How many of us associate food with headache? “Foods can treat and prevent the most common headaches that we get” says Dr Oz. Neurologist Dr Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD and a guest on the show thinks that the most important weapon against frequent headaches is “prevention” and in a nutshell outlines the top three things about headache prevention. They are exercise, avoiding foods that cause headache and eating certain foods that can prevent certain headaches. Whilst most of us know about the benefits of exercise, it would be important to know the role of diet in healing headaches. Dr Oz discussed the main forms of headaches and foods that can prevent them.
The first common form of headache they discussed was migraine. Migraine is characterized by pain in one side of the head, sensitivity to light and nausea. Migraine can be prevented by eating certain kind of foods rich in ‘Riboflavin’.
Foods like: mushrooms, quinoa, asparagus and milk are rich source of Riboflavin or vitamin B2 and this vitamin is essential for the normal functioning of the cells in our body. A glass of milk can actually provide almost thirty percent of our daily riboflavin requirement. It reduces headache by keeping our brain cells happy and healthy. It has been found that people who have riboflavin rich diet can actually prevent their incidence of headache by 50%.
2) Hormonal Headache
The next form of headache is ‘hormonal’ that comes back once a month to women who are menstruating. This form of headache is very similar to migraine in its nature being experienced on one side of the head most of the time.
The food solution to this kind of headache is magnesium. Dr Fotuhi mentions the foods that are rich in magnesium and can be included in our diet to prevent this kind of headache. These are sweet potato, banana, sesame seeds and green leafy vegetables like spinach. Magnesium is an important mineral necessary for the normal functioning of the body. Dr Fotuhi recommends to have atleast 450 mg of magnesium daily for people who have frequent menstrual headaches. Magnesium maintains the balance in our nerve cells and is able to calm over excited nerves preventing conditions of headache.
3) Tension Headache
The third form of headache is ‘tension headache’ that manifests as a dull pain like a band around the head. People often feel it as if the muscles around their temples squeezing and most common cause of this form of headache is stress.
The food solution: Coenzyme Q10. Foods like eggs, cauliflower and broccoli that contain higher levels of Coenzyme Q10 can prevent this form of headache as also fish like meckerel and tuna, however, we must make sure to get atleast eight hours of sleep every night and practice some kind of relaxation technique to minimize stress in our daily lives warns Dr Fotuhi. Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant and aids in the energy metabolism of every cell in our body. It keeps our blood vessels healthy and by reducing inflammation and maintaining blood flow it helps prevent stress related free radical generation and damage to the cells. You can also take a Coenzyme Q10 supplement for an extra boost.
4) Cold or Flu
The last and most common form of headache is cold or flu related headache. Many of us suffering from cold experience pain all over our body including face and neck not being able to distinguish headache separately. When we get sick, we become dehydrated by loss of fluids through sweating and there is a chemical shift going on throughout the body, said Dr Fotuhi. The brain cells does not like that, he added.
The food solution: The best way to address this is to address the dehydration issue by eating fruits with high water content. Examples include watermelon, strawberry, pineapple and cantaloupe. Dr Fotuhi also warns against taking aspirin or ibuprofen as headache medications as they can trigger medication overuse or rebound headache. One should only take those medications occassionally not more than once a week. To manage headache, one should do things like moving to a quiet room, not surrounded by too many people, drinking plenty of fluids etc instead, he adds.