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Fix My Head

9 Post author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 01:34AM

I've been collecting data about my headaches and diet for almost four months now.  I don't see any patterns - annoyingly, I get headaches nearly every day, so there's not much information - but I thought I'd post the data set and see if anyone sees anything.  Here it is.  Hopefully someone finds this an interesting problem.

It's written in note-to-self format (abbreviations like "strawbs" for "strawberries"; if I mention a complicated dish once then I'll shorten it when I eat the leftovers, as "pasta" for "pasta with artichokes and spinach and pesto"; times given approximately and not in a consistent form and often without specifying if they're a.m. or p.m., though they are in chronological order).  Quantities aren't given, although if they're suspected to be relevant I may be able to remember specific instances (for unusual foods) or typical portions (for ordinary foods) - other details might also be recollectable similarly.  I also don't notice when headaches go away, so I don't know how long they last except when they last all day or become noticeably worse during their course.  My sleep schedule varied considerably over this period, but trends more night owl than early bird (for a while I was outright nocturnal).  I moved three time zones west at the end of July, should that matter at all.

I'm not soliciting commentary on my diet except insofar as it can be compellingly related to my headaches.

ETA: Assume that every single day I'm drinking lots of skim milk.  (2-6 cups depending on how much I eat and how it's spaced out.)  There's a couple of exceptions, mostly when I'm in transit for most of a day or run out of milk, but not many and they don't seem to correlate with headaches.

Comments (182)

Comment author: gwern 17 September 2011 11:00:07PM 7 points [-]

FWIW, I'd like to point out that this is a better 'help me' post than most of the posts I see go by on LW, because Alicorn kept a data series. It's not perfect by any means and there's a lot of data she could collect in practice or theory, but still, she recorded something.

Comment author: Matt_Simpson 18 September 2011 03:22:52AM 3 points [-]

This could be improved by using the data more efficiently as well. Simply looking over the dataset won't reveal patterns like even a simple statistical analysis would.

I'm not trying to criticize - just pointing out more low hanging fruit.

Comment author: Xachariah 17 September 2011 11:29:37AM 5 points [-]

Have you tried drinking a lot of water?

I frequently find myself insufficiently hydrated. Symptoms of dehydration are headaches, mood swings, and dizziness or lightheadedness. You mention that your headaches are worse when you work out, which may be a flag for this. Anemia also shares some symptoms with dehydration.

Thirst is not a good dehydration indicator for some people. I can easily get so dehydrated that I'll get dizzy when I stand up, and I still won't realize it was caused by dehydration until I go over everything in my health diary. It's possible your body doesn't signal thirst to you very well, so you're chronically dehydrated.

If you haven't already done this test, I'd suggest drinking a significantly higher amount of water for a week and seeing if that has any effect.

Comment author: listic 18 September 2011 08:30:29AM 1 point [-]

Do you know if tea is a good way to be hydrated? I now drink green tea mostly, because I'm too used to black tea with sugar and I'm afraid that that much sugar might be bad for health.

Comment author: JenniferRM 18 September 2011 10:09:16PM *  1 point [-]

I haven't looked at Alicorn's data, but when I get a headache my first two hypotheses are that its caused by either dehydration or caffeine withdrawal. Either I drink something caffeinated or drink about 16-24 fluid ounces of water and then re-assess after about 20 minutes. If whichever I tried doesn't work then I do the other thing plus take a pain killer (choosing between aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen based on other considerations) because by that point I just want the problem to go away rather than to gain a bit of information about which particular solution fixed things. Usually, my first experiment works and no pain pill is required.

Caffeine is a diuretic (meaning it makes you pee) meaning you have to drink more than otherwise in the long run to balance this effect.

Something potentially worth noting if you're drinking a lot of green tea is that its cancer preventing effects appear to follow a dose response curve that has been experimentally observed up to six or seven cups a day, so drinking a lot of it can be worthwhile if that's important to you. Green tea's cancer-protecting mechanism is probably a body-wide up-regulation of apoptosis (programmed cell death) killing potentially cancerous cells earlier than otherwise. One minor worry with this (that I've never seen addressed in the literature which is more of an untrustworthy pet theory of mine) is that apoptosis up-regulation can presumably cause more neurons to die and apoptosis inhibiting mutations like BRCA1 have been suggested as leading to higher IQ. My guess is that there may be a trade-off here between raw biological longevity and high fluid intelligence.

Comment author: FeepingCreature 17 September 2011 05:16:08PM 0 points [-]

Please define "a lot"; it's subjective.

Comment author: Xachariah 17 September 2011 07:35:36PM *  1 point [-]

For my body, three liters a day counts as 'a lot', but I work heavily as well. It's also a 'goal level' for work out periods, so it's factored to keep in mind the fact that I don't naturally want to drink that much. (Eg, that level is designed to buffer for the days I may forget or fail to do so)

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:12:54PM 0 points [-]

I had to drink two full glasses of water a day for a bit more than a week when I was on antibiotics and noticed no effect except that I was really annoyed about having to drink that much water. Would the antibiotics have constituted a confounding factor if your hypothesis were true?

I wouldn't describe anything I do as "working out".

Comment author: dbaupp 17 September 2011 05:28:47PM *  2 points [-]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_water :

In the US, the reference daily intake (RDI) for water is 3.7 litres per day (l/day) for human males older than 18, and 2.7 l/day for human females older than 18[7]

Either they are very large glasses, or you are not drinking even close to an appropriate amount of water.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 05:48:46PM *  1 point [-]

including water contained in food, beverages, and drinking water

I don't drink water straight very often, but I eat plenty and drink lots of milk and some juice.

Comment author: Xachariah 17 September 2011 08:07:46PM *  0 points [-]

I would still think that two glasses is not enough of a swing. Periods of high water usage can drastically change how much our bodies require. After a single one hour workout, the recommended fluid replacement can be as high as forty six ounces for some body types and activity levels; that's six glasses of water or well over a full liter bottle. Two glasses is comparatively microscopic. Antibiotics may also be confounding since they tend to come concurrently with other issues and could cause diarrhea.

I'd recommend picking up two one-liter bottles of Powerade* per day and using those as your drink gauge, in addition to your normal diet while you test. It's actually fairly hard to overhydrate yourself except in extreme circumstances, and taking a sports drink should be extra protection. If you find a flavor you like, it can help turn a chore into something you...well something you at least don't hate.

*Powerade contains more potassium than Gatorade and the same amount of sodium. Since most people have sodium in excess and are potassium deficient, Powerade is generally the better bet. Warning: that may be partial rationalization just because my local grocer tends to have it on sale for $0.50 a liter and I like the taste.

Comment author: dbaupp 17 September 2011 05:54:53PM 0 points [-]

Ah, sorry. I missed that.

Comment author: prase 17 September 2011 02:10:40PM 0 points [-]

I second this advice. I have observed on myself quite a strong correlation between dehydration and headaches. Perhaps you should record how much have you drunk and when.

Comment author: jimrandomh 17 September 2011 04:33:01AM 5 points [-]

Headaches can be a symptom of a wide variety of things. You previously wrote an article about having been anemic, and starting to take iron supplements. This seems like the place to start. Your blood iron could still be weird; the anemia could be a symptom of something else, which also causes headaches; and having had one serious deficiency, it is much more likely that you have another.

The following additional data would be useful. (The symptom-related questions are mostly things that showed up researching iron deficiency-related things on wikipedia.)

  • A transcription or photo of the nutrition facts panels of every dietary supplement you take, and an estimate (based on how often you restock) of how often you take it. Also mention any supplements which you have tried taking which didn't work.
  • Your entry on May 20 mentions feeling "tremory". Have you had that feeling multiple times? Could you describe it in more detail?
  • Do you get paresthesia ("pins and needles" feeling) in your extremities? Numbness? If so, where and how often?
  • What is your blood pressure?
  • Have you had a HbA1c or fasting glucose test in the past two years?
  • Have you noticed any of the following (and if so, how often): palpitations; sore throat; bloodshot eyes; mouth ulcers; dry skin; itching after exposure to warm water?

One other thing I notice about the log is that it's very high-carb and low-fat. It's worth trying a switch to a radically-different (eg low carb) diet; that changes many things at once, some of which might be relevant.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 05:06:28AM 1 point [-]
  • I take an iron pill and a vitamin D pill every day except when I forget. I had blood tests to check up on my iron a few months ago; they were fine.

  • The tremors turned out to be a side effect of an antibiotic. It went away when I adjusted the dose.

  • My limbs fall asleep when I spend too long in a weird position but not at arbitrary times. I don't get numbness.

  • I don't remember my exact blood pressure but it's been taken many times in the last year and never alarmed anyone.

  • I don't think I've had a glucose test.

