How to Spot + Treat Migraines Naturally

 

I used to suffer from chronic headaches, 3 or 4 times per week.  I had always been a “headache prone” person, it’s how my body reacted to stress.  Whether I was low on sleep, dehydrated, stressed, or anxious, it was only a matter of time before a headache would set in.  However, my headaches were typically manageable by over the counter pain medications.  It wasn’t until I was a senior in my undergraduate program that these headaches suddenly got much more severe.  These headaches were different.  The throbbing pain would leave me nauseated and in bed for hours until it finally subsided, most often, not until the following day.  Through visiting a couple of neurologists, we came to the conclusion that I was suffering from migraine headaches.  I tried finding my “triggers,” which was difficult to do since my headaches came so frequently.  Eventually I resorted to prescription medications to prevent my headaches which worked, however left me with a very difficult side effect, feeling incredibly tired all the time.

I quickly decided that I would rather take excedrin migraine, which worked very well for me if I took it early on in my headache.  This worked for a while, but eventually as I started chiropractic school I wanted to find a more natural method of handling my headaches, so I was not dependent on a drug.  After consulting with one of my professors, he recommended taking feverfew, a natural herb, known to prevent migraines.  I started taking it daily, and from that day on have not had 1 migraine!  That was in 2011, and about three years ago I was able to wean off of feverfew completely, and have been migraine free since.  Now occasionally I will get headaches, but nothing like the debilitating migraine I experienced previously.

I share this story because headaches are such a common problem, and typically we tend to go to prescription or over the counter medications for relief.  While these methods help us to function pain free, they don’t address the cause of the headaches.  It should not be “normal” for anyone to suffer from debilitating headaches!  For me, I believe the cause was from dehydration, diet, and stress.  Throughout my undergraduate education my diet, like most, consisted of quesadillas, sandwiches, and late-night take out.  I was a swimmer and am sure I wasn’t getting the water I needed as well. And the college lifestyle of little sleep, and high stress levels didn't help either!  Since getting into the healthcare field I have learned a lot about diet and nutrition, have cut gluten and other inflammatory foods out, and eat a diet much more rich in fruits and vegetables.  I believe these among other lifestyle changes have helped me to live migraine free.

Migraines are believed to be caused by a combination of blood vessel enlargement and chemical release from nerve fibers that cover the enlarged blood vessels.  These chemicals that are released cause inflammation and pain, thus making the arteries enlarge further.  Migraine headaches are typically one-sided, severe, and throbbing in nature.  Many people who experience migraines have the headache with an aura.  Auras are perceptual disturbances that occur before the headache such as: flashing lights, visual disturbances, muddled thoughts, unpleasant smells, sensitivity to light, nausea, and stiffness in the shoulders and neck.

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF MIGRAINE

  • Throbbing + pulsating pain
  • Headaches that occur on one side of the head
  • Onset of headache during strenuous exercise
  • Nausea + vomiting with headache
  • Increased sensitivity to light + sound

COMMON MIGRAINE TRIGGERS

  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises
  • Perfumes
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Dehydration
  • Skipping meals
  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Birth control pills
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Dairy products
  • Gluten
  • Allergies or other food sensitivities

If you think you are suffering from migraine headaches, I would suggest looking at these triggers and try eliminating some that you feel may be bringing on your headaches.  This is certainly a better and safer approach than depending on medication daily.  If you are having trouble finding your trigger or preventing your headaches, here is a list of natural supplements that have been shown to aide in migraine prevention and relief.  As always, please consult your healthcare provider before going off any medication or starting new therapies.  If taking supplementation, please seek out a natural healthcare provider to ensure you are getting a good quality supplement, which will yield much better results.

NATURAL REMEDIES TO PREVENT + TREAT MIGRAINE HEADACHE

  • Feverfew

  • Butterbur

  • Magnesium

  • CoQ10

  • Riboflavin

Besides nutrition, I have found mind-body stress relief techniques such as Neuro Emotional Technique (NET) and the Lifeline Technique to be essential to resolve migraine headache.  A crucial question to consider is: when your headache symptoms began, what was going on in your world? Was it a time of increased stress professionally or personally? The vast majority of the time with my patients, I find a direct correlation of increased stress at the onset of the pattern of migraines.  Work with a practitioner to help your nervous system better handle stress, so your body does not have to react with migraine headaches!

Last but not least is one of my favorite ways to get relief!  If experiencing a headache, you can place a cold pack behind your neck, and have your hands and feet in warm water.  For me, this has worked wonders to release blood flow from the head (constrict blood vessels) and draw it to your extremities, try it out!  I hope this post can provide you and your loved ones with relief!  And if you have any more specific questions, feel free to contact me, here.

LOVE & HAPPY HEADS,

DR. ABBY