Nutritional Treatment for Headaches

When patients come to me for advice about specific medical problems, they usually have been told that they need medication or surgery, and they are seeking ways to avoid those treatments. Sometimes they have already tried medications, which have produced significant side effects.

Usually, they have many treatment alternatives but they have no information about their choices. One example of effective alternatives is the reduction in blood pressure that meditation produces. Others are the dietary changes and exercise programs that lead to lowered cholesterol. Since the medical treatments for these two conditions are often more dangerous than the problems, it is worth seeking safer alternatives.

Dr. Dean Ornish has shown that patients with heart disease can often avoid surgery and reverse their heart disease with a combination of a low-fat diet, meditation, and exercise. Norman Cousins healed his ankylosing spondylitis (a form of arthritis of the spine) with laughter and high doses of vitamin C. He wrote about his experience in the New England Journal of Medicine, and followed this article with a book, The Anatomy of an Illness. Many patients have cured their digestive disturbances simply by avoiding certain foods.

Over and over, we are seeing the results of lifestyle changes in health care. A recent scientific medical conference put on by the American College for Advancement in Medicine was entitled: Lifestyle Medicine—Medicine for the Nineties. Researchers and physicians both attended and taught at this scientific meeting. Much of it related to the role of dietary supplements in medical therapy.

Dietary supplements are among the safest and most effective choices in health care. They are almost free of side effects, they are easy to take, they are relatively inexpensive, and they usually enhance many life functions besides the specific condition for which they are being given. Following is an example of how nutritionally oriented physicians might use supplements as part of the treatment for a specific health problem. This is a suggestion that is supported in the medical literature and in the experience of many physicians.

Remember this is an example, not a prescription for you, and the supplement list is in addition to many other health practices. Other supplements may be helpful, and you may not need all of these to get results. For more information on any one supplement, look for its description in Dietary Supplements. No one program is appropriate for everybody, but these suggestions are good starting points from which individual programs can be modified.

Headaches Treatment Programs

As with fatigue, there are many causes of headaches. The most common problems are tension or stress-related headaches and migraine headaches. Assuming there are no brain tumors, hypertension, or infections, such as meningitis, which can cause acute headaches, treatment with lifestyle changes and dietary supplements is often effective.

Migraines are called vascular headaches because they result from blood vessel spasms. There are many triggers that can precipitate migraine headaches. Common ones are caffeine, alcohol (especially red wine), chocolate, and sugar. Food allergies can also lead to a migraine, as can exposure to bright or flickering lights, lack of sleep or emotional and psychological stress.

Most effective programs for headache control, other than drug treatments, rely on prevention. The pain-killer medications that are often used to treat migraines (Advil®, Motrin®, ibuprofen—all of which have the same active ingredient) have actually been shown to increase the severity and frequency of the headaches, possibly through some rebound effect, leading to more use of the medications. The following supplement program is often effective for the drug-free management of migraines and may also help the treatment of other headaches:

Basic Multiple Formula 3 3
Vitamin C 1000 mg 2 2
Pyridoxine 250 mg 1
Magnesium aspartate 200 mg 1 1
Niacin, timed release, 250 mg 1 1
GLA 240 mg (from borage oil) 1
Vitamin E 400 IU natural mixed 1
Ginkgo biloba extract 60 mg 1 1
Feverfew 250 mg standardized 1 1

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Written by Michael Janson MD

Explore Wellness in 2021