Stop Headaches

woman suffering from a headache

How to Rid Yourself of Headaches

What gives you a headache? I’m sure any number of factors may come to mind. The most common type of headache is tension headaches which are often brought on by stress. And who hasn’t felt the congestion or pressure or a sinus headache, especially when you are battling a cold or flu or suffer from allergies? Then there are those awful migraines, these are the most intense of the headaches. They can be accompanied by symptoms including nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, and/or sensitivity to bright lights, loud noise and strong odors. Sometimes certain scents can even trigger a migraine!

Did you know there are 150 different types of headaches?

A headache may be an indicator that something is off with your body. They can be triggered by a wide variety of factors, some of which may be difficult for you to pinpoint, such as food sensitivities and hormone imbalances.

The different types of headaches may include:

  1. Migraines – migraines are differentiated from other types of headaches mainly by the severity and the associated symptoms.  If the headache pain is very intense and debilitating and comes with additional symptoms like nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, visual changes or an inability to function and a need to just sleep it off, your headache may be a migraine headache.
  2. Tension headaches – tension headaches are common and are often the result of stress that results in muscle tension.
  3. Cluster headaches – cluster headaches are usually one-sided.  Which side can vary from one headache to the next.  They can be described as stabbing pain and the pain is usually severe.  Cluster headaches can last up to a few hours and maybe worse lying down. They can be accompanied by symptoms like eye-watering on the side of the headache, nasal discharge on the side of the headache and may be worsened by alcohol.
  4. Sinus headaches – these headaches are the result of congestion or inflammation in your sinuses.  They feel like pressure across your forehead, around your eyes, around your cheekbones, at the bridge of, beside or below your nose.  They can be accompanied by cold symptoms. Gravity (bending over, lying down etc) may make them worse.
  5. Cervicogenic headaches – cervicogenic headaches originate from your cervical spine, which is the part of the spine in your neck.  Chiropractic care can help to re-align the bones of your neck.

Headaches can also occur as the result of a concussion or post-traumatic brain injury. Craniosacral therapy and Osteopathy can be extremely helpful for these types of headaches. TBI or concussion can also result in hormone imbalances due to damage to your pituitary gland. Our naturopathic doctors can help identify hormone imbalances.

What are the symptoms of a headache?

Headache symptoms can vary depending on the person and the type of headache. You may experience any or all of the following headache symptoms:

  1. Pain. The pain may be described as aching, pounding, throbbing, squeezing, pressure, stabbing, or shooting.
  2. Visual changes. You may experience auras, difficulty seeing, or light sensitivity.
  3. Nausea or vomiting. With severe headaches and migraines, you may feel nauseous or vomit.
  4. Noise sensitivity. Migraines often trigger a sensitivity to light and sound.
  5. Pressure or congestion. Sinus headaches may involve a feeling of a stuffy nose or fullness around the eyes or in your forehead.
  6. Irritability.

What Causes Headaches?

Dehydration

Research shows that water-deprivation headaches are among the most common types of headaches people experience. Just think, how often do you fall short of the daily recommended eight glasses of water? Staying hydrated not only helps to keep headaches at bay, but it also improves concentration and extinguishes irritability.

Stress

Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ve experienced a stress or a tension headache. You’re barely treading water, with too much to do and not enough hours in the day. The baby just won’t stop screaming, but you need to get the grocery shopping done. Your boss is in a foul mood — again. Your head begins to pound. Stress happens. It’s not always easy to avoid a tension headache, but taking a mindful approach to life, whether through yoga, meditation or gratitude journaling, can help us to manage stress better when those tricky moments arise. Self-care through psychotherapy, supporting your body’s stress glands (your adrenals), and relieving tension through massage therapy or chiropractic may all help.

Food Intolerances

We all know how alcohol can trigger a headache – especially when combined with dehydration, resulting in the ever-dreaded hangover headache. But have you ever been drinking diet pop and suddenly felt headache-y afterwards? You wouldn’t be alone. Aspartame and caffeine can also act as dietary triggers that lead to headaches. Other food intolerances known for influencing headaches include Monosodium glutamate a.k.a. MSG, nitrates found in processed meats, tyramine — a natural chemical that’s also found in processed meats, as well as aged cheese; pickles and olives; snow peas, fava and broad beans; and nuts.

