Headaches - a symptom with many causes – Dr Wendy Davis ND

Headaches - a symptom with many causes

We have all experienced a headache now and again, but for some, they are a common occurrence rather than an occasional annoyance. 

Headaches can be triggered by allergies (that increases sinus pressure), stress (that causes muscle tension), fatigue (that reduces our immune function), eyestrain (that stresses our brains), poor posture (that can strain neck and shoulder muscles), alcohol or drugs (that can dehydrate us and cause toxic reactions), low blood sugar (that starves our brains of energy), hormones (specifically estrogen and progesterone imbalances), constipation (that leads to toxin build up) and nutritional deficiencies (such as magnesium). They are not generally triggered by a lack of Tylenol or Advil :)

Headaches, whether it’s a cluster, tension, sinus or migraine headache,  are your body's way of telling you that something needs to change.

Here are some tried and true remedies that can help:


Gluten free. Some people are very sensitive to the main protein in wheat, gluten, and for many headaches sufferers it can trigger headaches.

Try avoiding all gluten (wheat, rye, spelt, kamut and barley) for 3 weeks to see if it helps reduce headaches and then slowly reintroduce gluten, and if you get headaches again, you’ll have your answer.

Hydration.  It seems like a no-brainer, but many people are chronically dehydrated and the dehydrating effects of coffee, sugary drinks and alcohol can certainly exacerbate the situation.

Try to drink half of your bodyweight in ounces of water each day.

Hormone balance. Many women suffer headaches prior to their periods, often due to too much estrogen and too little progesterone.

Getting hormones back into balance will help reduce these PMS headaches.


Magnesium. This magical mineral is one of the most successful headache remedies.  It is much safer than taking painkillers and often people who suffer from headaches, like migraines, often have low levels of magnesium.  Magnesium may prevent the wave of brain signaling, called cortical spreading depression, which produces the visual and sensory changes that are common when experiencing a headache, especially a migraine. Magnesium can block the pain-transmitting chemicals in the brain and improve relaxation, all of which reduce headaches. 

Taking 200–600 mg of magnesium a day can reduce the frequency of headache attacks.  Dietary sources of magnesium include beans, whole grains, seeds, nuts, dark chocolate and vegetables like broccoli, squash and leafy greens.

B-complex and especially B2  A B-complex vitamin includes a group of eight water-soluble vitamins: thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12 biotin and pantothenic acid. Together, these vitamins improve brain cells, circulation, immune function and cardiovascular health. Many B-vitamins are involved in the formation of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, which may be deficient in people who suffer from migraines. 

Specifically, taking 400 mg per day of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) can decrease pain associated with migraine attacks, as well as the duration and frequency of episodes. What's more, vitamin B2 is well-tolerated and has no serious side effects.

Peppermint and/or lavender essential oils

The calming and numbing effects of both peppermint and lavender oils make them perfect tools for finding headache relief.

Peppermint oil generates a long-lasting cooling effect on the skin. Research shows that peppermint oil stimulates a significant increase in skin blood flow of the forehead, and it soothes muscle contractions. 

Lavender oil is commonly used as a mood stabilizer and sedative. Research has shown that the use of lavender oil is a safe and effective treatment of migraine headaches. 

Take advantage of their benefits by placing a few drops of peppermint or lavender oil into your hands and then rubbing the blend on your forehead, temples and back of neck. If the smell is too strong for you, or if the peppermint is too chilling, dilute it down by mixing the essential oils with almond, grapeseed or coconut oil.