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Cluster Headaches: How To Deal With The Worst Headache

Cluster Headaches: How To Deal With The Worst Headache

If you or someone you love suffers from cluster headaches, you probably understand a little about just how debilitating this condition can be and what a huge impact it can have on someone’s quality of life. Fortunately, there are some treatments available that can help to control this pain and help patients and their families lead a full and happy life. Read on to find out more about these excruciating headaches – why they happen and what can be done to resolve the problem.

What is a Cluster Headache?

A cluster headache is the most painful kind of chronic head and earned its name from the clusters or groups of attacks that sufferers can experience during a period of exacerbation.  It is, fortunately, also the least common form of chronic head and only occurs in around 1 out of every 1,000 people.

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    What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Cluster Headache?

    The primary symptom of a cluster headache is excruciating pain:

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    • The pain can be sharp, stabbing or burning
    • It usually centers around one eye or one side of the face, but other parts of the head and neck can also be involved
    • It is common to have cluster periods lasting anywhere from several weeks up to a year; during this time, headaches will come on up to several times a day and can last anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours.
    • There appears to be a cyclic nature to the pain and it often will occur at the same time of day or the same time of year; one common time for it to occur is at night around 1-2 hours after going to sleep.
    • These cluster periods can be followed by a period of remission which is free of pain and which lasts anywhere from months to years.

    Apart from the pain, there are other possible symptoms that can accompany a cluster headache. These can include tearing, redness and swelling of the eye on the affected side of the body as well as drooping eyelids and nasal congestion. Sweaty, pale skin and restlessness are also common.

    It’s not exactly what you’re suffering from? Then you need to check if you have one of the following headaches instead and learn about how to deal with it:

    Tension Headache: Understanding Of The Most Common Headache

    Sinus Headache: Symptoms, Causes And Natural Reliefs

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    How To Get Rid Of A Headache Without Medicine

    How is a Cluster Headache Different from a Migraine?

    People sometimes mistake cluster headaches from migraines, but there are several ways in which cluster headaches are different:

    • Cluster headaches are a less common form of chronic headache
    • Most cluster headache sufferers don’t get an aura, a sight or smell that signals the onset of a headache and most do not get the nausea and sensitivity to light that comes with a migraine
    • Migraine sufferers find it easier to lie down and rest, while this position seems to make a cluster headache worse.

    What Causes Cluster Headaches?

    The exact cause of cluster headaches is unknown. However, doctors do know that during an attack, the trigeminal nerve, which runs along the side of the face and around the eye, becomes activated and extremely sensitive.  Many researchers also believe that the underlying cause for this activation lies in some sort of abnormality in the hypothalamus, the small gland which lies in the middle of the brain: the cycles of pain seem to suggest that the problem is linked to a person’s circadian rhythms (sleep and wake cycles), which is regulated by this gland.

    Because of the cyclic nature of the cluster headaches, many people mistakenly believe that cluster headaches are related to allergies – but several studies have been done on this subject and no association has been found.

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      Who is at Risk for Cluster Headaches?

      While anyone can develop cluster headaches, certain risk factors make it more likely that a person will come down with this condition. These risk factors include:

      • Age. People between the ages of 20 and 50 are most likely to develop cluster headaches, but the majority actually begin before age 30.
      • Gender. Men are more likely than women to develop cluster headaches.
      • Family history. Doctors suspect that there might be a genetic component to this problem, since it can run in families.
      • Lifestyle choices. Use of alcohol and tobacco can increase the risk as well.

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        What can be Done for Cluster Headaches?

        Unfortunately, to date, there is no cure for cluster headaches. The good news?  People today have many more choices than in the past when it comes to day-to-day management of this condition. Treatments can include:

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        • Oral medications, like ergots, corticosteroids (which are used for a variety of inflammatory conditions), and lithium (which was originally used for bipolar disorder but has also proven to be effective at treating these headaches).
        • Triptans, the best-known of which is Imitrex, which can be injected or given through a nasal spray.
        • An injectable form of somatostatin, a hormone found naturally in the brain.
        • A block on the trigeminal nerve to cut off feeling in order to stop the pain.
        • Experiments are underway with nerve stimulation of the occipital nerve and deep brain stimulation, but these are still not readily available.
        • Local anesthetics like Lidocaine can also be incredibly useful.

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          Are there At-Home or Alternative Treatments Available?

          Many patients who suffer from cluster headaches are curious about what alternative treatments are available to help treat this condition.

