Out of nowhere, it feels as if an anvil has fallen on your head, but you’ve got firm plans to have the grandkids over for a movie night. You could reach for anti-inflammatory medication, cancel the movie and hide under the covers or find a more natural approach to ease your headache.
Chances are that you have something in the kitchen that will help. While there are some edibles that can trigger a headache, there are also a variety of foods that can help eliminate headaches and migraines. We’ve put together a list of 19 foods that can help relieve your headache pain in no time, and get you back on your feet.
1. Tart Cherries
Researchers at Michigan State University found that fresh tart cherries have anti-inflammatory properties similar in potency to those found in over-the-counter nonsteroidal pain relievers. Cooked or dried cherries don’t have the same effect. However, a bowl of fresh cherries can help relieve your headache pain quickly.
George Metaljan, the author of “The World’s Healthiest Foods,” wrote, “Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets. Both have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.” Beets are also high in Vitamin B3, which can help suppress inflammation.
Both beets and beet juice have been shown to reduce inflammation and ease headache pain. If you opt for beets, cook them for no longer than 15 minutes to maintain their full nutrient profile and anti-inflammatory betalains.
3. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are one of the richest food sources of magnesium available. One serving of pumpkin seeds contains nearly 40 percent of the recommended daily amount of magnesium for an adult.
Magnesium has been shown to reduce swelling and decrease inflammation. Many people who suffer frequent headaches are deficient in magnesium. Maintaining a diet high in magnesium-rich foods can relieve headaches and prevent the occurrence of future headache pain.
4. Tea or Coffee
One cup of strong, black tea or caffeinated coffee can often eliminate a headache in about the same amount of time as over-the-counter medicines.
Current research has found that people with higher levels of caffeine in their blood tend to produce less inflammatory molecules.
Make sure to drink plenty of water when you use caffeine to ease your headache. Caffeine is also a diuretic and can contribute to dehydration ― a common cause of headaches.
One of the common side effects of a low-carb diet is a headache. If you are having a low-carb headache, consider eating an apple. The high fiber of apples decreases their glycemic load to almost nothing, so it shouldn’t throw off your diet too much. Because apples are also full of water, they’ll help hydrate you as well in case your headache stems from dehydration.
6. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E. If you’re having a hormonal headache, due to menstruation, foods high in vitamin E can help ease your pain. Vitamin E has been shown to relax the blood vessels, which helps bring relief from headaches.
One recent study of 72 women experiencing menstrual headaches, showed that the participants who were given vitamin E had less severe headache pain, and less light sensitivity than the participants who were given a placebo.
If you’re suffering from a dehydration headache, enjoy some cucumber slices. Cucumbers are 90 percent water. So, they’ll help you get hydrated in a hurry. Other fruits and vegetables with high water content are lettuce, zucchini, cauliflower, watermelon, and radishes.
8. Dried Apricots
Cluster headaches and migraines are often symptoms of low potassium. If you have a migraine or a headache on one side of the head, such as around the eye, you may benefit from foods high in potassium.
Just one serving of dried apricots contains 43 percent of the potassium you need in a day. Try eating a serving of dried apricots the next time you have a migraine or cluster headache. Potatoes are also high in potassium if you leave the skin on. A baked potato might be another excellent choice to boost your potassium levels the next time you’re suffering from a headache.
9. Hot Peppers
Capsaicin is a natural component of chili peppers that has been used for centuries to relieve pain. Consuming hot peppers can help eliminate a sinus headache by decreasing congestion and opening the airways. It can help relieve the pain of other types of headaches because of its analgesic properties.
If you aren’t a big fan of eating a fistful of peppers when you’ve got a headache, try enjoying some chips and hot salsa to relieve your pain.
Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. Recent studies have shown a correlation between daily consumption of fish or fish oil and less frequent severe headaches.
Salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. When you have a headache, consider a serving of salmon to help relieve your pain. Trout, herring, and mackerel are also good sources of omega-3 fats.
Eggs are naturally high in vitamin B2. Vitamin B2 is also known as riboflavin, and it has been shown to improve mitochondrial functions in the brain. Better mitochondrial functions have been linked to migraine prevention. Milk, mushrooms, and meat are also good sources of Vitamin B2.
Bromelain is a potent, inflammation-fighting enzyme found in pineapples. It is excellent for reducing pain from headaches. Although all parts of the pineapple contain high amounts of bromelain, it’s most concentrated in the core of the fruit. Enjoy some fresh, canned or frozen pineapple at the first sign of a headache.
Studies have shown that ginger, from the fresh root or in dried form, relieves pain associated with migraine headaches as effectively as certain prescription medications. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that make it an excellent food to ease headaches.
Chew on a piece of ginger straight from the root. Make ginger tea or keep some ginger candies on hand to eat when a headache threatens to ruin your day.
Research has confirmed that curcumin, the healing compound found in turmeric root, decreases the body’s sensitivity to pain and inflammation.
The next time you’re suffering from a headache or migraine, make a simple curry with garlic, ginger and turmeric in a base of coconut milk. Add in some vegetables and enjoy a delicious meal. Your headache will likely disappear.
It may not be particularly fantastic for your breath, but garlic can almost instantly relieve your headache pain. You can chew on a clove of garlic, finely chop it up and add it to a bowl of salsa or blend a few cloves into a homemade hummus. Garlic is a potent anti-inflammatory food that works well to combat a headache.
16. A Glass of Milk
One study of eight women with chronic headaches was given calcium and vitamin D. All eight of the participants reported a dramatic improvement after taking the supplements.
Cow’s milk and most plant milk alternatives contain calcium and vitamin D. Have a glass of any type of milk when you have a headache. Consider incorporating a glass or two of milk into your daily diet to ward off future headaches.
Certain nuts can trigger a headache in some people. However, almonds can prevent and relieve headaches. Almonds are high in the amino acid called tryptophan. Tryptophan promotes the release of the feel-good hormone serotonin. Additionally, almonds contain high levels of magnesium. Magnesium has also been shown to help ease headache pain. Almonds also contain salicin, which is an anti-inflammatory component found in willow bark, the tree that produces aspirin.
A handful of almonds may be exactly what you need when you’re fighting a headache.
Spinach is an excellent food for headache relief. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, which is a common cause of headache pain. Spinach is also high in magnesium, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory mineral that relaxes all your muscles and helps relieve headaches.
For a triple whammy headache elimination, try a fresh spinach salad topped with pumpkin seeds and chopped tart cherries.
19. Red Meat
Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve put red meat on the good list in a health and nutrition article. However, for headache relief, red meat may be a good idea. Red meat is high in the natural compound called CoQ10. The Canadian Headache Society says CoQ10 is a migraine-preventing nutrient. Red meat is also rich in vitamin B2, which has been shown to prevent migraines. Maybe a nice, juicy burger is a good idea when you’ve got a blinding headache.
With so many excellent and effective natural remedies for headache pain, over-the-counter or prescription medicines should be your last resort. Let your kitchen be your first line of defense to relieve pain from headaches or migraines.
Furman, D. (2017). Expression of specific inflammasome gene modules stratifies older individuals into two extreme clinical and immunological states. Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/nm.4267
Jensen, R. (n.d.). Headaches can be relieved with calcium and vitamin D. Retrieved from: http://www.edoctoronline.com/family-children-health.asp?headaches-can-be-relieved-with-calcium-and-vitamin-d=0&c=2&articleid=6110
Metaljan, G. (2018). What’s new and beneficial about beets? Retrieved from: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49
Wang, H. (1999). Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of anthocyanins and their aglycon, cyanidin, from tart cherries. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10075763