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National Headache Foundation







Medical Care

Image of man with headache.

•  Anxiety, stress, caffeine withdrawal, or depression

•  Lack of sleep. Poor sleep position.

•  A sensitivity to certain foods and drinks.

•  Reading a lot, especially in dim light

•  Missing or delaying a meal

•  Doing boring work

•  Being in one position for a long time, like at a computer

•  Hormone changes that come  with menstruation, while taking birth control pills, etc.

•  Exposure to chemicals and/or pollution

•  Side effects from some medications

•  Dirty or polluted air

•  Airplane travel

•  Alcohol

•  Poison

•  Poor posture

•  Cigarette smoke

•  Too much physical activity

•  Bright lights. This includes watching TV.

•  Movement, such as riding in a car or elevator

•  Loud noises

•  Strong odors

•  Eating or drinking something very cold, such as ice cream

You can have cancer for years without having symptoms. There is usually no pain at the onset of cancer. As different types of cancers grow, warning signs may occur. See your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Keep a headache diary. Write down when, where, and why the headaches seem to start. Try to avoid things that trigger headaches.


Be aware of early symptoms. Try to stop the headache as it begins.

•  Exercise on a regular basis.

•  Keep regular sleep hours, even on weekends.

•  Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit.

•  Cut down on salt.

•  Avoid excess alcohol. Alcohol can lead to a “hangover” headache.

•  Don’t have foods and drinks known to trigger headaches in sensitive people.

Foods and Drinks That May Cause Headaches

•  Alcohol, especially red wine

•  Bananas (if more than 1/2 banana daily)

•  Beans: Broad, lima, fava, snow peas

•  Brewer’s yeast

•  Caffeine (from coffee, tea, cola soft drinks, some medications, chocolate) or caffeine withdrawal

•  Chicken livers, paté

•  Citrus fruits (if more than 1/2 cup daily)

•  Cured meats (hot dogs, luncheon meats, etc.)

•  Figs, raisins, papayas, avocados, red plums (no more than 1/2 cup daily)

•  Foods with MSG (monosodium glutamate), such as soy sauce, meat tenderizers, seasoned salt

•  Hard cheeses (aged cheddar, provolone, etc.)

•  Herring, pickled or dried

•  Nuts and peanut butter

•  Onions

•  Pickled, preserved, or marinated foods

•  Sauerkraut

•  Sour cream

•  Sourdough bread

•  Vinegar

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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