Other foods that can trigger migraines include bread and pastries, cultured dairy products and yes, even chocolate. Moderation is key, as well as taking note of what you were eating before a headache occurred. Our naturopathic doctors can provide food sensitivity testing that may help you identify your headache or migraine trigger foods.

Hormones

Oh, those hormones sure have a way of impacting all areas of our bodies, don’t they? So, is it any wonder that they could also be to blame for headaches too? Truth is, elevated estrogen levels can have an impact on the frequency and severity of headaches in both women and men. It is why women are 3X more likely to experience a migraine than men. If you experience headaches or migraines on a regular basis, it is worth speaking to your naturopathic doctor about getting your hormone levels tested. Getting back into balance won’t only help your headaches, it can also change your life on many other levels.

Hypothyroidism

If your thyroid is underactive, you may experience migraines. Thorough thyroid testing including checking TSH, free T3, free T4, anti-TPO and anti-thyroglobulin can help identify whether your thyroid is the source of the problem.

Natural Treatment for Headaches

Essential oils

A wide variety of essential oils can have a calming effect on headaches and also help to soothe migraines. Some good options include lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus oils. These can be applied locally to your temples or forehead to help take the edge off your headache. They should not be ingested, particularly not in pregnancy, except under the guidance of a naturopathic doctor.

Herbs

Butterbur and feverfew are two herbal remedies that have long been used to help treat headache pain; however, like with most herbal supplements, it is important to consult the guidance of a naturopathic doctor to ensure you are taking them safely and effectively.

Yoga

Yoga is proven to be among the most effective forms of self-care to help reduce headaches. In fact, one study actually demonstrated a significant reduction in migraine headache frequency when yoga was practised regularly over a period of just three months.

Visit your Chiropractor

Sometimes the root of your issue starts well below the neck and you just need to get your body back in line, literally. Encouraging results have been seen in a variety of studies, suggesting that a visit to our Chiropractor can help to reduce migraines. Participants in these studies have rated the results between good to excellent versus no treatment, mobilization, and ice.

Acupuncture

If you suffer from frequent headaches and want to avoid popping pills on a regular basis, you might wish to consider acupuncture. One study showed that after 3 to 4 months of treatment, patients receiving acupuncture had higher response rates and fewer headaches, with results that were possibly more effective than prophylactic drug treatment – and with fewer adverse side effects. Our naturopathic doctors and acupuncturist can provide acupuncture for headaches.

Massage therapy

Particularly for tension headaches, but even for migraines, massage therapy can help relieve muscle tension that may be at the root of the problem.

Frequently Asked Questions about Headaches

Do you just have to live with headaches?  Absolutely not.  Our health experts can help you pinpoint and address the root cause of your headaches for longer lasting relief.

Are headaches normal? No.  They are a sign that there is an imbalance that needs to be addressed. A one-off headache after some intense stress is probably nothing to worry about, but if headaches are severe, or frequent, then you need to address the cause of the headaches.

Should I just take over-the-counter meds and just live with headaches? No.  These medications if taken long term can have significant, negative health effects.  Acetaminophen is toxic to your liver.  Ibuprofen can erode your digestive tract and cause ulcers.  Long-term ibuprofen use is hard on your liver and kidneys.

Headaches are common, but they don’t have to be. If you feel like you’re getting more than your fair share and are having trouble pinpointing the issue, please do not hesitate to contact our clinic at 416-481-0222 or email Info@ForcesofNature.ca and we will work to identify your triggers and find the best solutions for headaches together.

The team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23832131
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14979888
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2708042
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22517298
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23196150
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23030536
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15623680
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11276299
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17501846
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8775024
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099267/

Flu Symptoms, Prevention, Treatment

woman suffering from the flu

Cold & Flu Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopathic Doctor

What is a cold?

A cold is an infection that is caused by one of up to 100 different viruses. The most common cold virus is called the rhinovirus. The prefix rhino is latin for “nose”. Coronaviruses and adenoviruses can also cause colds. These viruses can infect the respiratory tract (the nose, sinus cavities, throat, bronchi and lungs) and sometimes cause a stomach flu (gastroenteritis).

