Chronic Headaches: Types, Symptoms and Natural Remedies by Functional Nutritionist Andrea Nicholson

Headaches are one of the most common medical complaints in the world. In fact, frequent or chronic headaches are very often a symptom or sign of a deeper health issue. Fortunately, there are many natural remedies for chronic and frequent headaches too, which can help you get relief without resorting to medication. The first step is figuring out what type of headache you have.

I spent years battling headaches of all kinds nearly every day. Ibuprofen was my go-to “solution” – except it simply masks the symptoms. It does NOT deal with the problem at hand. Truly healing my body and repairing my metabolic health was the only solution. I no longer have any headaches, ever. Read on to learn more about your headaches.

What are the types of headaches

Types: There are three main types of headaches: tension, migraine, and cluster. Some people experience chronic or frequent symptoms from more than one type at once; others don’t experience any particular pattern at all.
Tension headaches usually feel like tightness around your head–especially in your temples–and they’re caused by muscle spasms in your neck, face, or back. They’re the most common type of chronic headache and can be triggered by things like stress, depression, lack of sleep, poor posture, dehydration, and chronic inflammation.

Migraine headaches usually appear along with other symptoms called “aura” and are caused by inflammation in the brain that can be triggered by a wide variety of factors including food allergies, chronic stress, hormone imbalances, chronic inflammation, blood sugar imbalances, or certain medications.

Cluster headaches are the most severe of the major types of headaches. They usually occur over a period of time in groups or clusters, sometimes for up to three months. The symptoms of a cluster headache are sharp pain in your eye or temple area that can last for up to three days at a time and can come with other symptoms.

Causes for chronic and frequent symptoms

Chronic and frequent tension or cluster headaches are often caused by chronic inflammation and/or tension in the body. Chronic inflammation is an immune response to an irritation in the body – from poor diet, toxin or allergen exposure, overuse of medications, dehydration, poor posture, poor quality or low quantity of sleep, high-stress levels, and other lifestyle factors. Chronic tension is caused by stress, straining, or tight muscles in the head and neck.
Migraines are caused by excessive dilation of blood vessels in the head causing sharp throbbing or pounding pain. Research has shown many migraines are related to instability of the blood vessels that cause cycles of excess constriction followed by rebound dilation. This cycle can cause exceedingly low levels of blood in the brain followed by a period of increased blood flow that can last for days.

Natural Remedies for Chronic Headaches

Chronic headaches can be debilitating and keep you stuck in a painful state. In order to get relief, it is important to find natural remedies that will help with chronic headaches, rather than relying on pain medications that don’t fix the root cause and can make the problem worse by disrupting your gut health! Try these 12 natural remedies for chronic headaches:
  • Hydrate: drinking more water can help regulate blood pressure and blood volume which can help your blood vessels work more efficiently. Dehydration is one of the main reasons (root causes) for chronic headaches.
  • Exercise: Physical activity raises the heart rate and blood flow, which can help to reduce headache symptoms. Taking a brisk walk or even cranking out a burst of squats can make all the difference, even if you can’t get in a full workout! Sedentary lifestyles are another major cause for chronic inflammation and symptoms like chronic headaches.
  • Meditation: Take a short five-minute break from your daily routine and set aside time for meditation. Focus on deep breathing to relax your body while releasing any tension. Stress is a major factor in all chronic disease states, so prioritizing reducing stress loads and managing unavoidable stress is key.
  • Yoga: Begin with gentle yoga poses. Relaxing yoga poses like Child’s Pose, Cat/Cow Stretch, or Cobra Pose can all help release tension in your head and neck muscles. Like meditation yoga and stretching are great ways to reduce stress and tension in the body.
  • Warm Compress: Try a warm compress to help relieve chronic headaches. A warm compress can relax tense muscles in the shoulders, neck, face and scalp which helps relieve chronic headaches. This practice is a great soothing remedy that can help if the root cause is tight muscles. It may make migraines and cluster headaches better as well, though it won’t treat the root cause of those.
  • Massage Therapy: Headaches may be caused by tightness or tension in the shoulders, neck, and scalp, so incorporating a massage into your usual routine can help ease chronic headaches. Massage therapy can be very soothing and relaxing, as well as a great way to release chronic muscle tension.
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture has been shown in studies to treat chronic headaches with a very high success rate. Many health professionals use acupuncture as an alternative treatment for chronic headaches because of its effectiveness.
  • Herbs/Supplements: There are many herbs, nutrients, and supplements that can help with chronic headache symptoms. Some natural remedies for chronic tension or cluster headaches include vitamin B6, magnesium (especially in citrate, fumarate, malate or succinate forms), vitamin D3 with K2, high-quality fish oil, grape seed extract, pine bark extract, super greens. Some supplements for migraines include 5-HTP, riboflavin, magnesium, feverfew, butterbur, or ginger.
  • Diet: Some chronic headaches may be caused by chronic inflammation triggered by food sensitivities, additives or low-quality foods. Focus on eating whole, fresh or frozen foods rather than processed, refined, or premade products. This is especially true for refined grains, sugars, and oils (canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil). Stick to vegetables, quality animal products, limited fruits, and limited whole grains.
  • Avoid Toxins: We live in a toxic environment with exposures coming daily from the air, water, our food, and the products we use every day. Where possible, reduce exposure by eliminating personal and home care products with toxic ingredients (fragrances, preservatives, colors, and harsh cleaners). Buy organic foods and products when possible. Drink filtered water in stainless steel or glass containers. Avoid plastic water bottles at all costs. Don’t cook or store foods in plastic either.
  • Manage blood sugars: Insulin resistance is a far bigger issue than Diabetes alone. Chronically high blood sugars (and therefore insulin levels) are damaging to the blood vessels – and are, therefore, the number one factor in cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Blood vessels are directly involved in headaches as well – so blood sugar has a direct correlation with headaches. Manage your blood sugars (and insulin levels) and often your headaches will disappear! Managing blood sugar and insulin level is so critical to optimal health, it is one of the three main pillars I focus on with all clients in Nutrition Therapy.
  • Improve gut health: All health and disease begins in the gut. Most of the body’s chronic inflammation stems from something taken into the body that ends up in the gut. If the gut lining is damaged toxins and harmful microbes can enter the bloodstream to wreak havoc throughout the body. Much of this damage initiates from poor diet or intake of toxins (personal care, home care, and poor food choices). Healing the gut is a detailed process that I won’t go into here, but this is one of the specialties I work on with all of my clients.


If chronic headaches are a recurring problem for you, it’s important to figure out the root cause. Whether the chronic headache is caused by stress, poor diet, or chronic inflammation from allergies and illness, there are remedies available that can help ease your pain and deal with the cause of the problem. If you would like more information on how we could work with you to reduce chronic headaches in your life through holistic solutions please reach out! I want to help you eliminate chronic headaches from your life.


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