  • Palpitations yes; sore throat only occasionally; bloodshot eyes not really; mouth ulcers maybe depends what you mean but they're not a big deal; dry skin not especially; itching after exposure to warm water not really.

I would be more open to switching to a low carb diet if anyone could name something that crunches the way toast does.

Comment author: jimrandomh 17 September 2011 06:10:05AM *  2 points [-]

I take an iron pill and a vitamin D pill every day except when I forget. I had blood tests to check up on my iron a few months ago; they were fine.

So no standard multivitamin? Have you at least tried taking one for a week and seeing if it makes a difference?

I don't think I've had a glucose test.

You can buy HbA1c test kits over the counter for ~$30 at most pharmacies. (HbA1c is a 30-ish-day average of your blood sugar concentration. It detects diabetes (high) and hypoglycemia (low).)

I would be more open to switching to a low carb diet if anyone could name something that crunches the way toast does.

Surely you can tolerate any diet, no matter how untasty, for long enough (2 weeks) to find out whether it gets rid of your headaches.

One more hypothesis: celiac disease (aka gluten intolerance). This study says that conditional on being in a high-risk group that you're in (because of the iron-deficiency anemia, which celiac disease causes), its prevalence is 9.6%. Update up for having other symptoms in need of explanation, down for not having unexplained weight loss. It that were it, then avoiding gluten for awhile would get rid of the headaches and other bad things.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 06:57:09AM 3 points [-]

I will obtain a multivitamin and try it.

How do you get blood out of yourself with those tests? I'm not sure if I could do that.

Surely you can tolerate any diet, no matter how untasty, for long enough (2 weeks) to find out whether it gets rid of your headaches.

Be less sure of this.

Comment author: jimrandomh 17 September 2011 06:25:01PM 4 points [-]

I will obtain a multivitamin and try it.

In addition to a regular multivitamin, I also recommend a large-dose B-complex pill, since I suspect you may have a malabsorption-related deficiency which a regular multivitamin would not fully solve, and those have no significant downsides.

How do you get blood out of yourself with those tests? I'm not sure if I could do that.

You use a lancet, which is a thin spring-loaded needle that creates a small puncture in the skin of a finger, squeeze the skin around it to force blood out into a small droplet, then press that against a surface that absorbs it through surface tension. Extensive research effort has been put into making lancet devices that are as painless as possible, since all diabetics use them several times per day.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 02:02:43AM 1 point [-]

Should I start the B vitamin and the multivitamin at the same time?

Are the lancets like the ones that the Red Cross use to check iron levels etc? Those I could probably do as long as they don't require me to have steady hands, which I lack.

Comment author: jimrandomh 18 September 2011 02:43:07AM 0 points [-]

The timing doesn't matter; start the B- and generic-multi vitamins whenever you get access to them.

Are the lancets like the ones that the Red Cross use to check iron levels etc?

It's the same idea. There are many minor variations, and I don't know which variation you saw or which one you'll get, but they generally don't differ in any important respects.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 17 September 2011 03:20:51PM 1 point [-]

Low carb isn't the same thing as no carb. How much toast per day do you need to be satisfied?

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:06:38PM 0 points [-]

I usually eat like four slices of ciabatta a day. But after I posted that comment I realized that I would also be quite put out if I had to restrict my sugar intake. (My mental organization system doesn't lump sugar and starch into a reference class or I'd have said that in that comment.) I also really like rice at Indian restaurants, and I'm not sure how I'd go about enjoying curry without either that or naan...

Comment author: jimrandomh 17 September 2011 06:06:40PM 1 point [-]

I usually eat like four slices of ciabatta a day.

That isn't in your food log. The fact that you really like a food doesn't mean you can rule it out as a poison.

I realized that I would also be quite put out if I had to restrict my sugar intake.

You'd go into withdrawal, but the withdrawal symptoms and cravings would go away within two weeks. The body uses sugar first for energy, then fat; if you're eating lots of sugar, it needs to transition to metabolizing fat (ketosis), and it's short on energy in the interim, which is a little unpleasant. But it's better on the other side.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 01:59:32AM 0 points [-]

That isn't in your food log.

Yes it is. "Toast". Or "eggs on toast", "sandwich", etc.

Comment author: Jolly 11 October 2011 03:15:15AM 0 points [-]

Also, rice is fairly benign. In my mind, the only issue with white rice is that it crowds out more useful sources of calories, and just provides empty carbohydrates.

Comment author: Jolly 11 October 2011 03:14:18AM 0 points [-]

You can buy an HbA1c test for around 9 dollars from Walmart. I strongly suggest avoiding the instant read tests, as they have accuracy/precision issues. Get the one that requires you to mail in the blood spot for the test results.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 18 September 2011 06:29:15AM 1 point [-]

Low carb is a relative thing.

Looking over your diet you seem to eat very little, for which I have a bit of jealousy--if I tried to eat like that my headaches would be from transitioning in and out of ketosis (I get mild headaches when I don't eat enough, and on fasting days they are most annoying) and you only eat meat (usually in the form of seafood) every other day or once every three or four days.

As I don't know you well, I wonder if this is circumstance (you're in depressed economic circumstances), or if this is a choice? I remember (but could be wrong) that you're somewhere out there on the Autism Spectrum, and many folks with ASD have food "issues" of one kind or another.

Either way, the concept of a low carb diet can either be targeting a specific and low amount of carbs a day, or it can be looking at the total energy balance consumed--to pull an example out of the air 20% carbs, 40% protein, 40% fats. Looking at what you've posted, and without actually doing the math I think that you're probably more around 10-20 percent protein, 60-70 percent sugars and carbs (you eat a good bit of fruit, but that's mostly fructose and glucose, not the longer chain starches) and the balance protein. I don't think this is a very healthy balance, but others with as much or more knowledge disagree. Whatever.

Either way it doesn't mean you can't eat crunchy stuff like pretzels or potato chips, it just means when you do you have to cut something else, or increase other things (diet, fats, proteins) to compensate. I guess if you eat a horrendously strict low carb diet those things are out, but this is more about goals than religion, no?

Given your current diet it may be enough to simply add calories and if you then start to see unhappy body-shape consequences modulate overall diet and exercise to adjust. As an example eat a 1/2 pound of chicken breast, a 8 ounce pork or beef steak, salmon and some other fish in comparable quantities every day. This will up your protein, and if you can find good pastured/grazed cattle and pork will increase your omega-3 intake and other essential fatty acids.

My two biggest downfalls where low-carb and gluten free is concerned is Pizza and Pretzels. Oh, and ice cream. The ice cream here in AUS is still made with real sugar and real cream. Even the stuff in the little stop-and-robs. Oh Man.

Pizza we tried to work around by accepting that it's not going to be "low carb" in that sense and restricting it to once a week. Gluten free we tried to solve by finding a gluten free pizza dough recipe.

That didn't go so well, so we're back to flour based pizza dough. Pretzels I can usually avoid, but they're in the junk food machines at work (the facility I work in is about 20 miles from the nearest other source of food in a secure building with armed guard etc. etc., so you pretty much either bring your own food or eat in the cafeteria) so I occasionally succumb to temptation. So what--the point isn't to be a purist, the point is to achieve specific goals, and with my waist the smallest it's been since 2000, I'm ok with falling off the wagon every so often.

The point is that if you can modify your diet enough to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches, it's an overall win right?

So there are two things wrong with wheat based grains. One is the gluten, which can cause Celiac or celiac-like responses, and the other is phytic acid. Now, there's a lot of BS on the net about foods and health, so I'm always skeptical about stuff like this but it seems that phytic acid reduces mineral (including iron) and vitamin absorption in the gut. There are two ways to get rid of phytic acid--soaking/fermenting, and avoidance. Breads and dough based foods made with long-rise yeasts will have less phytic acid than short rise yeasts. Beans soaked for 12-24 hours will have lower phytic acid than those soaked for shorter periods of times etc. etc.

Your diet doesn't appear to be horribly heavy in wheat based stuff, but you were diagnosed with iron deficiencies, so this plus some steak/beef if your dietary preferences allow it may help.

To more narrowing focus on the crunch part, once you address your overall energy budget and eliminate gluten from it, there are some things you can do to get the crunchy back in.

1) Rice based bread. Carb heavy, but gluten free. The stuff I got at Trader Joes was a rather dense bread and bit on the moist side for good toasting, but you might have some luck with it.

2) You're across the harbor from S.F.. Sourdough bread HAS to be done with a long-fermentation process (long enough to reduce the phytic acid content significantly) SF is the sourdough bread capital of the world.

3) Rice cakes. Yeah, the crunch isn't as good as crackers or toast, but it's there.

4) Sourdough crackers. Crackers tend to have a bit less overall sugar/carbs in them than bread, and sourdough crackers with cream cheese and smoked salmon is a marvelous breakfast.

