by Geri Walton ~ November 10th, 2008
Migraines can be debilitating. Symptoms before a migraine can last eight to ten hours and often include feeling off balance, mood changes, cravings for sweets, or overall tiredness or lethargy. During a migraine, symptoms usually last from four to seventy-two hours and can include all or just one of these symptoms: sensitivity to light and/or sound, nausea, vomiting, throbbing pain, or inability to perform daily activities.
Exactly why migraines happen is unknown, but doctors believe they are rooted in the central nervous system and the brain stem. They seem to begin with excited nerve cells that send out impulses to blood vessels in the brain and result in inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels. There also seems to be a variety of factors that trigger migraines. These can include environmental, lifestyle, food, and physical factors.
To possibly help cure some of these problems, you can do reduce your consumption of stressful foods. Here’s a list of the most common causes and possible cures.
|Some people are allergic to the tannins in alcohol, wine, and chocolate. Additionally, some alcoholic drinks are fermented, which means they may contain tyramine. (See leftovers for an explanation.) Avoid alcohol and chocolate for two weeks, and see if the migraines disappear.|
|Phenylalanines are found in many foods, particularly processed meats with nitrates, chocolate, and dairy products. Some people who have migraines may have elevated levels of phenylalanines. To reduce phenylalanine levels, avoid processed meats, chocolate, and dairy for two weeks, and see if the migraine decides to avoid you.|
|Dehydration||A lack of water can cause migraines, and don’t think caffeine counts as water because it’s a diuretic. In fact, for every cup of caffeine you drink, you need to drink an extra cup of water.|
|Depression||Exercise releases endorphins, makes you feel better, and helps cure migraines. In addition, exercise also helps reduce anxiety, aids with relaxation, improves sleep, and increases blood circulation, which helps relieve depression. To learn more about how scents can lift depression read You’re a Scent Away From Happiness.|
|To help with emotional stress so you can relieve migraines, there are foods you can eat to calm you. Learn more by reading Stress Reducing Foods. To get tips on how to alleviate stress read Techniques to Relieve Stress.|
|Menustration, contraceptives, and hormone replacement therapy can all induce migraines. Talk to your doctor about possible solutions.|
|Too little serotonin causes the brain’s blood vessels to dilate and that triggers nerves to release peptides causing the migraine. One solution is to practice yoga because it encourages serotonin production and over time it reduces migraines. Read Got a Migraine, Yoga Will Help to learn more.|
|Leftovers||Tyramine is created when foods are preserved or aged, and leftovers can be a source of tyramine. If you must eat leftovers do so within twenty-four hours. Also items that are fermented, aged, dried, smoked, salted, or pickled can contain tyramine. The only way to help this problem is to avoid tyramine-related foods.|
|MSG is added to many food products and is used in everything from potato chips and Doritos to Ramen noodles and canned soups. You can also find it in prepackaged hamburger helper dinners, frozen TV dinners, bouillon cubes, steak sauce, and salad dressing. Fast food restaurants, such as McDonalds, Chili’s, Applebees, Chevy’s, Taco Bell, and many more use it to bring out natural flavors. However, scientists know it makes rats obese, so besides giving you a migraine, it may also make you fat.|
|Odors||In this case aromatherapy may help. Make a compress using warm water and five or six drops of lavender essential oil, such as Lavender 100% Pure Essential. (Make sure it’s an essential oil not a scent. Scents can make the situation worse). Then put the compress on your head or neck and lie down for ten minutes.|
|Try a massage with one of these three essential oils: Lavender 100% Pure Essential Oil, Peppermint 100% Pure Essential Oil, or Eucalyptus 100% Pure Essential Oil. Rub it on your back, shoulders, base of your skull, and neck.|
|Avoid fasting and eat at predetermined times for several weeks to see if a set schedule prevents the migraines.|
|Too much or too little sleep, along with irregular sleep patterns causes migraines in some people. The optimal sleep time is seven to eight hours. To help with sleep problems read How to Not Count Sheep and Sleep.|
