On and off headaches - dairy, sleep?

Health Professional

Full Question:

I have a problem with headaches on and off and it's been happening at least once to twice a week at times. I can't explain when it tends to happen, other than I thought that dairy and cheese seems to be related, or intensify the issue at times. Also I have noticed that irregular bowel movements seem to also be related.

At night when sleeping I toss and turn only to find that in the morning the headache can be worse without medication. The one thing that always seems to fix the problem is Excedrin (other's seem to take longer to work or don't work at all) and sleep they seem to be correct the problem with an hour or less. But I don't want to rely on this as a remedy all the time. I have tried to incorporate better dieting with fiber and veggies but still little or no difference. Mike.


Dear Mike;

There are a couple of issues that may be at play here...

Are these headaches or Migraines? Some cheeses and other dairy products can be Migraine triggers. Trigger identification and management is a vital component of managing Migraine disease. One of the best tools for identifying triggers is a good Migraine diary. You can download a free diary workbook from our article Your Migraine and Headache Diary. Some of us have food triggers; some of us don't. It's advisable to determine if your daughter does, and an elimination diet is the best way to do that. For more information and a workbook on this, see _Managing Migraine - Migraine Trigger Foods _.

Sleep issues can also trigger Migraines or cause headaches, especially those that occur in the morning. Too much, too little, disrupted, or poor quality sleep can all be problematic. Talking to your doctor about your sleep patterns and quality of sleep could be a big help. You can learn more about this by watching our video _Migraines, Headaches, and Sleep _.

Irregular bowel movements can contribute to headaches OR be a symptom of a Migraine attack.

As for the Excedrin -- it could actually be making matters worse for you. Taking Migraine abortive meds such as the triptans or ergotamines or any kind of pain med (including Excedrin) more than two or three days a week can make matters worse by causing medication overuse headache (MOH), aka rebound. See _Medication Overuse Headache - When the Remedy Backfires _ for more information on this.

Keeping a Migraine / headache diary for a bit and seeing your doctor is your best bet for getting your problems figured out and addressed.

Good luck,
John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert

To review other questions from our Ask the Clinician Column,

_browse the Ask the Clinician archives _.

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visit our listing of _Patient Recommended Specialists _.

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Dr. Krusz is a recognized expert in the fields of headache and Migraine treatment and pain treatment. Each week, he and Lead Expert Teri Robert, team up to answer your questions about headaches and Migraines. You can read more about Dr. Krusz or more about Teri Robert.

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