At the Nutritional Healing Center we strive to identify what the underlying causes of headaches might be and correct them. When the underlying disturbances are corrected headaches resolve and fade away. Everyone is different and deserves individual care that is addressed at each person's unique difficulties, stresses, and needs. Although there are many different causes of headaches here are the most common causes of headaches that we find:
*yeast/fungal/mold- a common infection these days. It is found in 90% of the patients that I treat, both men and women. Exposure to high levels of antibiotics, steroids (topical or ingested), hormones (birth control pills, artificial thyroid hormones, estrogen replacement therapy, etc), or a high sugar diet makes individuals prone to yeast problems. To clear out a fungal or yeast problem a patient and often their spouse need to take special yeast killing medicines and follow a strict diet for 3 weeks. In worst case scenarios houses and air quality may need to be screened. Occasionally a "sick building" will be at the root of mold exposure and resultant headaches. Many patients have had resolution of headaches from elimination of yeast problems, even though many traditional doctors had tried to correct the problem.
*parasites- a common infection found in my patients. Exposure to poorly handled meats or vegetables, poor water supply, pets, or travel to foreign countries may increase risk of parasite infections. Parasites need to be treated with special antiparasitic medications. Antibiotics will not work on parasites. Parasites (just like yeasts) produce toxins, rob us of some of our vital nutrients, damage the intestinal lining, and can contribute to digestive problems, leaky gut syndrome, absorption of noxious food particles, and burden our detoxification systems.
*viruses- many people have compromised immune systems. With lowered immune system function certain people are prone to long standing viral infections. Viruses are not easily eradicated except by your own immune system and white blood cells. Any therapy for viral infections needs to be aimed at improving immune system function. Specific herbs, vitamins, and minerals will help.
*bacterial infections- certain bacteria are long term infections such as H. Pylori (a type of bacteria that lives in the stomach and upper digestive tract and causes ulcers and digestive problems). Certain bacteria may need to be treated with antibiotic herbs or medicines. Any bacteria that affect digestion, just like parasites and yeasts, can influence headaches by promoting an increase in allergic reaction to foods.
*Ask your health care provider to screen for systemic yeast infections, parasite infections, viral burdens, and possible low grade bacterial infections. The most common way to screen for yeast and parasite infections is with a stool sample being shipped to a qualified laboratory such as Great Smokies Labs for analysis.
*Fast response food allergies (IgE mediated responses)- some food allergies react quickly, with in 10 to 15 minutes and are characterized by swelling, itching, breathing difficulties, and redness. One way for detecting IgE allergies has been the skin scratch method. The problems with the skin scratch test is that it only tests for IgE mediated allergic reactions and does not test for ANY other types of allergies. This is like only looking for half or one third of the possible problems. I find in my patients who have allergies affecting headaches that other types of allergic reactions are causing headaches and NOT IgE food reactions.
*Slow response food allergies (IgG mediated responses)- most food allergies that seriously affect the health and cause headaches are slow response allergies. It is important also to mention that these delayed response food allergies are usually not identified or realized. These allergic reactions may cause headaches, fatigue, asthma, sleepiness, moodiness, depression, pain, and may eventually lead to autoimmune problems if exposure is long enough. Commonly blood testing is done to identify these types of allergic foods. A problem with most blood testing is that a large amount of false positive results are found which leads to too many foods being identified as allergic.
*Leaky gut syndrome is often a leading cause of allergic reactions by allowing undigested food particles to be absorbed into the blood stream where immune system responses often cause headaches.
*All possible allergy-causing foods need to be identified, a desensitization protocol done, and an avoidance period of usually 3 weeks is needed to usually permanently correct food sensitivities. Ask your health care provider to test for both IgE and IgG mediated allergies, then follow a desensitizing protocol such as NAET, and after a period of time re-introduce the foods back into the diet.
Homocysteine is a toxin that is naturally produced in our bodies as a result of protein metabolism. Normally, homocysteine is eliminated from the body or converted into non-toxic substances and recycled for use in other ways. When the body is deficient in certain vitamins and minerals it cannot effectively detoxify homocysteine from the body. When homocysteine levels rise heart problems and inflammation follow. Homocysteine has been called the single most important factor that we can change for heart disease. Homocysteine is being recognized as more important than cholesterol as an indicator of poor heart health. Homocysteine also is a toxin that can cause inflammation and pain throughout the joints and muscles of the body. High homocysteine levels are also occasionally contributing factors to inflammation and pain in the head. If your homocysteine levels are high, certain B-vitamins are necessary to detoxify homocysteine naturally.
