There are people who have never experienced a headache - and then there are the rest of us. Whether it is the once-in-a-while dull banging of a tension headache, or the everyday sinus headache, most folks are familiar with them. Headache can affect people of all age groups and ethnic origins, and can manifest itself anywhere from a nagging minor discomfort, to debilitating pain so severe that nausea and vomiting, visual disturbances, numbness, or difficulty speaking properly can occur. If you have headaches frequently, you should be under the care of a physician.
Headaches can be emotional, metabolic, or structural in nature. A hard day at work, a fight with a family member or spouse, not eating properly, poor posture - all can induce a headache. If this sounds like a typical sort of day, you're right; the cause can be difficult to determine because stressors tend to overlap. Many factors can come into play; sensitivities to foods or chemicals, slouching at work or in front of the TV, eyestrain or a change in the weather, difficulty in school or a dysfunctional home life are all common stressors.
For the occasional headache, an over-the-counter pain reliever like aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen will work just fine. Always take medication according to the instructions on the label; more is not better, nor will it work any faster.
For frequent headaches though, it is much better to find the stressing factor involved. Pain, in a very real sense, is our friend. It tells us that there is something going on that needs to be addressed. By covering up this pain without looking for the cause is to ignore this warning signal. Think about what would happen if you ignored the oil warning light on the dashboard of your car - bad things are going to happen.
So what to do? You might start by keeping a headache journal. List when the pain starts, what you were doing just before it happened, what cosmetics or other personal care products you used, what you ate, the weather or the environment you were in, what the pain felt like, what made it better, did you have any warning that it was coming on - all and anything you can think of, even apparently unrelated things. Over time this will help you to identify your common headache inducers. Try to be as complete as possible, and remember that there may be overlapping stressors. As you identify commonalities, try to eliminate or modify them in your daily life. Some, like a new perfume or exposure to cigarette smoke, may be easy to find and get rid of. Others, like a poorly designed work station or trouble at home can be more difficult to address. Watch for chemical stressors, they are everywhere; off gassing plastics in the home and work place, exhaust fumes and other airborne pollution, additives and preservatives in food and water - these can be some of the trickiest factors involved, and the hardest to deal with.
Here are some simple natural remedies for the occasional headache.
DANGEROUS HEADACHES - These are cause to see a physician at once.
If you or someone you know has a headache of this nature, see your family doctor immediately! If your doctor can not see you right then, go to the nearest emergency room, or dial 911 for an ambulance.
Stress is probably one of the most commonly used words in today's modern society, but stress is not new to the human condition. It has always been present; indeed we would not grow or advance in our endeavors if it were not, but it is now more harmful as the unrelenting pressure and demands of our modern world take their toll. The word is derived fron the Latin, 'stringere', which means 'to draw tight'. Our colloquial term 'uptight' accurately describes the response to stress.
The stress reaction is a primitive response to a potentially threatening situation, and has been of essential importance in ensuring the continued survival of individuals, as well as our entire species. Humans are the product of thousands of years of evolution, and survival has depended on quick reactions in times of danger. This has become known to us as the 'fight or flight' response.
Our ancestors developed this reaction for a quick burst of physical activity in situations calling for a life or death stuggle, or a fast run to safety. Today, however, these reactions that we have evolved to protect ourselves against perceived danger are viewed as unacceptable. To attack and fight a co-worker that has upset us would most likely result in legal ramifications, while running away from a tense business meeting would be seen as a mental abberation.
Until recently, it was thought that stress was the result of external forces exerting pressure on an individual, but this does not explain why one person may react calmly and another person may be completely devastated by a similar situation. It is now accepted that intensity of and reaction to stress is determined by how well a person feels that they can cope with the identified threat. The hormonal and chemical defense mechanisms have been retained as a means of protection, but now have a limited outlet. The inability to express a physical response to a stressful situation means that our natural instincts are being suppressed and turned inward, leading to a vast array of problems.
Although any number of factors can set a stress reaction in motion, the response is always the same. When confronted by a situation perceived as being threatening, our thoughts trigger two branches of the central nervous system. First, the sympathetic system fires us up, readying us for action. When the situation has resolved, the parasympathetic system cools us off, and returns us back to a normal state.
To fire us up, the sympathetic system initiates actions designed to activate all the major systems of the body. Neurotransmitters such as adrenaline flood the bloodstream, raising blood pressure, activating the immune system, and slowing or stopping the digestive process. Raised blood pressure increases blood supply to the brain, improving judgment and decision-making, and to the muscles, allowing for a burst of heightened activity. Extra fuel is taken from stored sugars and fats, providing additional energy. The immune system prepares to deal with potential wounds, reading itself to repel foreign pathogens and replace lost blood components. Blood is shunted away from the the digestive organs to provide more volume for the muscles to use. In extreme cases, the bowel and bladder involuntarily empty themselves, so as to relieve the body of extra weight and internal pressure that might slow us down.