Oh, that reminds me. One way of altering your energy/protein balance is to simply drink a protein drink/shake every morning and evening. I have been getting 5 pound bags of this http://www.trueprotein.com/Product_Details.aspx?cid=46&pid=536 and mixing 2 scoops with 16oz of water for breakfast every morning. The plain unsweetened stuff is like weak milk, which I don't care for, but can swallow. The unsweetened chocolate is much more palatable. I'd guess that with 2 scoops a day 2 pounds would last me a month. I bought 10 pounds last order, but just to see if you can stomach it 1 pound ought to get you along the way. Just to add--no financial interest on my part, yadda yadda.

One other thing to look for--and this may have come up before or later in the thread. Some folks are particularly sensitive to different preservatives, to caffeine or other stimulants etc.. Your food diary, while much more accurate than I could generate over that same time, lacks the sort of minute specificity that would let a doctor or a someone with far more knowledge than I pick out the one or two chemicals that are fucking with you.

I routinely get headaches of various kinds, some due to "whiplash" when I was 19, some due to swelling of the sinuses (some due to infections, some not) and finally I wake up most days with a mild headache (sort of like you describe where moving the head increases the pain, but lying there doesn't make it go away). Usually it will subside if I get up and get through the initial pain, but some days that's damn hard to do.

Good luck.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 04:45:59PM 0 points [-]

I wouldn't claim to eat very little. As I said, this diary doesn't include portion size - in particular, the word "candy" might mean several handsful over the course of a day, "ice cream" might be just a little or two bowls, etc. etc.

I'm a pescetarian.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 19 September 2011 01:15:35PM 1 point [-]

So up your intake of fatty fish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oily_fish) and chicken (chicken is cheap) and (mother)try to get more fresh vegetables.(/mother).

I'm just looking at what you're reporting and seeing a trend of someone who eats worse than I ever did, except for a very short time when I was in school and not working and would eat a plate of rice and soy sauce for lunch, with maybe a bagel and cream cheese if i had extra money, and then dinner would be half a pound of baloney and some french bread. Breakfast was caffeine.

And yeah, I had a LOT more headaches back then, and would just not bother to go to class on some days. meaning not leaving the house. When my finances got better...no, when my fiancee moved in and started insisting on "real" food (what, mac-n-cheese and hotdogs is real food!) things got a bit better.

I realize there's individual differences, but try to track not only what you're eating, but how many calories you're getting. If it's less than 1500 a day (which is fairly low, but you live in a moderate climate and don't get much exercise) I'd suggest adding aiming for 1800-2000 calories of "quality" food (vegetables, fish or chicken, more eggs (especially pastured eggs if you can afford them). Also nuts are a good source of proteins, fats and longer lasting starches.

My wife's doctor recommended magnesium supplementation for her headaches. Magnesium levels weren't tested, but the doctor said it may help, and some "real" studies seem to agree (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9523054?dopt=Abstract).

Also, if you're on hormone therapy for either cycle stabilization or pregnancy prevention...No, it started way earlier than that, so that's not the cause. OTOH there was a study some 20 years or so ago linking use of birth control hormones with stroke, so if you're getting worse headaches consult your doctor to see if those risks are still relevant (this shouldn't have to be an office visit, merely a call to the clinic should do).

Comment author: Alicorn 19 September 2011 05:25:59PM 0 points [-]

Pescetarian. Not going to eat chicken. I can eat more salmon, tuna, and trout, though. I already eat what seems like a ridiculous amount of eggs; I've been on this egg kick. Didn't use to eat them much.

I actually took magnesium supplements during part of the logged period (I was trying to fix my annoyingly high levels of fasciculation). They didn't have any effect on anything.

I am not on hormones for anything.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 20 September 2011 11:54:05AM 0 points [-]

Sorry, the definition of Pescetarian I read said "fish but no meat". Since fowl is neither fish, nor "meat" in some circles, and you ate eggs, I thought the full grown chicken/turkey was ok.

How long did you take the magnesium? Week, two weeks? Sometimes this stuff takes days or weeks to 'load up'. My wife started taking B for some memory issues (she was tested low in B something or other) and it took a couple weeks for me to notice an improvement. She never noticed it, but that's because she was the one forgetting.

Comment author: Alicorn 20 September 2011 03:59:41PM 0 points [-]

I took the entire bottle; I think it was about a month.

Comment author: TwistingFingers 17 September 2011 01:08:27PM 1 point [-]

I would be more open to switching to a low carb diet if anyone could name something that crunches the way toast does.

Celery?

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:02:05PM 1 point [-]

Too wet and fibrous.

Comment author: shokwave 17 September 2011 05:26:31AM *  0 points [-]

something that crunches the way toast does.

Bacon on paper towelling (to soak away grease) in a microwave until it's cooked is crunchy, but not quite the way toast is.

Also it's bacon, so it's probably sufficiently different from toast that texture is overwhelmed.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 05:47:03AM 0 points [-]

I'm a pescetarian.

Comment author: jimrandomh 17 September 2011 06:12:19AM 3 points [-]

You should probably drop that constraint until you find a diet you can be healthy on, then maybe add it back once you know what the constraints are.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 06:51:11AM 1 point [-]

The headaches are a lifelong problem, and I didn't become a pescetarian until I was 17. So I'm pretty sure they're not caused by meat deficiency. Putting my vegetarianism on a hiatus would be injurious to the long-term commitment thereto.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 18 September 2011 06:47:49AM 0 points [-]

(note: somewhat orthagonal to the discussion of diet v.s. headaches)

I do understand commitment--I have been married over 15 years, and the last 4 have been not worth the effort, but I'm not really suffering because of it (and there's a little kid involved, which is a separate commitment).

But you're basically saying that if my wife starts punching me in the mouth every day, then I should stay with her just because I made a long term commitment. As the kids today say "that's fuxord"

Almost every human being has distinct genes, and once we hit the world and those genes start to express themselves we get wildly divergent results.

if I could prove to you that a cheese burger a day and ONLY a cheese burger (or some sort of steak) would greatly reduce the severity and frequency of your headaches, would you STILL insist on a diet deficient in dead cow flesh? (leave aside that you ate cheese burgers as a kid and it didn't help).

All Jimrandomh is suggesting is that you may want to be willing to test whether some combination of foods will help. If, in the end it doesn't, well ok. If, OTOH your find that my cheese burger fixes you this doesn't mean that you can't go back to the diet you've committed to, but at least then you know (sort of) why you have the problem and if you need to modulate it (for example you know a tough week is coming up) you can take steps.

(that said, while i think that well raised pork and beef are healthy in appropriate quantities, you can have a healthy diet without them and I would be really surprised to find out that they helped your problem)

Oh, and again to the crispy thing: I seem to remember my mom making fried zuchini at some point. I couldn't stand it.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 04:40:49PM 7 points [-]

But you're basically saying that if my wife starts punching me in the mouth every day, then I should stay with her just because I made a long term commitment.

No, I'm saying that if a masked person breaks into your house and punches you in the face and runs away, and it could be any of a couple dozen people only one of whom is your wife, divorcing her probably isn't the first step.

Comment author: shokwave 17 September 2011 06:58:16AM 0 points [-]

Well then bacon is definitely sufficiently different from toast!

Comment author: shokwave 17 September 2011 05:17:12AM 3 points [-]

I think you're on the right track with diet - headaches on a semiregular daily schedule sounds a lot like consumption of food on a semiregular daily schedule. Nothing in the data set jumped out at me straight away, so I expect it will be a hard-to-find dietary problem. "All your life" suggests a widely available property, such that its presence is invariant over changes in location and diet.

Ctrl-f "no headache" didn't help much.

Based on this line of reasoning, I suspect a mild gluten intolerance. The only test I'm aware of is rather expensive: buying gluten-free bread, and avoiding cereal and pasta for two-ish weeks.

Searching for what giving up gluten is like regarding headaches: gluten withdrawal is apparently a thing (see the July entry), so if gluten-free makes the headaches worse, it's one of those arduous treks through low-utility space to get from under a local optimum.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 17 September 2011 06:15:28AM 0 points [-]

I'd recommend more research on gluten-free to be sure of details.

I don't think going gluten-free has to be expensive if you don't go for gluten-free products which resemble foods that would normally have gluten. On the other hand, you do have to take complete control of what you're eating. For example, most soy sauce has gluten in it.

Alicorn, this is a tentative suggestion, as in it might be worth the aggravation but I'm not sure. Have you posted a detailed description of your headaches?

Comment author: TwistingFingers 17 September 2011 04:38:29AM 3 points [-]

Are you only listing one of the meals you ate or is this complete? You are often only eating one meal a day?

