5 natural headache remedies to consider before reaching for the pills
We're all going through a lot of stress and change right now; which means headaches may definitely be a part of your day to day experience. Many of us pop a pill and carry on. But a headache is really your body speaking to you through nerve signals sent from the blood vessels and muscles in your head. Your body might be telling your it's missing something--like a breather, a drink of water or some essential nutrients. Or it might be sensitive to something in your diet or your environment. Headaches can be triggered by a number of things: stress, fatigue, allergies, eyestrain, poor posture, a hangover, low blood sugar, hormones, or gut issues.
So, how can you help your headache go away or prevent one from happening? And are there natural ways that can help? Answer? YES, of course there are! And here are 5 of them to consider trying before you reach for a pill.
1. Get Hydrated
Often a headache is a sign of dehydration. Being dehydrated can cause irritability and interfere with concentration, making symptoms seem even worse. In fact, studies have shown that chronic dehydration is a common cause of tension headaches and migraines. But the good news is that still other studies have shown that drinking water relieves headache symptoms in most dehydrated individuals within 30 minutes to three hours.
So, the first thing to try immediately is to drink a couple of glasses of water or an electrolyte drink. The latter are especially useful in the case of a hangover headache, as alcohol dehydrates. Ideally, choose an electrolyte beverage without artificial colors and sweeteners as these can add to a headache. My favourite electrolyte option is Hydralyte fizzy tabs. Not too sweet, easy to use and carry with you. Bonus: it’s made in Canada, my home on Native land.
To help avoid dehydration headaches, focus on drinking enough water throughout the day and eating water-rich foods. Between the two of these, aim to consume 2 litres a day.
Your headache could be your body telling you it’s low on magnesium, needed for over 600 cellular reactions from making DNA to controlling how your nerves and muscles work. Magnesium keeps your bones strong, heart healthy and blood sugar normal. It also plays a role in your energy levels. In the brain, Magnesium is the gate keeper for NMDA receptors which are involved in healthy brain development, memory and learning. Without enough magnesium, your nerve cells become overstimulated and could be damaged.
Experts think Magnesium helps to block or lower pain chemicals in your brain while keeping blood vessels from tightening. It may also prevent the wave of brain signalling called cortical spreading depression, which produces the visual and sensory experiences that come with a headache, especially a migraine.
And really, who can say no to dark chocolate with nuts?
3. Get Some Exercise
A little bit of exercise can make big difference in decreasing headaches. Going out for a walk or a bike ride can help oxygenate your system which can reduce headache pain. Not to mention releasing an endorphin or two, which help decrease your sensitivity to pain while boosting your mood and increasing your sense of well-being. Exercise and fresh air can also help promote a healthy sleep pattern, which also lowers the stress that can lead to headaches.
Yoga poses and other forms of stretching can help ease tight muscles and tension in the head, neck and shoulders. This, plus flowing breathing, helps ease headache pain. You can go one further by doing deep breathing and other relaxation techniques can help you focus on the present moment and not on your pain body.
My mother swears by Reflexology. Ask her for advice on healing a headache and she’ll tell you to go massage your big toe! And no wonder... because it works.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qi (pronounced "chee") is your life force energy. Just as your body has a blood circulation system, so too does it have one for the flow of Qi. When Qi is not flowing smoothly, it may eventually show up as physical symptom, like a headache. So, if you have too much Qi gathering in the head, you might experience intense headache pain. Too little Qi in the head, and you might experience a milder, and achy headache. The key to relieving the pain, intense or mild, is to get the Qi flowing smoothly through your head. That’s where Reflexology comes in.
Reflexology involves the physical stimulation of specific acupressure points on the feet and hands to promote Qi circulation to optimize body function. Reflexology points are thought to be connected to the internal organs, brain, blood circulation, and nerve function by your Qi. Massaging those points on your foot or hand unblocks the flow of Qi and brings the body back into a healthy balance. And yes, you guessed it, one of those pressure point lives in your big toe!
