3 steps to a headache-free life

People who suffer chronic headaches are all too familiar with pain. Often chronic and debilitating, it stops you in your tracks. I know — I’ve been there…

There are almost as many different types of headaches as there are medications and triggers. But despite big pharma, few people find relief from the pain and symptoms of headaches and migraines in a pill.

That’s because the surest way to conquer severe headache and migraine pain is by preventing it in the first place. Even when it comes to certain medications, instructions for taking them stress that you must take the medicine at the onset. Once migraine pain grips you, it doesn’t want to let go. I’ve learned that the only way to really escape it is to go several steps beyond the triggers, directly to the causes to keep headache pain from diminishing your life…

Some background

I suffered debilitating chronic headaches almost my entire life. In fact, I began my journey into healthcare in search of a cure for them. I traveled the world to a dozen countries researching and taking treatments, both modern and traditional, to feel first-hand their effects. And after 20 years of field research, I came to see what I call the “three hidden causes” that are the root trigger of headaches and migraines…

The baseline of health

Homeostasis is the body’s baseline of health and well-being. It is the state where you feel good and centered. It is a state of being wherein you are neither too stressed, too tired nor too excited. You are in a state where your digestion is working properly, your body is absorbing proper amounts of nutrients and oxygen and you are efficiently expelling toxins through the skin, lungs, urine and intestines. Your sleep and wake cycle is set, you work and exercise, you have a balanced home-work-social life. Things are good.

But life often gets in the way and we don’t feel as good anymore. Poor health, pain and disease are all felt in a body that it is off balance, no longer functioning at homeostasis. Our bodies are now existing in imbalance. Chronic pain conditions, like headaches and migraines, are a result.

Imbalances invite headache

The causes of headaches are quite vast — yet they all have something in common: They are based in a combination of one of three types or categories of imbalance. These imbalance categories are known as Excesses (too much of something), Deficiencies (too little of something) and Stagnation (things moving too slowly). For short, I will refer to this concept simply as EDS (excess/deficiency/stagnation).

The three terms that comprise EDS revolve around the idea that to reduce the pain level, duration and frequency of your headaches, and to live as symptom-free as possible, you need to maintain a balance within and between your body, your mind and your diet.

In other words, you need to make changes to your lifestyle. It is important to avoid too much (i.e., excess) of anything that causes your condition or its symptoms to get worse, or too little (i.e., deficiency) of something to prevent it from getting better. Let’s now take a look at this concept of “three hidden causes” as it is associated with the connection between your body, mind and diet (i.e., your lifestyle) and the headaches and migraine you suffer.

1. Avoid excesses that trigger headache

Too much of a bad thing and too much of a good thing create imbalances in the body that have consequences. This is certainly true when it comes to headaches. Here are some key areas to watch…

  • While exercise is needed to help reduce the triggers of headaches, too much of rigorous forms like power lifting, long-distance running and high-impact activities can lead to muscle strain and spasm. Jarring movements from running and jumping and the stress and strain from lifting heaving weights, and the lactic acid that results from “too much, too fast” can cause a host of excess imbalances that trigger headaches.
  • A diet that is in excess of artificial sweeteners, nitrates, night shades, alcohol and caffeine is also detrimental to those prone to chronic headaches or migraine. What we consume in the form of food and beverages are among the most prevalent headache and migraine triggers.
  • Emotions also play a big role in the headaches experience. First, some push, push, push to get things done, to go the extra mile, to eat while working and then forgo rest and relaxation. This Type-A personality can actually contribute to getting both forms of headaches. The excessive pushing behavior wears down the body and trigger headaches by increasing stress hormones and reducing sleep.
  • The next part is the preponderance (excess) of low-vibration emotions that comes once you have been diagnosed with headaches. Wallowing in sorrow for too long, chronically feeling that nothing can be done and complaining to everyone are all ways in which an excess of negative emotion can derail progress. Headaches can feel worse than they are and can increase in pain and duration when you embrace a life excessively ripe with negative thoughts, feelings and emotions.

2. Correct deficiencies that lead to headache pain

  • Deficiencies also play a role in headaches and migraine cause and effect. If you have a diet that lacks the appropriate amount of whole, fresh and organic fruits and vegetables, you are depriving your body of the nutrients necessary for healthy function.

For example, a study has shown that some migraine sufferers are low in vitamin D, riboflavin (otherwise known as B2) and coenzyme Q10. There are more nutrients I’d suggest that you can read about here.

Melatonin, a hormone your body should naturally produce has been found to work better than amitriptyline. You can supplement it or avoid light in the evenings to help your body produce more.

  • Drinking too little water is also an issue because water keeps the tissue moist, the joints lubricated and the tendons and muscles supple. Dehydration does not allow the body to remove enough of the impurities and toxins that stress it. When these are left to recycle in the body, they can cause pain and inflammation.
  • As mentioned earlier, too much exercise can cause headaches but too little (deficiency) can also cause headaches because the body needs exercise to invigorate the blood, improve circulation and cardiovascular health and oxygenate the body.

3. Remove stagnations that keep health from flowing

When it comes to headaches there needs to be a “moving along” of the stagnations that trigger them. Generally speaking, these are experienced as tight, inflexible muscles in spasm that compress the spinal vertebra and cause pressure on the nerves (especially the trigeminal nerve).

  • Muscle spasms cause trigger points, which lock toxins within the muscle tissue, preventing fresh blood and oxygen to move freely in them, causing stiffness, localized pain and referred pain in the head. When the body is in one place too long, like prolonged sitting or lying, it is stagnating in place. This is unhealthy, especially for headaches, which occur less in a body where health flows.
  • Not embracing a headache-free diet (outlined in my book) is also a form of stagnation. It means you have not made up your mind to eat the right kinds of foods that help prevent headaches while passing on the foods that trigger them. It also means taking the supplementation necessary to help effect positive change. One of the key symptoms of a poor diet is constipation — a stagnation of waste product in the intestines, that triggers migraines through toxic re-assimilation into the blood. Don’t stagnate when it comes to diet and supplementation. Make a change, even if it is a small change each week.
  • Your mind and emotions can also stagnate and control you through their focus on the negative. Stress and anxiety make it hard to make decisions because you are worried of the outcome or afraid to begin a plan of change. This can be hard at times, but it is vitally necessary.

Restoring balance is the key

It would be a mistake to assume that only one of these three causes is the root of any health condition, especially a condition as complex as chronic headaches and migraines. In fact, it is usually a combination of all three EDSs that make a simple problem become chronic and seemingly complex. The first “cause” of an issue could be singular (i.e., an excess), but when not approached with the wellness model of health (i.e., restoring balance), it becomes multi-faceted.

The way to reduce the frequency, duration, and pain level of your headaches and migraines is to consider them, and your daily thoughts, beliefs and actions (i.e., lifestyle) from this “three hidden causes” perspective. If you can categorize where you are in excess you can then make changes toward decrease and balance. If you are able to list areas of deficiency you can then take steps to improve them. Where you find stagnations you can look for ways to “move them along.”

Begin to consider your headaches and their symptoms as examples of imbalances. Apply these concepts to your life that I’ve outlined for you and see where and when and how these may be the root cause of what is triggering your headaches and migraines. Relief won’t be far behind.

If you feel like you need extra guidance, check out my Headache Relief Action Plan detailed in my book, Headaches Relieved.


Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.