The symptoms of a cold include:

  • Nasal congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Sore or itchy throat
  • Coughing
  • Mild fatigue
  • Sinus pressure
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mild body aches
  • Phlegm in the nose, sinuses and/or throat
  • Redness of the eyes

What is the flu?

The flu is also an illness caused by a viral infection, typically one of three viruses: influenza A, B or C viruses.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Flu symptoms can be very similar to cold symptoms, but think cold symptoms on steroids! Symptoms may include:

  • Body aches
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Moderate to high fever
  • Feeling run down
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

The main difference between a cold and the flu is the severity of symptoms. The flu tends to be more severe and debilitating. Where colds are not fatal, in those with a compromised immune system, the flu can be fatal.

How long am I contagious with a cold or the flu?

You can be contagious even before the onset of symptoms, and throughout the duration of the cold or flu.

When am I most infectious? Before symptoms? At the start of symptoms? In the midst?

You are most contagious during the first 2-3 days of a cold or the flu. Your ability to spread the virus continues throughout the illness.

How can I avoid transmitting a cold or the flu to my friends and family?

Keep your secretions to yourself! Viruses are transmitted through contact with infected body fluids.

  • If you are sneezing or coughing, turn away from others and be sure to cover your mouth and nose, preferably with your sleeve and not your hand.
  • Wash your hands frequently, particularly before handling community property like keyboards, phones, remote controls or preparing food and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • If possible, avoid being around a vulnerable person (infant, elderly, pregnant, diabetic, asthmatic, immune suppressed) while you are sick. If that’s not possible, keep physical contact to a minimum and/or wear an N95 face mask. The person who wants to avoid contracting the cold/flu can also wear a face mask.

Flu Prevention

Here are my top 6 tips to prevent the flu:

  1. Vitamin C – 1000 mg 3-6 times per day
  2. Vitamin D – at a minimum of 1000 IU for adults
  3. Exercise – at least 1 hour of physical activity every day
  4. Avoid sugar and white carbs – excessive amounts of even whole grains can slow down your immune system.  Instead, focus on healthy protein sources, lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds, grains like quinoa and amaranth, moderate amounts of fruit and legumes.
  5. Reduce your stress – Stress hormones like cortisol suppress your immune system.  Divest yourself of problems that are causing stress, and if you can’t add in lots of anti-stress techniques like yoga, meditation, tai chi, massage therapy or even just slow, deep breathing several times per day.
  6. Prioritize sleep – with busy lives, sleep can take a back seat.  Sleep is your body and your immune system’s chance to recover and restore you for the next day.  A minimum of 7 hours of good quality sleep per night is vital for adults, at least 10 hours for children 8-16 years old and at least 11-12 hours for children under 8.

Already done all that?  Ok, well here is the next level flu prevention & fight the flu regimen:

Echinacea

Echinacea is our favourite immune-boosting herb.  It can be safely taken throughout flu season as a preventative.  It was previously thought that you had to take a break from echinacea, this has since been disproven. I have people take one tablet twice per day of echinacea that contains 600 mg of Echinacea purpurea root and 675 mg of Echinacea angustifolia root, containing 2.1 and 2.0 mg of alkylamides respectively.  This helps keep their immune system strong and healthy.

An Immune Boosting Tincture

Tinctures are alcohol based liquids that may contain single herbs or combinations.  For boosting the immune system we may use a combination like this: Echinacea Root (Echinacea angustifolia), Osha Root (Ligusticum porterii), Calendula Flowers (Calendula officinalis), Red Clover Flowers (Trifolium pratense), Cleavers Herb(Galium aparine), Borage Herb (Borago officinalis).  These herbs work together to boost the immune system, help the lymphatic system drain, reduce inflammation and fight bacteria, viruses and yeast.

Garlic Extract

One of the active ingredients in garlic that helps fight infection is called allicin.  When you eat garlic, your gut will create some allicin from the garlic you have eaten.  A more direct route to get allicin is to take it in its stabilised form.  Ajoene is another active component of garlic.  It has been found to have anti-thrombotic, anti-tumoral, antifungal, and antiparasitic effects.  We use 200 mg of a garlic oil and parsley oil blend that contains 20 mg of the active ingredients of garlic, including ajoene, 1-3 capsules per day.