Visit Chinese Reflexology with Hollie Tse for a more detailed explanation of how to give yourself a headache relieving Reflexology massage,
5. Head Massage using Aromatherapy
Plants and their essences have been used for centuries for their medicinal and healing properties. Certain oils are known for their ability to ease aches and relax the accompanying stress. Our Head Balm is formulated with four of these for their headache relieving properties.
Peppermint Essential Oil is known for its cooling properties and ability to help relax muscles and ease pain. It also stimulates circulation, which brings more oxygen to the brain which helps ease tight muscles.
Lavender Essential Oil is commonly used for stress relief and relaxation. There’s also strong evidence that lavender can help treat headaches and migraine.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil will open up the nasal passages, clear the sinuses, and help relieve sinus tension that causes the headaches. If your headaches are caused by sinus issues, eucalyptus essential oils can become your new best friend.
Rosemary Essential Oil has powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. It’s been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years for stress reduction, pain relief, and improved circulation, which can all help headaches.
We put those powerful essential oils into a salve which allows for good massagability. The beeswax in the salve does a brilliant job of holding those oils to your head for a longer period of time than a roll on, oil only headache remedy.
Half the magic of our Head Balm is the essential oils; the other half is the massage you give yourself. Rachel Richards walks you through the massage technique in the Video below. Melt some Head Balm between your fingers and thumb in both hands and then follow along with Rachel. Add more Head Balm as needed.
What are your favourite natural headache remedies?
CHOOSE CALM AND CONNECTED THROUGH COVID19
As the COVID19 story unfolds, many of us are feeling a little stressed out and scared. The words "lock down" have a decidedly negative, trapped feel to them. I came across a wonderful, positive alternative today in my internet travels: Safe Harbour. We are currently anchored in the safe harbour of our homes until the storm passes.
Humanity has an amazing ability to rise above adversity and be our best selves. I see so many examples out there of people pulling together and reaching out in different ways to help and support each other, often without even being in the same room. I’m feeling hopeful.
Here are a few some resources to help you and your loved ones keep stress levels down and some feel good articles to keep your spirits up.
TURN OFF THE NEWS FOR A WHILE
Words illicit feelings which in turn affect our bodies and frame of mind. So in a time such as this one, it can be a good idea to download less negative information and open yourself up to more positive messages. Happiness hormones really help us on the health front. So turn off the news for a while. That doesn’t mean you have to completely ignore what’s going on in the world. It just means give yourself a break from stressful mass media messages. Check in once a day for a short period of time just to be updated and then get on with the rest of your day.
SING, SING OUT LOUD
According to Uplift Connect, “The neuroscience of singing shows that when we sing our neurotransmitters connect in new and different ways. It fires up the right temporal lobe of our brain, releasing endorphins that make us smarter, healthier, happier and more creative. When we sing with other people this effect is amplified”.
People in Europe know the score on this one. Here are some feel-good stories from Europe of people joining in song together. In Italy, people have been singing or jamming together across balconies. In Milan, a DJ played music for the neighbourhood, while in Florence, a tenor gave a beautifully moving concert of Nessim Dorma.
Inspired by the singing in Italy, Bono has written a new song called Let Your Love Be Known. The song was released on St. Patrick’s Day so that people could continue celebrating despite not being able to gather in the same room. It was posted on U2’s Instagram page.
SHAKE YOUR GROOVE THING
Get yourself and the kids moving. Random acts of dancing (my go-to) can be really helpful in times of stress. From Arthur Murray Dance Centers, “...dance has the ability to act as a stress reliever stems from the idea that when the body feels good, the mind does, too. Any type of physical activity releases neurotransmitters and endorphins which serve to alleviate stress. Neurotransmitters are chemicals within the brain that help communicate messages throughout the body. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller to reduce stress and improve the mind’s perception of the world. Thus, after a good workout the endorphins cause the body to feel calm and optimistic. The endorphins also aid in improving the quality of sleep, so that a few sleepless nights due to stress can be avoided after dancing!” So put your favourite tunes on and let ‘er rip!