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 05:01:01AM 0 points [-]

That's a list of foods I eat on each day. They're not separated into meals. I think the only time on there I ate only at one sitting was the day with the strouganoff.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 17 September 2011 02:23:59AM 3 points [-]

I didn't look at your diet, but I presume you'll proceed to look for non-diet factors you could manipulate to reduce your headaches if you find no promising dietary ideas.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 02:32:41AM 0 points [-]

Do you have suggestions?

Comment author: CharlesR 17 September 2011 03:24:59PM *  2 points [-]

I use to get migraines. Now when I go out, I wear good sunglasses. The headaches went away.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:01:52PM 0 points [-]

I sometimes go days without leaving the house at all. Unlikely to be related.

Comment author: Emily 17 September 2011 04:09:11PM 1 point [-]

Is it possible that this is a factor? I get a headache if I don't leave the house for more than 16 hours or so.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:18:19PM 0 points [-]

Unlikely. I've been getting out of doors much more often in the last month and a half since moving to a place with supernaturally lovely weather and this hasn't yielded any improvement.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 17 September 2011 03:40:55AM *  2 points [-]

None from personal experience, but I was thinking of Seth Roberts' reports about migraine-sufferers identifying some triggers (e.g. fabric softener!)

Obvious things that can be manipulated to probably cause headaches: noise, stress, erratic sleep, physical exertion, dehydration*, allergies, altitude (obviously you're not likely varying your altitude, and most people adjust to any reasonable <7000 ft level), reduction in caffeine, alcohol (and also sulfites in wine) - you're probably considering the last two under 'diet'.

[ * ] I guess I have personal experience nearly fainting from without-noticing-I'm-thirsty dehydration; never a severe headache I'd associate with dehydration without also enough exposure for a nice full body sunburn.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:15:24AM 2 points [-]

I don't think it can plausibly be an environmental factor. It's a lifelong problem and I've moved around a lot (also changed my sleep schedule plenty of times). My default consumption of caffeine and alcohol is zero.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 17 September 2011 05:14:39AM 1 point [-]

I think scented cleaning products are common enough that people are likely to be exposed to them unless a deliberate effort is made to have everything unscented.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 05:16:41AM 0 points [-]

I don't usually expose myself to cleaning products at all. When I do they're usually just water. I spent a year and a half living in an apartment where neither my roommate nor I even owned a scented cleaning product. My laundry detergent is scent-free.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 17 September 2011 05:21:34AM 0 points [-]

Okay, good luck then! You can try playing with subsets of environmental factors that may have been present across all those moves, but I'm not optimistic that you'll have many interesting (and controllable) possibilities. Maybe you can find something that decreases your headaches' frequency or severity even if they can't be eliminated entirely.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 17 September 2011 08:04:21PM 1 point [-]

I was trying to decide whether to supplement lipoic acid, and happened to notice convincing evidence that for migraine sufferers, LA supplementation definitely reduces both migraines and regular headaches. (600mg/day, which is not an extremely high dose)

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 02:06:23AM 0 points [-]

Migraines are hemispherical, right? I only sometimes have headaches that confine themselves to one side.

Comment author: [deleted] 20 September 2011 04:39:32AM *  0 points [-]
Comment author: jimrandomh 18 September 2011 03:10:41AM 6 points [-]

I put 75% probability on you having celiac disease. It explains the headaches, iron deficiency anemia, peripheral neuropathy, swelling, and burning sensation in the skin (all reported in this thread). If it is not celiac disease, it is something that has not been mentioned in this thread; all of the other hypotheses given thus far are obviously implausible.

There are relevant blood tests, although they can produce false negatives. I recommend trying a gluten-free diet for two weeks, and seeing if your symptoms subside. Vitamins are also a good idea to mitigate some of the damage and help you recover.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 03:15:07AM *  8 points [-]

Since you have supplied a probability, want to bet?

Comment author: jimrandomh 18 September 2011 03:33:02AM 7 points [-]

Since you have supplied a probability, want to bet?

Okay. I'll accept any bet that gives me better than 1:3 odds, up to a maximum risk of $100.

Please don't set up a perverse incentive to misdiagnose yourself, though.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 03:43:07AM 2 points [-]

I was thinking I'd just go to the doctor and ask to be tested for celiac. Since apparently the tests don't work if you haven't been eating gluten lately. Will that suffice?

Help me out with the odds: if you risk $100 how much would I be risking?

Comment author: jimrandomh 18 September 2011 03:58:16AM 2 points [-]

Help me out with the odds: if you risk $100 how much would I be risking?

You'd be risking an amount of your choosing up to a maximum of $33 1/3.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 05:01:49PM 3 points [-]

I'll take a round thirty against your ninety, is that okay?

Comment author: jimrandomh 19 September 2011 02:57:14AM 3 points [-]

Apologies, but Molybdenumblue bet against half my limit threshold before you, which makes the combination of these two above my limit. Also, in a comment before that I specified a 10-to-25 ratio (to make myself favor the bet, rather than be indifferent). I can bet 20 against 50 under the same terms I gave her; is that okay?

Comment author: Alicorn 21 September 2011 05:57:54PM *  5 points [-]

I have an appointment tomorrow (although I don't know if they will test me that very day or not; it may not be sufficiently routine). Molybdenumblue offered to withdraw, and I'm not very pleased with moving the goalposts from the initial odds ratio you'd offered (I'd've taken my $20 against your $50 if that were your original offer, but changing it later makes a social negotiation module in my brain complain). Do you want to bet my $30 versus your $90 or not?

Suggested parameters: I will get tested for celiac. If the test comes back positive, you win; if it comes back negative, I win; if for some reason the doctor thinks I can't reasonably have celiac and won't test me for it, the bet's off; if I turn out to have some non-celiac condition like an allergy that nevertheless means I have to avoid gluten/wheat, bet is off; if the doctor wants to pursue other possible explanations for my headaches first and one of them turns out to be correct, I win; if the test comes back inconclusive and the doctor tells me to go without gluten for a period of time such that I'm willing to try it, then the bet turns out according to the results of the dietary test; if the doctor says I need to try going without gluten for six months or something really intrusive like that without compelling evidence that I have celiac, I'm not going to do that, and the bet is off. If none of these conditions obtains by New Year's, bet is off.

Comment author: jimrandomh 21 September 2011 06:08:50PM 8 points [-]

Do you want to bet my $30 versus your $90 or not?

parameters: I will get tested for celiac. If the test comes back positive, you win; if it comes back negative, I win; if for some reason the doctor thinks I can't reasonably have celiac and won't test me for it, the bet's off; if the doctor wants to pursue other possible explanations for my headaches first and one of them turns out to be correct, I win; if the test comes back inconclusive and the doctor tells me to go without gluten for a period of time such that I'm willing to try it, then the bet turns out according to the results of the dietary test; if the doctor says I need to try going without gluten for six months or something really intrusive like that without compelling evidence that I have celiac, I'm not going to do that, and the bet is off. If none of these conditions obtains by New Year's, bet is off.

Accepted.

Comment author: Alicorn 21 September 2011 06:09:46PM 2 points [-]

(I edited in another clause about the ambiguous case where I have, like, a wheat allergy or something else that is similar to but not identical to celiac; I can revise that if you want.)

Comment author: smk 02 October 2011 07:35:41PM 1 point [-]

Any news?

Comment author: Alicorn 02 October 2011 08:18:00PM 1 point [-]

Not yet. I should be getting it soon, supposedly.

Comment author: [deleted] 19 September 2011 03:06:30AM 3 points [-]

If this is a problem I can withdraw.

Comment author: endoself 18 September 2011 04:09:13AM 2 points [-]

Minimum (you'd hardly want to risk $100 for $1 on a 95% probability).

Comment author: [deleted] 18 September 2011 01:19:34PM 0 points [-]

Is this offer only open to Alicorn?

Comment author: jimrandomh 18 September 2011 04:30:01PM 1 point [-]

The offer's open to anyone, as long as the sum of all bets made so far is less than my maximum.

To make the numbers round, and give myself a little expected-profit margin, I'll put up $25 against each $10 someone else puts up. Bets settle via PayPal, in my favor if a diagnosis of celiac disease is reached, in your favor if a different diagnosis is made and confirmed, or if no diagnosis has been made by Jan 1.

Comment author: [deleted] 18 September 2011 04:36:36PM 0 points [-]

I guess it would be kind of a dick move to monopolize the bet, so I'll put up $20.

Comment author: jimrandomh 19 September 2011 02:58:14AM 0 points [-]

I'll put up $20.

