Migraines are often characterized by a one-sided throbbing severe headache that is recurrent. They can be frequently accompanied with nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances and an extreme sensitivity to light and noise. These visual disturbances can include blotches, blurred vision, flashes and a blind spot with shimmering colors.
People can be affected for a few hours and up to a few days with any or all of these symptoms.
Migraines are caused from neurological and vascular brain changes that stimulate the pain centers in the brain. These changes set off a wave of nerve cell activity and neurotransmitter release that activates blood vessel inflammation, feeding pain structures deep in the brain.
These triggers can include:
- Hormonal changes (particularly estrogen drops during Menopause or before a period)
- Alcohol (particularly dark spirits)
- Blood sugar irregularities (spiking and dropping sugar levels)
- Caffeine withdrawals (if you regularly consume caffeine and you stop)
- Sleep disturbances
- Food intolerances/allergies
How to handle those pesky migraines:
Stress management: Since stress is a major trigger due to the inflammation it stimulates, utilizing regular stress management techniques in your everyday life can be life-changing for your moods, energy and for keeping your migraines at bay. Yoga, meditation, massage, relaxing hobbies, exercise, journaling and counseling are all helpful activities to manage daily stress.
Ice packs: Treating a migraine with an ice pack can help reduce the pain and the inflammation acutely.
Essential oils: Lavender and peppermint essential oils dabbed around the scalp and near the pain can be a very effective treatment.
Herbal medicine: Butterbur, feverfew and other anti-inflammatory herbs can be helpful in the prevention and management of migraine headaches.
Specific nutrients: Nutrient deficiencies may also be to blame for migraines, research has found that children, teens and young adults who suffer from migraines also tend to have mild deficiencies in vitamin D, riboflavin, folate and CoQ10.
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2) – 400mg per day can be prescribed in the prevention of migraines for adults. Increasing your B2 foods can also be helpful if these foods don’t trigger you. Mushrooms, spinach, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, almonds, egg and oily fish.
- Magnesium – dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and legumes all contain high amounts of magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that helps to relax muscle tension and reduce stress symptoms.
- Coq10 – used as supplement, it’s been shown to be helpful in reducing the severity and frequency of migraine headaches.
- Vitamin D – low levels were found in people suffering with chronic migraines compared to the controls.
Diet diary: Keeping a food journal can be a useful tool to help determine possible food triggers. Food allergy tests can also help but don’t always determine all food intolerances. Common food triggers include chocolate, aged cheese, pickled and marinated foods, citrus fruits, bananas, onions, MSG, nitrates and aspartame (artificial sweetener).
Hydration: Dehydration can kick off a headache that can trigger a migraine in a susceptible person. Juices, smoothies, ice pops and soup are easy ways to maintain your hydration along with water and herbal tea consumption.
Sugar irregularities: If you are prone to migraines, avoid refined sugars, white flours, soda and other foods that are high in sugar and consuming adequate healthy proteins, fats, fiber and healthy complex carbohydrates.
Ensure adequate sleep: Epsom salt baths, sleep hygiene and relaxing techniques can help to support healthy sleep cycles.