Olive Leaf Extract (Olea europaea)

Another favourite immune booster and anti-viral is olive leaf extract.  The positive effects of olive leaf extract include antioxidant properties and effective immune support against opportunistic microbes.  Oleuropein, a constituent of olive leaves, was found to be broken down in the body to elenolic acid, which is believed to be its most active component.  The effect of olive leaf extract is that it helps prevent microbes from multiplying.  We use a product that is standardized to 20% oleuropein.  We recommend 1000 mg of olive leaf extract 3 times per day for 10 days when you are fighting a  cold or the flu.

For specific advice about how to treat or prevent the flu and whether any of these is right for you, see one of our naturopathic doctors.  I’m sorry but we are not legally allowed to provide advice via email to people that we have not seen in person and performed a full first assessment on.

Cold & Flu Research

Ledezma E, Apitz-Castro R. Ajoene the main active compound of garlic (Allium sativum): a new antifungal agent. Rev Iberoam Micol. 2006 Jun;23(2):75-80.

Suffering from Seasonal Allergies?

woman with successful treatment for seasonal allergies

Seasonal Allergies

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc, Naturopathic Doctor

What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?

Allergy symptoms most often include:
  • congestion in your nose
  • pressure in your sinuses, which may cause sinus headaches
  • runny nose, usually with clear discharge
  • itchy, watery eyes
  • a scratchy throat
  • cough
  • dark circles under the eyes
  • puffy eyes
  • decreased sense of taste or smell
  • post-nasal drip

What Causes Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal allergies are not just due to an immune system response to pollen.  Your immune system should not consider pollen to be a foreign invader that requires an immune system attack.  Allergies are a sign of inflamed and irritated tissue in the respiratory tract that has become super sensitive to particulate matter that should not normally trigger an immune response.  Below are a number of factors that can contribute to this irritated tissue.

Underlying food allergies or sensitivities or intolerances

Almost everyone has sensitivities to certain foods.  The most common ones are dairy, eggs, gluten, pineapple, almonds and beans like kidney beans and green beans.  Therefore consuming these foods provokes the production of antibodies that lead to inflammation that can leave nasal tissue easily irritated by fumes, chemicals, dust, pollen or mold spores. Our naturopathic doctors can help guide you through an elimination diet or order blood testing for food allergies or sensitivities.

Toxin overload

If your liver is not efficiently clearing waste and pollution from your body, then these chemicals can accumulate and irritate tissue, leaving it sensitive to pollen. Improving phase I and phase II liver detoxification through supportive nutrients like n-acetyl cysteine, milk thistle, grape seed extract, vitamin B6 in the form of pyridoxal-5-phosphate, L-5MTHF, calcium-d-glucarate, indole-3-carbinol and amino acids like histidine, taurine, methionine, glycine and serine can help your liver to more easily package toxins for excretion.

Lack of vitamin C and vitamin B6

Vitamin C and B6 are both natural anti-histamines.  Both are necessary in greater quantities when you are under stress.  In some cases of seasonal allergies, helping my patient replenish both vitamins and has helped long term allergies to subside.

Lack of vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin that is crucial to the health of mucous membranes.  Mucous membranes are what line the entire respiratory tract, so a lack of vitamin A leaves that tissue unhealthy and more susceptible to irritation. One of the only foods that supplies pre-formed vitamin A is liver.  Otherwise, we acquire beta carotene from foods like carrots, Swiss chard, kale and spinach and our liver has to convert that to vitamin A.  Vitamin A accumulates in your body so long term supplementation is not recommended.  Vitamin A supplements should be avoided in women who are pregnant, breast feeding and in children. A vitamin A derivative has been shown to have anti-allergic effects in an allergy model in mice.  It works by balancing the immune system.

