Hunting Headaches – Progress?

I haven’t posted about my night headaches since May. There are many posts about headaches on this site. When I started the project in March 2011, I was confident that I could figure it out quickly. But I didn’t. I tried many things and nothing seemed to help. Thousands of words have been written so far on this project, but all I’ve learned is what doesn’t work. Well, that is until recently.

In May I did a month test where I eliminated all fermented foods. The results were nothing. It had zero impact on my headaches. Then I decided to take a break from all tests to see if my stressing out about finding the answer was causing more headaches. So for a over a month, all I did was record 30 seconds of data each morning and not study patterns or run experiments. The result was still no change. Nothing was working.

Then things got better.

Headache by Rob Sheridan


I was chatting with a friend about waking up with ear pressure. She had the same issue and told me it could be related to jaw clenching. She suggested trying a mouthguard. There was no dental evidence that I clenching my jaw, but I had a retainer that I stopped wearing years ago. I decided to give it a try.

  • 1.36:  Average headache intensity (out of 5) for the 16 months without mouthguard.
  • 0.75: Average headache intensity for 2.5 months with a mouthguard.

That is a 45% reduction. At first I was concerned that this reduction took place during a long period where Seattle got no rain, but the trend has held up since the rain has returned.

Sorghum and Millet

Although not as bad as wheat, I have learned that I have an issue with either sorghum, millet or both. I covered how I discovered this in the post Results From My 30 Days Without Grains Experiment.


I can’t drink beer, wine or cider. They crush me. So taking the advice from one of those headache books I read earlier this year, I decided to experiment with gin. Gin and vodka are supposed to be the cleanest alcohols for people prone to headaches. I bought a bottle of a local award winning gin. Gin is distilled from wheat. My test involved having just 1/2 a shot around 6 PM with food. The data was clear. It showed an over 50% chance of getting a headache and usually they were intense.

Since gluten doesn’t make it into distilled liquor, I am now wondering if my issue is with wheat or was it the alcohol? Since then I’ve had rum twice, which is distilled from sugar cane and had no issues. Clearly not enough data, but something I will be testing further. In the meantime, no more wheat distilled alcohol.

Cleaner Ice Cream

This year I ate a lot of ice cream. When I first started this experiment, all I did was make sure the ice cream didn’t have gluten in it. As the summer progressed, I selected brands that were more clean. I made sure they didn’t have carrageenan or corn syrups and favored brands with minimal ingredients. I include this on the list because it may have been a factor.


I have learned that my headaches are caused by more than one thing. I hesitate to get excited, but I am pleased that headache intensity has dropped by 45%. Going without caffeine is the current test. There isn’t enough data to comment on that yet, but the downward trend has been maintained this month so far. Note that October 2011 was my absolute worst month for headaches, so this isn’t a seasonal bump.


Add yours

  1. What is your posture like? I’ve had a lot of success treating my headaches with the Gokhale method, Rolfing, and massage. I am almost positive I personally have TMJ.

  2. @Melissa – My posture is much better than it was 10 years ago. Using Escogcue exercises as well as some yoga like movements, I’ve corrected my mid-back rounding. I would like to give rolfing a try. Thanks.

  3. i have worn a mouthguard at night for about 6 years. my teeth were flatenining out and were getting sensitive. it has helped with that tremendously. i feel my teeth will be less likely to crack later in life due to me now not grinding them at night. i have a hard time sleeping without one now. i never have headaches as a result of grinding my teeth at night.

  4. Escogcue exercises??? does that invole slinking on a floor like a snail?

  5. @Chuck – I misspelled. Should have been Egoscue.

  6. @MAS

    either way, it still looks like it should involve snails.

  7. Does your pillow support your head properly when you sleep? I used to wake up with a stiff neck and headache about once a week, but since I got a better pillow in August 2011, that has happened only once.

  8. Congratulations on the reduction in headaches! I think most HAs are multifactorial, I know mine are. Having said that, I can tell you that I have a devil of a time finding an appropriate pillow. I am now waiting for a buckwheat pillow to arrive. I think that is the only kind I have not tried. Hope your trend in reduction continues.

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