experienced a headache from time to time. They can range from being simply annoying to life changing and debilitating. Headaches can start at any age including young children. Some headaches are self-induced from overindulging in alcohol, food, physical activity, while others may indicate a warning signal from the body of a health problem that needs attention. There are so many different reasons for headaches, the key to correction is to find the root cause. Pain in the form of a headache is a warning mechanism telling you something is wrong and needs attention.
There are a variety of approaches to treating headaches. The bottom line though is we want the pain to stop. Some approaches are designed to simply numb or override the pain with aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen. This is similar to disconnecting the smoke alarm because the noise is annoying. The symptom goes away but has the problem really been corrected?
At the Natural Medicine Institute we recognize the fact that our bodies are designed to be self-healing and self-regulating unless they are interfered with. They have many mechanisms to stay healthy despite the abuse it often takes. When conducting our Optimal Health Evaluation examination we look for the underlying reason(s) why someone is being plagued with headaches.
Let’s take a look at some of the types of headaches and the natural health approach to correcting them.
An allergic or hypersensitivity reaction is a response the body has to some common environmental factor (allergen) which usually can be in food or in the air. The most frequent approach is to try to eliminate the allergen from a person’s environment or food. The underlying question however should be why is there a sensitivity to that factor when other people don’t have the same adverse effect.
One of the most common ways allergic headache occurs is by getting actual swelling around the brain. Unlike swelling that happens in the nose, sinuses or eyes from hay fever or asthma it is not so easy to recognize swelling around the brain. Allergic headaches also have their connection toxic headaches and digestive headaches and all are linked to dysbiosis and leaky gut.
We live in a very toxic world. Toxins include chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, drugs among other things. They are found in the water, air, food, cosmetics, skin care products etc. A toxic headache is the result of an exposure to one or more of these substances that overwhelms your body’s built in detoxification system. One of the best ways to help your body detoxify is to have a healthy liver, kidneys and digestive system. When one or more of these organs is not functioning properly this can cause a failure to properly eliminate waste products that are toxic to the body. This can lead to a build up of toxicity and a resulting headache. One way to see if your body is eliminating toxins is to do a urinary Indican test. This test will tell if you do have dysbiosis and leaky gut. The key to eliminating a toxic headache is to regain normal elimination of toxins from the body.
Dysbiosis and leaky gut are very common root causes of headaches. In our intestines we have approximately 100 Trillion bacteria that live there. This is called the microbiome which really starts on your skin, in your mouth and goes all the way to the opposite end of the digestive tract. 80% of the microbiome should be the good, healthy probiotic bacteria that support and protect our bodies in a symbiotic relationship. They help in the production of vitamins, hormones, enzymes, healthy metabolism, digestion and elimination. 20% of the bugs that live in our intestines are potentially harmful pathogens to the body but generally they are kept under control by the healthy ones. Dysbiosis means that there is an imbalance between the good and the bad bacteria with the 80/20 ration getting flipped around. The cells that line your intestines are normally very tight and close together to prevent undigested or foreign proteins, bacteria, viruses or parasites from leaking into your blood stream. Leaky gut occurs when dysbiosis causes those intestinal lining cells to separate and now things leak into your blood stream that should not be there.
The headache that is a result from digestive problems is very closely related to toxic headaches. Normal digestion is a process of breaking down food material so it can be absorbed and utilized by the body. If you are lacking sufficient hydrochloric stomach acid or enzymes then food (along with any potential bacteria, viruses, parasites) will not be broken down properly and toxicity issues can occur. With digestive headaches there usually are many other symptoms that may occur such as brain fog, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea. When corrected these symptoms and the headaches will improve, along with energy and wellbeing.
Often times the term “migraine headache” is misused. While migraine really refers to a particular type of headache, not necessarily to indicate the headache’s severity. A true “migraine” headache is caused by the disturbance of normal blood flow and circulation to the brain. This type of headache is reported to be among the worst to have as it can be severe and incapacitating. However, it is possible for someone to have a migraine that is not severe and there are other types of headaches that are just as severe as a bad migraine.
