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3 Common Causes of Headaches (and Migraines)

Posted by Melissa Melander on
woman in pain holding her head with a headache

The root causes of those random headaches and migraines you get surprisingly aren’t so random after all, and can be traced back to three overarching causes.

Infographic of the three main causes of headaches

Adjusting and eliminating certain factors may be the key to relieving or banishing those stubborn headaches altogether!  Read on to find out what common headache causes may be affecting you and discover headache relief without pain medication (NSAIDs).

  LED office lighting with view of city

1. Environmental Attributes.

Our environment and surroundings play a larger role than many think in how we feel on a daily basis. Many environmental factors contribute to, and can be the main cause of, headaches and migraines for daily sufferers. Some of these factors include:

1.1 Lighting, such as those from fluorescent lights, TV screens, and computer screens. Because, believe it or not, those bright lights above your office where you sit for 8 or more hours a day 5 days a week are a very common trigger for migraines. If you suspect this is the culprit causing your migraines/headaches, try to change up your work space or request different lighting. Perhaps turn off the lights altogether if you can and place a small desk or room lamp near you instead. Blue light filtering eye glasses may provide some relief from staring at a computer screen all day as well, especially if your eyes become blurred and dry during the workday.

1.2 Scents like gasoline, perfumes, tobacco, smoke, cleaners and chemicals. Strong perfumes and colognes - even scented laundry detergents and deodorants - can trigger migraines. Unscented detergents and deodorants are readily available and definitely worth a try.

When considering places to go out for an evening, it’s best to avoid bars and casinos where smoke is of abundance and often ventilation is poor. Outdoor seating and outdoor activities are great in that they provide fresh air and limit crowding, but be wary that smoking is often still allowed on most patios.

1.3 Weather and climate, including pressure (from an incoming storm, perhaps) and altitude changes; allergens including pollen, dust, pet dander, and mold; as well as bright sunlight can all trigger headaches. Some people are more sensitive than others to changes in the climate, and you may not even realize changes in altitude - however subtle - could be causing adverse affects on your body if it’s something you are not used to.

Unfortunately, no one can control the weather or climate; however, the ability our bodies have to adjusting to differing climates is astounding. If you recently moved to a place with a high altitude or strong sunlight, it may be a slow adjustment, but your body will eventually adjust - just remember to always carry sunglasses and take deep breaths!

 coffee mugs in a circle 

2. Food and Drink.

You have probably heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” In reality, it holds quite a bit of truth. Migraines and headaches can be commonly triggered by what we consume - or don’t consume. From food allergens to dehydration to vitamin deficiencies and more. Here are some specific food and drinks that may be the cause of your next headache:

2.1 Vitamin deficiency commonly associated with a lack of Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, folic acid, and magnesium.

2.2 Alcohol or Delayed Alcohol-induced Headache (DAIH), also known as a hangover. Alcohol intoxication can also lead to increased kidney output, further causing dehydration, as well as blood sugar imbalance due to the overworking of the liver.

2.3 Caffeine found in coffee, tea, and soda. Instead, try decaf coffee, herbal teas, and caffeine-free sodas. Just be aware that some sodas may have added food colorings (another common trigger, as you’ll soon find out).

2.4 Food additives and coloring such as Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), yellow dye #5, yellow dye #6, and red dye #40. These are more commonly found in foods across the USA, whereas in Europe, many are banned and others are highly regulated. If you are not sure if your food has added food dyes, it’s best to opt for organic foods as these additives are, by law, banned from organic food items.

2.5 Dehydration happens when the tissues in your brain lose water, which then causes the brain to actually shrink and pull away from the skull. The result then triggers pain receptors near the brain, leading to a headache. Dehydration also causes a loss in blood volume, which decreases the flow of oxygen to the brain and can cause pounding headaches.

A common rule of thumb is to aim for eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Yet with every rule, there are always exceptions. Such exceptions where your water intake should increase include: heavy exercise, hot climates and consistent perspiration, and higher altitudes. At altitudes far above sea level, the body can lose water up to twice as fast as when at sea level. Check out the Hydration Calculator and see if you are getting the recommended water intake on a daily basis.

2.6 Food allergies common to causing headaches include: aged cheese, chocolate, tomatoes, artificial sweeteners, eggs, dairy products, onions, citrus fruits, nitrites, and yeast & wheat (pastas and breads). In order to properly self-diagnose your mild/moderate food allergy, the suspected allergen must be completely eliminated from the diet for a minimum of 4 weeks (preferably 6 weeks). 

Dairy, for example, can remain in our body for 4 weeks at a time; for gluten, it can take 6 weeks for it to be completely flushed out of our system. So it is important to eliminate foods one at a time over a long period of time for the best results.

 athletic woman pulling hair back into a pony tail 

3. Physical Attributes.

For women, we often don’t consider that the way we style our hair could be causing our headaches or migraines. We often find it easier to blame other external factors because we are reluctant to admit - and change - our own lifestyle. But the truth is that physical attributes should be considered first and foremost when eliminating factors for your headache because, most of the time, they can be the most easily controlled. These factors could be:

3.1 Hairstyles including tight or tugging ponytails and hairspray.

3.2 Eyeglasses, such as wearing the wrong prescription, or glasses that are too tightly or too loosely fitted.

3.3 Sleep, either too much or too little, and drinking liquids just before bedtime. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, and limit liquids and exercise within an hour of bedtime, but preferably two.

3.4 Stress factors such as increased anxiety and exhaustion. Similar to indigestion, which people experience is worse when they are stressed, headaches are also our body’s reaction to stress. Self-care is key.

3.5 Exercise, just as with sleep, too much or too little exercise can actually cause headaches.

3.6 Hormonal changes, especially in women prior to the start of and during menstruation due to a drop in estrogen just before their period. Another factor at play in hormonal changes and imbalances may be due to hypothyroidism. Medications are available for those who suffer from hypothyroidism, but it is best to talk to your doctor to get properly diagnosed and treated.

Testing and tackling these common triggers is the key to eliminating each of them as factors, and will help you relieve and possibly rid yourself of headaches altogether. 

 woman laying down with blue cooling eye mask 

4. The EyeChill Cooling Relief Eye Mask.

Unfortunately sometimes, the causes of tension headaches and migraines can be unexplainable. At The EyeChill, we are here to help. We believe that self-care should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list.

If you are a chronic migraine sufferer, the EyeChill cool therapy eye mask is made just for you. The EyeChill relieves pain and targets pressure points around the eye socket, which are common areas of migraine and headache pain. Let the cool feeling relieve your headache and migraine and alleviate pain so you can get back to your life again - stress-free.

Try one today for the headache relief you have been searching for. Shop The EyeChill now.


Authored by Lindsay Bownik

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