When the perceived danger has passed, the parasympathetic system takes over, slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, dissapating the heightened immune response, and bringing digestion back on line. In short, undoing the all the actions set in motion by the sympathetic system, and returning the body to it's normal state.
All this is well and good - for short term stress - 'fight or flight'. Problems occur when stress is long term and unresolved. Even the low grade stress that is taken for granted as a part of our lives, when constant and not resolved with physical response, keeps our body systems on red alert all the time, and wears them down. High blood pressure, elevated heart rate and arrythmias are common today. Gastric distress in the form irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers abound. Immune systems, unable maintain such an increased level of readiness, are depleted, leading us to catch every little bug going around, or to turn and attack the body itself. Heart attack, migraines, allergies, menstrual difficulties, thyroid malfunction, diabetes, depression, skin disorders, all can be directly related to constant uremitted stress, as can chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, neuralgia, and many types of cancer. Some researchers believe that as much as 80% of modern illnesses have stress related causes.
Everyone is confronted daily with stressful situations. The extent to which these events lead to ill health will depend largely on a person's capacity to cope with those situations. The way that we perceive events affects the stress response more than the actual ability to cope with them.
We may not be able to change the stressful situations, but we can alter how we cope with them.
Regular exercise, if not pursued relentlessly, (causing more stress!), can help to activate the parasympathetic system, and reduce the stress response. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, or qigong are all useful as well, and help to rebalance the body's systems. Proper diet and adequate hydration can help to provide essential nutrients and transport them to where we need them, and help to eliminate wastes. Massage is a proven stress-buster. Interacting with a pet, a rewarding hobby, having and being a good friend, volunteering for a worthy cause, these are ways to gain control of our stresses. And let's not forget that maintaining a positive outlook is probably one of the most effective ways to reduce the effects of stress. If we can 'worry ourselves sick', then it only stands to reason that we can 'think ourselves well'.
Our stress response has been with us for a very long time. Humans seem to be evolving faster than our response systems can keep up, so it is up to us to arm ourselves with the tools we need to cope.
When you think about your health, it's easy to overlook something as simple and basic as water, but it is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Water is necessary for all body functions. It dissolves vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, and transports them to where you need them. It helps form the structure of your cells, tissues and organs. It regulates your body's temperature, cushions your joints and spinal column, and lubricates your digestive tract. Inadequate hydration can result in any or all of these utterly needed actions being slowed up or inefficient, and can lead to headache, fatigue, elevated heart rate, and lack of mental acuity, as well as general aches and pains.
If the body is not well hydrated, it will take water from the joints and muscles, and use it to maintain essential processes. When we feel tired and achy we tend to think that we need rest and an anti-inflammatory, when it is likely that all we really need is more water.
If you are thirsty, you are probably at least ten percent dehydrated already, so don't wait until that happens to drink some water.
Thirst, especially as we get older, may not be a reliable gauge of your body's need, and you could be low without realizing it. Sip water throughout the day. Most people require about 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, and if it's very hot, or you are exercising, even more. Don't include beverages containing caffeine such as coffee, tea, or cola in your calculations, as these are diuretic and can cause you to lose water at a faster rate, as can alcohol. More water is indicated if you consume a lot of these drinks, or are excercising and sweating hard. If you eat a lot of soups or juicy fruits and vegetables, you may need a little less.
A good rule of thumb is that you should feel the need to void your bladder every hour or so. Going all day without urinating is not good for you, and not just because of the pressure. Concentrated urine is corrosive to the bladder, so it's best to keep the urine as diluted as possible and to keep the bladder empty. Sports drinks are not a good alternative to water. They are designed to replace electrolytes and salts in your bloodstream when engaged in very heavy exercise during very hot weather, and are in addition very sugary. Used in excess when not needed, they can alter your blood chemistry.
Distilled or filtered bottled water is OK. Spring or well water is good too, if they are from a source that has been tested to insure that there is no contamination. When it is filtered, tap water is just fine, and there is less concern about all those plastic bottles going into our landfills, or the petrochemicals used to manufacture the bottles leaching into the water. Glass or stainless steel is probably the safest way to carry water, though not nearly as convenient. If you use bottled water, try to keep the bottles cool, as leaching occurs faster at higher temperatures, and keep the bottles in a cooler if you keep water in your car for any length of time. Most household filtration systems will produce clean, tasty water, especially those with an activated charcoal stage, and is ounce for ounce the cheapest way to go.
Remember: Adequate hydration helps all of your body systems to work more efficiently, and is one of the best and easiest things you can do for your health. Drink up!