Remember I am not a doctor or medically trained in any way. Please use your web browser to print out this page for doctor consultation. Nothing written here advocates using supplements or herbs with out doctor approval!
My husband and I joke that we are the King and Queen of headaches. He got his first headache at the age of two; my first headache was at the age of six. Funny thing about pain, one has a tendency to remember it very clearly. Headaches are one of those things in life that we all would rather not experience.
I decided to research chemo headaches because the longer Kayla has been on treatment for Leukemia, the more frequent the headaches were coming. As of this writing she has been on heavy chemo for seven months. Even though we have checked with the doctors, and her MRI’s are clear, the headaches continue. Checking medical websites, nothing was found specifically for chemo headaches.
Here is a list of remedies that are used in our home for headaches. These remedies are a collection of tips from friends, family and research. There are no herbs listed here because our oncologist was very adamant – no herbs!
If you have allergies, keep a food diary for a week or two. The diary is a way to track what you eat to see if certain foods are a trigger for headaches or other allergic symptoms.
I have used a chocolate candy bar with some success for a headache. There is now quite a bit of information being disseminated regarding the health benefits of raw chocolate. This is one of the few things we have not tried but if you want more information go to http://www.naturaw.com/raw-chocolate.html We purchase dark chocolate from the health food store that has no sugar or milk. Great stuff!
Quite a few of the cancer kids (in our group) run into problems with their sinuses. One parent told me that she cut down the dairy intake to one item of dairy a day. The constant sinus infections her son kept having disappeared for good when they implemented this rule. After hearing this we have implemented this rule in our house as well. Eventually we all stopped using dairy after Kayla was hospitalized because of a sinus infection. Kayla has not been sick again in nine months after cutting dairy out completely. This information applies to people of any age. In the least experiment for two months to see if having no dairy makes you feel better. Note: there are links from dairy to cancer and cancer growth. See more on this subject on the hormones page of this site.
A good start would be to force yourself to read all labels when purchasing food. If there are ingredients that you cannot pronounce or do not know what the ingredient actually is, it might be a good idea to not purchase the item. I started doing this years ago and the result was cutting out many every-day-items.
This is a medical quote regarding a study done on foods and supplements in the management of migraine headaches: “A detailed nutritional history is helpful in identifying food triggers. Although the data surrounding the role of certain foods and substances in triggering headaches is controversial, certain subsets of patients may be sensitive to phenylethylamine, tyramine, aspartame, monosodium glutamate, nitrates, nitrites, alcohol, and caffeine. The available evidence for the efficacy of certain vitamins and supplements in preventing migraines supports the use of these agents in the migraine treatment.” 
I have learned the hard way that MSG and or Aspartame give me horrible three-day-head-bangers! This is my name for very bad headaches. Now it is instantaneous if I accidentally consume either one of the chemicals mentioned. This is why it may be beneficial to read labels and note down symptoms. You may find out what is causing your headaches. Aspartame is in candy, pastries, sodas, chewable vitamins, medications, and about 6000 other products. MSG is in many condiments, canned foods, soups and packaged or precooked foods. Buyer beware!
Don’t skip meals
Skipping meals lowers the body’s glucose levels and this can lead to a headache. A good trick is to always keep fruit with you when you work. If you cannot get out to lunch, and do not bring your own lunch to work, it might be a good idea to bring fruit everyday. This way you have a healthy snack that could prevent a headache from coming on. Kayla and I never travel with out food in a lunch box. Many times I was so glad, because when we went for chemo, the time at the clinic ended up being all day. Our packed lunch box saves us a lot of time, money and headaches, figuratively and literally! We also have cold water with us at all times as well.
Stuffed animals, nick-nacks, drapery and carpeting all hold onto dust. We experimented with this by packing away all of my step-daughter’s stuffed animals. Then we thoroughly cleaned her room. She stated that she noticed a huge difference in the air quality of her room as well as the added benefit of her sinuses clearing up. With my younger daughter, (who has cancer) I wash her stuffed animals every couple of months. They are washed cold delicate and come out fine. We removed our wall-to-wall carpeting and heavy drapes in our house. With sensitive people dust control is a must. You do not know until you slowly eliminate the causes.