In Seville, Spain, a fitness instructor led a workout for quarantined citizens. Closer to home in Vancouver, Canada, VYVE is hosting a virtual dance party on March 20. Turn up the tunes and have a romp around the living room.
PRACTICE PEACE, GET GRATEFUL AND HELP WHERE YOU CAN
Meditation and deep breathing techniques are really useful right now. These are practices that allow us to connect with our intuition and inner knowledge. It also helps keep us calm. This would be a great time to teach these tools to your kids. According to the Chopra Center, meditation gives “…kids the tools to help them fend off negative thoughts and behaviors, build self-confidence, focus, and treat others and themselves with respect and appreciation is a gift they will have for the rest of their lives.” They offer three kid-friendly meditations to try.
Practicing gratitude in times of uncertainty is a really great way to stay focused on the positive. Try journaling, writing down all the people and things in your life you are grateful for. Take the time to expand your list with why you are grateful for them. When you feel anxiety, return to your list to remind yourself of what’s most important to you. And when its possible, share your gratitude. Let people know what you appreciate most about them.
In Spain, people felt it important to express their gratitude for their hardworking, dedicated health professionals. They came out collectively onto their balconies at 10pm to applaud and thank them.
There are many of us coming together in the community to help each other out. In Vancouver, Canada, a FaceBook group, Caremongering YVR - Vancouver Community Response to COVID19, offers a place for people to connect and help each other. A similar one has been set up in North Vancouver, COVID19 Coming Together. Look for similar groups in your neighbourhood. I’m sure they are out there. Because kind and giving is just who most of us really are!
Don't feel like you have to help in a big way right now, unless you feel called to do so. Every little thing helps, like calling your friends and family and checking in with them; and observing self-isolation protocols and your self-care rituals. Don't let fear over take you, even in the grocery aisle. Take only what you need and leave some things for others, even the toilet paper! Be as considerate and loving as you can.
As for me, I’m at home looking after my loved ones, checking in with family, friends and neighbours and helping where and how I can. At home, we’ve divided up chores and responsibilities and we’re doing a lot more cooking (also a time for Kitchen Dance Party and Sing A Long). Davida and Zak just made a most beautiful, tasty braided cheesy garlic and herb bread. Thom and I are spending time in the garden. He needs those Vitamin D rays; I’m getting ready for planting season. I find it reassuring that despite all this, Mother Earth just keeps going. If you pull the camera out a bit, you might see a silver lining: all of us staying at home is giving the Earth some space to clear up some of our mess. Let's not get in her way.
I wrote a poem that I want to share with you, if you don’t mind.
Birds have come to life in Wuhan
Singing the earth back into health
Swans and the dolphins frolic in the canals
loving the earth with their joy
Smog rolls away in Shanghai
Letting the light back in
Neighbours sing to each other from balconies
Reminding us that we are in this together
Families dance around the living room
Snatching fears back from the unknown
This love that powers our planet
This is who we truly are.
Stay healthy, stay calm and keep singing! We are in this together.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
A TOOLKIT FOR STAYING RATIONAL THRU COVID19
I have been reading a lot about COVID19 lately, as, no doubt, have you. It feels like we're being bombarded by information and a lot of fear and uncertainty that seems pretty confusing at the outset. But I’m not one to panic easily in the face of illness. I mean, I’m the woman who chose to be with a man with MS, knowing he would need care-giving as we aged together, right? And I have to say, after having done some research, talking to people and checking in with my own intuition and heart, COVID19 doesn't call for a change in our approach. We are treating it with the same kind of calm and common sense that we apply to any flu that crosses our threshold.
I'm not a medical practitioner, so none of this is meant as medical expertise. I just want to share some resources I've found in my internet travels with you that are helping me stay sane during this time period. Hopefully they do the same for you. Take only from this what serves you, and leave the rest.
Before we get to the Toolkit, here is a word from the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. I found his words a reassuring reality check.
“...we’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic...This is a time for facts, not fear. This is a time for rationality, not rumours.”