|Starchy Foods||If you think starchy foods may be your problem, avoid starchy foods well past the amount of time you would have normally experienced three migraine attacks. Then slowly add starchy foods back into your diet, one at a time. The first day eat just a little of the food, if you get a reaction, you’ll know that’s a food you need to avoid. If you get no reaction, eat the same food the next day once in the morning and once in the evening. If you get a reaction, you’ll realize you can have a little of the food but maybe not eat it two days in a row. On the third day if you’ve had no reaction, eat the food several times throughout the day, and see if there’s a reaction. This test should help you realize how much or how little you can eat of a particular food before you get a migraine.|
|For some reason atmospheric pressure or extreme temperatures can trigger migraines in certain people. Although there’s no way to control the weather, if your migraines are caused by weather changes, you can counteract them and possibly prevent them by taking medications ahead of time.|
If you’re not sure what’s causing your migraines, keep a diary for a month or two. Include information related to the time they strike, symptoms, duration, weather patterns, foods you eat, how you feel on good and bad days, and severity of pain (using a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worse pain). See if there are noticeable patterns or cycles related to your migraines. Sometimes you’ll be able to notice certain foods or odors cause them, and then you can eliminate those from your environment. Even if there seems to be no discernible pattern, your diary will probably be beneficial to your health care professional. Additionally, because migraines can indicate other illnesses, you should seek immediate treatment if you experience any of the following:
- A headache that lasts for more than a few day
- A headache occurs when you sneeze, cough, or strain during a bowel movement
- Change in frequency or severity of migraines
- Confusion or waning consciousness
- Headache associated with trauma
- Paralysis on one side of the body
- Stiff neck or fever with headache
- Sudden headaches
- Trauma to the head with loss of consciousness
- Weakness or paralysis after a headache
If you want more information about migraines and headaches, here’s some information you may find useful:
Caffeine. A moderate amount sometimes helps constrict blood vessels and can reduce or eliminate the pain; however, caffeine can also trigger migraines, so limit the amount you consume.
Chiropractic Care. Misalignment in the spine can cause pinched nerves and result in headaches or migraines. Spinal adjustments can remedy the situation. I know because I had migraines for years. They continued to worsen over time, until I was having headaches two or three times a week and was incapacitated by them. The chiropractic adjustments helped reduce them within a month and within a few months I was completely cured. As a matter of fact, I rarely ever get a headache any more.
Feverfew. This herb is a member of the daisy family, a long-time popular folk remedy, and an anti-inflammatory. It’s a preventative in that it works by taking it every day. Believers claim it works miracles. Quantum - Migrelief contains 100 mg of Feverfew. Follow package directions, but keep in mind, Feverfew has side effects—similar to any herbal remedy—and can cause skin rashes and mouth sores, so check with your doctor before taking it. If you want to learn more about Feverfew and how it can help, Wolf Dog Circle has a great write-up with all the information.
Ginger. Preliminary results from a study conducted in Denmark found ginger blocks prostaglandins, which can cause blood vessel inflammation in the brain and lead to migraines. Participants took 1/3 teaspoon of fresh powdered ginger at the first hint of a migraine.
- 25 Natural Ways to Relieve Headaches : A Mind-Body Approach to Health and Well-Being. This book examines the different types of headaches, helps identify their causes, and provides safe alternatives for treatment and prevention, such as meditation, herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, and Qi Gong.
Over-the-counter Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as aspirin, Excederin, Motrin, Advil, Aleve, etc. may help; however, don’t take these if you have a history of stomach ulcers or stomach bleeding.
Resting. Select a dark quiet room with no odors and rest for twenty minutes to a half hour.
Although migraines and headaches can be debilitating, if you spend some time figuring out exactly what causes them, you will also likely find permanent relief. Why suffer if you don’t have to? Use these tips and tricks and learn more so you can enjoy life and and live migraine free.