An astounding 10% of the American population – 18% of American women and 6% of American men, and 10% of American children suffer from migraines.
What is a migraine?
A migraine is not just a headache, it is a neurological disease with varied and complicated symptoms. A classic migraine lasts from hours to days. A 72-hour migraine is not uncommon. During this time, the sufferer experiences extreme sensitivity to noise, light, smells, and touch.
Nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, and numbness and tingling in the extremities accompany excruciating pain on one or both sides of the head. A headache may present with or without a warning aura.
Although they have been studied for years, scientists and doctors still do not definitively know what causes migraines. They believe there is a genetic link, as they do run in families. Estrogen levels appear to play a major role. Neurotransmitters, inflammation, blood vessel dilation, and food and food additive reactions all appear to contribute as well. So does dehydration. The consensus is that there are likely to be multiple triggers working in conjunction to trigger an attack.
Over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs that are taken regularly for migraines take a toll on the body. Like any other illness, migraines are a body’s cry for help, an indication that the body needs two things: excellent, daily nutrition and ongoing detoxification.
Natural Cures for Migraines
Exercise has long been recommended to migraine sufferers, and now there’s new evidence to support the theory that physical activity appears to help prevent migraines. In a 2011 randomized, controlled study from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, researchers found that aerobic exercise was as effective at preventing migraines as the preventive migraine medication topiramate (brand name Topamax). A third of the patients in the three-month study exercised on a stationary bike three times per week for 40 minutes, while another third took a topiramate regimen that was gradually increased to the highest tolerable dose (a maximum of 200 milligrams per day).
The exercises and drug group both experienced a similarly reduced number of migraines, but 33 percent of topiramate users also experienced adverse side effects, while the exercisers reported none. The researchers concluded that regular exercise may be an option for migraine sufferers who don’t want to adhere to a daily medication regimen, and the medical community agrees that the findings are encouraging.
How much helps: The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, ideally spread out over the course of the week. Beware that intense exercise can actually trigger rather than prevent a migraine, so don’t overdo it.
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. Some estimates say that as many as three out of four adults in the U.S. may be deficient in magnesium.
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.
How much helps: Experts are split on how much magnesium to take for migraine prevention; some recommend 200 to 600 mg per day, while others recommend as much as 1,000 mg daily. Talk to your doctor to find a regimen that works best for you. 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.
3. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory substances that are abundant in many food sources, especially fish, nuts, and seeds. A well-documented three-month Swedish study found a 28-percent reduction in the number of migraine attacks and a 32-percent reduction in the intensity of the attacks.
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.
How much helps: Nutritionist Joy Bauer recommends 1,000 mg daily from a combination of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), two beneficial types of omega-3. If you take omega-3 supplements, store them in the fridge to prevent the oils from oxidizing.
Best food sources: Wild Alaskan salmon, tuna, herring (not pickled herring), mackerel, rainbow trout, halibut, Pacific oysters, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.
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. According to nutrition guru Jonny Bowden, “Using feverfew together with another herb, white willow bark, reduces the frequency, intensity, and duration of migraine attacks by up to 60 percent.”
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.
How much helps: A minimum of 250 mg per day may be helpful. Bowden recommends 300 mg, twice daily for two weeks. Other experts recommend an ongoing regimen that lasts four weeks or more before you can expect to see results.
Caution: Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking feverfew (or any herbal remedy). And don’t take it if you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant.
The best treatment is prevention. Avoid toxic chemicals and toxic food. The best possible diet is a whole food diet consisting of 80% raw, fresh, organic produce- more vegetables than fruits. Eliminate artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, MSG, GMOs, and refined sugars. No trans fats. No high fructose corn syrup. Limit caffeine. Be sure to drink plenty of clean, pure water. Be sure to include healthy fats with omega 3s. Do an elimination diet and remove any triggers you find. Consider eliminating gluten.