NutriSense Blog
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Getting Over Your Holiday Headaches

December 30, 2021
Written by
Team NutriSense
Reviewed by
Cheri B.
RD

There’s been a lot of talk about holiday headaches this season. And while there’s no concrete evidence that they really do happen more around this time of year, it’s not really that surprising, is it? After all, along with the joy and festive cheer, the holidays are a time of increased stress, as this American Psychological Association survey found. And as we know, stress can increase the occurrences of headaches, holidays, or otherwise. 

You’ve probably been through it all over the past few weeks: queues for days at the supermarket, your favorite foods marked up or out of stock, family arguments, and general crazy holiday shenanigans! 

If you didn’t get at least one headache over the past few months, that’s great! But since it’s been at the forefront of our minds this season, we’re going to tell you a bit about what headaches are and how you can prevent them as you make your way into a new, healthier year. 

What Are Headaches?


Headaches, simply put, are a type of pain that nearly 75 percent of adults worldwide will experience at least once a year, some more often than others. Most headaches originate in the nerves, blood vessels, and muscles covering your head or neck. These muscles or blood vessels swell, tighten and go through other changes that stimulate the surrounding nerves or pressure them. The nerves then send a rush of pain messages to the brain, which brings on a headache.

Types of Headaches

Headaches are the most common nervous system disorders, and there are more than 150 classified types. They’re usually categorized into two main categories: primary and secondary. Primary headaches are unrelated to a medical condition, while secondary headaches are associated with another medical condition.

The four main primary headaches 

  1. Cluster Headaches
  2. Migraines
  3. Tension Headaches
  4. New daily persistent headaches (NDPH)

Some Causes of Secondary Headaches

  • High blood pressure
  • Infection
  • Medication Overuse
  • Sinus Congestion
  • Trauma

 

Now that we know the different types of headaches, let’s look at a few that you’re likely to have encountered throughout the year and perhaps even more during the holidays:

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common kind of headache. Although the name may make you believe they’re caused by external tension, that’s not exactly what the word means here. The tension in the title refers to tension in the muscles surrounding your head and neck. 

The pain you feel with a tension headache is usually a consistent pain on both sides of your head, without any throbbing. These headaches typically respond well to over-the-counter medication, which can sometimes be aggravated by exercise.  

Migraines


Migraines are the second most common kind of headache and usually result in moderate to severe pain. This is due to the pain and other symptoms surrounding it, including sensitivity to light, noise, or odors. 

They can cause other health issues like nausea and vomiting. While they can occur as one-off instances, they are usually chronic or lifelong conditions. There’s usually a trigger for migraines, which can differ from person-to-person and vary from hormone changes during menstruation to certain foods, drinks, stress, and exercise.

Cluster Headaches

These are the most severe type of primary headaches. As their name suggests, they come in a ‘cluster.’ They can occur as many as one to eight times per day and may last from two weeks to three months. This pain is usually an intense throbbing or constant pain with a burning or stabbing sensation located behind one of your eyes or in the eye region.

Sinus Headaches


A sinus infection is an infection that causes congestion and inflammation in the sinuses, which can then lead to a headache. This headache can be mistaken for a migraine; however, it has some classic symptoms that set it apart from a migraine, including:

  • A bad taste in your mouth.
  • Constant pain in your cheekbones and forehead
  • Facial swelling
  • A feeling of fullness in your ears
  • Fever
  • Pain that gets worse with sudden head movement
  • A runny nose

Medication Overuse Headaches (MOH)

These headaches actually result from frequently taking pain medications for headaches! Long-term use of drugs for migraines, for example, can cause more headaches, putting you in something of a Catch-22 situation. They’re sometimes called rebound headaches and usually subside when you stop taking too much of the medication that is triggering them. 

Some Common Causes of Headaches and How to Address Them 


There are so many different things that can cause a headache, including but not limited to all that holiday stress. Whether you experience headaches around stressful times of the year like the holidays, throughout the year, or only occasionally, it’s good to know what may be causing them and how to address them. Here’s what you should know

What’s causing your headaches? 

Apart from the stress, overuse of medication, and over exercise, here are a few other things that may contribute to your headaches: 

Your Food Choices


Various foods can cause headaches. One of the most common ones that trigger headaches are those that contain tyramine. Tyramine is a common compound found in plants and animals and is the byproduct of an amino acid called tyrosine. 