Overgrowth of harmful bacteria/yeast in the digestive tract and a lack of probiotic bacteria

Good bacteria help keep the immune system functioning normally by moderating immune system activity.  Antibiotic use wipes out good bacteria and allows overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria or yeast that can push the immune system into inflammation overdrive. Killing off gut bacteria or yeast excess and restoring healthy beneficial flora can help settle down an overly active immune system.  An Italian study found that a Bifidobacteria mixture was capable of significantly improving allergy symptoms and quality of life in children with pollen-induced allergies and intermittent asthma.  Another found a combination probiotic of Lactobacillus gasseri and two strains of Bifidobacter improved quality of life during allergy season for otherwise healthy individuals with self-reported seasonal allergies.

Our naturopathic doctors can help provide natural treatment for allergies.  Book an appointment now.

Natural Allergy Treatment Research

Miraglia Del Giudice M, Indolfi C, Capasso M, Maiello N, Decimo F, Ciprandi G. Bifidobacterium mixture (B longum BB536, B infantis M-63, B breve M-16V) treatment in children with seasonal allergic rhinitis and intermittent asthma.
Ital J Pediatr. 2017 Mar 7;43(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s13052-017-0340-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28270216

Dennis-Wall JC, Culpepper T, Nieves C Jr, Rowe CC, Burns AM, Rusch CT, Federico A, Ukhanova M, Waugh S, Mai V, Christman MC, Langkamp-Henken B. Probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri KS-13, Bifidobacterium bifidum G9-1, and Bifidobacterium longum MM-2) improve rhinoconjunctivitis-specific quality of life in individuals with seasonal allergies: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Mar;105(3):758-767. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.140012. Epub 2017 Feb 22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28228426

Son HL, Park HR, Park YJ, Kim SW. Effect of Retinoic Acid in a Mouse Model of Allergic Rhinitis. Allergy Asthma Immunol Res. 2015 Nov;7(6):590-8. doi: 10.4168/aair.2015.7.6.590. Epub 2015 Jun 2.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26333706

Thornhill SM, Kelly AM. Natural treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Oct;5(5):448-54. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11056414

Ipci K, Altıntoprak N, Muluk NB, Senturk M, Cingi C. The possible mechanisms of the human microbiome in allergic diseases. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2017 Feb;274(2):617-626. doi: 10.1007/s00405-016-4058-6. Epub 2016 Apr 26.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27115907

Dry Skin

woman with dry skin

Healthier Skin from the Inside Out: Natural Solutions for Dry Skin

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

You’ve applied a ton of moisturizer and still you have dry skin? That’s because the health of your skin is determined by internal factors as well as external factors like cold, dry winter air. Maintaining healthy, soft skin means addressing the internal and external factors that affect your skin.

Water

Water moisturizes your skin from the inside out.  Every one of your skin cells is like a little bag of water.  If you don’t take in enough water, your skin cells may look more like dry, shriveled up raisins instead of plump, moist grapes.

EFA’s

The shell of  your skin cells is an oily layer that helps hold water in and selects what is allowed to enter and exit your cells. Taking in healthy fats, called essential fatty acids, helps build a healthy shell that keeps moisture in. Eating Omega 3 fatty acids from whole foods like eggs, nuts and seeds and fish are especially important when dry winter air hits.

Vitamin A, C & E

Because of their antioxidant value, vitamins A, C and E are important for healthy skin. The antioxidant effect helps fight free radicals and oxidative stress that can damage your skin. Topical vitamin C cream has also been shown to improve skin quality and fight aging.

Make it edible

I always recommend that you only use products on your skin that you would put in your belly. At least 25% of the chemicals that you apply to your skin are absorbed into your blood stream and the liver must then detoxify them and remove them. The chemicals in moisturizers can have unwanted estrogen like effects.  I like extra virgin organic coconut oil to protect my face and lips from winter’s dryness and wind because it’s edible (hello, it’s going on my lips!) and it has anti-inflammatory effects.

Exfoliation

Scrubbing your skin can damage it because it strips off protective oils that keep moisture in, creating redness and inflammation. Exfoliation also removes superficial layers of skin before the underneath layers are ready, exposing tender new skin cells to the elements before their time.  Gently cleaning your skin with a washcloth and water and following that with an edible moisturizer is more soothing and gentle on your skin.