T Nation

Cluster Headaches and Training/Diet

Few questions for any one who knows anything about headaches, specifically cluster headaches.

My post is a bit of TL:DR, so I’ll ask some other topic questions first. Have any of you ever had to train with headaches? Any suggestions for training through the pain of one? Have any of you noticed diet or supplement things that might trigger headaches or exacerbate them for those prone to them?

Any meds besides common over the counter stuff that you might suggest to help? or even other supp stuff? I’m sure some one is a pharmacological hobbiest and would have a lot to share on the subject.

I’ve noticed I exhibit the symptoms of cluster headaches, especially when I consider past experience with headache pain. I haven’t had it confirmed as of yet, but I’m going to my doc, and probably going to get a referral to a neurologist for further assessment.

Suffice to say, the symptoms aren’t really wishy/washy symptoms, they are pretty specific in their occurrence.

One of the problems I notice, is that when I’m in an active mode and prone to headaches, any sort of physical exertion (beyond most activities of daily living) cause me to have a sudden flare up in pain. Bad enough that I at least have to stop everything I’m doing and go sit down while I try to calm my body down and wait for the pain to ebb away.

for example, if I was to drop and do 20 push ups right now, I can say with 95% certainty that I’d end up on the floor in a good bit of pain.

luckily, this period of pain isn’t as bad as I’ve had it in the past. a few years ago the pain would be bad enough that I went partially crazy and started to beat my head off the ground in rhythm with the pulsing pain (each hit made it hurt less for that instant). Anyways, not good. MRI reveals no tumors or anything, except for an allergy to the marker die (not fun, lol).


I suspect that Calcium may be a trigger. Since I’ve read that chocolate, and cheese can activate them if you are in a period where you are prone to them.

I currently drink milk, not a lot by standards of milk I’ve had in the past, but then again I doubt I’ve ever had this much over such a period of time. I drink at least 3L a day and was working my way up to the gallon marker (I’m trying to put on some mass).

I’ve noticed that some suffers receive meds that block the calcium ion channels in the brain (something like that). And I know that days that I have a lot of milk I seem to be more easily prone for them.

I’ve cut back my milk intake to just 2-3 glasses a day sigh. And I’ve noticed a reduction in the severity and duration (I can actually squat through the pain, i just need a bit more rest between sets. it’s not a lot of fun though).

if calcium is the issue, could a calcium ion blocker med help? what if I just swapped out the milk in favor of water and caesin/whey protein to equal what I’d miss out from the no milk thing? That should resolve the calcium issue, but still give me lots of protein right? or would there be something inherently “wrong” with the idea of getting a lot of your protein from a powder source?

I also find that shorter work outs with less exercises leave me with a lot less pain (go figure). I suspect I could modify my workouts to twice daily splits and do half the routine in the am, and the other half like 6 hours later in the pm. I’m also toying with the idea of a 6 days on, one off. and break up my mon/wed/fri routine into a 6 day one by spreading it all out. so I’d do less work on that day, but do it twice a week (for more work total on the muscle in that week).

any other ideas maybe?

besides clean food (which I don’t really have planned out quite to my liking yet), lots of milk was the mainstay of my diet (and lots of food). I also take 6 omega3 caps (6g total), multivit (never had problems with it), vitD (which I probably don’t need due to the milk), creatine mono, b complex, zinc, magnesium, whey protein. And I take a probiotic (vegegreens), and somelike like superfood (phytoberries), after that runs out though I’m getting superfood lol.

any help or info would be appreciated. I’m also going to be talking to my doctor, and hopefully the neurologist. But they probably know very little about exercise (I know my doc does, didn’t even understand some exercises I talked about, or the concept behind them), and I’d have a strong feeling they are very “by the book” when it comes to nutrition. They’d probably tell me to reduce protein intake to like 100g a day at most. lol

I’ve suffered headaches for the past 4 years. These got diagnosed as cluster headaches last year by my neurologist. I was skeptical of this, as i always think there’s a reason your getting a headache. I’ve since tried everything to find the cause and narrowed it down to when i played rugby it would set off an attack every day over the next few weeks. Got the Doc to look at some of my old injuries and turns out i’ve got compression in my neck which is more than likely the cause of it. Just trying to get it sorted.

So my advise is don’t let the neurologist fob you off with some medication, because theres more than likely an explination for them, it’s just damn hard to find sometimes.

I cut back milk intake from 3.5L to 1L in the past few days. and the headaches seem to have pretty much stopped. I still get some tension headaches, but that is just tension.

the cluster like headache symptoms I was experiencing seem to have gone. Not sure if it was just a weak cycle (I didn’t go above a 5 on the kip scale and I’ve hit 9/10 in the past because of the exact same pain), or if not a weak cycle, the milk as a cause.

the other thing is that I doubt it is any supplements I take, since three years ago I didn’t train period. I lived at home with my parents, so I wasn’t exactly “over-eating” any one type of food. I didn’t drink, at most I’d get 100mg of caffeine in a week. But if I dropped and did like 20 pushups (or banged my gf), I’d have that headache.

it’d actually disable me for about 3 hours. on the floor, crying, rocking, pacing, moaning/screaming, etc.

so I’m at a loss lol! But I’ll update later if the milk brings it all back on.

hopefully the doc can shed some light.