Electrolytes & Water
It is known medically that if you are lacking electrolytes you may get a headache. We use a product called Electro-mix manufactured by Alacer Corporation. This product has no added sugar and one packet of powder is placed into a 32-ounce container, you add the water. Your water is now electrolyte water. Yhis product becomes very important during the summer here in Florida. Stay hydrated; at the first sign of a headache drink several glasses of water, ideally electrolyte water. If caught soon enough, the headache may go away. Here is a link to the product http://www.evitamins.com/product.asp?pid=4704
We have had some success with a headache using mild exercise. Try going for a walk. Stretching moves can be very helpful. Here is a short video demonstrating stretching exercises www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaDXNjFjjnU
Some say that Ginger soda can help headaches. We have used this home made soda recipe for nausea and headaches, it did work. Here is the recipe if you would like to try it. There is also a website, http://www.realsimple.com for more recipes.
Please check with your doctor before using this recipe as ginger is an herb and could be a problem with certain medications.
1-½ cups sliced fresh ginger. No need to peel. Wash thoroughly. This is about 2 ½ large chunks of fresh ginger root.
4 tablespoons of Xylitol sweetener (sugar is not good for cancer patients, for more information go to sugar page.)
¼ cup of fresh lemon juice or 1 tablespoon of concentrated lemon juice.
Water to taste.
Combine xylitol, honey, and ginger slices in a medium saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, strain into a glass jar. This is your syrup base for ginger ale.
Pour a tablespoon of ginger syrup into a glass, and add Perrier water. I made white grape juice ice and add two ice cubes of this to the drink. You can also add more ginger. Kayla thought this was fabulous and it got rid of her nausea. We now keep this in the refrigerator for her at all times. The ginger syrup will last approximately a week if kept in your fridge.
Hot and Cold
Place your feet in hot water and a cool washcloth on your head. Another thing to try is an ice pack wrapped in a towel for your head and something warmed up for your feet. Uncooked rice in a cloth and warmed up in a microwave emanates nice heat.
A patient told me that her daughter began to have chronic headaches. After many medical tests with nothing found she starting looking into diet. They tried removing all items that contained MSG. All headaches stopped as long as MSG was avoided. I myself experienced this when I bought Miso soup paste from a store. I made the soup and later got a terrible migraine. Checking the label of this soup I found that MSG was one of the top ingredients. The soup went into the garbage.
We have a massager at home. It is one of those hand-held about 18 inches long with a large, round, oval shaped piece at the end of the handle. I will massage my nose if I have a sinus headache and the resulting tickle will make me sneeze. This gets the sinuses to start to drain. Recline on a couch or bed while doing this. You can also massage the head, neck and shoulders. Look for tender spots on your scalp and massage those. I think they are constricted blood vessels. Sometimes this has brought relief. A chiropractor told me that massaging the jaw is also helpful for headaches.
If you have someone that can give you a full massage and they know what they are doing, this can get rid of a headache.
CONCLUSIONS: The identification of food triggers, with the help of food diaries, is an inexpensive way to reduce migraine headaches. We also recommend the use of the following supplements in the preventative treatment of migraines, in decreasing order of preference: magnesium, Petasites hybridus, feverfew, coenzyme Q10, riboflavin, and alpha lipoic acid.  Please note: if you are undergoing treatment the use of herbs is dangerous. Do not use while taking medications. Our Oncologist did approve calcium/magnesium supplementation for Kayla during heavy chemo because it is a known supplement. They would not approve of any herbs while on chemo.
“Magnesium is an important intracellular element that is involved in numerous cellular functions. Deficiencies in magnesium may play an important role in the pathogenesis of migraine headaches by promoting cortical spreading depression, alteration of neurotransmitter release and the hyperaggregation of platelets. Given this multifaceted role of magnesium in migraine, the use of magnesium in both acute and preventive headache treatment has been researched as a potentially simple, inexpensive, safe and well-tolerated option. Studies have shown that preventive treatment with oral magnesium and acute headache treatment with intravenous magnesium may be effective, particularly in certain subsets of patients.” 
