As you rush to complete to-do’s for the new year, your head feels like a tea kettle, building up painful pressure. “Everything about the holidays sets us up for headaches, from increased travel to changes in what we eat and drink,” says Dawn Buse, PhD, clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
In fact, more than any single trigger, change itself may be the biggest headache catalyst. Recent Harvard research on migraine sufferers found that changes they call “surprisals” — such as more or less sleep, more or less stress — increased headache risk. What’s most surprising about the study, says Buse, is that shifts in either direction can throw off the nervous system, triggering pain.
The great news is that outsmarting any type of headache is easier than ever. In fact, making a few daily tweaks — so easy, they’re barely a blip on your schedule! — will keep you headache-free during the year!
Prone to migraines? Tip your fats ratio.
Folks who consumed more omega-3 fats while also decreasing their intake of omega-6 fats experienced 40 percent fewer headache hours per day over 16 weeks, report researchers in BMJ. Turns out, upping healthy omega-3s while slashing omega-6s leads to a bigger reduction in pain-triggering inflammation. And there’s no need to be a mathematician to pinpoint a migraine-mitigating ratio of fats, assures dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade. “The biggest sources of omega-6s are processed oils — corn, sunflower, and cotton seed oil. So if they’re on the ingredients list, especially on snack foods, avoid them. Then just fold in a couple of high omega-3 foods, like eggs, leafy greens, salmon, and tuna.”
Prone to tension headaches? Take magnesium at this time.
The most common type of headache stems from tight muscles in the neck. Enter magnesium: In one study, folks who took 600 mg. of the muscle-relaxing mineral in the morning for a month experienced 42 percent fewer tension headaches. Magnesium is so mighty, it also soothes migraines, says neurologist Alexander Mauskop, MD. “About 50 percent of people who experience migraines are deficient in magnesium.” One to try: Doctor’s Best Magnesium Powder (Buy from iHerb.com, $14.94).
Prone to hangovers? Sip a sparkling mocktail.
“Hangover headaches are often accompanied by nausea, dizziness, and fatigue, all of which are caused by an electrolyte imbalance,” says Buse. And because we lose electrolytes like potassium, magnesium, and sodium when we’re dehydrated, it’s important to drink more water when imbibing. Also smart: Enjoy an electrolyte mocktail. The recipe Palinski-Wade suggests: Combine 1⁄2 cup of coconut water, 1⁄4 cup of orange juice, and 1⁄4 cup of seltzer. Coconut water contains key electrolytes, and orange juice is a good source of potassium. “To get sodium, add a pinch of sea salt or rim your glass with it.” No time to make a mocktail? Visit DrinkLMNT.com for electrolyte mix-ins that will help prevent headaches fast!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.
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