A migraine, unlike a tension headache, is a vascular headache. Medications can help relieve symptoms but they do not address the underlying cause. The fist step for successful treatment is to identify the precipitating factor(s). Below are some natural ways to treat a migraine but it is important to consult with a doctor. You should also keep a “headache diary” to help you learn what triggers your migraines.
According to numerous studies, food allergy/intolerance plays a big role in many cases of migraines. The most common foods include cow’s milk, wheat, chocolate, eggs, oranges, cheese, tomatoes, rye, rice, fish grapes, onions, soy, pork, peanuts, alcohol, MSG, walnuts, beef, tea, coffee, nuts, goat’s milk, corn, oats, cane sugar, yeast, apples, peaches, potatoes, chicken, bananas, strawberries, melons and carrots. These foods should be eliminated from the diet for at least one week, and up to one month. If the migraine is related to food sensitivity, symptoms typically disappear by the fifth or sixth day. After the elimination period, individual foods are gradually reintroduced (normally every two days) to identify the culprit.
A deficiency in magnesium may also be a cause in many cases of migraines. A key function of magnesium is to maintain the tone of blood vessels. However, studies have produced conflicting results. In one study, 250 milligrams of magnesium twice a day over a twelve week period showed no benefits compared to a placebo. In another study, participants who took 600 milligrams of magnesium a day had a reduction in attacks by 41.6 percent compared to 15.8 percent in those who received a placebo after nine weeks of treatment. It does appear that magnesium supplementation may only be effective in people who have low tissue or low ionized levels of magnesium in the serum.
Feverfew is a popular preventive treatment for migraines. According to a survey, 70 percent of 270 people who suffered from migraines had a decrease in the intensity and frequency of their attacks when including feverfew in their daily diet. Many of these individuals had been unresponsive to medications. Butterbur and ginger may also help reduce intensity and prevent migraines from happening.
Other natural ways to treat a migraine include:
• Cold compress - Wrap a towel around a cold ice pack and apply on the back of your neck. Ice constricts blood vessels.
• Relax - Dim the lights, lie down and close your eyes in a quiet environment. Take a hot bath and add a few drops of essential oils such as lavender, rosemary and marjoram. Meditation and yoga are other helpful ways to relax.
• Massage - A massage can improve the quality of sleep, which can help prevent migraines.
• Regular exercise - This can help reduce stress which often triggers a migraine. Do not exercise when having an attack because this can make it worse.
• Acupuncture - This natural treatment has been shown by a number of clinical trials to be helpful for migraines.
If pregnant, breastfeeding or taking medications, consult with your health care provider before taking supplements or herbs.
Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (1998)
Mayo Clinic: Migraine - https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/migraine-headache/DS00120
Mother Nature: Migraines - https://www.mothernature.com/Library/Bookshelf/Books/48/136.cfm
Photo by angryoungman/Flickr
Please read this disclaimer regarding the information contained within this article.