          Unfortunately, the small number of studies that have been done on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices, including chiropractic therapy, homeopathic remedies, acupuncture and acupressure have not found these to be effective for the majority of patients. However, some research has been done with supplements of kudzu, a vine of Asian origin, which seem to be able to ease cluster headache symptoms.

          A basic healthy lifestyle with plenty of sleep and good nutrition and adequate hydration are generally supportive, as is the avoidance of alcohol and tobacco.

          In short, cluster headaches can bring excruciating pain and seriously reduce the quality of life for those who suffer from it. There is no cure for this condition, but the good news is that more treatments are available than in the past for treating this condition and help patients to manage the pain and lead full and normal lives.

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          Brian Wu

          Health Writer, Author

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          Last Updated on February 21, 2019

          Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

          Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

          Your brain is the most intricate and powerful organ in your entire body. It’s essentially a super-computer with brain power like a Ferrari.

          If you have a Ferrari, would you put cheap gasoline in it? Of course not. You want to put in high-octane performance fuel to get the most out of your investment.

          When it comes to the brain, many people are looking for the top foods that will supercharge the brainpower to help focus better, think more clearly and have better brain health.

          In this article, we’ll look at the top 9 brain foods that will help create supercharge your brain with energy and health:

          1. Salmon

          Salmon has long been held as a healthy brain food, but what makes this fish so valuable for your brain health?

          It’s important to understand that your brain is primarily made up of fat. Roughly 60% of your brain is fat. One of the most important fats that the brain uses as a building block for healthy brain cells is omega-3’s.

          Omega-3’s are essential for building a healthy brain but one of the most important omega-3’s for your brain is DHA. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) forms nearly two-thirds of the omega-3’s found in your brain.[1]

          Omega-3’s and DHA in particular help form the protective coating around our neurons. The better quality this coating is, the more efficient and effective our brain cells can work, allowing our brain power to work at full capacity.

          Studies have shown that being deficient in DHA can affect normal brain development in children, which is why so many infant formulas and children’s supplements are beginning to include DHA.

          Being deficient in DHA as an adult can cause focus and attention problems, mood swings, irritability, fatigue and poor sleep.

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          2. Blueberries

          Blueberries top the list as one of the most beneficial fruits to maximize your brain health and performance.

          Blueberries have some of the highest content of antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, than any other fruit, which helps protect the brain from stress and promote healthy brain aging.

          Blueberries antioxidant content also help reduce inflammation, which allows the brain to maintain healthy energy levels.

          Blueberries have begun to receive attention for their connection to brain performance.[2] Studies have demonstrated that eating blueberries on a regular basis can not only improve brain health but also brain performance as well including working memory.[3]

          Blueberries not only taste great but are low in calories, high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese.

          3. Turmeric

          Turmeric is a very impressive spice that has well-researched and proven to have tremendous benefits for your brain. Turmeric’s main compound that benefits the brain is called curcumin, which is responsible for turmerics bright yellow appearance.

          Curcumin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-cancer properties.[4]

          Curcumin increases the production and availability of two important neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters involved with happiness, motivation, pleasure, and reward.

          Curcumin has been well documented to have powerful anti-depressive effects. In one study, it was found to be as effective for depression as popular medications such as SSRI’s like Prozac.[5]

          Curcumin has also been shown to:

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          • Increase blood flow to the brain.[6]
          • Increase BDNF production, a powerful stimulator of neuroplasticity.[7]
          • Increase DHA availability and synthesis in the brain.[8]
          • Increase antioxidant levels in the brain to prevent brain aging and inflammation.[9]

          4. Coffee

          Coffee is the wonderful elixir of energy that many people cherish every single morning. The biggest reason people drink coffee is to get a dose of caffeine.

          Caffeine is a natural neurological stimulant that not only gives you energy but also prevents adenosine, a neurotransmitter involved with feeling tired, from binding in the brain.

          Many people are surprised to find that coffee actually contains a large quantity of antioxidants called polyphenols, which are important for reducing inflammation in the brain and keep your brain energized. The antioxidants in coffee also provide a neuroprotective effect, protecting the brain from stress and damage. [R]

          Coffee can also:

          • Improve alertness and concentration.[10]
          • Help with neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease.[11]
          • Reduce your risk of depression.[12]
          • Improve your memory.
          • Provide short-term boost in athletic performance.[13]

          5. Broccoli

          What was your least favorite food as a kid growing up?

          Most likely, broccoli was your answer.

          Broccoli may not have been your top choice, but it might be the top choice for your brain.

