There are no two ways about it—headaches suck. They seem to come out of nowhere and hit you like a ton of bricks. At best, they leave you feeling cranky, disoriented and unfocused. At worst, they can leave you bedbound and unable to do anything (we’re looking at you, migraines!). While sometimes, the cause is obvious (a hangover, stress, that loud co-worker) other times, it’s not so clear. In order to help you get to the bottom of it and avoid your triggers, we’ve rounded up 6 surprising things that could be giving you a headache.
1. Air conditioning
Ever feel like just stepping into the office gives you a headache? While it could be your demanding boss, the air conditioning could also be the culprit. There’s a couple of reasons A/C units or heaters can trigger headaches. Firstly, it can suck all the humidity out of the air, which can dry it out and dehydrate you. Secondly, air conditioning units can circulate irritants like dust and mould. These can trigger allergies and leave your sinus passages swollen and blocked—leading to a ghastly headache. Then, there’s the fact that when it gets too cold, the blood vessels in your brain can contract, resulting in headaches. If you think your air con is to blame, it could be worth chatting to your company’s HR department to see if they can take the temperature down (or up) a notch, or invest in a dehumidifier.
2. Your diet
You may already know that your diet can lead to headaches. But some of the foods that can trigger them may surprise you! Tyromine, a naturally-occurring compound which is known to cause headaches, is commonly found in foods that are aged, smoked, marinated and pickled. So, aged cheeses (nooooo!), sauerkraut, tofu and cured meats could all be to blame. Tyromine is also found in significant amounts in banana (especially overripe ones), avocado and chocolate. For some people, gluten and dairy can also cause nasal congestion, which leads to headaches. Why is it always the good stuff?
3. Your posture
If you slouch over your desk or are constantly on your phone, you’re probably not doing yourself any favours in the headache department. Poor posture is a common cause of tension headaches. Not only does hunching put strain on the neck (which is obviously closely linked to the head), it can lead to tension in the jaw and face. The result is that feeling of a tight band of pressure around the head. You can check out our guide to improving your posture here.
4. The weather
Ever noticed that you get headaches at the start of a new season? You’re probably not imagining it. Whether it’s sunny skies or storms, the pressure changes that affect the weather are thought to trigger chemical and electrical changes in the brain. This irritates nerves, which can lead to a headache. The high pollen count in spring can also trigger allergies, which can instigate those painful pounders.
If you’re low in magnesium, you may have already noticed signs like a twitching eye or leg cramps. But headaches—specifically migraines—are another unexpected side effect. Researchers believe that when magnesium levels are low, it leads to brain excitability, which is what triggers migraines. Make sure you load up on magnesium-rich foods like green veggies, fish, seeds and nuts and chat to your GP if migraines are an ongoing problem
6. Your perfume
Imagine if it was you causing your own headaches all along! Believe it or not, it is possible to be allergic to a smell, and the common culprits are tobacco, gasoline and perfume. While you can test whether it’s your perfume by not wearing it for a day or two, there’s not much you can do if your cubicle mate’s is setting it off. However, keeping a peppermint or lavender oil in your purse can help relieve your headache when you get a whiff.