Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Headaches are not of themselves a disease, but always the reflection of disorders elsewhere in the body. Bad health habits are one large cause of headaches. It is sometimes hard to find the cause of headaches, but persistent effort is worthwhile. At first, all habits should be simultaneously scrutinized and corrected if necessary, with an all-out effort.
The allergic headache is usually a dull ache over the forehead and cheeks. The migraine headache patient is often a tense, meticulous, and obsessional person. Attacks are precipitated by numerous factors including allergies, overeating, gastrointestinal upset, emotional stress, hypothyroidism, fatigue, bright or flickering lights, and food containing any of the following: cheese, chicken liver, pickled herring, monosodium glutamate, cured meats, pressed meat, and pork products. High altitudes may also be a cause for this type of headache.
Following are some suggestions that may guide in the search for the cause, prevention, and treatment:
- Avoid all exposure to toxins (tobacco, licit and illicit drugs, caffeine or sweet drinks, alcohol, etc.), odors, fumes, air pollution, rotting leaves or compost, or molds from shrubs or vines growing near the house. Do not breathe, eat, drink, or touch toxic materials. Some persons are very sensitive to cosmetics and perfumes. Cat and dog dander and some other pet secretions or products can cause allergic headaches in some people, as can chronic bacterial or viral infection (dental problems, chronic dermatitis, nasal lesions, and chronic genitourinary tract infections). The type of colonic bacteria associated with meat eating may cause headaches: and a change in diet may be helpful in these individuals to prevent headaches.
- There must be circulating air each night in the bedroom. Thoroughly air the bedrooms and bed clothing daily. Morning headaches often result from stale air. Check for an uncomfortable bed or chilling of the head, neck, and shoulders at night. Assume a comfortable position for sleeping.
- Keep the extremities warm at all times. Cold skin anywhere is abnormal and sends an "alarm message" to the brain. Blood that would be in the large vessels of the extremities if they were warm is driven into the trunk and head because the blood vessels get narrow when chilled. Many people react to chilling of the extremities by getting an elevation of the blood pressure, which may contribute to headaches. Weather changes, especially cold air, can cause headaches in susceptible persons.
- Keep a strictly regular schedule for meals, bedtime, and getting up time, elimination, study periods, etc. This is an essential point. Never eat even so much as a peanut between meals. Take only water or plain herb teas between meals.
- Take no heavy or rich food. Avoid too much protein, which can give the "protein hangover" or a ketosis headache. Use a limited quantity and variety of food at meals. Do not mix fruits and vegetables at the same meal. Milk-sugar-egg combinations tend to cause intestinal fermentation, producing toxic substances which give a headache. Do not eat food late in the evening. If supper is taken, eat only plain bread and fruit several hours before bedtime.
- Apart from the food combining problem, all dairy products tend to be associated with headaches in some people. Cheese and wine may cause migraine, because of their content of tyramine. Also suspect as causes of headache are wheat, pork, chocolate, beer, eggs, citrus fruits and juices, corn, onion, garlic, nuts, tomatoes, fish, and peanuts. For 6 weeks, avoid known allergenic, constipating, or gas-forming foods: all food products of animal origin, all refined foods, all beans, apples, strawberries, and the nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers).
- Check the intestinal transit time. Take four charcoal tablets or one tablespoon of sesame seeds swallowed whole as a marker. Time how long the marker takes to completely clear the colon. Keep the time under 30 hours by using whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables.
- Practice deep breathing. Congestion of the head can be relieved thereby. Learn to maintain good posture while standing, sitting, walking, and lying. Exercise from one to five hours out-of-doors daily.
- Take a hot mustard foot bath with an ice cap or cold compress to the head for 20 minutes or more at the very beginning of a headache. Use one teaspoon of dry mustard to 1 or 2 gallons of hot water.
- Take a neutral bath for 30 - 45 minutes. The water temperature should be tepid or lukewarm. Blot skin dry - no brisk rubbing. Dress quietly.
- Drink a cup of red clover or catnip tea at the onset of headache.
- Induce vomiting with finger if undigested food is fermenting in the stomach.
- Give enemas until clear, using hot water or charcoal water.
- Take a brisk walk, with extremities well-protected from dampness or chilling, head up, shoulders back, and breathing deeply to relieve congestion.
- At the first hint of a migraine try the following procedure:
- Seat the person in a chair with head hanging between the knees.
- Apply a gentle flow of very cold water to the base of the skull, allowing it to flow forward through the hair over the scalp for 30 seconds. Catch the run-off water in a pan placed between the feet.
- Allow the person to sit up promptly after the water pouring procedure. Elevate the feet on a stool. Direct a stream of cold water, under pressure if possible, to the plantar surfaces for 1.5 to 2 minutes. It may be poured over the feet if water under pressure is not available.
- Repeat every 2 hours if necessary.
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