Posted by Anne (220.127.116.11) on February 17, 2001 at 02:43:21:
Be very observant of your diet and your environment; you may find a common element that occurs with each of your headaches. After 3 episodes (each lasting a few weeks), I realized my cluster headaches are triggered by eating nuts. Eating any kind of nut (walnuts, peanut butter, etc.) immediately starts an attack.
(Then I wander around the house clutching my eye, banging my head into the walls, etc.)
I suspect this may be because nuts contain high levels of copper. As far as I know, the level of copper in your body goes up as the level of zinc goes down, and vice versa. Zinc is essential in the hippocampus, the region of the brain that regulates histamine. (Histamine makes your blood vessels dilate). My idea is that perhaps taking in too much copper could interfere with the function of zinc in the hippocampus, releasing too much histamine, causing vasodilation and the headache. (Obviously much more research is needed on this before any assumptions can be made.)
Emily Dickinson suffered from both cluster headaches and pyroluria, a condition in which things called pyrroles bind to the body's supply of vitamins B6, magnesium, and zinc, so that they cannot be used by the body. When I read this, my first thought was that perhaps because her body had insufficient levels of zinc, it would probably affect the regulation of histamine in the hippocampus.
(I suspect cluster headaches involve vasodilation because one of the few things that helped me was submerging my entire head in ice water. Your blood vessels constrict in response to the cold. In other words, if the cluster headache involved vasodilation, that would explain why forcing your blood vessels to constrict would alleviate the pain.)
Elevated levels of copper are also involved in schizophrenia. (zinc, B6, and magnesium help flush copper out of the body.) Interestingly, in geographical areas where the soil is poor in zinc, the populations living in those areas have higher incidences of schizophrenia. If nuts are high in copper, perhaps this is why we say a crazy person is "nuts," eh?
I honestly don't know for sure if copper and zinc have any relation to cluster headaches; it is just an idea.
My immediate advice for controlling the pain is this:
I have found this works for controlling migraines and other sorts of pain, but I haven't had a cluster headache since I learned to avoid nuts, so I don't know if it will work for a cluster headache or not.
Get 2 ice cubes and place them against your carotid arteries. (This is the place where you would take a person's pulse on the neck.) The carotid is the artery that supplies the brain with blood. It bifurcates, with one branch feeding the scalp, and the other the brain. The cold will make the arteries constrict. Be careful, though, because when the cold hits your brain, it hurts. And I honestly don't know if there is any danger to this. In a few minutes your head will feel cold and slightly tingly, and all of the pain goes away. (This has stopped migraines for me)
This may be why: Endorphins are your body's natural pain killer. Per mole, endorphins are between one thousand and ten thousand times more powerful than morphine. (If you were to take it as an "endorphin pill," though, your stomach would dissolve it, as endorphins are short chain peptides. This is why you can't pop an endorphin pill. sadly.) Your body releases endorphins in response to three things: cold, hunger, and pain.
Let's say for a minute that your body is exposed to extreme cold. you go outside on a winter night without clothes. First, your body cuts off circulation to your fingers and toes and ears, then your hands and feet, then your arms and legs, and so forth. Obviously, your body wants to use its blood supply to keep the most essential parts running: your trunk and your brain. If the arteries at your neck were constricting because of the cold, and the blood going to your brain were cold, you would be in serious trouble.
what this means is, possibly, when you put that ice pack on your neck, your brain thinks you are freezing to death and releases a ton of endorphins, effectively killing any pain you may be having. (But you aren't actually freezing to death, you've just iced the blood going to your head.) It's just a thought. I have found this to be a very effective pain killer. But please be careful. I have no idea if this could be harmful. I have no idea if this could cause an aneurysm or anything. I have tried this several times, and I felt incredibly better afterwards, not worse, but still it would be wise to take the ice away at the first sign of pain.
So there's the copper/zinc theory. I know one symptom of zinc deficiency is white spots or bands on the fingernails. Sources of copper may include your diet, your water pipes, copper pots, etc. (I read somewhere that families whose water pipes are constructed from copper nearly invariably have one family member who is mentally ill.) It's just a thought.
Oh, the other thing that helped me was peppermint tea.
I don't know why.
I hope this helps someone out there. Please email me if you have any questions or comments. I'm sort of a premedical student. My email address (again) is A.Haroldsen@m.cc.utah.edu
Good luck. Remember that pain is finite.
Post a Followup