From a speech given in the Congo on February 15, 2020
On that note, here's our Staying Rational Toolkit
1. If you are looking for a medical paractitioner with a voice of reason, here is an article from holistic pediatrician Dr. Elisa Song on the medical implications of COVID19. Her intention is to meet fear with facts, helplessness with pro-activity. Of course, the fact that she cites some of the same resources I found in my internet searches only helps my trust-in-her factor. She updates the article periodically, including new stats and information as the virus story unfolds.
I’m finding it more comforting hearing from alternative and holistic practitioners at this time because they seem to be more focused on on logical and achievable solutions. They speak about boosting the immune system in a number of ways that don’t rely on a non-existent vaccine cure, but rather on the natural healing wisdom we as a collective whole have been using for centuries to stay healthy.
2. Here is some information from doctors in Shanghai about recommendations to use high doses of Vitamin C to treat the virus as well as this one containing some anecdotal evidence from a family in China that survived the virus.
When my friend Cat, (who lives in a wheelchair due to a virus that attacked the motor centers of her brain 18 years ago) called in an understandable panic, I sent her these articles. They helped, at the very least, to ease her anxiety and bring her back to calm. More importantly, they alleviated the feelings of helplessness that can come up in the face of pandemic talk. In short, there are things we can do that have been proven to work in a high diagnosis zone.
3. Here is a link to the John Hopkins Hospital’s world map on the virus.
I found this resource particularly helpful in keeping things rational. It tells us how many cases have been reported across the world, by country. It also tell us how many people have died. But more importantly, it tells us how many people have RECOVERED. The number of is significantly high in comparison. This map and its number charts were particularly calming. Isn't it amazing, the power our minds give to numbers? And the trust we have in them? If you want to geek out some more on COVID19 reports and guidance, John Hopkins has a resource center that you can explore
4. Follow common sense advice from experts to help protect yourself from the virus. Some of these measures include:
• Monitor for symptoms and if you are symptomatic, stay home and take care of yourself. I'll be exploring more on these in more posts to follow.
• Minimize social contact and avoid large groups.
• Postpone non essential travel for the moment
• Frequent handwashing. Here’s a video from The National Health Service in the UK on how to thoroughly wash your hands. It's a little corny but it gets the message across.
• If you're going to leave the house, make sure you're wearing Personal Protective Equipment, especially a mask and gloves. Maintain a six foot social distance.
Washing my hands thoroughly is definitely a part of my daily routine of ensuring the products I make meet Health Canada’s safety standards. But because I have sensitive skin and eczema on my hands, I have to choose gentle soaps. Our Thieves Foaming Soap is a great option. The soap in it is effective yet gentle. The essential oils in it have antibacterial properties that can help kill germs. I usually follow up with a light coat of Free Lion Body Butter to keep my hands nourished.
Above all, when the fear hits, remember that it is just another flu virus. Stay calm, follow health professional's suggestions, and take care of your immune system. You've got this.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
What are you doing to stay sane at this time? Please comment below.
ACHES, ECZEMA AND CRAVINGS? IT COULD BE LEAKY GUT
What could joint pain, skin, problems, sugar cravings, food allergies, food sensitivities, constipation and autoimmune disease have in common? Would you believe, Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The ancient Greek physician and Hippocrates said that âall health and disease begins in the gutâ. Maybe he was on to something. Today, scientific, published study after study (which number in the several thousands) have grown our understanding of how modern diets and lifestyles negatively affect gut function and so lower our disease immunity In short, we could be currently eating ourselves into unwellness.
When my partner Thom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006, the neurologists tried a few drug combos, none of which worked. They verbally patted his head and told him that there was nothing to be done, that he should just accept his fate like a good boy. The condescension is not exaggerated. Enter me into his life in 2011, unable to accept that verdict. As a 3rd level Reiki practitioner familiar with plant-based remedies and aromatherapy, I had been around enough situations where people (including myself) could turn around physical conditions without having to revert to Western Medicine and its âtriage managementâ approach. And so the research into what could help Thom began. Which is when we met, âLeaky Gut Syndrome".
