Image Courtesy: Artful Magpie (Mrs. Maze)
Usually, they’re about as harmful as a common cold or a stinging scrape, but they feel like a terminal disease, and whether they’re the products of a stressful day or a lack of sleep, you’ve probably experienced headaches more times than you can count.
As a senior in college, I had headaches as often as I had tests and projects, and I constantly popped Tylenol in order to bid those headaches farewell. Marketed as the harmless drug, Acetaminophen, the generic form of Tylenol, is even prescribed as a painkiller for women during pregnancy.
So when I found myself pregnant during the second semester of my senior year in college, I assumed Tylenol was a safe answer to the headaches my stressful college life continued to bring me. Then, I read Raising Baby Green by Dr. Alan Greene, which suggested that my use of Acetaminophen may have been increasing my baby’s risk of developing allergies. Luckily, I read the book before my eighth week of pregnancy, discontinued Tylenol use, and learned a better way for treating my aching head—preventing the headache before it starts.
Type of Headaches
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s Medical Encyclopedia, most headaches are caused by lifestyle choices.
are a result of tight muscles, often brought on by stress or anxiety.
are the result of inflamed sinuses and may coincide with a cold or other sinus infection, a condition that is often incurred by poor health choices regarding immunity and winter preparedness. Most of us have probably experienced
“Ice Cream” Headaches
brought on by eating cold foods too quickly, tension headaches after a night of fitful sleep, and possibly even the
associated with a particularly eventful night at the bar. While some suffer from migraines, cluster headaches, and other types of headaches that fall under the classification of a chronic condition, or that are brought on by serious illnesses, most of us are popping “harmless” Acetaminophen pills to cure ailments that we’ve caused by our own poor decisions.
Tylenol is not so ‘Innocent’
But taking Acetaminophen capsules is a long way from snorting Cocaine, at least in my personal circle of friends and family members. In my and my friends’ homes, Tylenol bottles were above sinks, in glove compartments, and rattling around in purses in order to help contain the pain. But just like doctors of the 20th century found that the common prescription for Opium and alcohol was doing more harm than good, so too have modern physicians and researchers learned that Tylenol is not as innocent as some marketers claim—and not just for unborn children whose parents want to avoid allergy.
According to the Minnesota Poison Control System, liver problems can arise when a headache sufferer overdoses on Tylenol or continues to use the medication constantly, and signs of the condition are often nonexistent or difficult to notice. The Minnesota Poison Control system also suggests that Tylenol can be deadly or dangerous, if used in conjunction with certain other medications.
Not wanting to increase my risk of liver problems, and hoping to avoid having a child with acute allergies, I cut off my use of Tylenol and tried a different route of treating those college headaches—not having them in the first place.
Some Ways to Stop Getting Headaches
- First, I got some sleep. It might seem simple, but all the times your mother has said, “you just need some sleep,” she’s been right! Sleeping at least eight hours a day made a magnificent change in my life. Instead of waking up with an aching head, aching body, and muscles just yearning to lay back down, I woke refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to get up and enjoy my day. In the first few days, I saw a drastic reduction in headaches, especially the headaches that were there when I woke up and persisted all day.
- Second, I learned to prioritize and make decisions about what was really most important in my life. While I used to put school first and would operate on just a few hours of sleep in order to complete an assignment, I started setting a bedtime for myself, and if the clock struck that time, I’d hit the sack, regardless of whether or not my projects were complete, and guess what? The world kept turning; I still graduated; and life was headache and stress-free.
- Third and finally, I ate better meals. While I had been a college eater, eating the wrong amounts of the wrong things at the wrong times, I took some advice from my doctor and started eating small snacks throughout the day. I would visit the school’s cafeteria twice during its lunch operations, eating a small bowl of fruit the first time and some leafy greens the second. I ate breakfast, and made sure to incorporate a great deal of protein into my diet via health bars.
With these simple lifestyle changes, I was able to say goodbye to headaches and toss the Tylenol out the window. Though I’m not sure I would have ended up with liver disease or with an allergic child had I continued to take the medicine, my body feels more natural, I am bounding with energy, and my emotional and spiritual life are not stifled by stress—and all from wanting to put an end to my persistent headaches!
Miranda Morley is a poet and freelance writer who just recently welcomed her first baby — daughter, Charity Rose.