Heavy metals are occasionally involved in patients suffering from headaches. Our exposure to toxins such as mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic, copper, cadmium, and others is increasing with time. After exposure to toxins our body often stores toxins in the body. As each person's body has higher levels of toxins problems with body function increase such as endocrine problems, hormonal imbalances, headaches, loss of menstruation in women, mental problems, autoimmune problems, emotional and thinking problems, joint pains, loss of flexibility, and obesity. Heavy metals need to be identified and a gentle detoxification protocol implemented. Ask your health care provider to screen for heavy metal toxins. It is worthwhile to note that one source of mercury poisoning may be from mercury amalgam (or "silver") fillings. I would encourage everyone to NOT use mercury amalgam fillings in their mouths. Rather, use ceramic or other non-toxic fillings.
Certain headaches are caused by dysfunction in the jaw, the alignment of the teeth, and spasms in the jaw muscles, all of which affect the Temporomandibular Joint (or TMJ for short). When dysfunction in the jaw causes increased pressure in the TMJ, the pressure and resultant pain is often misinterpreted by the brain as pain behind the eye or temple area. When headaches are one-sided I am immediately suspicious of TMJ involvement. Jaw dysfunction can often be corrected with appropriate care for the muscles that move the jaw (which we do in our office) or by skilled dental care. If it is appropriate, I often recommend patients to one of several skilled dentists in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area who help resolve these problems. Ask your health care provider to screen for disturbances in jaw function, alignment of the teeth, and the possibility of teeth grinding at night.
As a chiropractor I see many headaches stem from neck dysfunction. If the bones of the neck are not aligned limited range of motion and pain often follow. If there is misalignment of bones and/or muscular tension headaches can occur that start at the neck and work their way up the back of the head. Bone malposition is easily correctable by a qualified chiropractor. Muscular tension may need to be addressed by a physician trained in applied kinesiology. Applied kinesiology is especially effective at identifying which muscles may be overly tight and which muscles may be hypofunctioning or weaker than they should be. Steps such as gentle acupressure techniques, dietary changes, specific muscle therapies, specific neurolymphatic reflex stimulation, or others may be implemented to bring about a balancing of muscle function and relieve undue tightness in the neck. When muscles are balanced, recurrent bone malposition and frequent chiropractic visits are no longer needed. Please consider chiropractic care and look for medical doctors and chiropractors trained in applied kinesiology.
Another cause of headaches can be hormonal imbalances. Women are especially prone to hormonal fluctuations related to menstrual cycles. If the endocrine organs, especially the ovaries, uterus, adrenals, thyroid gland, or pituitary are dysfunctional, hormonal levels can be imbalanced and headaches, fatigue, moodiness, etc. can follow. Specific testing for endocrine function and nutritional medicine can identify and remedy these problems. It is important to note that endocrine problems, hormone levels, infections, lacking levels of certain nutrients, food allergies, and heavy metal poisoning are often interrelated. It takes a whole person approach to integrate testing and treating the many factors that contribute to hormonal imbalances. It is especially common to find adrenal and thyroid dysfunction in our patients. I recommend that anyone who suffers from headaches seek testing for hormonal imbalances. A doctor skilled in nutritional medicine can help to balance hormone levels.
*Natasha, a 15 year old teenager, was complaining of constant headaches in her right temple and a sudden drop in energy. These headaches and low energy had been constant for about 3 months. She had been to numerous doctors and various blood tests, MRI's, and urinalysis testing with no real idea coming forth as to why she had these headaches. Upon screening for various problems yeast overgrowth was indicated, low adrenal function, as well as allergies to peanuts and milk. 3 weeks later with nutritional support for adrenal function, an avoidance of milk and peanuts, and an herbal formula for killing yeast she returned for a follow up visit with no headaches and high energy. Although Natasha had been to many doctors and approximately $5000 dollars had been spent on various tests including repeated blood tests and MRI's, no doctors had done any allergy testing or screened for yeast infections.
*Marie, a 51 year old teacher and mother of three came to see me complaining of migraine headaches and chronic tiredness. Her energy levels were half what she thought they should be. She had on average 3 migraine headaches a week and was taking the strongest prescription pain-killers available. These pain-killers were only able to numb the pain a little bit and Marie had been having headaches for most of her life. After my exam Marie seemed to be suffering mainly from a fungal or yeast infection which took some time to clear up. Complicating her digestive tract yeast infection were tired adrenal glands that needed some nutritional support, and a general low level of nutrition, and some food allergies. After supplementing with a yeast-killing agent and following the anti-yeast diet, a multi-vitamin, nutritional support for adrenal function, and chiropractic care- Marie was a new woman. Marie told me that her energy was 100% and her headaches were virtually gone. When she did have headaches they were very small, short-lived, and she had them only once in two weeks. Marie recently changed job locations and now works in an older building with no windows in her area, a leaky roof, and areas of dampness in the walls or carpet. Immediately after beginning work in her new office building she began to notice a decline in energy and increase in headaches again. Marie is now showing signs of yeast and fungal problems. Both Marie and I are suspicious of mold problems in her new work environment. Marie's fungal and yeast problems in the past seem to be coming back to her as she is exposed during her working hours to a building with a high probability of mold and mold spores which she can inhale. We are currently working with Marie to support her against mold stress. It may take a change of work environment for her to feel her best. It is difficult to feel your best when working in a building or living in a home with mold problems.
