Everyone has a headache at one time or another and about 10% of the population suffer from a recurrent problem. As such, headaches are one of the great evils of humanity. However, the term ‘headache’ describes a variety of conditions that are potentially caused by a whole series of different factors or a combination of these.
Headaches usually reflect an imbalance or deficiency in some part of our bodies. For this reason, while the short term solution may be to take a painkiller, in the long run it is much better to try to identify the problem that has caused this frustrating symptom.
According to some estimates, three quarters of headaches are caused by an allergy to some type of food. The most common culprits are milk, wheat and eggs. If you suffer from regular headaches it is worth experimenting with your diet to see if you can identify and eliminate the ingredient that is causing your headache. To do this, keep a food diary and cut out specific foods one by one. None of the recommendations made here can adversely affect your health and most of them will improve your wellbeing even if they are not directly related to your headache.
When experimenting with the elimination of an ingredient from your diet it is worth remembering that the positive effects will not be felt immediately. What’s more, you should be sure to eliminate all sources of the ingredient not just the most obvious ones (e.g. caffeine is not just found in coffee but also in tea and soft drinks). However, a word of warning; eliminating caffeine too quickly from your diet can cause withdrawal headaches.
Most people who are allergic to alcohol, caffeine and wheat8 are aware of their problem. The following ingredients may also cause allergic headaches:
Tyramine. This substance is found in chocolate, cheese, eggs, red wine and onions.
Monosodium glutamate. This additive can cause headaches and has also been associated with more serious conditions such as epilepsy.
Nitrites. These are found in fertilizers and above all in smoked food.
Other people may have a low tolerance for the hormones and antibiotics that are used in the industrial production of meat, butter, cheese, other dairy products and eggs. Consuming organic food should relieve headaches caused by these factors.
Heavy metals can seriously affect your health as well as causing headaches. Cadmium is one metal to watch out for. Refined foods often have higher levels of cadmium than wholemeal foods. Moreover, the refining process often eliminates ingredients that reduce the negative effects of cadmium, such as vitamin C and zinc. Another source of cadmium is cigarette smoke.
Fish and seafood from rivers and coastal waters often contain harmful levels of cadmium, mercury and lead because these organisms tend to accumulate the heavy metals that contaminate our waters. Mercury is also found in some fungicides, which is just one reason why it is important to wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly. The best way of reducing the effects of heavy metals is again to consume organic food rich in zinc, calcium and magnesium.
 ’tis the season to – it’s the time of year when we typically
 relief – (in this case) alleviation, mitigation, succour
 evil (n.) – misfortune, affliction
 painkiller – aspirin, paracetamol, acetaminophen (US English), etc.
 in the long run – in the long term, as a permanent solution
 estimate (n.) – approximate calculation
 culprit – guilty party, element to blame
 wheat – (Triticum aestivum) grain/cereal from which bread is typically made
 it is worth experimenting – you should experiment, it is a good idea to experiment
 to improve sth. – make sth. better, enhance sth.
 it is worth remembering – you should remember, it is a good idea to remember
 source of – (in this case) food containing
 a word of warning – be careful
 withdrawal headache – headache that is a symptom of ceasing to take a drug
 to be aware of – be conscious of
 (medical) condition – medical problem
 above all – especially
 dairy product – food and drink made from milk
 to relieve – alleviate, mitigate, reduce
 to watch out for – be vigilant against, be careful with
 wholemeal – organic, ‘natural’
 moreover – furthermore, besides, what’s more, in addition
 source – originator, producer
 harmful – dangerous
 lead – (Pb.) type of soft metal
 fungicide – substance for killing fungi
 thoroughly – well