Do you suffer from migraines? Most sufferers experience their first migraine in their late teens and early thirties and women seem to be affected more frequently. There is also a strong genetic link, so if someone in your immediate family experiences migraines, you may be at a higher risks.
What are the signs?
How do you know if you are experiencing a migraine instead of a really bad headache? Here are the main differentiators:
Migraines are usually one-sided or in a specific spot (at least to start)
Migraines tend to pulsate and throb (rather than a general aching sensation)
Migraines usually come with sensitivities to light or sound. You may also feel nauseous
Migraines will get worse with physical activities (headaches usually get better)
Migraines are moderate to severe pain (it is much harder to just “push through” them)
Some people will also experience an AURA with their migraine. Auras are sensory changes like loss of vision, difficulty speaking, and confusion. Often people confuse an aura with having a stroke because they can feel terrifying. Thankfully, auras are temporary and almost all return to normal functioning.
What causes migraines?
We are not 100% sure but we have some theories.
The most compelling theories include blood-flow issues, neurological electrical issues, inflammatory chemical triggers, and deficiencies in magnesium and serotonin.
As with most medical conditions, it is likely a combination of all of these.
A Naturopathic Approach to Migraines
The best place to start with migraines is to track them and record their intensity and how long they last.
This helps us determine if there are patterns associated with your migraine attacks.
There are 3 relatively common patterns I see among migraine sufferers, especially with women.
This means that the migraines are occurring at the same time in your menstrual cycle (often before or after your period). This means a hormone shift/imbalance is a large trigger.
For some, migraines occur before and often right after highly stressful periods. Stress is a powerful trigger for many conditions. Often periods of high stress come with poor sleep and poor food choices which further exacerbate migraine development.
3. Blood-Sugar Linked
Not eating for long periods of time or eating a diet high in carbohydrates will cause big drops in your blood sugar. This can be a migraine trigger. There are also several foods that may trigger migraine development (see below).
Other patterns seen with migraine development are lack of sleep, lack of exercise, excess weight, and high blood pressure.
Determining the patterns, associations, and triggers are crucial for treating and preventing migraines. The goal is not only to manage migraines when they happen but also to prevent them from occurring and reducing their severity when they happen!
While each person is different, there are triggers that are common to the general population. If you are suffering from migraines, it might be worthwhile to trial reducing some of these triggers to see if it helps.
Red wine (I know I’m sorry – try a sulphite-free version or sip on white)
Deli meats (Everyone should cut these out – they have been linked to colon cancer)
Perfumes and strong odors
Bright fluorescent lighting
MSG & artificial sweeteners
WEATHER CHANGES (hard to avoid but good knowledge to have)
Fasting (low blood sugar!)
Natural Treatment for Migraines
Unfortunately, once a migraine gets going, it can be hard to stop and medication may be the most appropriate treatment. BUT the best cure is PREVENTION and this is where naturopathic medicine can do wonders.
Correcting patterns as mentioned above will be the cornerstone of treatment and that will be different for each person.
There are also several remedies that can be used in this process.
Acupuncture does wonders for all sorts of neurological conditions, including migraines. Acupuncture taps into nerve pathways which stimulate the release of several natural pain killing molecules and helps prevent the recurrence of migraines.
Magnesium is a relaxing mineral. It helps prevents migraines and tension headaches plus it has the bonus action of reducing muscle tension and helping with sleep!
You may have heard about melatonin as a sleep aid but it is also a powerful ANTIOXIDANT! We are starting to learn about its several non-sleep relates uses and preventing migraines is one of them!
4. Petasites hydridus (Butterbur)
Herbs can be a great alternative to medications. Several medications are actually derived from components from herbs. Using the whole herb instead tends to give more actions with fewer side effects. Butterbur is a great option to help prevent migraines though it must be taken for at least 3 months to see effects.
5. Tanacetum parthenium (Feverfew)
Feverfew is another great option with Butterbur and is also used long-term for preventing migraines!
6. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Riboflavin is one of our B vitamins that supports our metabolism and energy production. It has been found to help prevent and reduce the severity of migraines. Don’t be alarmed, this supplement will turn your pee neon yellow but this is totally harmless!
Migraines can cause serious distress and can interfere with your life. Luckily there are several things that can be done! If you’re not sure where to start with treating your migraines, come in for a consult! Everyone is different and we all need plans that our tailored to our needs!