Accepted. ($20 against $50, exact terms in this comment)

Comment author: play_therapist 18 September 2011 08:45:07PM 0 points [-]

It wouldn't hurt to spell out the steps Alicorn should take to rule in or out a diagnosis of celiac, since the blood test isn't completely reliable. It's my understanding that following a gluten free diet can be challenging at first, one needs to carefully read labels. Salad dressings, sauces, etc. often contain gluten. A friend of mine bought a separate toaster for her daughter who has celiac. I suggest specifying a set time period that he should follow a gluten free diet while keeping a diary listing all foods eaten, as well as any symptoms.

Comment author: pedanterrific 18 September 2011 08:52:56PM 4 points [-]

set time period that he should follow a gluten free diet

(she)

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 09:03:11PM 1 point [-]

Thank you.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 09:01:36PM 1 point [-]

Hey, if the blood test says I don't have celiac, I am not going to follow a miserable complicated diet for weeks just to win a bet.

Comment author: play_therapist 19 September 2011 02:12:26AM *  1 point [-]

I can understand your reluctance. May I suggest the following? How about if you get the blood test? If it's positive, then you'll know the problem and can fix your head. If it's negative, you really should work with a doctor and see if he can figure out what it is. Ask him to check out some of the other things suggested. If none of them solve your headaches, then you can try the gluten free diet - to be sure.

As far as the bet goes- what conditions are set are between you and Jim, I just think they should be clearly established, to avoid any misunderstandings. I strongly suspect that he's more interested in helping you figure out the cause of your headaches then in winning a bet.

I know people with celiac who follow the gluten free diet. My impression is that it takes some getting used to, but it isn't that miserable or complicated, once you get used to it. Nowadays supermarkets like Whole Foods have gluten free sections where you can buy special mixes, etc. which helps.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 19 September 2011 05:17:53AM 1 point [-]

If it's positive, then you'll know the problem and can fix your head.

If Alicorn has celiac, then her quality of life will improve if she avoids gluten. However, this might not prevent her headaches.

Comment author: Jolly 11 October 2011 03:07:12AM 0 points [-]

I suggest the Cyrex labs tests. Gluten sensitivity testing is tricky.
Also, if you are not already taking Vitamin D, I'll bet you are deficient.

Comment author: Alicorn 11 October 2011 04:03:35AM 1 point [-]

My sprue bloodwork included other things, including vitamin D, which I have been taking for a year and a half and still showed a deficiency in. Dunno how that works.

Comment author: play_therapist 11 October 2011 03:19:21PM 3 points [-]

A few years ago I was tested for Vitamin D deficiency- probably for the first time. I came out at the low end of the normal range- which is probably normal in the Boston area, where I live. We don't get enough sunlight here for much of the year. My doctor prescribed a megadose of 10,000 units a day for 2 or 3 months and then retested. My levels were o.k. then, so she told me to take 1,000 units a day, which I do, in addition to the 400 units in my multivitamin.

My point is, maybe you need a higher dose- in addition to looking into the possibility that your really do have celiac disease, despite the negative test.

Comment author: jimrandomh 11 October 2011 04:26:19AM 1 point [-]

My sprue bloodwork included other things, including vitamin D, which I have been taking for a year and a half and still showed a deficiency in. Dunno how that works.

How much have you been taking? It might not be enough. And did you ever find out what the false-negative rate was on the celiac test? Vitamin D malabsorption is listed on the wiki page as another symptom.

Comment author: Alicorn 11 October 2011 04:35:16AM 0 points [-]

2000 I.U. a day, which is what the doctor's note on my bloodwork report suggested (she must not have looked at the list of supplements I take, or something). I don't know the false negative rate but I can ask.

Comment author: Jolly 20 October 2011 03:22:17AM 2 points [-]

2000 IU is not very much. I suggest starting at 1000 iu per 25 pounds of body weight for light skinned individuals, and then testing and adjusting accordingly. (say, 1000 iu for every 10 ng/ml you want to increase)

Comment author: wedrifid 20 October 2011 04:02:25AM 0 points [-]

And starting from there I suggest adding MOAR D until your bloodwork puts you in the mid-high range. ;)

Comment author: CronoDAS 20 September 2011 02:20:41AM 2 points [-]

I have a hypothesis. It is possible that painkiller withdrawal is the cause of at least some of your headaches. According to Wikipedia, ibuprofen can cause rebound headaches, and you've been taking ibuprofen regularly for a long time.

Comment author: Alicorn 20 September 2011 04:15:10AM 0 points [-]

I am aware of the risk of rebound headaches, but I don't think I'm taking enough of it to cause that problem; I avoid medicating unless a headache is bothering me more than usual, and since they've gotten worse lately I'm explicitly alternating days. (Today is a no-ibuprofen day :()

Comment author: EvelynM 18 September 2011 04:38:19AM 2 points [-]

I don't have any specific suggestions for you about headache causes.

Curetogether is crowdsourcing site to help people help each other figure out what's causing their health problems. The founder started it to deal with her headaches: http://quantifiedself.com/self-experiment/ http://curetogether.com/chronic-daily-headache/survey/symptoms/

Time of day seemed to be a significant factor in discovering the cause for her. That may be something you want to add to your logs.

There are always a lot of factors, and formalizing your experiments may help you figure out what the most significant causes are. You may want to try eating the same things every day for a while, at the same time, to reduce variation. You may also want to do things you don't usually, and stop doing things you do every day.

Chronic pain is a huge drain on one's life. I wish you all the best in moving towards decreased pain.

Comment author: play_therapist 17 September 2011 09:13:27PM 2 points [-]

I can't tell from your log when you ate in relation to when the headaches come on.

One possibility that occurs to me is that your headaches might be occurring when your glucose levels are low, if you are prone to hypoglycemia. You can figure that out by observing if you tend to get the headaches when you haven't eaten for a few hours or more or/and by testing your glucose levels. If that does tend to be a problem, making sure that you have protein or/and some fat with your meals and frequent meals or snacks should help. Also, trying to avoid too simple carbohydrates and sugary foods, which cause glucose levels to spike and then plummet will help.

Comment author: jimmy 17 September 2011 03:22:20AM 2 points [-]

Does caffeine help your headaches? Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, which can help with certain kinds of headaches. This could help determine what kind of headaches you have.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:12:45AM *  1 point [-]

I do not consume caffeine except for in chocolate. Can anyone think of a not-coffee, not-tea, not-carbonated, not-a-long-list-of-mysterious-chemical-ingredients caffeine source for me to try? (I think there is caffeine powder in the house somewhere, so if the answer is "mix X milligrams caffeine powder in with Y compatible liquid" I can possibly do that.)

Comment author: shokwave 17 September 2011 04:32:27AM *  2 points [-]

No-Doz is inexpensive, just caffeine, more convenient to prepare, and easier to take than caffeine powder, if the powder route proves too much of a trivial inconvenience.

Comment author: anonym 17 September 2011 06:42:35AM *  3 points [-]

As a frequent sufferer of headaches, the only over-the-counter medication that works really well for my headaches are the Excedrin formulations that include acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. Each of those ingredients alone is nowhere near as effective in my experience as the combination.

Comment author: jimmy 17 September 2011 09:39:40AM 1 point [-]

I meant it more as a diagnostic test than a solution. I'm not sure of the mechanism of action of acetaminophen and aspirin, but I think they would reduce the information you could get from this test.

Comment author: orthonormal 17 September 2011 05:49:50PM 0 points [-]

Ditto, and caffeine by itself often makes a headache worse for me.

Comment author: gwern 17 September 2011 10:57:09PM 0 points [-]

I think there is caffeine powder in the house somewhere, so if the answer is "mix X milligrams caffeine powder in with Y compatible liquid" I can possibly do that

I believe anhydrous caffeine powder, as the name indicates, dissolves nicely into water. (I seem to recall this being the case for me, although I cannot test it now since I long ago turned all the caffeine powder into pills.)

Comment author: bcoburn 18 September 2011 01:38:29AM 1 point [-]

It does dissolve reasonably into water, but tastes pretty terrible. Can dilute it with fruit juice if that's a problem, or just ignore it.

Comment author: [deleted] 17 September 2011 01:41:46AM *  2 points [-]

I think the first thing to check (due to being reasonably likely as well as easy to test) is eye sight: If you don't wear glasses maybe and eye test would show that you are near or far sighted. (That you woke up with a headache suggests otherwise but it is still a possibility)

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 01:42:42AM *  1 point [-]

I wear glasses whenever I'm awake. The prescription was last updated in January of last year. The headaches are pretty much a lifelong issue, and I've had glasses since the second grade regularly checked for ongoing compatibility, so I doubt it's that unless several different eye doctors have been making a consistent mistake. The reason I was moved to post today is that ibuprofen is slowly ceasing to work as decisively as it used to.

Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 17 September 2011 02:52:08AM *  1 point [-]

I remember at one point you mentioned you don't like to exercise because it causes you to sweat. I think both are crucial components of a healthy lifestyle. Sweating, in particular, serves as an important way for the body to dispose of toxins. It may be that there are some toxins that are harmless to most people, because they sweat them out, but which are gradually bioaccumulating in your body and causing your headaches.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 17 September 2011 09:05:12AM 19 points [-]

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jan/28/health/he-skeptic28 :

The bottom line: Sweat does contain trace amounts of toxins, says Dr. Dee Anna Glaser, a professor of dermatology at St. Louis University and founding member of the International Hyperhidrosis Society, a medical group dedicated to the study and treatment of heavy sweating.

But, Glaser, adds, in the big picture, sweat has only one function: Cooling you down when you overheat. "Sweating for the sake of sweating has no benefits," she says. "Sweating heavily is not going to release a lot of toxins."

In fact, Glaser says, heavy sweating can impair your body's natural detoxification system. As she explains, the liver and kidneys -- not the sweat glands -- are the organs we count on to filter toxins from our blood. If you don't drink enough water to compensate for a good sweat, dehydration could stress the kidneys and keep them from doing their job. "If you're not careful, heavy sweating can be a bad thing," she says.

Sweating definitely won't help clear the body of mercury or other metals, says Donald Smith, a professor of environmental toxicology at UC Santa Cruz, who studies treatments for metal poisoning. Almost all toxic metals in the body are excreted through urine or feces, he says. And less than 1% are lost through sweat. In other words, you'll do far more detoxifying in the bathroom than you ever could in a sauna.

http://www.walkaboutmag.com/17gates.html :

I’m always stunned when people attempt a variety of strategies to “clean their body of toxins.” Most of these practices sound logical, but body metabolism, which is sophisticated and complicated, is not a logical process. There are no toxins in sweat. Toxins are removed by a healthy kidney and liver working full time to counter all we do to abuse our bodies with poor exercise, eating, and lifestyle habits. The body isn’t detoxified when it sweats. It’s overheated.

http://getbetterhealth.com/toxins-can-you-sweat-them-out/2010.09.22 :

You might not want to believe me, but it’s fact: You cannot sweat out toxins. Sweat is composed of 99 percent water and a tiny percent of salt, urea, proteins and carbohydrates. Salt, proteins and carbohydrates are natural. Urea is a by-product of protein metabolism and is non-toxic. It’s regulated to keep your blood at a healthy pH. Most excess urea is eliminated in urine (hence the name) and a small amount is in sweat.

Toxins like mercury, chemicals, alcohol, drugs, and spicy BBQ sauce are eliminated by your liver and intestines. Sweat glands, all 2.6 million of them, regulate your temperature — they’re not designed to expel toxins.

The primary ingredient in sweat is pure water. The water evaporates from your skin, cooling you. Excess sweating doesn’t eliminate excess salt or help hangovers. By forcing your body to copiously perspire, you’re only forcing your kidneys to save water (and ironically actual toxins) elsewhere. The water that ends up in the towel on the floor is the precious water you needed to stay hydrated, not a puddle of poison.

In some ways sweat is the opposite of toxic, it’s a vital fluid. When you are working out hard, replace it. I recommend water, not Captain Morgan rum.

Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 17 September 2011 03:29:08PM 12 points [-]

Thanks for correcting my misconception.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 02:54:15AM 3 points [-]

Exercise makes a headache in progress worse, and you can see I don't have that many windows of headache-free-ness. That said, if some modest amount of exercise would really help, it might be a net positive trade to make. That said, [citation needed].

Comment author: Baughn 18 September 2011 01:46:08AM 1 point [-]

Exercise has so many benefits, it's hard for me to think of cases where it isn't a positive trade. Increased agility and strength (..depending, hiking's good), reduced mortality, at least in my case I think better with regular exercise, more energy overall..

I don't consider myself an exercise maniac, but I do layout my vacations such that I can go hiking. It's just plain enjoyable, especially with family.

As for your headaches.. thinking about it, it sounds like you're indoor a lot. It may be a reaction to low oxygen content or generally bad air; have you tried just going outside when one starts? You don't need to exercise, just.. sit outside. Though the benefit is questionable if you live in a city.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 02:04:29AM 1 point [-]

Exercise has so many benefits, it's hard for me to think of cases where it isn't a positive trade.

Yeah... talking to people who feel this way is very frustrating.

As for your headaches.. thinking about it, it sounds like you're indoor a lot. It may be a reaction to low oxygen content or generally bad air; have you tried just going outside when one starts? You don't need to exercise, just.. sit outside.

Today, before reading this comment, I sat in a park. My headache-of-the-day did not go away.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 19 September 2011 01:20:11PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 18 September 2011 12:31:18PM -1 points [-]

Downvoted for having nothing to do with rationality

Having said that, I used to get frequent headaches and I found that eating salty food would kill them. My diet sounds pretty similar to yours and I am also vegetarian. Maybe we lack salt.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 18 September 2011 03:26:13PM 1 point [-]

It's about rationality because it's about taking a rational approach to a difficult problem.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 04:55:12PM 1 point [-]

How much salt did it take you to kill your headaches? I'd be surprised if I were salt-deficient but it's cheap to try.

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 18 September 2011 11:53:42PM 3 points [-]

Two packets of salty crisps. (Do Americans call crisps "chips"? I refer to the thin planar slices of potato, not the thicker cuboid slices of potatoes also know as "fries".)

Comment author: Alicorn 19 September 2011 12:27:38AM 1 point [-]

Are you sure it was the salt and not the potato?

Comment author: Oscar_Cunningham 19 September 2011 12:38:08AM *  1 point [-]

No. And of course I have exactly one data point for all of this. EDIT: As in one person (me) rather than as in one instance of curing headaches. I did reliably cure headaches this way.

Comment author: Jack 19 September 2011 12:20:09AM 1 point [-]

Do Americans call crisps "chips"?

We do.

Comment author: tetsuo55 17 September 2011 09:15:54PM *  0 points [-]

If this is your real diet then I am shocked at it, and and not surprised that it might make you sick in one or more ways.

As others have said headaches can have many causes, and even this diet might be unrelated.

As for the most likely cause, i would point to the milk. According to studies i don't have links to up to 76% of adults are allergic to cow milk. It takes a while and sometime high amounts for symptoms to start showing, it also takes a while to make them go away again. You could try not drinking milk at all for about a month and see what for effect that has on your headaches. In my own research into my chronic diarrhea i found that some foods take a long time to cause symptoms while others are immediate.

As for a better diet, i suggest reading this sequence: http://chronopause.com/index.php/2011/08/12/interventive-gerontology-101-01-the-basics/

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 17 September 2011 11:14:43PM 3 points [-]

According to studies i don't have links to up to 76% of adults are allergic to cow milk.

You are thinking of lactose intolerance, which is a digestive problem (enzyme deficiency), not an allergy (immune reaction, typically to a protein). Actual milk allergies do exist, but they are much rarer among adults. Headaches are not known to be a symptom of lactose intolerance.

Comment author: tetsuo55 17 September 2011 11:28:33PM *  0 points [-]

I am specifically talking about allergy, which is indeed completely unrelated to lactose intolerance, and are said to be very common, but that generally symptoms of the allergy are so weak that you can ignore them.

"A group of phosphoproteins in milk are commonly referred to as “casein”. Casein, which comprises 78.7% of all the protein in milk, is a major trigger of migraines and other types of headaches." http://www.metabolism.com/2008/08/23/stress-foods-food-additives-hormones-initiate-headaches

Comment author: Dreaded_Anomaly 18 September 2011 12:31:44AM 0 points [-]

I have seen numbers showing ~75% of adults have some degree of lactose intolerance. I have not seen such numbers for milk allergies.

Comment author: Nornagest 30 September 2011 10:45:45PM *  1 point [-]

75% of adults worldwide are lactose intolerant, but it's strongly bound to ethnicity and North European backgrounds are outliers on the low side. Lactose intolerance rates for adult Americans of European ancestry are between 8% and 15% depending on what numbers you trust (self-reporting appears to give lower prevalence than other approaches), with the rates for Americans generally being about twice that.

I don't know anything about the allergy, but I am lactose intolerant and my symptoms do not include headaches. Nor have I ever heard of that showing up for others with the problem.

Comment author: kalla724 30 September 2011 09:57:36PM 1 point [-]

Sorry for coming in late, but: headaches that start abruptly (as in "four months ago"), are this disruptive, and keep going on for months should be checked out by a doctor.

You moved three time zones in the middle of the problem, and you are not reporting a big change in frequency/severity. This makes random outside factors less likely. While food can be a cause of headaches, it is actually not that frequent of a cause, and usually a clear link can be found - especially if someone gathers extensive data like you did.