WHAT IS LEAKY GUT SYNDROME?
Your gut is a powerhouse that works night and day to process the food-fuel you put into your body. Your gut lining is like a security guard that lets beneficial nutrients into your bloodstream while keeping the toxic waste out so that it can be eliminated. Now imagine that there are so many toxins in your intestines that they have riddled your gut lining with holes through which undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacteria are free to enter your bloodstream and poison your body. Now you have Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Studies show that 80% of your immune system cells live in your gut. When random particles enter your bloodstream, your body sets off its warning alarm to tell your immune system to call in the troops and fight the infection. Your immune response will protect you, but each time itâs triggered, it causes systemic inflammation. And if the stream of toxins is relentless, your immune system will go into overdrive, preventing your body from being able to heal and repair itself naturally. The long-term effects of this could be more chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. Leaky gut has also been linked to autism, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, obesity, cancer and Multiple Sclerosis. Cue Light Bulb Moment.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE LEAKY GUT?
According to those same studies, thereâs a direct link between the gut and the skin (gut-skin axis) gut and brain (gut-brain axis). What that means is that thereâs a long list of symptoms you could have when your immune system is fighting toxic infection. Here are some of them:
â¢ Skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis
â¢ Allergies, food sensitivities, and food intolerances
â¢ Digestive symptoms, like bloating, constipation, diarrhea
â¢ Candida yeast overgrowth
â¢ Irritable Bowel Diseases, like Celiac Disease, Crohnâs and ulcertaive colitis
â¢ Autoimmune diseases, like Hashimotoâs, rheumatoid arthritis, MS
â¢ Depression, anxiety
â¢ Hormonal imbalances, including PMS and estrogen dominance
â¢ Nutrient deficiencies
â¢ Brain fog
ââ¢ Chronic fatigue syndrome
The ones that twigged for Thom were Autoimmune disease, food allergies, skin conditions, brain fog, asthma and depression. So I began to research how we might be able to heal his gut.
CAN YOU HEAL A LEAKY GUT? EAT GUT HEALING FOODS
Our modern, North American fast food/processed food diet really sucks for health and wellness. The major culprits, in our experience, are refined sugar and carbs, trans-fats, gluten, non-organic dairy products,, wheat, additives and preservatives and pesticides. These pro-inflammatory foods are most damaging to gut health. Yet in North America we consume them on a regular basis.
So we made changes to his diet. Bye Bye Donuts, brownies, dairy, pasta, bread, noodles, lagers. Hello Green Smoothies, grass fed meat, coconut oil, veggies and fruits, seed butters, bone broth, sauerkraut, and Guiness. This process took some time. We eliminated foods and put them back to see what he reacted to. In the end, we found ourselves in the Paleo Diet terrain, which also works for me and my eczema. Iâve included a downloadable PDF from www.blog.kettleandfire.com of lists of foods that heal Leaky Gut and foods to stay away from. There are some things on the âNever Eatâ list that Thom can eat, just not everyday. Itâs all a matter of paying attention, trial, error. Or getting yourself tested to see what foods are âno go zonesâ for you. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to download the PDF.
Here are some gut-healing must-haves:
â¢ Bone Broth. It's full of collagen, gelatin and glutamine, which help heal and repair the gut lining. We make ours broth at the top of the week in a slow cooker. It get put into smoothies and other meals.
â¢ Lightly cooked veggies - steamed or stir fried in coconut oil. The rule of thumb is that raw foods can be hard for a leaky gut to digest. Iâd say see what works for your gut.
â¢ Coconut oil. Its natural antibacterial properties help combat bad bacteria in the gut; its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe and calm the intestinal lining. Besides, it provides much needed âbrain fuelâ. An essential ingredient of Thomâs smoothies, and my go-to for stir frys.
â¢ Grass fed meats are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids and mineralsâ two nutrients needed for gut health. And it tastes WAAAAY better than grain-fed meats.
