Saturday, June 28, 2008

How to Head off Summer Headaches:

For those of you who know me well, I do not like to just throw you a pill. I prefer to think and find the cause or the trigger to your medical problem. One such summer problem is headaches. There are quite a few triggers that occur each summer. Avoiding or preparing for these triggers may help you to prevent the dreaded headache:
  • Dehydration: In the hotter, steamier summer weather, our bodies may lose more water than they take in. If you do not replenish this water with an increased fluid intake, dehydration may occur and not long after a headache. Try drinking more fluids in the warmer days, and water is still the best option. Caffeinated or alcoholic beverages are not helpful. Some like Gatorade or Vitamin water. These two beverages have a large sugar content. If you prefer these beverages, try diluting them half with water. They will still taste good, and the fluid to sugar ratio will be healthier.
  • Deli or Cured Meats: Summertime is the time for picnics and outdoor activities. Many of the deli or cured meats as well as vegetable salads and potato or macaroni salads have preservatives made from sodium nitrite. There are many nitrite sensitive migraine patients who develop worsening headaches after a summer barbecue or picnic. If you are in charge of your summer food, try reading the labels carefully for preservatives. I like to read labels and if I have a hard time pronouncing an ingredient on the label, I usually put it back. I prefer to eat food with no more than 4 ingredients on the label.
  • Travel- In the warmer weather we like to travel or vacation more. The motion involved in planes, trains or automobiles can be overstimulating to our brain, causing motion sickness. If driving, try to keep the windows open and the air circulating and keep your head as still as possible. Headaches can be triggered by excessive movement of the head or eyes. Also try to keep your eyes focused on a fixed point in the distance. Some people believe that ginger capsules can help to alleviate motion sickness.
  • Icy treats: Probably everyone's favorite summertime treat. I have to admit a slight increase in my gelato consumption since the weather warmed up. The roof of your mouth has very active and sensitive nerves. When cold particles touch the roof of your mouth, it can cause the blood vessels around the brain to temporarily swell, leading to a vascular headache. So go ahead and treat yourself to something cool. Just keep it away from the roof of your mouth. If you develop a headache, a caffeinated beverage may help. For all my patients who I have told to avoid icy treats for their health, remember everything is a balance. If it is a special occasion go for it, just don't have a special occasion every day!!
Steven Horvitz, D.O.
Founder of The Institute for Medical Wellness
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