Oh, My Aching Head!

Anyone who has experienced a migraine knows how devastating they can be. Sometimes they go beyond just a headache and can cause other neurologic symptoms such as dizziness, decrease in vision, neck pain or sinus issues. In fact, many of the patients I see for sinus and allergy issues have migraines as well. They can be severe enough to stop a person from functioning, sometimes for days. Traditionally, migraines are treated by minimizing stress, getting good sleep, and medications. Botox™ is also an FDA approved option, and some patients even benefit from a surgical procedure called a forehead lift.

But it is always nice to make sure you are doing whatever you can to be headache-free.

There are some key areas to look into if you suffer with migraines:

a) Intolerance to certain foods can be a culprit
There are some known food allergies that can cause migraines, but generally it’s more the kind of food one has an intolerance to that can be triggers. For instance, wheat, eggs, chocolate, nuts, corn, red wine and cheese, as well as alternative sweeteners such as aspartame, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) is also a big trigger. Naturally, intolerances will vary from person to person and can also change with age.

So how do you know if something you’re eating could be causing your migraines? The best way to “test” what it could be is by going on an elimination diet. Make a list of what you eat on a daily basis, compare it to the list of known triggers and then start eliminating one food at a time for several weeks before reintroducing each one. Keeping a strict daily schedule of what you eat and how you feel will go a long way to helping you solve the migraine puzzle.

b) Bring on the magnesium!
Interestingly, science tell us that a whopping 75% of people who eat the typical American diet do not get adequate amounts of magnesium on a daily basis. It’s also well-known that women’s hormones can also be a causal factor, especially when levels of estrogen and progesterone drop before a woman’s period. Studies have shown that taking 360 mg per day when in the second part of the menstrual cycle can help alleviate migraines.migraine

c) The good fats can help
We’ve all heard about how essential fatty acids are good for overall health. In fact, did you know your brain is made up of mostly fat? That’s right! And Omega-3 fatty acids like high-quality fish oil could relieve your symptoms more than you think – studies have shown they can cut the intensity and frequency of headaches. But you have to ensure the dose is right. As a rule of thumb taking 200 mg of DHA and 300 mg of EPA is a good place to start, though usually higher doses are needed. And as always, check with your doctor to make sure this sounds right for your body.

d) Digestion and detoxification
Your GI tract is the seat of your immune system, so it needs to function at its optimum in order for you to feel as healthy as possible. And that means it should have a healthy balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria at all times. For some people, bacteria in their GI tracts produce something called tyramine which is a migraine trigger – this is caused by H. pylori infection which can also cause gastric ulcers. Once the infection has been treated, migraines may improve for some people. Probiotics help maintain good bacterial balance in the intestines.

Some people are so sensitive that the mere smell of a certain cleaning products can trigger their migraine. Supplements like silymarin (milk thistle), alpha lipoic acid and n-acetyl cysteine (NAC) can have a moderating effect.

e) The energy equation
Vitamin B2 – riboflavin – some migraine sufferers have a limited amount of this vitamin within the mitochondria of their cells. Taking 400 mg a day for an adult may improve symptoms.

In addition, CoenzymeQ10 (CoQ10) is very important to energy as well and is also a great antioxidant. Studies have shown that migraine frequency has reportedly been cut by 61% when taking this supplement. In fact, one study revealed a dose of 150 mg of CoQ10 at breakfast for three months saw the number of headaches reduce from seven to three a month. However, caution must be used when considering using this as it can interact negatively with medications, so be sure to check with your health care professional before you begin.

f) The mind-body connection
Although chiropractic treatments for migraine have not been studied in-depth, a study in the year 2000 of 83 participants who received spinal manipulation resulted in far less frequency and duration of migraines. And acupuncture can be effective for some people.

Lastly, what would a health issue concern dialogue be without mentioning exercise and relaxation? These are the top two ways of combating so many of the things that ail people in the modern-day world.

Scientific literature is full of reasons why we need to exercise and learn how to relax. Exercising for just 30 minutes three times a week has shown to drastically improve migraines, and it almost goes without saying that anything you can do to relax will help you; meditation being one of the most stress-changers.

In conclusion, by giving yourself the gift of self-care, taking supplements, learning what foods trigger your headaches, along with a regular exercise and relaxation routine, you may be able to decrease the impact that migraines have in your life.