Your body relies on an enzyme called monoamine oxidase to break tyramine down. Some people don’t have enough of this enzyme to break down tyramine, and the build-up can lead to a headache. 

Certain foods are higher in tyramine, like aged cheeses, cured or processed meats, pickled or fermented vegetables, citrus, tropical fruit, and certain alcoholic beverages. Other foods known to cause headaches in some people include caffeine, chocolate, yeast, and cultured dairy products.

Your Sugar Levels

Your sugar levels need to be in the optimum range for your body to stay as healthy as possible. If your levels are too high or too low, it can result in various symptoms and health issues, including headaches.

If you’re diabetic, track your sugar levels and aim for them to be within a normal range of 70- 140mg/dL. If you’re struggling to manage your sugar levels, consider using a CGM to help monitor and track your glucose data.

Dehydration


Dehydration is an important and perhaps one of the most common triggers for a headache. When you’re dehydrated, there’s an imbalance of fluid and electrolytes in your system. Your brain may shrink temporarily from the fluid loss, making it ‘pull away’ from your skull, leading to a headache. 

What Can You Do to Prevent a Headache?

You may be reading this thinking, these sound pretty awful, but what can I do to prevent them? While it’s not always possible to avoid a headache, there are things you can do to minimize the occurrence. Here’s how: 

Anticipate the Stress


This may be easier said than done but try to anticipate any stress. For example, some people feel a stress hangover after all the excitement of the holidays has passed. You can try to prevent this by planning some time to de-stress immediately after. Use the first few weeks of the new year to relax, maybe book a holiday or visit a spa for some me-time. 

If your headaches pop up when you have a lot to do, one way to avoid them is to make a to-do list of everything you need to get done and plan as much as possible. For example, do you need to get back into the swing of things at work after a long break? Make a list and go through it slowly the night before, so you feel less overwhelmed and more prepared!

Don’t Skip Exercise

Yes, over exercising can sometimes trigger a headache. But avoiding exercise altogether can lead to other health issues. Try to plan a little physical activity to keep yourself in shape without stressing whether you’re doing too little or too much of it. Exercise does not always mean running or going to the gym. It can also mean doing some yoga and exercising your mental state by practicing breathwork or meditation.

Focus on Nutrition


Pick foods lower in tyramine. Some options include pasteurized cheeses, fresh vegetables, and whole foods rich in protein. If there is a food that you find aggravates your headaches, try to avoid it. You can always plan food alternatives for yourself that won’t trigger headaches. An excellent way to determine what foods work best for you is to work with a registered dietitian

Try to Cut Back on Alcohol 

If you drink alcohol, you’ve probably had more than a couple of drinks over the holidays. And that’s totally okay! But a little detox in the new year can help keep headaches at bay if alcohol is a trigger for you. You can also try eating a snack before and during a drink to lower the risk of your sugar levels dipping. 

If you’re on medication, check with your doctor about the interaction between it and alcohol. If you enjoy the occasional drink, consider switching to light alcohol or choose alcohols lower in tyramine, like gin, rum, or vodka.

Try a Natural Remedy

Supplements cannot necessarily cure headaches, but some can potentially help reduce the severity and pain involved. Some studies show links between supplements like vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), magnesium, vitamin D, and Coenzyme Q10 and a reduced frequency, duration, and severity of headaches. Speak with your doctor before you choose to take any supplements.

Keep Yourself Hydrated

Try to drink enough water throughout the day. If you struggle to do this, make it a little more interesting! Add some mint, lemon, or cucumber slices to it for a more refreshing drink. You can also try drinking green or herbal tea instead of a caffeinated beverage.

Although different people respond differently to caffeine, drinking it in moderate amounts is a good idea. Caffeine can trigger headaches in some people, so monitor how your body responds to see if it has this effect on you. 

When to See a Healthcare Professional 

Not all headaches go away with proper nutrition, rest, and medication. You may sometimes need to see a healthcare professional to address the issue. If nothing eases your headache and you start experiencing the following symptoms, see your doctor to rule out other underlying causes.