          Broccoli contains a compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been shown to promote the proliferation and survival of brain cells by reducing inflammation and boosting production of BDNF. It has also been shown to boost neurogenesis, the production of new brain cells.[14]

          Broccoli is also loaded with important nutrients Vitamin K and Folate. Vitamin K plays a vital role in protecting brain cells.[15] Folate plays a crucial role in detoxification and reducing inflammation in the brain.

          6. Bone broth

          Bone broth wasn’t just created to combine with soups, you can actually drink bone broth by itself.

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          Drinking bone broth has become one of the biggest trends in the health and wellness industry and for good reason. Bone broth isn’t actually a new thing. Bone broth has been used for centuries as a healing tonic to promote health and longevity.

          Much of the nutritional benefits and value of bone broth comes from its substantial vitamin and mineral content. Primarily calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.

          Your gut is called your second brain for a reason. Research continually shows that there is a direct and indirect connection between your gut and your brain. Your gut also houses and stores many important brain compounds involved with optimal brain performance. Therefore the health of your gut is vitally important for your brain health and performance.

          Bone broth has become a go-to tool for helping heal the gut and provide the gut with the vital nutrient and resources it needs to heal and perform optimally.

          With the vast amounts of nutrients that bone broth contains, it makes the list as a go-to food for your brain health.

          Look for high quality, organic bone broth for the best results.

          7. Walnuts

          Walnuts are one of the top choices of nuts for brain health. Walnuts also look similar to a brain.

          Amongst the wide variety of nuts available, walnuts contain the highest amounts of the important omega-3 DHA. DHA, as seen above, is a critical building block for a healthy brain.

          Walnuts also contain high amounts of antioxidants, folate, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, which help to lower inflammation.

          Melatonin in walnuts is an important nutrient for regulating your sleep. Having low amounts of melatonin can make it challenging to get good quality sleep and getting poor quality sleep can dramatically impair brain health and performance.

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          8. Eggs

          For years, eggs were put on the nutritional naughty list; but now, eggs are finally getting the credit they deserve. Eggs can provide a tremendous boost to your brain health and longevity.

          Eggs, particularly the yolks, contain a compound called choline. Choline is essential for building the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine plays an important role in mood, memory, and intelligence.

          Egg yolks contain some of the highest quantities of choline. This is very important because low levels of choline can lead to low levels of acetylcholine, which in turn can cause increased inflammation, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.

          9. Dark chocolate

          You’re about to love chocolate even more because chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is great for your brain.

          Chocolate boosts levels of endorphins, your brains “feel good” chemicals. This is why you feel so good eating chocolate.[16]

          Chocolate also increases blood flow to the brain which can help improve memory, attention, focus, and reaction time.[17]

          Dark chocolate contains high levels of magnesium, which has been coined “natures valium” for its ability to calm and relax the brain.

          Lastly, dark chocolate has one of the highest antioxidant profiles out of any other food, including popular superfoods like acai berries, blueberries, or pomegranates.[18]

          Conclusion

          Your brain is a high performing organ and it uses quite a lot of energy, roughly 20% of the bodies energy demands.

          In order to maintain a healthy brain, you need the right fuel to ensure that your brain has all the nutrients it needs to perform as well as adapt to the stress of life.

          If you want to keep your brain performing well for a lifetime, then you want to make sure you are including as many of these brain health foods as possible.

          More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: DHA Effects in Brain Development and Function
          [2] Canadian Science Publishing: Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation
          [3] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children.
          [4] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin: the Indian solid gold.
          [5] Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.: Turmeric, the Golden Spice
          [6] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effect of combined treatment with curcumin and candesartan on ischemic brain damage in mice.
          [7] Science Direct: Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB
          [8] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: Implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders.
          [9] PLOS: A Chemical Analog of Curcumin as an Improved Inhibitor of Amyloid Abeta Oligomerization
          [10] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood, and Alertness in Sleep-Deprived Humans
          [11] American Academy of Neurology: A Cup of Joe May Help Some Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
          [12] American Academy of Neurology: AAN 65th Annual Meeting Abstract
          [13] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of caffeine on the metabolic and catecholamine responses to exercise in 5 and 28 degrees C.
          [14] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Hyperammonemia induces glial activation, neuroinflammation and alters neurotransmitter receptors in hippocampus, impairing spatial learning: reversal by sulforaphane
          [15] Oxford Academic: Vitamin K and the Nervous System: An Overview of its Actions
          [16] Diana L. Walcutt, Ph.D: Chocolate and Mood Disorders
          [17] Health Magazine: Chocolate can do good things for your heart, skin and brain
          [18] Chemistry Central Journal: Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products

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