You can purchase magnesium through your local health food store in a product made by Peter Gillham, named Calm. Dose is one teaspoon of powder placed into hot water.
Here is a fact sheet about magnesium from the National Institutes of Health http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002423.htm
Vitamin World sells a product called Bone Active Calcium – Magnesium. This is a liquid supplement which has the correct ratios of Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin D and phosphorous for bone supplementation. Studies have proven that calcium and magnesium should be taken in a certain ratio for optimum absorption.
If you are getting headaches check your house for sources of mould. Check pipes, under sinks, air-conditioning leaks, etc. Any sources of mould could be a hidden cause of headaches and a potential health risk. (See page on indoor mould for more information.)
Pain is a signal system of the body telling you something is wrong. Most people just take over-the-counter-medications and forget about it. One thing that Americans have bought into is the one drug fix. Instead, you should listen to the pain and start investigating what supplements you may be lacking or what food your allergic to, or check with your doctor for something physically wrong. Even dust, and allergens should not be a problem if your immune system is strong. Nutrition and health are not an over night accomplishment. Health takes, work, time, money and effort to achieve.
Chemotherapy causes a plethora of side effects. The time, effort, and knowledge, that are required to mitigate side effects is enormous. Even with such investments, you still may have side effects that you just have to deal with until treatment is over.
My personal opinion, is that you do the best that you can do, for side effects, while trying to improve the whole picture. In other words, improve diet, exercise, eat good food, drink clean water, eat raw foods, and if you have to take additional drugs for pains that chemo causes, so what. At least all of your other actions are moving you in the right direction.
Never just suffer through pain, as it wears the person down, physically and mentally. When Kayla has had serious issues, spinal injury, bone pain from steroids, I have learned that the magic number is three, for three days. I will get the pain medications from the doctor and give them to her at the allotted interval, and keep this up for three days. After the third day, I will start cutting back the dose and see how her symptoms are affecting her. It seems that usually after the third day, most pain diminishes.
Local drugstores carry saline nasal spray and what is called a Nettie Pot. Spraying your nose or just using tap water to suck water up your nose is very effective for alleviating sinus headaches. The Nettie Pot is specially designed to clean the nasal passages. All of these actions irrigate the sinuses and should make them start to drain.
Over the counter medications
Anyone undergoing medical treatment needs to check with their doctor before purchasing over the counter medications. The number of chemotherapy drugs and combinations is staggering. Therefore, never assume that you can just go and choose an over the counter drug. Always, check with your doctor/oncologist before making any purchase of over the counter drugs. A MISTAKE WITH THIS CAN BE LETHAL!
Potatoes are excellent for headaches. I recently told a friend of mine and she went a got French fries at a fast food place. She called me later to tell me that it worked almost instantly. Any type of potato, mashed, fried, baked, it does not matter, but something in the potato does work for headaches.
The space between your thumb and index finger is a pressure point. Grab the meatiest point of that space and press between thumb and forefinger of your other hand. Hold and squeeze while breathing. Do this repeatedly and see if you get any results.
Reflexology dates back to Egyptian times. It is a method of applying pressure to one part of the body that corresponds to another part of the body that is in pain. We purchased the book Reflexology for Dummies and used the chart inside for various physical problems. This was very workable. Inside the book is a chart of the hands and one for the feet, indicating what area to rub or squeeze for a specific area of pain in the body. We found this very successful for many different pains or aches that Kayla has had as a result of chemo. This book is available through Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Acupressure-Reflexology-Dummies-Health-Fitness/dp/0470139420
That about covers it. Once I receive applicable tips from readers I will add them to this page. Keep in mind that if there is a situation with chronic headaches, you should get checked by your doctor.
Best of Luck to you.
© Copyright 2009 Free Help For Cancer. All Rights Reserved.