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What to Eat (and Drink) When You Have a Headache

By Carrie Havranek
July 13, 2020

A headache can really sideline you when it strikes. If you get them often enough, you may have a sense of what may be triggering them, but other times, they can be mystifying. It’s not always clear what they are trying to tell you, even if you are pretty intuitive about your body.

One possible cause? What you’re eating — or not eating. We talked to some holistic practitioners about how food may help. Here are 8 things to eat and drink when you have a headache.

1. Magnesium-Rich Foods

Many of us are deficient in this mineral, and that deficiency can manifest as headaches. Luckily, this is pretty easy to correct. Serena Poon, CN, CHC, CHN, a chef and holistic nutritionist recommends nuts and seeds for ongoing headache prevention, as they contain magnesium.

Nick Bitz, N.D., a California-based naturopathic physician and chief scientific officer at Youtheory® suggests drinking sparkling mineral water, which supplies up to 200 milligrams of magnesium per liter of water.

2. Ginger

“Ginger is fantastic for headaches. It has anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, digestive and circulatory effects that may help undercut headaches,” says Bitz. He recommends making a strong ginger tea with honey or drinking a pungent ginger ale.

3. Fermented Foods

We keep hearing about how important gut health is, and that’s true for headaches, too. “Headaches can be caused by an unhealthy gut microbiome, due to a poor diet and other lifestyle factors,” says Poon. She suggests making sure yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha are regular parts of your diet to help balance your gut biome and “possibly decrease your chances of getting headaches.”

4. Liver-Supporting Foods

We ask a lot of our liver on a day to day basis, and beets and cruciferous vegetables are liver-supporting foods. “Holistic medical systems believe that headaches are often associated with liver stagnation, so it is critical to ensure that your liver is healthy and smooth flowing,” explains Bitz.

5. Protein at Breakfast

Eating protein-rich foods in the morning can help maintain steady blood sugar levels throughout the day, so that you avoid hypoglycemic reactions —  which can include headaches, according to Bitz.

6. Fiber-Rich Foods

You might know that fiber in foods like oatmeal and apples keeps you regular. But Bitz says fiber may also help with headaches. That’s because it creates “a downward-moving energy in the body that helps relieve stagnation in the head.”

7. Caffeine

Caffeine can be a trigger or a source of relief, so, if you know that caffeine is a trigger, avoid it. “Otherwise, caffeine is a powerful circulatory stimulant and can help improve blood flow to the brain,” says Bitz. “The key is to moderate your consumption and be consistent in your daily use.”

8. Electrolytes

Dehydration causes headaches, as many of us know. Poon says an electrolyte drink or tablet may help you feel better. Or try making your own. “Simply add a little salt, fresh squeezed citrus juice and honey to a large glass or carafe of water,” she says.


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