As a dentist, it’s my job to pay attention to what my patients are eating and how diet might be affecting the health of their teeth and gums. But the way our bodies interact with food is more complicated than that. When we eat and drink food that nourishes us, the body responds by feeling energized and alert. But when we eat food that contains little nutritive value or hinders the healthy function of key systems in some way, the body communicates in the best way it knows how – with discomfort or pain.
Indigestion, heart burn, food poisoning, and other gastric symptoms can all be quite uncomfortable, and it’s easy to relate those reactions directly to food. But the digestive system isn’t the only system in the body that will react when the wrong food or not enough food is present in the system. In many cases, head pain will precede or even replace gastric pain or discomfort as the body’s initial reaction to certain foods.
In my work with TMJ disorders and other forms of chronic pain over the years, I have come to understand that headaches are almost always multifactorial. The position of the teeth and how that relates to joint and muscle function may play a role in triggering head pain, but for most of my patients, other factors are almost always involved. And food, or the lack of it, is often a major contributing factor to the development or escalation of head pain.
We all have different sensitivity thresholds when it comes to imbalances in our bodies. For people who suffer from chronic pain, however, this threshold is often extremely narrow. A slight shift in environmental or dietary conditions can tip the balance for these individuals and trigger a multi-day pain cycle. If you know that you are already extremely sensitive to sound, light, temperature, smell, or other environmental triggers, it would not be unusual to discover that your body may also be sensitive to dietary influences.
This month in The Headache Series, we’re discussing exactly how certain dietary choices can contribute to head pain, and how you can begin the process of identifying your individual sensitivities. Sometimes the answer isn’t in a single food source, but in a combination. Identifying a food trigger does take some effort, and for people with complex dietary triggers or nutritional deficiencies, the help of a good naturopath may be essential to the process. But if eliminating a large portion of your head pain might be as simple as eliminating that afternoon cup of coffee or choosing something more nutritionally balanced than a sugar-laden pastry for breakfast, wouldn’t that be worth looking into?
I hope you’ll take the time to read through The Headache Series: Food Triggers, and explore how a few simple dietary changes could not only make the difference in alleviating a large portion of your head pain, but could also help you feel more energized and alert each and every day.