Gingerbread, mistletoe… and headaches?

IMG_4083The holiday season is here and while it is an exciting, joyous time for most people, doctors say that reports of headaches and migraines are typically higher during this period. This is probably due to the increased stress levels associated with the busy and bustling season.

Though headaches may be common, it’s important to figure out and address the underlying cause before they become a chronic nuisance.

Headaches stem from a variety of causes including dehydration, sensitivities to food or chemicals (such as MSG), stress or muscular tension, hormonal imbalances, infections, toxic overload and problems of the jaw, eye, ear, nose, and throat.

If you are suffering from headaches, you may consider the following:

1) Get tested for food sensitivities (or food intolerances). Food sensitivities are different from food allergies in that they do not produce the classic allergic reaction (i.e. swollen eyes or lips, hives, anaphylactic reaction, etc.) but rather the symptoms come in a more subtle form. People with food sensitivities may experience bloating, diarrhea, skin ailments such as eczema, foggy brain, chronic nasal congestion and headaches after eating foods they are sensitive to. Food sensitivities can be revealed by a simple blood test.

2) If the headaches stem from muscular tension, try doing neck and shoulder stretches to alleviate the tension. If you work in front of a computer, do these stretches at least once every 45 minutes. Stretching improves circulation, increases blood flow to muscles as well as energizes the body and mind.

sad3) Specific acupuncture points can also help alleviate headaches due to stress and muscular tension.

– GV 20 (Bai Hui) helps with stress management, alleviating headaches and boosting energy. This point is located at the highest point, at the top of your head.

– GV24.5 (Third Eye), the point between your eyebrows where the bridge of your nose meets your forehead, also alleviates headaches and promotes relaxation.

Gently press these acupuncture points for 5 seconds. Release the pressure for 5 seconds, and then repeat 10 times. Do these acupressure exercises in a relaxing environment, and take slow, deep breaths at the same time.

4) Keep hydrated with proper fluids. Fluids that hydrate include water, herbal teas and fruit/ vegetable juices. Try to avoid dehydrating drinks. Black tea, coffee and cocoa are quite high in purines, toxins that must be eliminated from the body by urine or sweat in the form of uric acid. A good portion of water is used to eliminate these toxins. Soft drinks and alcohol also have dehydrating properties, making you more thirsty after drinking them.

5) Some people who pass by perfume counters at the department stores may immediately feel unwell. Perfumes contain many chemicals which have toxic effects. Toluene (i.e. methyl benzene), which is often found in perfume and cologne, is an established neurotoxin that can cause headaches, memory loss, brain damage and problems with speech, hearing, and vision. If you are prone to headaches, avoid the perfume counters and perfume stores at the shopping malls. 

If your headaches are not alleviated by these simple measures, talk to your naturopathic doctor who can help you further investigate the problem.

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