*Karen, a 14 year old teenage girl, was brought into my office by her worried mom. Her mom told me the story of Karen's extreme lack of energy over the last several weeks and many migraine headaches. Her mom felt like her daughter was dying since her drop in energy and feeling so bad. It was so bad she felt her daughter might have some type of hidden cancer. She was missing school because of this. Other doctors had been consulted but no real ideas were forthcoming as to what were the reasons behind Karen's lack of energy and headaches. Upon screening for allergies, Karen showed a sensitivity to milk and peanuts. A low adrenal function was indicated and also a need for some help with digestion. I recommended that Karen avoid all milk products completely, avoid peanuts, take a nutritional support formula for adrenal function, and take some digestive enzymes with meals. I gave Karen some chiropractic adjustments and also performed some simple acupressure techniques to calm down her body's reaction to certain foods. A return visit brought back a very pleased teenager and a very relieved mom. Karen reported that she had not had a single headache since visiting my office! Her energy was back up to normal teenage levels. I complimented her and told her that her good results were mostly due to her good compliance with avoiding milk and peanuts. She also reported that she was not having any asthmatic attacks. I was surprised at this because she had not mentioned asthma as a problem in our initial visit. I believe that she just thought asthma was just a chronic condition and these acute problems only needed to be taken care of. But it was pleasant to see that a chronic and unmentioned condition was improving with simple dietary changes and nutritional help. On follow up visits for preventative care Karen has mentioned that when she cheats and has milk her asthma seems to flare up. Karen benefits from a quality multi-vitamin for maintenance. Karen had been to numerous doctors but none ad done any allergy testing or screened for hypo-adrenal function.
*Jean, a 63 year old woman came to my office with headaches as part of her list of complaints. After screening Jean for possible food sensitivities we discovered that she was reactive to Aspirin! Jean noticed that if she took aspirin for a certain headache it would relieve the pain, but invariably she would have another headache the next day. So, she would take an aspirin the next day.... You can see the viscous cycle she was in! Now that Jean avoids aspirin she doesn't have headaches at all. If she takes a painkiller for arthritis that contains aspirin she soon has a headache. She continues to do well by avoiding aspirin and occasionally taking Tylenol for minor aches or pains.
*Vicki, a 48 year old woman came to my office complaining of arm and shoulder pain, neck pain, pain in her jaw, headaches, and low energy. Vicki's health problems seemed to mainly stem from jaw and neck dysfunction and food sensitivities. She immediately noticed nice improvement with avoiding milk and chocolate and also care for the muscles and bones of the neck and jaw. After months of care she eventually reached a plateau and ceased improvement. When we began to investigate the possibilities of metal toxicity mercury and nickel were indicated as possible toxins affecting the head and neck area. At this point Vicki and an environmental dentist began a slow removal of her mercury fillings from her mouth. I also supported Vicki with nutrition support for detoxifying mercury and nickel and continued chiropractic care. When Vicki's tests no longer indicated mercury and nickel sensitivities she also was headache free and most of her complaints had resolved.
*Cathy, a 28 year old woman complained of frequent low-grade headaches. Upon screening for possible food sensitivities she showed a sensitivity to NutraSweet artificial sweetener. Upon questioning she told me that she drank a lot of diet Cokes. I suggested she switch to a non-diet drink and her headaches quickly resolved.
*Jennifer, a 25 year old woman complained of frequent headaches. Upon screening for food sensitivities she showed reactions to peanuts. She claimed she did not eat peanuts but she had headaches daily. Upon brain-storming where she could be getting peanuts she remembered that she ate Snickers candybars daily and these contain peanuts. When she avoided these candybars with peanuts she stopped having headaches.
*Helen, a 28 year old woman, has noticed a drastic improvement in her headaches when she avoids beer, red wine, and milk. Helen has also benefitted from eliminating a yeast and parasite infection, general nutritional support, chiropractic care, and detoxification from heavy metals. She has reported an increased sense of well being, no more gastritis with meals, normal bowel movements, better skin complexion, and much less frequency of being ill (flu, colds, coughs, etc.). Helen continues to improve each month. In the past if she caught "the flu"she was often in bed for 2 weeks. Now if she has a viral infection she feels uncomfortable for 24 hours because her own immune system is stronger and healthier. Her experience with health care had led her to believe that it was normal to be sick and unhealthy, but that is changing as she returns to being consistently healthy.
I hope that this article will help you think in new ways about possible causes of headaches. At the Nutritional Healing Center we try our best to treat each person as an individual and to cover the whole realm of possibilities that can contribute to headaches. If I can be of assistance, do not hesitate to call....