  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Sudden loss in balance
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Paralysis
  • Speech difficulties
  • Mental confusion
  • Seizures
  • Changes in vision
  • Personality changes
  • Severe nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Rash
  • Shortness of breath

Personalize Your Nutrition and Optimize Your Health with NutriSense 

Managing your blood glucose levels is always a good idea. It can help you track the foods and lifestyle choices that trigger your headaches. NutriSense helps you monitor and track blood glucose levels using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that measures your glucose levels 24/7. And while people with diabetes have been using CGMs for years, the CDC recommends checking your glucose levels even if you’re not showing symptoms.

With NutriSense, you can pair your CGM with an innovative app to manage and track everything from physical activity and food intake to stress, sleep, and other routines and habits. You even get consistent feedback from your own registered dietitian to help you understand the data and manage it to optimize your health.


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Getting Over Your Holiday Headaches
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Science Backed Tips for Menopause-Related Weight Gain
Science Backed Tips for Menopause-Related Weight Gain

Menopause can be a difficult journey, so we've compiled some of the most effective, science backed tips to help you with menopause-related weight gain.

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Help Dad Stay Healthy this Father's Day
Help Dad Stay Healthy this Father's Day

Father’s Day is around the corner, and whether you’re celebrating your dad, a father figure, or another cherished loved one, helping them take care of their health can be the ultimate gift.

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11 Great Low-Carb Snacks to Add to Your Diet [+ 5 Recipes our Dietitians Love]
11 Great Low-Carb Snacks to Add to Your Diet [+ 5 Recipes our Dietitians Love]

Here's a helpful list of some of our favorite low-carb snacks that can help you keep your diet varied and full of healthy nutrients.

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Low Glycemic Index Recipe Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy
Low Glycemic Index Recipe Ideas Everyone Will Enjoy

Whether you're looking for low GI summer snacks or healthy sweet treats, this post has got you covered. Here are tasty low glycemic index recipes everyone will enjoy!

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Do Grapes Raise Blood Sugar Levels?
Do Grapes Raise Blood Sugar Levels?

Wondering if grapes are safe for people with diabetes to include in their diet? Read on to find out.

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The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar

Cholesterol plays a very important role in the human body, contributing to the structure of the cells, helping with vitamin D synthesis, and also promoting the production of steroid and sex hormones, like cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, and estrogen. But how exactly is cholesterol connected to blood glucose levels?

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20 Questions to Ask Your CGM Provider (with Kara Collier)
20 Questions to Ask Your CGM Provider (with Kara Collier)

We sat down with Kara Collier, our co-founder and VP of Health here at NutriSense, to take a closer look at how CGMs work and what you need to know about these devices before using one.

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Are Carbs and Sugar the Same? 
Are Carbs and Sugar the Same? 

Are carbs and sugar the same? In this post, we break down the key differences between the two and share the benefits of complex carbohydrates.

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Best Recovery Breakfasts to Beat Post-Workout DOMS
Best Recovery Breakfasts to Beat Post-Workout DOMS

Read on to learn more about DOMS, how long it can last, and then pick from our list of the best breakfasts to help beat that post-workout soreness, support muscle building, and encourage fat loss.

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7 Plant-Derived Supplements to Help Lower Blood Sugar
7 Plant-Derived Supplements to Help Lower Blood Sugar

When it comes to lowering blood sugar levels, not all supplements are created equal. From ginseng to aloe vera, here are some of the best supplements to help avoid high blood sugar and encourage blood sugar control.

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Is Bloating After Surgery Normal?
Is Bloating After Surgery Normal?

Bloating that results from a surgery can sometimes be an unexpected part of the recovery process. Is there anything you can do to reduce bloating or prevent it from happening? And what causes this bloating anyway? Read on to find the answer to these questions and much more to help you combat your post-surgery swelling. 

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Is Fiber a Carb? 
Is Fiber a Carb? 

Learn why fiber is classified as a carb and how to increase your intake of this health promoting nutrient.

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Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Parkinson’s Disease 
Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Parkinson’s Disease 

Did you know Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease? Read on to learn what it's like living with PD plus discover treatment options.

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10
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An Expert Breaks Down 11 Viral Health Trends
An Expert Breaks Down 11 Viral Health Trends

From rosemary water to dry scooping, should you be trying every new trend that hits TikTok? How can you tell which ones may help and which ones to steer clear of?

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Does Eating Too Much Sugar Affect Your Skin?
Does Eating Too Much Sugar Affect Your Skin?

