Migraine headaches affect around eight per cent of the general population. The most common symptom is that of a very severe headache, which can last anything from 2 to 72 hours. Classically, the headache is focused on one side of the head and is very often preceded by another symptom or feeling, a so-called ‘aura’. There may be a disturbance of vision on the affected side, with bright flashing lights or zigzag lines. Occasionally one’s hearing or sense of smell may be affected. These visual disturbances may last from minutes to hours, being replaced by the headache that is often associated with nausea or vomiting.
The exact cause of migraine is unknown, but it is thought to be due to the action of serotonin on the blood vessels in the brain.
Attacks may be triggered by tension, fatigue, certain medications (e.g. the combined contraceptive pill), alcohol and certain foods and the avoidance of trigger factors is essential in preventing migraine. Reduce stress and tension wherever possible.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|5-HTP||5-HTP not only increases serotonin levels, but also levels of beta-endorphins -compounds that have significant pain-reducing properties.||100 – 300mg per day away from food|
|EPA and GLA||The essential fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and GLA (gamma linolenic acid) have been shown to decrease blood platelet clotting, increase blood flow and reduce inflammation.||1000 – 3000mg per day|
|Magnesium||Magnesium helps in maintaining blood vessel tone and calming nerve impulses.||200 – 600mg per day|
|Niacin||Niacin dilates cerebral blood vessels, improving blood flow, which becomes restricted in migraine development. Niacin used every day may prevent, or reduce the incidence of migraine headaches.
Niacin causes blood vessels in the skin to dilate resulting in a flush during which the skin may feel hot and prickly. This is perfectly normal, but it is advised to take niacin with food and build up the dosage slowly to avoid a severe reaction.
|100 – 500mg per day (build up intake slowly)|
|Feverfew||Helps to decrease the severity and frequency of migraine headaches. The effects appear to be due the ability of its active constituents to improve blood vessel function, correct platelet abnormalities and reduce inflammatory response.||200- l000mg per day|
|Ginger||Useful for migraines and the accompanying nausea.||1,000 to 2,000mg daily|
|Butterbur||Helps reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.||50mg to 100mg daily|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
Some migraine sufferers have an abnormality of blood-sugar regulation known as reactive hypoglycaemia. Strict avoidance of refined sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, and eating small, frequent meals as much as six times per day can be helpful.
Migraines can be triggered by allergies, and may be relieved by identifying and avoiding the problem foods. The most reliable food intolerance test is a pin prick blood test which checks for the presence of IgG antibodies. A home test kit is available from Food Detective.
Reducing intake of salt is helpful for some people with migraines.
Removing dairy products from the diet can help migraine sufferers who have a lactose intolerance.
The artificial sweetener aspartame is a known neuro-toxin and can trigger migraines, as can monosodium glutamate (MSG) often found in processed foods.
L-tryptophan, an amino acid found in protein-rich foods, is converted to serotonin, a substance that can worsen some migraines.
Foods high in L-tryptophan
|sauerkraut||spinach||sour cream||soya bean||soya sauce|
|caffeinated drinks||dried salted fish||dried vegetables||gravy or stock cubes||high yeast bread|
|processed meat fish or poultry||meat and fish pastes||pickled herrings||sausage and tinned meats|
Stay hydrated by drinking 2 litres of water daily.
Increase your intake of Complex carbohydrates and whole grains for their B vitamins,
Eat 5 to 7 portions of vegetables (esp. dark leafy green) and fruit daily,
Eat oily fish, nuts and seeds for their anti-inflammatory Omega 3
Eat garlic, onions and ginger as they help improve blood circulation.
Take regular gentle exercise.
Acupuncture can be helpful to relieve migraine headaches.
Homoeopathic Remedies which may help:
- Actaea Rac
- Kali bich
- Natrum mur
Suggested further reading:
- Migraine aura symptoms
- Treating migraine
- Self help suggestions