If you really want to avoid medical professionals, try washing out your sinuses with saline (Neti pots often work well) once a day for a few weeks - an indolent sinus infection could be a cause. But if this continues (and especially, if it gets to the point of causing nausea), please try to get to a doctor ASAP.

Comment author: darius 17 September 2011 11:11:35PM 1 point [-]

My headaches mostly went away with daily flaxseed oil or fish oil. I have no particular reason to expect you'd see the same, but it's easy to try. I take 1 or 2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil per day.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 02:16:30AM 1 point [-]

I recently tried drinking oil for the Shangri-La diet and it made me want to puke; is there some tasty preparation you recommend?

Comment author: grouchymusicologist 18 September 2011 04:21:22AM 1 point [-]

It's available in capsule form.

Comment author: Jolly 11 October 2011 03:19:46AM 0 points [-]

If you do take oil in capsule form, I suggest biting one open every once in a while to check for rancidity. Also, store them in the fridge.

Comment author: pedanterrific 11 October 2011 04:25:22AM 1 point [-]

biting one open every once in a while to check for rancidity

One gets the impression you make sure your revolver's unloaded by putting it to your head and pulling the trigger.

Comment author: Jolly 14 October 2011 12:31:48AM 0 points [-]

The taste test seems more reliable than smell. I sidestepped the issue and take liquid fish oil instead.

Comment author: darius 18 September 2011 09:41:33PM 0 points [-]

You could grind seeds in a coffee grinder, as BillyOblivion suggests. (I don't because the extra stuff in seeds disagrees with another body issue of mine.) Sometimes I take around 5 gelcaps a day while traveling, which isn't as effective but makes most of the difference for the headaches.

What I do is put on a swimmer's nose clip, drink the oil by alternately taking in a mouthful of water and floating a swallow of oil down on top of that; follow up with a banana or something because I've found taking it on an empty stomach to disagree with me; have a bit more water; then take off the noseclip. The clip is mainly to help with Shangri-La appetite control, which I consider just a bonus.

The first time I took this it gave me heartburn -- starting with a smaller amount the first couple of times might be smart.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 19 September 2011 01:06:59PM *  0 points [-]

I didn't usually grind them. Well, not in a grinder. I just ate them and let my molars and stomach acids and gut bacteria do the work.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 18 September 2011 06:53:36AM 0 points [-]

You can get flaxseed in, well, seed form and mix it into salads and other foods.

It's kinda like sunflower seeds, only a lot smaller.

Comment author: jimmy 18 September 2011 06:02:34AM *  0 points [-]

I'd recommend flaxseed oil even without headaches. It's done some cool stuff for me.

Barleans makes some flavored flax seed emulsion that is surprisingly palatable (this stuff). Gel caps are another option, but a tablespoon is roughly a dozen gel caps.

I tried drinking olive oil a couple times and felt like puking too. Flaxseed oil doesn't do that to me, even 4 tablespoons at a time.

Comment author: moridinamael 17 September 2011 03:24:53PM 1 point [-]

You are me. I used to have nearly constant headaches. Eventually after trying everything else I went to an allergist and found that I'm allergic to most types of pollen, dust and animal dander. I started taking Zyrtek every morning and the change in my lifestyle was shocking.

If you try anything from this thread, try taking Zyrtek in the morning.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:04:41PM 1 point [-]

I went to an allergist when I was ten or eleven ish and got a scratch test for what I think was supposed to be everything under the sun (albeit for headache-unrelated reasons; this was an attempt to track down another problem that remains a mystery). I wasn't allergic to anything the allergist tried, and those things seem too obvious to have skipped... right?

Comment author: moridinamael 17 September 2011 04:23:14PM 2 points [-]

Perhaps. Allergies change naturally over time. I certainly wasn't getting these headaches when I was 11 or 12.

Regardless of whether these are necessarily allergy headaches, they do sound like they're caused by sinus inflammation, and Zyrtek and other antihistamines treat this inflammation directly. I keep recommending Zyrtek because I found it to have no consequential negative side effects.

Comment author: jimrandomh 17 September 2011 04:29:27PM 1 point [-]

albeit for headache-unrelated reasons; this was an attempt to track down another problem that remains a mystery

If you don't mind my asking, what was the problem? If you want a diagnosis for your headaches, then every scrap of medical data, especially other unexplained problems, is potentially related and useful.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:42:23PM *  2 points [-]

The particular problem the allergist was hunting is that sometimes, the palms of my hands (especially the fingers) swell up and feel warm and itchy. This isn't profound enough to be that visible - they're slightly red and puffy but it's nothing dramatic - but it makes it challenging to bend my fingers all the way and it's uncomfortable. It happens at seemingly random times, indoors and out, and goes away by itself after some minutes. It can be either hand; sometimes it's both at once. It used to happen more often and has slowed way down; the last time it happened to me was sometime in maybe June, I think.

Other random unexplained problems:

Permanent itch on the outside of the heel of my left foot. (Since roughly 2007.)

Weird dyspnea causing me to gasp, sigh, and yawn a lot, but I never pass out, and my bloodwork and PFT and stress echo all came back normal. (Since roughly 2008, worsening gradually.)

Heart palpitations, intermittent. (Since earlier this year.)

Sometimes for no reason one or both of my ears gets red and feels hot, as though it's sunburned; this goes away by itself after about an hour. (Since the 2008/2009 winter, hasn't happened in a while).

Comment author: Prismattic 18 September 2011 01:50:01AM 0 points [-]

Scratch tests have a fairly substantial miss rate. If you have actual suspicions about something specific you might be allergic to, it's better to have a blood test. They probably won't offer an across-the-board blood test, though.

Comment author: Manfred 17 September 2011 10:50:32AM 1 point [-]

One thing I haven't seen mentioned: do you snore or have trouble sleeping?

If we assume that it's some external factor, and that this factor doesn't always give you a headache, the possible signal/noise of the data goes right down the drain.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:13:53PM *  0 points [-]

No one has told me I snore. I can reliably get to sleep each night; I often wake up, usually to go to the bathroom, sometimes when I have an unusually bad headache. In the former case I can go right back to sleep. In the latter I pop ibuprofen and toss and turn and think angry thoughts and then go back to sleep.

Comment author: [deleted] 18 September 2011 12:24:12PM 0 points [-]

How many hours of sleep do you usually get in a night?

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 04:34:53PM 0 points [-]

Varies - I don't have a fixed bedtime or time when I need to get up, although I do have to stay roughly compatible with the person I share a bed with when he's home - but I usually spend about 10 hours between going to bed and getting up, some unclear amount of which is spent falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night for assorted reasons and getting back to sleep, and lounging semi-conscious enjoying the comfiness before I finally properly wake up.

Comment author: [deleted] 19 September 2011 01:28:00AM 0 points [-]

I know that when I'm sleep deprived, trying to do a heavy amount of thinking or engaging in stressful activities can make me feel more pained than it would otherwise. Even if your headaches aren't related to that, it might be a good idea to try to narrow down more precisely how much of the night you're usually asleep/dreaming in case you are suffering sleep deprivation. However, from your description, The evidence of you being/not being sleep deprived is mixed.

Evidence which indicates you're probably NOT sleep deprived: You spend 10 hours between going to bed and waking up. You enjoy lounging in bed and rise slowly as opposed to being forced awake.

Evidence which would seem to indicate you probably ARE sleep deprived: You don't have a fixed bedtime. You wake up multiple times in the night, and in some cases have time to think a substantial amount before going back to sleep.

Also, I don't think I would normally get sleep deprivation headaches in the middle of the night if I was still in bed.

I would say this is probably not the cause of your headaches, but that it might be worth trying to look into your sleep cycle if nothing else pans out.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 18 September 2011 10:34:53PM 0 points [-]

A guy I know from elsewhere said that your most likely problem was a B deficiency -- he said that once he saw that one of your comments ruled out his initial guess (which had been iron deficiency).

Anyway, just transferring what he said... I don't know enough about physiology/medicine to evaluate his estimation myself.

Comment author: XFrequentist 17 September 2011 12:50:53PM 0 points [-]

Do you grind your teeth while you sleep? Your dentist might be able to tell.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:08:07PM 0 points [-]

Last dentist appointment (this past January) said I show no signs of grinding.

Comment author: djcb 17 September 2011 11:59:05AM 0 points [-]

It could be non-food-related of course - is there something particular about the places you spend most time? Ie., chemical or otherwise? Did you rule out something psychosomatic?

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:10:09PM 0 points [-]

I have no way to rule out a psychosomatic disorder but don't know why I might have psychosomatic headaches.

I spend most of my time in my bedroom, on the computer. (Yes, eyestrain has been proposed; I've gigantified the default font in my browser and chat client.) I've moved several times, so unless I'm allergic to my flannel sheets or something, I don't think it's likely to be environmental.

