The Top 5 Causes of Chronic Headaches

Today we are going to be talking about the top underlying reasons why you may be having a chronic headache. I had a patient come in today who had headaches for 25 years, monthly and chronically, and we were able to get to the root cause and there are many different root causes for every person. Let me lay out the common ones that I find to be a major vector of my patients.

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So we have headaches and head pain or migraines where you kind of have that aura and sound sensitivity. There are a couple of different major reasons why headaches may happen.

1. Food Allergens

Most common food allergy is gluten and dairy. There are some studies on gluten affecting blood flow up to the brain. We have these garden hoses on the side of our neck called our carotid arteries. When we have inflammation especially caused by gluten that can decrease blood flow and blood profusion to the frontal cortex, and when you have less blood, you’re going to have decreased performance of the brain. You can see that manifesting in a headache. People don’t know but headaches are actually an issue with vasodilation in the brain.  Caffeine can help as caffeine actually causes constriction and brain’s typical headache signal is caused by vasodilation.

2. Food Additives.

These could be things like MSG, aspartame, Splenda or various artificial colors and dyes.

3. Blood Sugar Fluctuation.

We want to have healthy proteins and healthy fats with every meal. If we skip meals or we eat foods that are too high in carbohydrates and refined “crapohydrates” and sugar, and not enough fats and proteins, our blood sugar can go up and then drop. This is called reactive hypoglycemia. We react by putting a whole bunch of sugar in our bloodstream because all of these carbohydrate sources break down into sugar — processed sugar, grains, flours and acellular carbohydrates. These type of flours and refined processed carbs get converted to glucose in our bloodstream. When glucose goes up, our pancreas goes, “Holy smokes! We got a lot of glucose there. We got to pull it into the cell.” It spits out a whole bunch of insulin and pulls that glucose right down, and we have his blood sugar going up with a lot of insulin driving that blood sugar back down. When that blood sugar goes back down, this is where we have cravings.  This is where we have addictions, mood issues, energy issues, jitteriness, and cognitive issues. Our body makes adrenaline and cortisol to bring that blood sugar back up. Most people literally live on this high insulin where they are making fat, storing fat and engaging in lipogenesis which makes us tired. Then blood sugar crashes which makes people jittery, anxious, and moody. Most people live on this reactive hypoglycemia rollercoaster and that can drive headaches.

4. Gut Infections.

Patients with a lot of gut inflammation, gut permeability, and infections whether it’s H. pylori, SIBO (small intestinal, bacterial overgrowth) or fungal overgrowth have gut stressors can create inflammation in the gut. When we have inflammation in the gut, we have gut permeability. So our tight junctions in our intestines start to open up and undigested bacteria, lipopolysaccharides, food particles can slip through and create an immune response. You can see histamine along with that immune response and histamine can create headache issues.

5. Hormonal Issue.

A woman’s cycle is about 28 days and in the middle is ovulation. Some women have it during ovulation and most have it right at the end just before they menstruate. This is called premenstrual syndrome that is right before menstruation. A lot of women may also have it during menstruation, too. What happens is progesterone can drop out early and that drop in progesterone can actually cause headache manifestations and also the aberrations in estrogen can also cause headaches as well. We may also see it with excessive bleeding too. So if you’re bleeding a lot or too much, what may happen is you may lose iron and that low iron may cause oxygenation issues.  That low level of oxygen may also cause some headache issues as well.  Because if you can’t carry oxygen, that is going to be a stressed-out situation for your mitochondria and your metabolism. For menopausal women who have chronically low hormones and they’re not in an optimal place, that can create issues. Progesterone and estrogen can be very anti-inflammatory. So if there is inflammation in the brain, progesterone is a powerful anti-inflammatory and that can really help a lot of inflammation in the brain.

If you have any questions about headaches, please reach out to a functional medicine doctor to find a way to fix your issue.

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The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Dr. Justin Marchegiani unless otherwise noted. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright as marked. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Justin and his community. Dr. Justin encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Marchegiani’s products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using any products.