Ask Marilyn: Are there any natural ways to prevent tension headaches?

Q: I suffer a lot from headaches, which often feel like a tight band restricting my forehead. My doctor says they’re tension headaches and has recommended painkillers, but are there any ways to prevent them naturally?


A: Headaches are caused when blood vessels in the head constrict or dilate leading to pressure on the nerves. Adrenaline, toxins, food allergies, eye strain, hormonal changes and problems with your neck, shoulder and jaw can all contribute to this.

Tension headaches are more likely to occur when you’re stressed and chemicals such as adrenaline are released, making your blood vessels tighten and reducing blood flow to your brain. I would recommend trying yoga, meditation or breathing exercises and 300mg of magnesium citrate before you go to bed to relax the blood vessels. Alcohol, smoking and caffeine can all trigger headaches too, so cut down on these. Food intolerance may be a culprit so keep a food diary to see if there are any possible trigger foods. A number of people get headaches after eating a class of chemicals called amines, which include cheese and chocolate so try to pinpoint if these are the cause and if they are eliminate them from your diet for a while.


Liver function affects the quality and flow of your blood and if it’s not efficiently getting rid of toxins this can trigger headaches, so you may want to try the liver-boosting herb milk thistle. It goes without saying that a healthy diet and regular exercise will also boost circulation and help your body detox naturally. If there is a misalignment of your neck discs or jaw joint, cranial blood flow will be restricted and this can cause a headache. See a cranial osteopath to correct any misalignment. And finally, eye strain may be the trigger. If you spend long periods of time every day staring at a computer screen or find it hard to read small print it may be time to take better care of your eyes. Take regular breaks every 20 minutes when working on the computer and keep your eyes moist by blinking regularly. Visiting an optician will also be of benefit to see if reading or computer glasses are necessary.

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