Headache Relief: Best-Ever Home Remedies

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More than 45 million Americans not only get headaches, but they also get them time and time again. Some people are born with biology that makes them headache prone. Most of these are tension headaches, which account for 90% of all headaches. The pain is typically generalized all over the head, and you may feel a dull ache or a sense of tightness.

But an estimated 28 million people experience migraine headaches, which are even worse. Migraine is a complex disease that causes severe and often disabling pain, usually located on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea, light and noise sensitivity, and other symptoms. Lots of things can set off a migraine attack, including changing hormone levels, poor eating or sleeping habits, dehydration, stress, weather or altitude changes, or more.

Headaches aren't fun for anyone and are especially crippling for migraine sufferers. OTC medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen can help, but you have to be careful not to overuse them, which can lead to a rebound effect that makes symptoms worse. Here are the best home remedies to prevent headaches and help them get better faster.

Avoid MSG

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) may bring out all those subtle and spicy flavors in wonton soup, but if you're one of the many people who are sensitive to this flavor enhancer, it might also bring on a whopping headache. Like other headache triggers, MSG launches its attack by dilating blood vessels and exciting nerves in the brain. If you get headaches and other symptoms from MSG, make sure it's left out when you order Chinese food. Many packaged products are also loaded with it, so read labels carefully for additives with names such as hydrolyzed protein, glutamate, and caseinate, all MSG in disguise.

Expert: The Editors of Prevention


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Skip Amines and Nitrates

A hot fudge sundae may sound heavenly, but it could also be a migraine sufferer's nightmare. Chocolate, which contains an amine compound called phenylethylamine, can cause blood vessels to constrict, then dilate, which may trigger a headache. The worst of the amines may be tyramine, an amino acid found in aged cheese, pickled herring, and liver. Other amine-containing foods include homemade yeast breads, lima beans, and snow peas. Nitrates, compounds commonly found in processed meat products such as hot dogs, bacon, and salami, also dilate blood vessels and may lead to head pain.

Expert: The Editors of Prevention

Fish Oil

A small study at the University of Cincinnati found that taking fish-oil capsules reduced the frequency and severity of migraines, compared with taking a placebo. While preliminary, these findings add to the mounting evidence of benefits from the omega-3 fatty acids in fish. You could also eat the equivalent of 2 ounces of fatty fish daily to reap similar headache-reducing benefits as those in the study.

Expert: The Editors of Prevention

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