Blog - Migrane Awareness Week

By The Haven Team: 07 Sep 2013

According to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders, more than thirty million people in the U.S. suffer from migraine headaches. That means that there is a migraine sufferer in twenty five percent of households.

The American Academy of Neurology says migraines range in severity and often come with a variety of symptoms from pulsating and throbbing pain, light and sound sensitivity, to nausea and vomiting. There are a variety of triggers, including:

- Fluorescent lights
- Coffee
- Dehydration
- Smoking or alcohol abuse
- High blood pressure or hypoglycemia
- Vitamin B or D deficiency or mineral imbalances
- Reaction to food additives such as MSG, sugar, colorings, or preservatives
- Oral contraceptives or prescription medication
- Food allergies or intolerances

Drug therapies are really useful to reduce symptoms and get people through this painful experience. Unfortunately they are beset with side effects.

Natural treatments

There are lots of ways to treat and prevent migraine headaches with natural remedies including acupuncture, shiatsu, aromatherapy, herbs, reflexology and supplements.

Water

This is probably the single most important thing you can do for yourself. Drink plenty of water. Aim for 1 ½ litres per day and more if you drink coffee or black tea. Keeping yourself hydrated is a key to warding off headaches of any type. If you are unused to drinking water it’s important to increase slowly so that your cells can once again get used to the uptake of fluid.

Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy is easy, and it works. Contrast showers help with many ailments. Stand in water as hot as you can stand for two minutes (this increases blood flow to the skin), then as cold as you can stand for two minutes (this sends blood to the core of the body).

Alternate back and forth for 20 minutes to increase blood flow and circulation, bringing nutrients to organs and carrying away toxins.

Another way to use water to help with a headache is to put your feet in very cold water and a hot rag on the back of your neck. This helps bring the blood down out of your head, by sending it to your feet.

Exercise

Regular, gentle exercise helps to reduce tension and ward off stress, a well-known trigger for many migraine sufferers. Exercise also triggers the release of endorphins, which act as a mild sedative.

Find something that you love doing. Its best to have a combination of aerobic exercise (swimming, walking, running, sports) and stretching, opening exercise (yoga, pilates). Yoga also aids relaxation and moves the meridians (energy lines). Side stretching and forward folds are particularly recommended for migrane prevention.

Beware that intense exercise can actually trigger rather than prevent migraine, so don't overdo it.

Shiatsu and Acupuncture Treatments

Chinese Medicine is a recommended therapeutic support for migraine sufferers. It works by treating the energy imbalances in the meridians and supporting the person constitutionally to make a shift into a more stable energetic pattern.

Put simply Migraine sufferers have a pattern where their energy (and blood) rushes upwards and gets stuck in the head. The liver and gallbladder meridians are indicated which can cause biliousness and sickness as it affects the stomach energy. Your practitioner will work to calm the yang energy, steady and ground the yin and disperse any internal imbalance whilst strengthening your constitution.

Working acupressure points with your fingers and thumbs can help alleviate pain as well. You will find points online or in books, or ask your local Acupuncturist or Shiatsu practitioner.

Aromatherapy and Massage

Relaxation is a great preventative for Migraines which means all the massage that you enjoy will help. Aromatherapy, employing natural plant and tree oils has a further healing affect. Peppermint and lavender are used most often, but rosemary, eucalyptus, sandalwood, and basil often work well also. Try them in a burner at home or put a little on your pillow at night.

Supplements and Herbs

It’s important to get advice from your local herbalist or qualified health professional before taking herbs or supplements. They will be able to advise you on how much and how often to take this strong medicine. Always drink a glass of water with your supplements.

Riboflavin (vitamin B2)

Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is found in certain foods and supplements. It helps protect cells from oxidative damage and is involved in energy production.

How it helps: Riboflavin is an effective preventive treatment for migraines. It has been widely reported to significantly reduce the incidence of migraine headaches when consumed at high levels (400 mg per day), although it doesn't seem to help reduce the pain or length of a migraine once one occurs.

Researchers recommend taking riboflavin with a B-complex supplement, since riboflavin increases the absorption of other essential nutrients, including iron, zinc, folate, vitamin B3, and vitamin B12. In addition, vitamin B1 can help increase levels of riboflavin.

Best food sources: Liver, lean beef, lamb, venison, whole grains, tempeh, yogurt, low-fat milk, eggs, almonds, crimini mushrooms, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and spinach. Store food away from light, which destroys riboflavin.

Magnesium

Because our bodies can't make magnesium, we must rely on dietary and/or supplement sources to get it -- and magnesium deficiency been directly linked to migraines in a number of major studies.

How it helps: Magnesium helps relax nerves and muscles and transmits nerve impulses throughout the body and brain. In addition, magnesium helps prevent nerves from becoming overexcited. In short, this mineral aids in the prevention and reduction of migraines.

If you take magnesium supplements, use chelated forms (such as magnesium citrate or magnesium oxide). This means that the magnesium is connected with another molecule in order to aid its absorption.

Best food sources: Pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, wild Alaskan salmon, halibut, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, amaranth, quinoa, soybeans, and black beans.

5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)

5-hydroxytryptophan is a substance produced by our bodies from the amino acid tryptophan. Collaborative research between Harvard Medical School and Natural Standard suggests that 5-HTP may be particularly effective in reducing both the severity and frequency of migraine headaches.

How it helps: 5-HTP increases the body's production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in blood vessel regulation. Low serotonin levels have been associated with migraines, so 5-HTP supplementation appears to help by correcting the imbalance.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant nutrient that's especially important in blood vessel health. Our bodies are able to make CoQ10, and we can also get it from dietary and supplement sources.

How it helps: CoQ10 increases blood flow to the brain, improves circulation, and protects cells from oxidative damage. It also helps stabilize blood sugar; low blood sugar is a major trigger for many migraine sufferers.

Best food sources: Food sources of CoQ10 aren't well documented, but this nutrient can be found in fish and organ meats (especially liver, kidney, and heart) as well as whole grains.

Feverfew

Feverfew is a bushy, aromatic herb plant related to daisies and widely used by herbalists and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for preventing migraines and other types of headaches.

How it helps: Feverfew helps alleviate the throbbing pain associated with migraines by reducing inflammation, especially in the blood vessels in the brain. It also has minimal side effects. It can help quell vomiting and nausea in migraine sufferers who experience those symptoms.

Caution: Be sure to talk to your herbalist before taking feverfew (or any herbal remedy). And don't take it if you're pregnant or planning to get pregnant.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory substances that are abundant in many food sources, especially fish, nuts, and seeds.

How it helps: Omega-3 fatty acids protect brain cells and reduce inflammation, which may help to reduce the pain associated with migraines. In addition, omega-3s appear to be beneficial in reducing the frequency and duration of migraine headaches.

Best food sources: Wild Alaskan salmon, tuna, herring (not pickled herring), mackerel, rainbow trout, halibut, Pacific oysters, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. Omega-3 fats are somewhat fragile and are easily damaged by exposure to heat, light, and oxygen, so store foods properly and avoid overheating (especially frying) when cooking.