Migraine is a debilitating condition that affects more than eight million people in the UK alone, with women more than twice as likely to suffer than men.
It causes misery for many and the World Health Organisation has named it among its 20 most disabling lifetime conditions. But there is hope. To tie in with Migraine Awareness Week at the start of September, we look at natural ways to manage the condition…
Keep a food diary
To find any major food triggers, write down everything you eat and see if you notice any correlations between foods and when you suffer an attack. For example, experts believe choose is a common trigger due to its tyramine content, a compound formed from the breakdown of protein as foods age. Other foods high in tyramine are canned, processed and cured meats, onions, pickles, avocados, raisins, and nuts.
Migraines are usually multifactorial in their nature, both in symptoms and in the cause. Attacks can be triggered by hormonal changes, stress, environmental factors such as smoking and wrong dietary choices and habits. The most common of these is poor blood glucose handling. Eating regularly (every four hours) and choosing lean protein with a variety of colored vegetables not only supports these blood glucose levels but also supplies nutrients such as magnesium and amino acids that support circulation and insulin control. Eating regularly, starting the day with a good breakfast and keeping hydrated are vital dietary strategies to minimise migraine incidences.
Find an intolerance
Another common contributory factor is a food intolerance or allergy. More recent research has linked migraines to gluten sensitivity. This is back up by charity Migraine Action’s survey of 1000 people who suffered attacks. 85 percent had their symptoms reduced when their food triggers were discovered and avoided.
Bright or flickering lights, smoky rooms, loud noises and very humid or very cold places can all be triggers. Regular, gentle exercise such as daily half-hour walk can help prevent migraines, and deep breathing exercises can also be very useful indeed. In one study by Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute, patients who practiced daily meditation reported that they needed less pain relief for their symptoms.
One of the most common types of migraines is carcinogenic, literally meaning ‘neck originating’ migraine. Working on your posture can help cure chronic cryogenic migraine. Focus on sitting up straight, walking upright, and keeping your shoulders level (your arms and shoulders should be at 90-degree angles). Lift your computer screen up four inches. Good neck position will reduce neck ache and symptoms in the long term.
Two recent studies have found that women with a migraine with aura – a visual disturbance, which can include zig-zagging flashing lights, and which precedes a headache – might be more likely to have problems with their heart and blood vessels, putting them at increased risk of stroke. Those on some forms of contraceptives may be at a higher risk of blood clots. Experts have stressed that the risk is still low, and that managing other risk factors like smoking and diet are key.
Feverfew: Those taking feverfew experienced decreased incidences and severity of migraines, vomiting attacks, and visual disturbances.
Riboflavin: Experts believe that supplementing with riboflavin, also called vitamin B2, might increase the brain cells’ energy efficiency in sufferers, and reduce the frequency of attacks.
Magnesium: Research suggests that deficiency in magnesium occurs in the brains of those suffering migraines, especially women with premenstrual symptoms, too.
Coenzyme Q10: In one study, supplementation with coenzyme Q10 reduced the frequency of attacks in participants by 50 percent. The usual recommended dose for migraine is 100mg three times a day.