Andrew Huberman – How to Stop Headaches Using Science Based Approaches
- Headaches are a common issue that can be debilitating for some people
- There are many different types of headaches, including migraine, tension, and cluster headaches
- Treatments for headaches range from prescription and over-the-counter drugs to natural treatments
- Natural treatments can be just as effective as drug treatments, but without the side effects
The sources of headache
- Tension headaches are caused by constriction of muscles around the skull and neck
- Meninges and dura are tissues that line the outside of the brain and provide a buffer between the brain and the skull
- Vasodilation (widening of arteries, blood vessels, and capillaries) can cause pressure between the brain and the skull, leading to headache
- Tension headaches and headaches caused by vasodilation are different and require different treatments
There are three types of neurons: motor neurons, sensory neurons, and modulatory neurons
- Motor neurons control the contraction of muscles
- Sensory neurons respond to events in the environment or the body
- Modulatory neurons adjust the relationship between sensory and motor neurons
Tension headaches can be treated by targeting motor, sensory, or modulatory neurons.
Painkillers can have side effects, so behavioral approaches can be used to modulate communication between sensory and motor neurons.
- Headaches are a common phenomenon, and understanding the different types can help identify the best treatment.
- Tension-type headaches often start as a halo or headband around the forehead and can extend to the jaw, neck, and upper back.
- Tension-type headaches are often caused by chronic psychological stress, a lack of sleep, and lifestyle issues.
- They can be localized to one area, such as the back or front of the head, or one side of the head.
- Migraine headaches are more common in females than males, with prevalence rates ranging from 6–43 percent.
- Migraine headaches are recurrent and can be debilitating.
- Migraine headaches have a deep neural origin and are characterized by vasodilation, photophobia, and aura.
- Treatment for migraine headaches should be tailored to the individual and take into account vasoconstriction and photophobia.
- Caffeine can be a potent treatment for headache, but its effects depend on the type of headache.
- Hormonal headaches are caused by changes in gene expression due to steroid hormones like estrogen and testosterone.
- Low estrogen and progesterone can cause headaches due to their impact on vasodilation and vasoconstriction and the inflammatory response.
- Hormonal headaches are most likely to occur during the first week of the menstrual cycle, when estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest.
- To prevent or treat hormonal headaches, it is important to understand what estrogen and progesterone normally do.
Omega-3 fatty acids
- Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches, including tension-type headaches, migraine-type headaches, and hormone-type headaches.
- Omega-3 fatty acids can be sourced from food, both animal- and plant-based, or supplemented.
- Omega-6 fatty acids are commonly found in seed oils and can be consumed in excess.
- Two studies have found that increasing omega-3 fatty acids and reducing linoleic acid can lead to a robust reduction in headache frequency and intensity.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to reduce inflammation and pain pathways associated with headaches.
Alternative headache treatments
- Peppermint and eucalyptus oil preparations can reduce the intensity of headache pain
- These oils can increase cognitive performance while in pain
- They have a muscle-relaxing and mentally-relaxing effect
- Menthol and peppermint activate certain channels in sensory neurons that respond to cooling
- Essential oils applied to the skin can reduce symptoms of tension headache
- Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat headaches and other forms of pain.
- Many insurance companies will now pay for acupuncture as an insured practice.
- Acupuncture has been shown to be effective for tension-type and migraine headaches.
- Acupuncture can reduce inflammation and activate anti-inflammatory pathways.
The magic of turmeric
- Curcumin, also known as turmeric, is known to have potent anti-inflammatory properties.
- Studies have shown that curcumin can be effective in treating different types of headache, including migraine.
- Doses of 80 milligrams per day, taken alongside 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches.
- Curcumin can inhibit cytochrome P450, so caution should be taken when taking anticoagulants.