Health & Wellness

6 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Headaches: What Works and Why 

Headaches can be tricky to get rid of. Why? Well, in order to truly treat the headache, you have to identify the root cause. After all, headaches don’t just happen—there’s always a reason behind it. The great news is that there are plenty of natural ways to get rid of headaches—and each remedy is based on what’s causing it.

So, let’s discuss how you can pinpoint what’s causing your headaches and my top six natural headache remedies!

 

Top 6 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Headaches

The simple truth of the matter is that there are many different things that can cause headaches. Here are some of the most common causes, signs you should look out for, and the best natural ways to get rid of headaches based on their root cause.

1. Stress

How it causes headaches:

Stress is one of the most common causes of headaches, including tension headaches and migraines. During times of stress or anxiety, your body enters into the “fight-or-flight” mode, which cause changes in your blood vessels, making you more prone to experiencing headaches. [1] Additionally, experiencing stress can cause you to experience neck and shoulder tension or even clench or grind your teeth—all of which can cause headaches.

What to look for:

If you find that you’re consistently under a fair amount of stress or feeling anxious, take a moment to check in with your body. Are you subconsciously tightening your neck or shoulder muscles or clenching your teeth? Are you losing sleep due to anxiety? Or perhaps you’re fidgeting as a way to deal with your stress and anxiety. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, your headaches may be the result of chronic stress.

The natural remedy you need:

So, what are the natural ways to get rid of headaches caused by stress? Calming and relaxing activities such as yoga and meditation, which promote mindful breathing with full inhales and exhales, have been shown to significantly decrease stress and anxiety. And by targeting the root cause, you can help to nip your headache in the bud!

In a 2018 study, 90 volunteers reporting moderate-to-high stress levels were assigned to either 16 weeks of yoga practice or eight weeks of yoga practice. The group who participated for the full 16 weeks reported significant decreases in stress, anxiety, and general psychological health. They also reported substantial increases in well-being. The group who practiced yoga for eight weeks reported significant decreases in stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia once they began practicing yoga. [2] Furthermore, a 2014 study revealed that people who practiced yoga experienced reduced headache frequency and intensity. [3]

I also find using lavender essential oil to be extremely helpful when I’m experiencing stress and anxiety. You can put a drop or two on your pillow to help promote relaxation and restorative sleep or simply smell it from the bottle to fight stress and anxiety.

2. Magnesium deficiency

How it causes headaches:

As we’ve discussed before, magnesium is an important mineral responsible for over 800 different essential roles within your body. Remember, your body can’t function without it. Magnesium helps maintain your heart rhythm, produces cellular energy for your body to build tissues and eliminate toxins, and even helps maintain regular muscle contraction. Moreover, magnesium actually helps to block the release of certain neurotransmitters in your brain that can trigger headaches and even migraines. When your body is low in magnesium, your nerve cells release more neurotransmitters, making you more prone to headaches. In fact, experiencing headaches is one of the top signs you may be deficient in magnesium!

What to look for:

Signs of a magnesium deficiency can include gastrointestinal difficulties, neurological symptoms, and cardiovascular problems. These symptoms are often based on how long the person has been deficient. In addition to headaches, you should look for the following early signs of a magnesium deficiency: loss of appetite, fatigue, muscle spasms and/or twitches, insomnia, depressed mood, brain fog, constipation, high blood pressure, and more. [4]

The natural remedy you need:

The best natural ways to get rid of headaches caused by a magnesium deficiency is to include more plant-based food sources of magnesium in your diet and also supplement with magnesium. And researchers have found these methods to be extremely effective in headache and migraine sufferers. In fact, one study noted that when subjects took magnesium supplements, their migraine frequency was reduced by an amazing 41.6 percent. [5]

When searching for a magnesium supplement, look for magnesium glycinate or magnesium orotate, which offer the best absorption when taken orally. And make sure to start with the dosages listed on the bottle. For more information on magnesium supplements and magnesium-rich foods, check out my article on natural remedies for magnesium deficiency.

3. Dehydration

How it causes headaches:

In order to function properly, your body requires a certain amount of water and electrolytes. Any change in this balance can cause a headache. So, if your body loses more fluid and electrolytes than it takes in (via lack of consumption or an illness such as vomiting or diarrhea), or if you have an underlying mineral deficiency or your intake is low, you’re at risk of becoming dehydrated.

Experiencing a headache is actually one of the most common symptoms of mild-to-moderate dehydration. Why? Well, when your body is dehydrated, it can actually cause your brain to temporarily shrink or contract. When this happens, it pulls away from your skull, causing pain in what’s known as a dehydration headache. Dehydration also lowers blood volume in your body, so less blood volume circulates, which causes blood vessels constriction. 

What to look for:

In addition to a headache, you should look for these tell-tale signs of dehydration: fatigue, feeling “fuzzy headed,” feeling like you’re “getting sick,” thirst, dry lips or mouth, flushed skin, irritability, muscle cramps, and sore throat and/or stuffy nose.

