Posted on May 26, 2017, 6 a.m.
Millions of Americans experience excruciating headaches that can be debilitating. Here are some of the less obvous causes.
1. Smoked Meats
Nitrates and nitrites are frequently used in packaged meat. Be it cured, smoked, pickled or canned, foods such as deli meats, pastramis and beef jerky, are preserved for long periods with such preservatives. Nitrates and nitrites are known to set off headaches in some people. “Patients that get migraines are sensitive to these things and more susceptible to headaches triggered by food,” said by Barry Jordan, MD, Assistant Medical Director and attending Neurologist at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital. “If you assume that certain foods are causing headaches, maintain a food journal to help identify which ones might be giving you a headache,” he added.
2. Red Wine and Cheese
The tyramine content in certain aged cheeses and in red wine is also one of the different factors that can bring on a headache. Aged cheeses like cheddar and blue cheese contain tyramine. Tyramine is a substance that results out of protein breakdown. This substance restricts the blood vessels, which might be causing the headache. In addition to this, Mia Minen, MD, Neurologist and Director of Headache Services at NYU Langone, confirms that polyphenols in red wine might also be contributing to headaches. “They may interfere with serotonin metabolism in the brain,” she says. The National Headache Foundation recommended that if this indeed a reason, restrict alcohol intake to one drink and consume low-fat processed cheese.
The Mayo Clinic has stated that lack of fluids or dehydration is also known as secondary headache, “a symptom of disease that can activate the pain-sensitive nerves of the head.” As the body loses water and vital electrolytes, the blood vessels narrow down to conserve water. Thus, it is beneficial to consume sufficient amounts of water, replacing the water being lost. On an average, one has to consume 3-4 liters of water every day, more so during the summer. The Mayo Clinic suggests that men drink about 13 cups of total beverages a day and women should drink at least 9 cups.
4. Brain Freeze
This is the abrupt consumption of frozen or chilled food like ice cream, transpired barely seconds after the ingestion of it. Though this is not long-lasting, consuming very cold food gives you something called the "brain freeze" or "ice cream headache". Researchers are unsure about the causes of the pain, but according to John Hopkins Headache Center, it possibly “a combination of direct stimulation of temperaturesensitive nerves plus the cold’s effects on blood vessels running along the roof of the mouth.” Most likely, this is more so with people who have sensitive teeth. The nerve endings on the teeth and in the head hurt. If quick headaches occur when eating cold food, consideration should be given to consuming frozen food at a slow pace.
5. Caffeine Withdrawal
The consequence of quitting caffeine may bring out headaches as well. Withdrawal symptoms of coffee include headaches. “Caffeine can have physiological effects on the vascular system and can constrict vessels or relax them at different times,’ said by Dr. Minen. The National Headache Foundation reports that caffeine withdrawal will materialize after consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine per day at least 2 weeks. However there is no alternative to make these headaches go away. It is hence recommended that you quit coffee slowly, to tune down the withdrawal headaches.
A headache specialist can execute a physical exam and headache assessment to properly address and establish a treatment program. “By the time a patient gets to a headache specialist, they have already tried Tylenol,” says Minen. Minen accounted that although some doctors impose medication to cure headaches, there may be other issues that are causing headaches such as poor sleep hygiene, or anxiety and depression. “Sometimes we use cognitive behavioral therapy to focus on treating the underlying issues,’ she exclaimed.