A naturopathic physician is interested in helping the body heal itself. To discover what could be causing the painful attacks, a naturopath would conduct a physical examination coupled with a dietary and nutritional evaluation and allergy tests. A naturopath would also look at possible hormone-related causes as well as bowel toxemia (the presence of toxins in the digestive tract).
In this investigation of suspects, diet receives careful scrutiny. Certain foods have been shown to bring on tension or migraine headaches in susceptible people. The list of common culprits includes:
- aged cheese (especially yellow cheese)
- citrus fruits
- hot dogs
- red wine
- coffee (and other caffeine sources, such as soda)
Some of these foods contain substances that influence blood vessels in the head, which may explain their connection to headaches. With other foods, it's unclear why they are linked to headaches. Allergic reactions to food may be contributing to the pain. Sugar may contribute to headaches by causing wild fluctuations of blood sugar levels.
After an assessment, the naturopath would suggest a specific diet for the patient. Supplements also may be prescribed if any important nutrients are missing from the diet, such as magnesium or niacin (both of which have an effect on the proper functioning of blood vessels) and quercetin (which can help block inflammation, among other functions). A naturopathic physician from Seattle reported that some of his patients have found immediate relief from headaches by taking magnesium supplements. Finally, the naturopath would specify a program tailored to each headache patient that might include nutritional supplements, stress-reduction techniques, exercise, herbal medicine, acupuncture, naturopathic manipulation, and homeopathy.
For your first visit to a naturopathic physician, be prepared for a thorough discussion of your headaches as well as your general health, lifestyle, and diet. To help your doctor pinpoint what triggers your headaches, it's a good idea to keep a diary of habits and symptoms for at least one month. Be sure to note the following:
- When did each headache occur? How long was the attack? Was it mild or severe?
- What did you eat minutes, hours, or a day before the headache?
- Did you work late that day? Oversleep? Did you feel stressed or overtired?
- Did anything remarkable or unusual occur before your attack?
Women should also note their place in the menstrual cycle during the headache.