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Nutrition

Is What You Eat Causing Your Headaches?

Keeping a food diary can help you figure out why you’re feeling pain.

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Headaches can be brought on by all sorts of things—stress, poor sleep, skipping a meal. But your headaches might also be triggered by certain foods, like processed meats, aged cheese, and caffeine. How do you find out which, if any, foods or drinks are causing those pounding temples? Sometimes it’s obvious: You don’t have a BLT often, but when you do, you end up suffering.

Other times it can be tougher to pinpoint what’s going on. That’s when it can be helpful to keep a headache diary. Here are a few tips for tracking what’s causing your pain (and in the meantime, feel better by taking a pain reliever like ibuprofen).

  1. Recall your day leading up to the headache. If you don’t experience headaches every day, you don’t need to keep a constant log of what you eat. Instead, when one hits (well, after it goes away), sit down and write out everything you ate and drank leading up to the headache. Also include when you ate (maybe you’d gone too long between meals, and that’s what brought it on).
  2. Get specific about the headache. Note the duration, intensity, and location of the pain. This can help you see if certain foods are related to mild headaches or severe ones.
  3. Add in other important details. Your headache trigger might not be food at all, so make sure you write down things like how much water you drank that day, your mood (are you stressed?), and how much sleep you got the night before. Be especially careful to note anything out of the ordinary or unique about your day. 
  4. Keep it handy. Write your headache diary in a notes app on your phone, in a notebook on your desk, or on a pad by your bed — basically, anywhere you’ll have easy access to it the next time a headache hits, so you can compare what brought on your symptoms.