Comment author: Morendil 17 September 2011 09:05:17PM 0 points [-]

If by any chance you are allergic to dust mites, they're basically everywhere. :)

If your symptoms get worse in humid weather (which dust mites apparently prefer), I'd count that as slight evidence for an allergic origin.

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 02:04:55AM 1 point [-]

I have noticed no correlation with humidity.

Comment author: MatthewBaker 17 September 2011 10:01:55AM 0 points [-]

Have you ever tried edible or vaporized cannabis as treatment? Preferably a Indica heavy blend.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:15:04PM 2 points [-]

I haven't tried this, and I'm reluctant to resort to mind-altering substances; what is your evidence that this would be likely to help?

Comment author: MatthewBaker 18 September 2011 10:56:18AM 1 point [-]

When I have a headache, I use aspirin or some type of Indica blend with water based on where my tolerance is at and I don't recall the last time a headaches persisted for longer than an hour.

That being said, mind altering substances are always a risk. All the scientific studies i rely on source from erowid.org or wikipedia and heavily support the theory that cannabis is safe in vapor and edible form and is one of the best general analgesics.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 18 September 2011 06:55:50AM *  1 point [-]

Among stoners "THC" is often called the "Total Headache Cure". It's not really, but it will help with some symptoms of tension/stress headaches (reduces tension, duh.) and with migraines it would reduce the nausea.

edited to add:

"often" might be an overstatement.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 18 September 2011 08:56:43PM -1 points [-]

I would suspect that CBD+THC, rather than THC alone, is what's relevant for headaches. CBD (cannabidiol) is anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory, and anxiolytic; THC is none of these things.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 19 September 2011 01:05:58PM 0 points [-]

Stoners are not a reliable source of infor...Of anything really.

Comment author: monsterzero 17 September 2011 07:06:24AM 0 points [-]

Have you ever tried using a humidifier (at night or just in general)? Dry sinuses are way more susceptible to allergens, and there are plenty of ubiquitous allergens that could be responsible for your headaches no matter where you live.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 07:10:17AM *  0 points [-]

I hate humidity, but during parts of my childhood was forced to tolerate a humidifier in winter; this had no noticeable effect. I once lived in Scotland for five months; same. No difference when I lived in Utah in the summer, in a home with regular AC or the one with the swamp cooler.

Comment author: smk 17 September 2011 03:40:13AM 0 points [-]

Perhaps you could tell us--if it's not too personal--what potential diagnoses you have already looked into/been tested for/discussed with a doctor.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 04:12:02AM *  2 points [-]

I haven't. The headaches aren't enough to keep me from doing most things I'd ever actually want to do, usually, and my dad who is a doctor doesn't seem to find them concerning. Going to the doctor is costly and inconvenient, and I have lots of unexplained annoying medical conditions to use up all the time and effort and energy involved in tracking such things down before I get to something as vague and non-threatening as "I have headaches. They appear in many different locations in my head on a near-daily basis. Sometimes they are pretty bad. Sometimes they are not so bad. Ibuprofen can generally kill them." I'm pretty sure a doctor would say, "Sounds like you should keep stocked up on ibuprofen...?"

(Ibuprofen's no longer killing them, is the worrying bit.)

Comment author: jimrandomh 17 September 2011 04:41:06AM 1 point [-]

I haven't. The headaches aren't enough to keep me from doing most things I'd ever actually want to do, usually, and my dad who is a doctor doesn't seem to find them concerning.

Your father is a doctor and he's let this go on for your entire life!? And also failed to notice the pica thing? If he's never spent a solid work-week doing tests on you, then he is a bad parent. Unfortunately, it sounds like he's also too incompetent as a doctor to actually diagnose you. But you should at least be able to get free blood tests out of him - and I think you need quite a lot of those.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 18 September 2011 07:05:07AM 0 points [-]

No, he's not a bad parent, he's just a parent.

When you have a kid you see them every day, you hear every complaint they make, and they make MANY. One or two specific complaints intermixed with the whinges of every day life are not generally actionable unless one notices performance degradation or other symptoms.

I (like Alicorn) have had headaches all my life ranging (in an almost power law graph) from very minor to severe. In the early years they usually manifested themselves as sinus related, and my mother (a health care professional) took what steps were available--in my case a humidifier as mostly the problems were during school (cold, dry weather). It's very rare I get a severe one, and in only one case has this required a trip to the emergency room.

Although for me NSAIDs never did a damn thing. They don't usually work (short term) on my aches and pains either--it's not until they start to work on the swelling that I get relief.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 05:00:15AM 0 points [-]

He's not a practicing clinician. He's a medical informatics consultant. I just meant he has an M.D.

Comment author: Tripitaka 17 September 2011 11:58:38PM 0 points [-]

Are your headaches migraine-like, eg. do they get worse with light, loudness, movement, are they stingy and pulsating? Do you get ill (puking one time would have been again the antibiotics?) ? Do you get auras, eg. anything that falls under "weird neurological phenomenons"- lights, not being able to speak, read, geometrical patterns, anything?

Before I looked at your list, I bet at Histamine-intolerance, especially because of the symptoms you mentioned here and the fact that Ibuprufen works. I predicted lots of histamin-rich foods, basically everything conserved and/or fermented. You seem to eat a lot of cheese and fish- is the fish frish or canned?

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 02:15:26AM 2 points [-]

They get worse if I move my head, especially in a jerky or sudden way. I don't get aura, am extremely rarely light- or sound-sensitive, and don't think my tendencies towards nausea correlate with the headaches (I'm nauseated right now but I just got out of a car). I am always able to speak, read, etc.

Fish is canned if it's tuna, fresh or frozen if it's not.

Comment author: Tripitaka 18 September 2011 11:47:15AM 0 points [-]

So, no migraine, and since you even get headaches when avoiding histaminrich food and should'nt, that gets a low prior. Just for the sake of completeness, illness when moving the head is for me a sure sign that I am severly dehydrated. This seems not to be the case with you.

Comment author: anonym 17 September 2011 06:46:47AM *  -1 points [-]

Do you wear a retainer or any other kind of orthodontic device? I still wear a retainer now and then, and I often get a very severe headache the first night I wear it (I only wear it at night sometimes) if I've forgotten to wear it for a longer period than usual.

Don't know if that's at all relevant to your case, but am throwing it out there just in case.

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 06:48:25AM 0 points [-]

I've never had any orthodontia done and wear no dental appliances.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 17 September 2011 02:28:09AM -1 points [-]

Do your headaches respond at all to massage (shoulder, neck, scalp, facial massage)?

Comment author: Alicorn 17 September 2011 02:32:34AM *  0 points [-]

A subset of them make me really like massage right at the base of my skull/back of my neck, but indulging this doesn't actually improve the headache itself. More headaches do not have this effect.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 18 September 2011 07:37:08AM 0 points [-]

If you have a friend or associate really work that area does the pain lessen during the stimulation, only to crash back down once they let go?

I usually associate headaches that start at the base of my skull with tension/stress headaches (and stress can be generated a lot of ways) and with the whiplash I got back in the 80s. Oh, and smoking probably didn't do my neck any good (the nicotine seems to reduce blood flow into the spinal cartilage, especially in the neck).

These would be most effected by the "THC" cure noted above (probably illegal), and/or by doing stuff to reduce stress over time (sex/masturbation to orgasm, hard exercise (did you ever get access to a swimming pool?) on a regular basis etc. etc.. Yoga and/or Feldenkris might also help. These things are preventative, not curative, so you'd have to look at what didn't happen rather than attempt to apply them afterwards. Although I guess there's no downside to getting yourself off after the headache starts, if it helps in the end.

You mentioned "above" that going to the doctor would be expensive and time consuming. Are you under 26?

Comment author: Alicorn 18 September 2011 04:38:36PM 0 points [-]

I will try getting someone else to rub my neck next time this happens and I have someone handy. When I do it myself, it doesn't so much affect the headache as serve as a distraction therefrom.

I still don't have access to a swimming pool.

I am under 26, and I am on my parents' insurance, but the problem is that sometimes I turn out to owe money for miscellaneous doctory things and doctors don't or can't warn me which things these are, they just say "okay we're going to do this thing" and then it turns out I need to give them thirty dollars for this thing. Even when I remember to ask "hey is this going to cost me money" they seem not to know, since I suppose it's insurance-dependent.

Comment author: BillyOblivion 19 September 2011 12:01:58PM 0 points [-]

While most insurance companies these days have some sort of co-pay, the actual amounts and for what do vary quite a bit from company to company, and even from policy to policy.

This makes shopping for insurance (I've had to pay my families insurance out of pocket while contracting or temporarily retired) a real headache inducing experience.

Generally the front office staff (not necessarily the nurses, but the folks behind the counter) have more experience with the billing and can assist you in determining the costs.