We all get them, or we've had one before. The next time you feel that familiar pain and throbbing in your head, bypass the medicine cabinet for a quick, effective and safe cure.
It sounds too good to be true, but simple, natural solutions can halt your headaches without painkillers. Your body won't even miss them, according to pharmacist Suzy Cohen. She tells Dr. Joseph Mercola that natural approaches are better than pharmaceuticals .
"Traditional medicine has basically told people that they need to take medications to relieve the pain or to temporarily constrict the blood vessels around the brain to stop the blood flow that is causing your head pain," Cohen said. "That is how the most commonly prescribed drug like the triptans work."
Medicine alternatives like magnesium and riboflavin provide headache help without side effects, Cohen said. Taking conventional medicine can also mean feeling sick, exposure to toxins and bad reactions to food.
"A person with six symptoms could be reactive to one food, for example. It could be tied to the increase in one inflammatory cytokine, say, histamine, which is a big one with headaches," she said in her interview with Dr. Mercola.
So many of us have had a headache, but 13 percent of Americans suffer from some of the worst cases - migraines. Cohen refers to the severe, sometimes unbearable head pain as one of the most misunderstood medical disorders because their symptoms vary so widely from person to person.
Treating such a broad range starts with determining its causes. Experiencing a migraine can start with throbbing, sharp pains and as Cohen said, "auras" as the headache heats up. Many symptoms can follow, including nausea, vomiting, visual and auditory disturbances, sweats, trouble breathing fully and being sensitive to light, sounds and scents.
Keeping those symptoms away can be done by avoiding certain foods, including gluten, soy, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, dairy, eggs, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and caffeine.
Cohen said step one to treat a migraine is to "regenerate your cellular batteries," the mitochondria. Easy-to-find vitamins like coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), magnesium and riboflavin may get the headache-healing job done.
"CoQ10 is fantastic," Cohen said. "It's an antioxidant that's both lipophilic and hydrophilic, meaning, it loves water and loves fatty parts of the cell. It goes into every single cell all over your body, especially your brain and your heart. You know if you're CoQ10-deficient because you're more prone to headaches. Plus, a prolonged deficiency of CoQ10 can cause significant muscle pain as well as headaches. Now, here's the thing: people are seriously deficient in CoQ10 because there are so many drugs that deplete this nutrient, including the birth control pill, hormone replacements, antacids, diabetes drugs, and statins. These drugs deplete CoQ10."
Magnesium's presence in the body blocks headaches, but like CoQ10, certain medications can cause magnesium deficiencies, allowing migraines to begin. Cohen recommends a magnesium supplement if you take birth control pills, diuretics, antacids, acid blockers, omeprazole and esomeprazole.
By taking 400-600 milligrams of magnesium per day and eating plenty of green vegetables, migraines are less likely to occur.
Cohen suggests magnesium threonate, which is an emerging type of magnesium. She said it can penetrate the mitochondrial membrane, which helps protect your body from disease.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is a tool to help hinder headaches when taken in daily doses of 200-400 milligrams per day. Riboflavin has no side effects, Cohen said, but can be balanced with a "B complex" vitamin.
People who get regular migraines may have a genetic defect that keeps their cells from maintaining energy reserves. Researchers suggest riboflavin to help the body produce more energy at cell level. Other than a vitamin, riboflavin can be found in food sources like lean beef, whole grains, milk, mushrooms, broccoli and spinach.