Migraine headaches are characterized by a throbbing or pounding sensation, typically felt on one side of the head, and often behind one eye. These symptoms are often accompanied by nausea, and may also be preceded by an aura of visual changes, or sensitivity to light or sound.
There are many contributing factors to migraines, including excessive dilation of blood vessels in the head, serotonin levels, release of histamine and other inflammatory mediators, hormonal fluctuations, food triggers, and emotional stressors. While a thorough investigation is critical to investigate the underlying causes pertaining to each individual, there are some general principles that can often be helpful.
Reduction of Dietary Amines and Food Allergies
High amine foods such as cheese, chocolate, wine, and beer contain histamine or other compounds that contribute to blood vessel dilation. Common food allergens to investigate include wheat, dairy, egg, peanut, orange, tomato, and MSG.
Blood Sugar Balance
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can trigger migraine headaches. Balancing blood sugar involves eating regular meals and limiting high-glycemic foods such as refined sugars, white bread, and white rice. Carbohydrates can be sourced from vegetables and whole grains, and combining them with protein, fiber, or healthy fat helps prevent rapid fluctuations in blood sugar.
Magnesium deficiency is common in those who experience migraines. Adding magnesium-rich foods to the diet such as avocados, almonds, cashews, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, legumes, as well as supplementing magnesium can be helpful in restoring healthy levels and ameliorating symptoms.
Female Hormone Balance
Migraine headaches can be triggered by fluctuations in female hormones. It’s quite common for symptoms to worsen before menstruation or around ovulation, two situations that involve significant changes in estrogen levels.
Certain medicinal plants can be used to treat migraine headaches. The most well-researched is Butterbur, which exerts beneficial effects on blood vessel stability and inflammatory compound formation. Its traditional use has been documented for over 900 years. The whole Butterbur plant contains harmful pyrrolizidine alkaloids, so it’s important to only use products that have had these compounds removed.
Migraines are correlated with lower levels of serotonin, and common prescription medications for migraines act on serotonin receptors. Serotonin can be supported with tryptophan-rich foods such as turkey and salmon, aerobic exercise, natural light, and certain amino acid supplements if appropriate.
Stress and Emotional Support
Stress or intense emotions can trigger migraine headaches. Exploring the mental-emotional piece can provide essential insight into preventing migraines and managing the pain associated with them.
Disclaimer: This information is intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional medical advice. Certain herbs and supplements discussed in this article are not safe for everyone and have potential for harmful herb-drug interactions. Always consult your licensed healthcare provider before initiating new treatment.