5 Strange Reasons You Have a Headache

5 Strange Reasons You Have a Headache. Millions of Americans suffer from debilitating
headaches. According to Mayo Clinic, a primary headache
is caused by “problems with or over activity of pain-sensitive structures in your head.” But there are also lesser-known, even strange
causes of headaches. Below is a list of some of the weirder headache
triggers. 1. Smoked Meats. Cured, smoked, pickled or canned foods such
as pastrami, deli meats, and beef jerky contain synthetic food preservatives called nitrates
and nitrites. The additives may dilate blood vessels, triggering
headaches. Barry Jordan, MD, assistant medical director
and attending neurologist at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, says that food does not trigger
headaches in everyone. “Patients that get migraines are sensitive
to these things and more susceptible to headaches triggered by food,” he says. If you suspect that certain foods are causing
your headaches, Dr. Jordan recommends maintaining a food journal to help discover patterns and
triggers for your head pain. 2. Red Wine and Cheese. Red wine and aged cheeses such as Brie, Cheddar,
blue cheeses, and Swiss, contain tyramine, a substance that forms from the breakdown
of proteins as food ages. Tyramine causes headaches by constricting
and dilating blood vessels. Mia Minen, MD, neurologist and director of
headache services at NYU Langone, says that another reason red wine causes headaches might
be related to the presence of polyphenols, which are part of the breakdown of red wine
metabolites. “They may interfere with serotonin metabolism
in the brain,” she says. If red wine and cheese gives you headaches,
The National Headache Foundation recommends eating only American, farmer or low-fat processed
cheeses, and limiting alcohol intake to one beverage. 3. Dehydration. According to the Mayo Clinic, dehydration
is what is known as a secondary headache: “a symptom of a disease that can activate
the pain-sensitive nerves of the head.” Dehydration headaches occur when you lose
a substantial part of the water and electrolytes that your body needs to perform normal functions. Some experts believe that a dehydration headache
occurs as a result of narrowing blood vessels as the body tries to maintain enough fluid. To avoid dehydration, it is recommended that
you consume moderate amounts of water during and after exercise. The Mayo Clinic recommends that men drink
about 13 cups of total beverages a day and women drink 9 cups. 4. Brain Freeze. Brain freeze, also known as ice cream headache,
occurs mere seconds after the ingestion of cold food. The pain can be felt on the sides of the head
and generally lasts for less than a minute. Researchers don’t know what causes the pain,
but according to the John Hopkins Headache Center, it is thought to be “a combination
of direct stimulation of temperature-sensitive nerves plus the cold’s effects on blood
vessels running along the roof of the mouth.” 5. Caffeine Withdrawal. Anyone who’s ever stopped drinking coffee
or switched to decaf knows of the dreaded caffeine withdrawal headaches. “Caffeine can have physiological effects
on the vascular system and can constrict vessels or relax them at different times,” says
Dr. Minen. She also believes that the dependence created
by caffeine can cause a physiological reaction that triggers headaches. The National Headache Foundation reports that
caffeine withdrawal will occur “after consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine per day for at
least 2 weeks.” But there’s no substitute in place of caffeine
to ease withdrawal symptoms. “I recommend a slow withdrawal,” says
Jordan. “Steadily decrease your caffeine ingestion
on a daily basis.” When to Seek Medical Help. “By the time a patient gets to headache
specialist, they have already tried Tylenol,” says Minen. A headache specialist can perform a physical
exam and headache evaluation to make a proper diagnosis and establish a treatment program. Minen says that although some doctors prescribe
medication to treat headaches, there may be other problems that are causing headaches,
including poor sleep hygiene or anxiety and depression. “Sometimes we use cognitive behavioral therapy
to focus on treating the underlying issues,” she says.

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