â¢ Wild fatty fish or fish oil is an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids. Fish also contains vitamin D, which has been linked to gut health. We also use flaxseed oil.
â¢ Oat Juice. It helps soothe and repair intestinal linings. We found that this was the case with Thom. If you have serious grain intolerance, this might not work for you.
KEEP STRESS LEVELS DOWN
This one is critical because stress unleashes hormones in your body that can exacerbate the immune system. Here are some suggestions to beat stress.
â¢ Go to bed an hour earlier each night (bonus: every hour of sleep you get before 11 p.m. is said to be worth 2 hours). I must confess that Netflix and binge watching sometimes makes this one hard to do!
â¢ Turn off the Tech before bed time. The artificial blue light from screens is linked to disturbances in your natural sleep and wake cycles. Yeah, also not an easy one for me, much easier for Thom.
â¢ Spend time outdoors (even if itâs just a 20-minute walk during your lunch break) to absorb vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is known as the âsunshine vitaminâ because it promotes a happier mood, and it also plays an important role in reducing gut inflammation. This one makes a huge difference!
â¢ Yoga, meditation, and exercise can help ground you through stress and release thoseâhappy hormonesâ, your bodyâs natural anti-depressants. Thom has been hitting the gym with our friend, Pam three times a week. His stability, strength and mood have greatly improved. I have been walking more and going to Zumba Classes. A little happy dancing goes a long way!
ââ¢ Hang out with with people who inspire and uplift. Do more things on your own that nurture your spirit. Spend less time with people and situations that depress or create anxiety. This is totally making a difference for Thom. And music is his go-to for soul nurturing.
PUT IN SOME GOOD BACTERIA
Probiotics are incredibly important when it comes to healing and preventing leaky gut. Not only do they help keep bad bacteria out of your digestive tract, they also strengthen the gut lining, to help prevent leaky gut. Thereâs a few things that can deplete good bacteria from your system: antibiotics, chronic stress, too many carbs, too much refined sugar and stomach viruses. But fear not, you can replace good bacteria with fermented foods like:
â¢ Unsweetened coconut or goat milk yogurt (organic cows milk yogurt if you donât have dairy sensitivities)
â¢ Apple cider vinegar (raw, unpasteurized, and with âthe motherâ)
â¢ Beet Kvass
â¢ Organic unsweetened goat milk kefir
âOr you can take a probiotic supplement that will contain several different strains of good bacteria. These can be found in the refrigerated section of your local health food store. Goat milk kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi are Thomâs go-tos. Mine is organic yogurt, which I have with fruit and nuts in the morning.
DETOX YOUR SYSTEM
Detox Your System
While you canât control all the toxins around you, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure to them. Number three below is actually one of my inspirations for starting Free Lion Body Care in the first place.
â¢ Drinking plenty of clean, filtered water.
â¢ Choosing organic produce when possible.
â¢ Switching to natural cosmetics, body care products, and household cleaning products. I make my own (!!).
â¢ Making it a priority to sweat. Sweating through exercise helps your body eliminate toxins naturally.
âThe state of your gut matters to your health, on a daily basis. Even the most basic, little changes can mean the difference to feeling more energetic, having healthier looking skin, and having deeper, more restful sleeps. And who doesnât want that!?
It is my hope that these changes weâve made are setting Thomâs body up for some success in the eventually healing MS department. Already we have seen improvement, though not total reversal, in his symptoms. And dude is WAAAAY happier to be around these days. I have no idea if the damage already caused by the disease is actually reversible. Apparently, the MS doctors donât either. So it comes down to choosing between, âNothing you can do, but be a good boy and have this pill while youâre waiting to dieâ vs. âHell, YA, letâs give that natural remedy a try. Whatâve we got to lose? And are you up for sit skiing this winter, honey?â For us, that choice is a no brainer.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team.
This blog post represents my opinion and experience only. Do what works for you. Below is downloadable PDF infographic on foods the help or hinder the gut.