The natural remedy you need:

By now, you likely know what I’m going to tell you: To combat dehydration, drink at least half your weight in ounces each day. So, a person who weighs 150 pounds needs at least 75 ounces daily. And if you’re experiencing an illness that is causing you to lose more body fluids, increase that amount. If you aren’t sick and can tolerate foods, it will also help to eat hydrating foods (foods with high water content) such as watermelon, grapefruit, grapes, lettuce, celery, and more. If you’re drinking enough fluid but still experience headaches and other signs of dehydration, consider an underlying mineral deficiency that could be impacting your absorption of water into your cells.

And in case you’re wondering, scientists have found that increasing your water intake is, in fact, one of he best natural ways to get rid of headaches. In a 2005 study, researchers found that headache patients who drank more water reduced both the length of time they had headaches and the intensity of their headaches. [6]

4. Tension

How it causes headaches:

Often an extension of stress, tension headaches occur when your muscles contract around your head, neck, and shoulders. These contractions often cause pain in your eyes and throughout your head and neck. While the origins of tension headaches aren’t completely understood by scientists, many have hypothesized that people who experience frequent tension headaches may have a heightened sensitivity to pain.

What to look for:

Tension headaches are typically described as a feeling of a tight band wrapped around your forehead. The pain is usually a dull ache rather than a sharp or piercing pain. You may also feel pressure around the sides of your head and at the base of your neck. This discomfort can last anywhere from half an hour to a week.

The natural remedy you need:

Personally, I find that using peppermint oil is one of the best natural ways to get rid of headaches related to tension. You can start by diluting a drop with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, and applying it directly to your forehead or temples.

Interestingly, one study revealed that applying diluted peppermint oil topically was as effective as taking acetaminophen, a common over-the-counter pain reliever, in relieving headache pain. Additionally, it was substantially more effective in relieving headache pain than a placebo. [6] However, note that peppermint oil is actually quite strong. So, if you have sensitive skin, you may want to try diffusing a few drops of peppermint oil as a first course of action.

5. Migraine

How it causes headaches:

Migraines are officially categorized as a prevalent neurological disease that affects over 1 billion people in the world. Originally believed to be due to blood flow fluctuations in the brain, scientists have now confirmed that migraines are commonly connected to your hormone levels! Specifically, your serotonin and estrogen levels cause your blood vessels to narrow, which can result in headaches. Additionally, scientists have discovered that when estrogen levels rise and fall, this can cause your blood vessels to contract, which leads to throbbing migraine pain. [7]

What to look for:

Migraines are more severe than other headaches, resulting in incapacitating symptoms. These symptoms include visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face. [8] Due to its close ties to rising and falling estrogen levels, migraines are actually more common in women, who account for 85 percent of all reported migraine sufferers.

The natural remedy you need:

Interestingly, scientists have found that lavender essential oil is especially helpful in treating migraines, making it one of the best natural ways to get rid of headaches. A 2012 study revealed that over 70 percent of migraine sufferers who smelled lavender essential oil for 15 minutes reported significant improvements in migraine severity. [9] This may be explained, in part, due to lavender’s ability to mimic the actions of estrogen. [10]

For best results, I recommend running a few drops of lavender in a diffuser or simply smelling it straight from the bottle.

6. Food intolerances

How it causes headaches:

When your body is sensitive to certain foods, it reacts anytime you eat the offending foods. This is because your immune system reacts as if the food is actually putting your body in danger by identifying them as pathogens, which causes a release of immune antibodies.

If this immune system response of releasing antibodies becomes chronic, it causes inflammation in your system and, more specifically, in your gut. These inflammatory reactions are linked to headache development—particularly chronic, mild headaches that appear to have “no cause.” It’s also worth mentioning that this chronic inflammation is stressful to your body, which can cause more headaches!

What to look for:

In addition to headaches, if you have a food intolerance, you may also experience the following symptoms within a few hours of eating certain foods: stomach pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and/or skin rashes and itching. However, many people do not experience these additional signs of intolerance, leading them to become very frustrated with seeking the cause of their headaches.

The natural remedy you need:

If you suspect you may be experiencing headaches related to food intolerances, your first course of action is to eliminate highly inflammatory foods. And this method has been shown to be incredibly effective.

In fact, a 2007 study showed that migraine sufferers tend to display a significantly high amount of IgG (immune) antibodies than non-sufferers. Furthermore, when those prone to migraines implemented elimination diets, they were able to successfully control their migraines without requiring medication. [11]

You can start an elimination diet by cutting out highly inflammatory foods from your diet. These include gluten, dairy, sugar, eggs, red meat, and peanuts. You can slowly integrate these foods back into your diet and see if any trigger your headache symptoms to identify the cause.

 

Natural ways to get rid of headaches - Dr. Pingel

 

While the remedies in this article are some of the top natural ways to get rid of headaches, you may require further assistance. Keep in mind that if you’re getting frequent headaches, you should get a thorough exam and lab work to rule out any serious causes.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Headaches have a variety of causes. In order to find the most effective natural ways to get rid of headaches, you have to identify the root cause.
  • Common root causes of headaches include stress, mineral deficiencies (such as magnesium), dehydration, muscle tension, migraines, and food intolerances.
  • Depending on the specific cause, some of the best natural ways to get rid of headaches include yoga, using essential oils such as lavender and peppermint, supplementing with magnesium, increasing your water intake, and eliminating highly inflammatory foods.

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