My Cure for Headaches

For most of my adult life I’ve gotten headaches regularly, about once or twice per week.  Typically these are not severe -- and I don’t think I’ve ever had a migraine -- but they’re bad enough to make me want a couple of ibuprofen pills, which virtually always cure the problem within a half hour or so.

When I discovered Fat Head and Paleo and started cleaning up my diet (mainly eating more natural fats and protein, and cutting back on grains, refined sugar, and vegetable oil), the frequency of my headaches decreased a bit, to maybe one per week, and sometimes making it through a whole week without a single headache.

More recently it occurred to me that a headache seems like a kind of inflammation, and should therefore respond favorably to an improved omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.  I had already made progress on that by cutting back the vegetable oils and trying to eat more omega-3-rich seafood like salmon, but even when I ate salmon every single week (which was rare) that was still essentially the only source of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in my diet, whereas the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats are in virtually everything.

Around the end of September I decided to make a more concerted effort to eat more omega-3.  I don’t like cooking, so it’s fortunate that there are a couple of delicious ready-to-eat sources of omega-3: sardines and salmon.  I especially like SeaBear Ready-To-Eat Smoked Sockeye Salmon, and Season Skinless and Boneless Sardines in Olive Oil; more recently I’ve found Crown Prince Natural Skinless & Boneless Sardines in Pure Olive Oil which are even better.  I stocked up and started eating one ~4-oz can or pack of those about 2-3 times per week, e.g. salmon on Monday, then sardines on Wednesday, and salmon on Saturday, etc.  (Update: two more delicious favorite omega-3 sources that I’ve found: Crown Prince Smoked Oysters, and several of the Bar Harbor brand varieties, especially Wild Herring with Cracked Pepper and Sardine Fillets In Maple Syrup.)

Amazingly, after having gotten a headache (and taking ibuprofen) about once a week for ~15 years, I went six weeks without a single headache after making this small, simple change to my diet.  After that, I was busy or distracted or something, and went 6 days with no salmon or sardines, and got a headache on about the 7th day.  I got back on the program and it’s now been about 2 more weeks headache-free.

Give it a try and see if it works for you.  It should also help with many other health issues, since most diseases are at least partially driven by inflammation.  A couple things to note: technically you can get omega-3 from plant sources such as flaxseed oil, but those are short-chain omega-3 fats, which your body can’t use without putting them through a very inefficient conversion process to turn them into the long-chain forms (EPA and DHA).  Only about 5% of those short-chain fats get converted to the long-chain forms, so it’s virtually impossible to eat enough of it to get any benefit, whereas omega-3-rich seafood already contains the long-chain forms.  Second, a lot of canned seafood is packed in nasty industrial seed oil -- aka vegetable oil -- like cottonseed oil, soybean oil, canola oil, etc.  Those are exactly the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats we’re trying to avoid!  So watch out for that when buying seafood; it should be packed in olive oil, or something other than oil.

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