Common symptoms of a migraine headache include visual disturbances, nausea and perhaps vomiting. Some individuals may be affected for 2-3 days with a migraine. Very often an individual may be able to tell ahead of time that a migraine is approaching as they get a set of prodromal symptoms before the onset of the migraine. Common triggers for migraine headaches include certain foods, i.e. chocolate, caffeine (or lack thereof), smells, lights, changes in the weather.
Suboccipital Neuralgia Headache
A very common type of headache is one that occurs at the base of the skull. This is called a suboccipital headache or tension headache. This headache is usually initiated by an irritation to the suboccipital nerves which arise from the cervical spine (neck) right below the back of the head at the base of the skull. The nerves pass through small openings to emerge from the spinal column and then to the muscles. Spasm or irritation in this area causes irritation to the nerves which is often caused by tension in these muscles, that’s why they are called tension headaches. However, tension is not the root cause of these headaches. Rather, cervical spine subluxations, abnormal function of the structures in the spine are the primary cause. Balancing and correcting these bony structures with chiropractic adjustments and the associated muscles that support this area produces good results with this type of headache. Additionally, when there is a functional problem with the bones of the skull not moving properly with breathing this can have a negative influence on the circulating cerebrospinal fluid activity and the cranial nerves. Cranial-sacral therapy can be of great benefit with these headaches as well.
Headaches can often be produced by eyestrain. In particular with the use of computers and the blue light that is emitted from them, as well as, television screens and cell phones the eyes get strained from all the intricate work and reading.
There are two primary ways that visual strain can cause a headache. The first thing to look at is poor visual acuity. Having a good visual examination by an optometrist or opthalmologist can tell if your headaches are due to eye strain and if there is a need for corrective glasses or contacts. There can also be a visual acuity problem that is functional in nature and can be corrected by applied kinesiology examination and treatment along with cranial-sacral therapy techniques.
The second form of visual strain occurs when perhaps the eyes do not work together correctly. Instances of “neurologic disorganization” can occur where one side of the brain or body is not coordinated correctly with the other side of the body. When this proper organization in not present, there is visual strain because the eyes are not “tracking” together in the process of reading and other intricate eye activities. Neurologic balancing and correcting procedures are available along with “Eye Light Therapy”, cross crawl patterning and LENS neurofeedback therapy to relieve this type of visual headache.
Ocular migraines often produce strange visual disturbances. Some people experience blank spots in the visual field or they get a kaleidoscope effect to their vision with bright flashing lights known as scintillating scotomas. These symptoms can last anywhere from 15-20 minutes and often precede the development of a headache. In reality these headaches are caused by temporary changes to the visual cortex of the brain. While usually not dangerous they can be scary and disturbing especially if it occurs while driving or engaged in other activities where vision is important. As with other migraine headaches there are a variety of triggers that set these headache’s off.
Classic sinus headaches are usually felt on the forehead over the eyes, or under the eyes in the frontal or maxillary sinuses. They are often accompanied by tooth aches or pains as well. Inflamed sinuses can give you a toothache due to irritation of the alveolar nerves. Of course, there are many reasons for sinusitis. These can be allergic reactions to food, hay fever, pollens, or other environmental factors. Sometimes the energy patterns, including the nervous system to the sinuses function improperly and sinus abnormalities develop as a result. The major approach to this type of headache is to go beyond just relieving the symptoms with the usual array of antihistamines and get to the root cause of the sinus problem. Is it a structural issue, a digestive problem, food sensitivity problem, cranial or spinal problem? The applied kinesiology approach is to evaluate all these potential causes and correct them with natural therapies.
There are many types of headaches, in addition these common ones. Although they may not be as common, they are taken into consideration such as traumatic brain injuries (post-concussion syndrome), tumors, various disease states.
The most important consideration is that the underlying root cause of your headache be found. Of the headache conditions accepted for natural healthcare, the recovery rate is remarkable.