If you are one of the 30 million Americans who suffer from migraine headaches, you are probably well aware of how debilitating and uncomfortable this condition can be. Migraine headaches can disrupt a person’s daily life, making it hard to focus and function normally.
While medication is the most popular way to treat migraine headaches, there are also many natural remedies available to alleviate the symptoms of this irritating condition.
Why Do Migraine Headaches Occur?
The exact cause of migraine headaches is unknown. However, several triggering factors have been identified, such as genetic disposition, hormonal imbalances, chemical imbalances in the brain, and lifestyle choices. Scientists have identified the physiological changes in the brain that occur during a migraine, which include a drop in serotonin levels, which in turn cause the trigeminal system (the pathway in the brain responsible for pain control) to release more neuropeptides, resulting in headache pain. It is also believed that stress and certain environmental factors contribute to migraines.
What Are Some Triggers For Migraine Headaches?
If you work in an environment with fluorescent lights, drink excessive amounts of coffee or other caffeinated drinks, smoke cigarettes, are under a lot of pressure or stress, or don’t drink enough water during your day, you may have an increased chance of experiencing migraine headaches. Those with high blood pressure, hypoglycemia, vitamin D deficiency, or food allergies, may also have a greater chance for headaches. Side effects from certain medications, specifically oral contraceptives, have been linked to migraine headaches as well.
Are There Natural Alternatives to Medication for Migraine Headaches?
Feverfew is an herbal remedy that is believed to help prevent migraines through its active compound, parthenolide, which helps to reduce the dilation of blood vessels in the brain. Feverfew helps to prevent migraines, but is a less effective treatment after the onset of a headache has occurred. Feverfew is available in capsule form from most natural food stores. 5-HTP is another natural supplement that has been reported to reduce the severity and duration of migraine headaches. This compound is produced in the body in conjunction with the amino acid, tryptophan. Trial studies have shown 5-HTP to increase levels of dopamine and seratonin, which may help to prevent migraines from occurring, as well as limit the pain associated with headaches. Magnesium has proven to be an effective treatment for migraines, and can be found in nuts, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains. Essential for numerous functions in the body, magnesium is needed for muscle functioning, regulating blood sugar levels, bone health, and proper immune functioning. Because magnesium is so crucial to good health, it is believed that a deficiency may contribute to migraine headaches. The recommended dosage of magnesium is 400-600 milligrams daily.
What Other Natural Treatments Exist For Migraine Headaches?
Studies have shown that acupuncture and acupressure are both effective in preventing migraine headaches, as well as reducing the duration and severity of the condition. Practitioners target specific energetic meridians in the body, either through the use of needles, or applied pressure, both which help reduce pressure and inflammation associated with migraines. Aromatherapy is another treatment that has shown modest benefits in treating migraine headaches. Scents such as lavender, peppermint, rosemary, and eucalyptus, have all been shown to induce relaxed states in the brain, helping to alleviate the pain from migraines. Stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, and qi gong, help relax the body, increase circulation, and potentially prevent migraines. Medication may provide immediate relief from migraine headaches, but will not address the underlying cause of the imbalance. By making appropriate lifestyle changes, drinking adequate water, and eating a healthy diet, you can reduce your likelihood of experiencing migraine headaches. When taking supplements for migraine headaches, make sure to check with your doctor for any potential drug interactions, or implications with other health conditions.
Other causes of migraine headaches may be emotional trauma from the past, or maladaptive mental patterns. Healing emotional trauma through holistic counseling may be a viable alternative treatment for migraine headaches. 91% of people suffering from migraines report an inability to work during a headache. 70% have a family history of migraines, while 10% of school age children report experiencing migraine headaches. Women are three times more likely to experience migraine headaches than men.