As I am also a migraine sufferer and have been for many years I find it really interesting to find out more about this condition which can leave me unable to function at all. Migraine Awareness week 2017 fell between September 3rd-9th .
Did you know that according to the Migraine Trust, migraine is the third most common disease in the world, with an estimated global prevalence of one in seven people.
What Are Migraines?
Migraines are extremely painful headaches, which often occur on one side of the head and are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, loss of appetite and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. There may also be visual disturbances such as flashing lights, shimmering colours, zigzags and blotches, which surround a blind spot. This is known as an “aura”. Children may also experience dizziness, blurred vision, have a fever and an upset stomach. Where normal headaches may last just a few hours, migraines can last for a few days, may occur several times a month and can be extremely debilitating.
Children who suffer from migraines can often grow out of them, and this is something that my eldest son experienced. He had regular “stomach migraines” which manifested not as headaches so much but as stomach pain and vomiting. He had these regularly from the age of about three and they lasted until he was five and simply disappeared. For more severe symptoms we used Calpol, and I had to make sure to give him some as soon as the symptoms were starting because any later than that and he was unable to keep it down resulting in the migraine lasting longer. As we got used to how the migraines would manifest sometimes I would give him just “honey water” – basically warm water with a teaspoon of raw honey – and this seemed to really help for milder migraines. To this day he often uses honey water if he has a headache and it really helps to alleviate it.
Susan Broner, MD, medical director of the Manhattan Headache Centre in New York City states: “Migraine is a neurobiological disorder involving both neurological and vascular changes in the brain during an attack. People with a genetic predisposition have a reduced threshold for the activation of the brains ‘pain centres’ and become hypersensitive to stimuli that cause pain. These set off a wave of nerve cell activity and neurotransmitter release that activates blood vessel inflammation, feeding pain structures deep in the brain”.
Migraine triggers can include:
- Infections such as colds or sore throats
- Eyestrain or back strain
- Environmental pollutants (eg perfume, chemicals, cigarette smoke)
- Genetic predisposition
- Food allergies – such as gluten or dairy
- Hormone imbalance
- Vitamin or mineral imbalance – deficiencies can result in migraines as well as other conditions
- Alcohol – the sulfites used as preservatives in red wine have been linked to migraines, and alcohol in general can be dehydrating and can increase blood flow to the brain
- Food additives – such as monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Aged cheeses – tyramine found in cheeses such as blue cheese, brie, feta, and parmesan can be problematic.
- Processed meats – salami, pepperoni and hot dogs also contain high levels of tyramine as well as nitrates or nitrites, which can cause blood vessels to dilate and trigger migraines.
Identifying triggers is one part of the solution, but how can we calm a migraine without having to resort to constantly taking pain-killers once it has taken hold?
Food intolerances can lead to gut dysbiosis, which is an imbalance in gut health, leading to problems such as leaky gut and migraines can be symptoms of this. Identifying the root cause of the problem is essential if you want to eradicate the symptoms. Following a proper protocol is crucial when implementing an elimination diet. For more help click here.
Many B vitamins are involved in the formation of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, (known as our “feel good” hormone) – and this may be deficient in individuals who suffer from migraines. B vitamins improve brain health, circulation, immune function and cardiovascular health. Deficiency can result in low energy, adverse effects on blood cells and adrenal glands, “brain fog” and regular headaches. Vegetarians and vegans may be particularly at risk due to the lack of B vitamins in the diet, which are commonly found in animal products.
Natural sources of vitamin B include fish, poultry, meat, eggs and dairy, however vegetarians and vegans should take one B-complex vitamin a day, to ensure against all the adverse effects of deficiency.
As most of us know alcohol can leave us feeling very dehydrated, but soda also can coffee and sugary drinks. Many people simply don’t drink enough plain old water throughout the day and yet this simple natural remedy will help to keep you feeling full, energized and headache-free. If drinking lots of water throughout the day seems difficult to do then try adding vegetables and fruits that are high in water content to your diet regularly, such as:
- Green peppers
Well it worked for my son, so I would be remiss not to include it here! Mix 1 teaspoon of raw honey with warm water and take every few hours if needed.
Magnesium is a muscle relaxant and extremely helpful for relieving headaches. Many people are unknowingly deficient in magnesium, which can also then cause a calcium deficiency as magnesium is required for calcium absorption.
Taking 200–600 mg of magnesium a day can reduce the frequency of headache attacks and is safe to use by pregnant women. Dietary sources of magnesium include beans, seeds, nuts and vegetables such as broccoli, squash and leafy greens.
Bad posture can often create alignment problems, which can result in painful joints, spinal discomfort and recurrent headaches. Learning to correct your posture is beneficial in so many ways, from resolving back pain, shoulder tension and even breathing properly. A simple tool for helping to straighten the back is to hold a broomstick vertically along the spine and perform slow deadlifts, hingeing forward from the hips in a bow, keeping the back straight, knees slightly bent and shoulders relaxed.
Make sure to sit up straight when working at a computer and be conscious about standing tall when walking.
Try a restful, detoxifying bath by adding magnesium flakes and lavender oil to promote muscle relaxation and calm the mind.
Learning relaxation and visualisation techniques can really help to de-stress. For more information click here.
Sitting is the new smoking according to recent research. Many of us are sitting for extended periods of the day with minimal movement, particularly if we commute long distances to work every day and then sit at a desk. Tension headaches can lead to recurrent migraines, so try and get up every hour for a walk around, perhaps perform a few squats, maybe have a light-hearted squat or jumping jack or plank competition with fellow workers.
Both peppermint and lavender oils have a calming and numbing effect, making them ideal for headache relief. Peppermint can stimulate an increase of blood flow and soothe muscle contractions whilst lavender is an excellent mood stabiliser and sedative. Mix a few drops of both oils into some melted coconut oil and rub onto the forehead, temples and back of the neck.
Tiger balm is an ancient Chinese remedy made from camphor and menthol. It is an ointment that provides a cooling sensation when applied to the skin. Rubbing some on the forehead and temples can often provide relief for headaches.
Simply resting can help alleviate migraines. Lying down in a dark room, with a cold compress, a mug of chamomile tea and peace and quiet can do wonders for quietening symptoms.
You can read more about Lisa at her webpage: http://gutfeeling.solutions