As great as sugar tastes, including too much of it in your diet can lead to certain health problems. Read on to learn more about the role sugar plays in keeping your skin healthy.

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14 Health and Nutrition Podcasts Recommended by Dietitians
14 Health and Nutrition Podcasts Recommended by Dietitians

Read on to see which podcasts our dietitians recommend if you’re interested in learning more about nutrition and health.

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Does Nicotine Affect Blood Glucose?
Does Nicotine Affect Blood Glucose?

Nicotine is a chemical in tobacco that can affect your health in various ways. Read our article to learn how it impacts blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.

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Why Everyone, Including Healthy People Should Use CGMs
Why Everyone, Including Healthy People Should Use CGMs

CGMs are now an excellent tool for anyone who wants to optimize their metabolic health. Read on to find out more about the benefits CGMs can have for healthy people!

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Why Do People Need to Lose Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?
Why Do People Need to Lose Weight Before Bariatric Surgery?

Although bariatric surgery can be an effective way to lose weight and improve health for people who are obese, it’s a major decision. Find out what lifestyle changes you need to make before going under the knife.

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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Favorite Grilling Recipes
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Favorite Grilling Recipes

Excited to fire up the grill this summer? Read on to learn if grilling is healthy for you plus check out the NutriSense Nutrition Team's favorite grilling recipes for the season.

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How a Healthy Gut Improves Blood Sugar
How a Healthy Gut Improves Blood Sugar

Did you know that your gut health can impact your blood glucose levels? Explore ways to improve your gut health for optimal glucose levels.

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Living With Autoimmune Conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis
Living With Autoimmune Conditions: Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that can cause swelling and joint pain. Learn more about how it develops and how other health conditions affect its onset.

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13 Best Weight Loss Apps to Consider
13 Best Weight Loss Apps to Consider

We’ve hand-picked the best weight loss apps available. Here are the thirteen best weight loss apps.

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What is Red Light Therapy?
What is Red Light Therapy?

An emerging treatment, red light therapy promises to prevent and treat the signs of aging and other skin issues. Read on to find out more.

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Diets People are Most Likely to Give Up On [+Tips to Stick with Them]
Diets People are Most Likely to Give Up On [+Tips to Stick with Them]

Struggling to stick with a health-promoting diet? Here’s how to make it enjoyable so you can reap the benefits.

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Kara Collier on Optimal Health Through Blood Sugar Regulation
Kara Collier on Optimal Health Through Blood Sugar Regulation

VP of Health and co-founder of NutriSense Kara Collier discusses reaching optimal health through blood sugar regulation, what a continuous glucose monitor is, and who might benefit from using it.

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How to Turn Your Idea into a 120 Person Team with Dan Zavorotny
How to Turn Your Idea into a 120 Person Team with Dan Zavorotny

In this episode of Zero to CEO, Jason Sherman talks to Dan Zavorotny about how to turn your idea into a 120 person team in 2.5 years.

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A Breakdown of Body Mass Index (BMI)
A Breakdown of Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body mass index is a term you may have seen tossed around quite a bit in the health world. You may know that it’s a way to measure body fat, but with so many new tests for measuring overall fitness and health, is BMI still reliable?

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Glucose-Friendly Recipes to Enjoy This Memorial Day
Glucose-Friendly Recipes to Enjoy This Memorial Day

If you're watching your glucose levels, traditional BBQ staples may not be the best choice. Here are some recipes that will help you enjoy a Memorial Day meal without a blood sugar spike.

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Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care
Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care

Mental health has a significant impact on your overall health; here are tips, tools, and apps to improve your mental wellbeing.

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Can You Check Your Blood Sugar at Home Without a Meter
Can You Check Your Blood Sugar at Home Without a Meter

Living with diabetes can be a challenge, especially when it comes to keeping your blood sugar levels regulated. Learn if you can check your blood sugar at home without a meter.

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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Sunscreen for all Skin Types
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Sunscreen for all Skin Types

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to make sure you have the tools you need to protect yourself from sunburn and sun damage. But how do you choose the right one for adequate sun protection?

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Japanese Water Therapy & Weight Loss: What’s the Deal? 
Japanese Water Therapy & Weight Loss: What’s the Deal? 

Learn how Japanese water therapy can help with weight loss, energy levels, and detoxification.