Do you often suffer from a nauseating headache that throws your life out of gear? We have some helpful remedies for you
Know the symptoms to determine what kind of headache you have. “If your head hurts on both sides, it’s a general headache that could be caused by different reasons. If it’s an episodic throbbing pain on one side of your head with nausea, then it could be migraine. When the headache is due to inflammation of the paranasal sinuses caused by cold, it’s a sinusitis headache,” says Dr J D Mukherjee, director of neurology at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket. “Again migraine can be of various types — migraine without any preceding symptoms (80% cases), status migranosus whereby the attack lasts for more than 72 hours, and cluster headache that is accompanied with redness and watering of eyes and nasal congestion,” elaborates Dr Mukherjee.
Certain factors can trigger headaches in some people. While for some it could be certain types of food that triggers a migraine headache, too much or too little sleep can also trigger an attack. Emotional stress, depression, weather changes, travelling, glaring sun, computer screens, strong odours (be it good or bad), noisy environment, and high altitude may trigger a sudden headache too. For people suffering with sinusitis, a drop in temperature, or staying unprotected in a cold breeze may suddenly trigger an excruciating pain in the forehead.
Types of headaches
Headaches may be of two types, primary and secondary. “Primary headaches such as migraine, stress or tension-induced headache, and cluster headaches are illnesses in themselves, without any other underlying illness. Secondary headaches are secondary to an underlying brain or cranial illness such as sinusitis, meningitis, giant cell arteritis, brain tumour etc. 90% of the people suffer from primary headaches,” says Dr Mukul Varma, neurologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. “Migraine affects 10%-20% of the general population and can strike anyone at any age, but is most common in young adults. Women are more commonly affected,” adds Dr Varma.
Diet could be the trigger too
In addition to certain dietary habits, including skipping meals and dehydration, certain foods are known to trigger migraine. So, it’s best to avoid them. Food items that you should skip during migraine are:
Tyramine: Tyramine is formed when the protein in the food breaks down as the food is left to age. So, avoid foods such as cheese, red wine and processed meats.
Alcohol: When alcohol is consumed, the blood flow to the brain increases, which is the cause for migraine in most cases. Impurities present in alcohol or bi-products formed in the body when alcohol is metabolised also trigger migraine. Common offenders are beer, whiskey and champagne.
Food additives: Preservatives added to food also trigger migraine due to nitrates present in them that dilate the blood vessels, the main reason for migraine.
Cold foods: It has been noticed that when people prone to migraine consume food at very cold temperatures such as cold beverages or ice cream, they experience pain in the forehead area and that triggers off migraine.
Dairy products: People with sinusitis must avoid over consumption of dairy products, as it leads to thickening of the mucus.
By nutritionist Neelanjana Singh, Heinz Nutri Life Clinic
Are women more prone?
Women are three times more likely to suffer from migraine than men, say doctors. “It’s because the hormonal changes a women’s body goes through tend to trigger a migraine headache. This principally involves the sharp decline in estrogen, the release of prostaglandins, and a deficiency in magnesium during the menstrual cycle,” says gynaecologist Dr Rita Bakshi. “Migraines are also a common side effect of taking oral contraceptives and typically improve with continuous usage of oral contraceptives over time,” adds Dr Bakshi.
Possible remedies to fight the pain
Apart from diseases caused by infection, all other diseases are controllable, and not curable, say doctors. Similarly, headaches, be it primary or secondary, improve with a healthy lifestyle such as regular sleep patterns, a healthy diet, regular meal times, regular exercise, stopping smoking, relaxation, yoga and meditation. “Sometimes when you can pre-empt the migraine attack, a snack of salted corn chips or fries or any other salty food may calm the attack. You could follow it up with a frozen towel treatment by wetting a towel, squeezing the water out, and placing it in the freezer for about five minutes, and then placing it around the head and eyes for relief,” says Dr Satnam Chabbra, chairman of department of neurosurgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In case the problem persists in spite of all efforts undertaken and starts to hamper one’s normal lifestyle, making one irritable and cranky, depressed and ‘feeling ill’ all the time, it’s always advisable to not ignore it as ‘just a headache’, but see a doctor. “There are two ways to treat headaches, especially migraine. One is abortive treatment, and the other is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Several medicines are available which effectively prevent attacks, and are chosen based on the patient’s characteristics. For aborting an attack, both oral painkillers and intravenous narcotics may be used,” says Dr Mukul Varma.