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Is My Diet Causing Chronic Headaches?

Is My Diet Causing Chronic Headaches?

Many chronic headache sufferers and their doctors find it difficult to pinpoint the cause of their pain. If you’re one of them, it might interest you to know that your diet may be the culprit. From certain food triggers to the nutrients your body needs for optimal brain functioning, diet can significantly impact chronic head pain. 

Here, our board-certified pain specialist, Dr. Dinash Yanamadula at Princeton Pain and Spine Institute, explains how diet affects chronic headaches. He also discusses various foods that could be problematic for headache sufferers and dietary changes that may help alleviate them.

Causes of chronic headaches 

The underlying reasons for chronic headaches vary from person to person. The most common causes are:

A combination of genetics, environment, and lifestyle habits usually causes migraine attacks, and certain foods or beverages like aged cheese, alcohol, processed meats, and caffeinated beverages may trigger them.

Tension-type headaches can stem from chronic stress or muscle tension in the neck or shoulders. 

Chronic daily headaches may stem from the overuse of pain medications.

Researchers haven't yet identified the cause of hemicrania continua headaches.

Musculoskeletal issues, especially back injuries, neck injuries, dislocated vertebrae, and spinal inflammation, can also cause chronic headaches, and Dr. Yanamadula specializes in relieving these conditions. Once he resolves the underlying issue, your chronic headaches may disappear, too.

The link between diet and chronic headaches

Some foods can worsen chronic headaches, and others may help reduce them. If you’re sensitive to a particular food, you may experience a headache within 30 minutes of consuming it or as long as 72 hours afterward, making it challenging to identify your triggers. 

Eating brain-friendly foods, like fruits and vegetables, could reduce or even stop chronic headaches. For example, specific vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium and vitamin B-12, play an essential role in brain functioning and may reduce your chronic headaches.

In addition to avoiding certain food triggers, focus on eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats, and dairy products to give yourself an advantage when managing chronic headaches. 

Food triggers that may contribute to chronic headaches

To find out if food triggers your chronic headaches, start by eliminating these common culprits. Then add them back to your diet one by one, noting headaches or other symptoms you experience. 

Here are some of the most common headache-causing foods:

If you suspect a link between your diet and chronic headaches, get used to reading labels. Preservatives and other additives may trigger your pain. 

Even food temperatures can set off a headache. If you’ve ever experienced an “ice cream headache,” you understand how extreme temperatures can incite pain.

Nutrients that can help reduce chronic headaches

In addition to avoiding trigger foods, certain nutrients may help reduce chronic headaches. 

Magnesium helps relax muscles, reduces inflammation, and may help your chronic headaches. 

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, help reduce inflammation and may also be beneficial. 

B vitamins are important for proper brain functioning and can help alleviate chronic headaches.

Making dietary changes to reduce chronic headaches

To identify possible triggers, keep a food diary and note how your headaches respond after eating certain foods. Incorporate more magnesium-rich foods, such as dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, legumes, and avocados into your diet. Get more omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish, chia seeds, walnuts, and flaxseeds.

Diet can significantly impact chronic headaches, and Dr. Yanamadula can help you identify what’s behind your pain. 

To learn more about the link between your diet and chronic headaches and how Dr. Yanamadula can help, contact Princeton Pain & Spine Institute in Lawrenceville and Edgewater, New Jersey, by phone or online. 

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