If you suffer from migraines, you are all-too-familiar with the debilitating symptoms that can keep you away from work, play, and just life for days. You may worry when the next migraine will strike and force you to rearrange your life to accommodate the unwelcome headache’s intrusion.
So, let’s cut to the chase. Migraines affect about 15 percent of adults worldwide. So, we asked Fitness on the Run’s Dr. Miranda Wall, chiropractor and yoga instructor, and Megan Crozier, Nutritional Therapist Practitioner:
“What can I do to ease migraine pain?
How can I prevent them?”
Keeping a migraine journal can help you manage your migraine symptoms. It’s best to rate the severity of your symptoms, their duration, and what you were doing/feeling/eating prior to the migraine. This can really help you identify your triggers.
Why is taking note of “doing and feeling” so important? Our bodies react in different ways to what we are doing and feeling, including how we handle STRESS. For some, stress is a cause of weight gain or excess body fat. For others, it causes sleep issues. And last, stress is manifested through headaches, or worse, debilitating migraines.
We consider the inability to find ways to manage stress the next health crisis in America. Breathing, exposure to sunlight (Vitamin D), practicing yoga, laughing, exercising, praying, speaking to a counselor, taking breaks from the sitting, “down” time/resting, and most importantly, getting curious about the real root of the stress, are examples of how to alleviate that stress and neck tension that can lead to a migraine.
If you feel like your migraines may be stemming from neck tension caused by stress, consider getting checked out by a chiropractor. Evidence from scientific studies suggests that spinal manipulation improves migraine headaches.
Another way to help prevent migraines is through diet and supplementation, which my friend and colleague Megan discusses below.
I, too, have a number of clients who struggle with the weekly, monthly, or quarterly migraine. Like most issues we chalk up as “normal,” there is an underlying reason for why it happens in the first place. In addition to postural misalignments, neck tension, and stress mentioned above, food, hormones, and nutrient deficiencies play a huge role in causing migraines. Common triggers are low blood sugar, allergens, exposure to strong odors (perfume and detergents), and ingredients within processed foods like MSGs and artificial sweeteners. Note what you drank in the last 12 hours, what you were doing, and what environment you were exposed to at that time.
Here are the steps I recommend to prevent migraines naturally:
- Start with the diary. It will help you to identify and remove the underlying triggers so you can get rid of low, chronic inflammation.
- Try an elimination diet.Remove processed foods with MSGs, artificial sweeteners, soy and corn byproducts, and nitrites. Then, take out the common inflammatory foods including gluten, dairy, and sugar, all while keeping your blood sugar stable with healthy fats and protein.
- Replenish the nutrients that you might be low in that naturally prevent migraines.
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): Take 400mg daily to prevent and reduce migraine frequency and intensity.
- Magnesium glycinate: Taking 600-1200mg daily helps relieve migraines and muscular tension, which may be especially beneficial for women who get headaches around their periods.
- Feverfew: An anti-inflammatory herb known to prevent migraines. Try 25mg daily.
- Drink water!Drinking the baseline of water every day (half your body weight in ounces), is not an option but a necessity on your overall quality of health. There is tons of research that dehydration is a major cause of headaches/migraines. Just like food intake and moving our bodies daily, drinking water consistency is key.
- Last, slowly reduce your dependence on migraine and headache medication. Tylenol and ibuprofen can provide temporary relief, but long term can make your headache frequency worse, thus creating a vicious cycle. Instead, try pain-relieving herbs like feverfew (25 mg daily) and butterbur (75mg twice a day). Fish oil can also be a very effective anti-inflammatory supplement that helps not only with your migraines but with your overall health as well.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about any of the changes you plan on making. With a combination of spinal manipulation, identifying triggers, and supplementing appropriately, you will be on your way to lessening the severity and frequency of your migraines.