Dizziness, nausea, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, muscle tension, throbbing pain and tingling in the neck, head and eyes. The room is spinning, light, noise and smell sensitivities. Growing up, these were signs which both my mother and sister experienced regularly, and I would feel for them both as I knew the day would mean being paralysed in a dark room in bed, sleeping off the pain.
If you have ever experienced a headache or migraine, the episodes can be incredibly debilitating and you pray for those “normal” days to return.
Understanding the triggers.
Headache and migraine triggers may come from a number of factors:
Environment — sudden storms, smoke, perfumes or pollution.
Foods or drinks — caffeine, alcohol, especially red wine, chocolate, cheese, wheat/gluten or processed deli meats (eg. salami, ham). Flavourings and artificial additives (eg. MSG, Aspartame), sweeteners can also trigger headaches and migraines. Consider foods sensitive too, to rule out reactions which may trigger an episode.
Health related conditions — sinus congestion from allergies, changes in hormones (menstruation, menopause), and fluctuations in blood sugar levels may influence the frequency and severity of migraines and headaches.
A busy lifestyle can trigger a migraine or headache from lack of sleep, stress, neck-shoulder tension, poor posture, skipping meals and dehydration.
There are a number of natural ways to support the body before, during and post episodes:
- Magnesium — is a mineral responsible for the relaxation of muscles. Taken daily, it may be beneficial in reducing migraines and headaches due magnesium deficiency. 1
- Vitamin B2 — Studies show that taking high dose riboflavin (B2) of 400mg/day, seems to significantly reduce the number of migraine headache attacks.2 Foods relatively high in Vitamin B2 are avocados, beans, sprouts, eggs, milk and dairy products, wholegrain cereals, broccoli.
- Co Enzyme Q10 — a study conducted on migraine suffers found that CoQ10 (150mg/day, 4 weeks) supplementation reduces the frequency of migraine headaches and reduced the number of days of each attack. 3
- Feverfew — acts as an anti-inflammatory and a prophylactic against migraines. Feverfew has been used traditionally to assist with the reduction in the frequency of migraine headaches.
- Turmeric — an anti-inflammatory herb, which helps to reduce inflammation. Turmeric also supports digestive, gall bladder and liver functions.
- St Mary's Thistle — support the liver in its detoxification function. Toxins in the body may be associated with migraines and headache.
Given that the body is made up about 80%, it's vital that the body is adequately hydrated to ensure every system and part of the body can best perform its function. Dehydration can trigger headaches and migraines.
- Increased physical activity and warm climate will increase demand for water.
- Dehydrating foods and drinks such as caffeine, alcohol, sugary drinks, salty popcorn and soy sauce, cured deli-meats, will also increase the body's demand for water.
A healthy lifestyle with regular aerobic workouts, relaxation exercises and relaxation-breathing will help to minimise the severity of headaches and migraines.
Stretches and deep tissue massage are some of the best ways to loosen tight muscles. Tightness, particularly around the shoulder and neck area can contribute to tension headaches and migraines.
Keep a Headache Diary
Finding the cause is a simply way to eliminate the problem. Keep a diet lifestyle headache diary, to help identify the common triggers or causes. Log foods and drinks eaten through the day, stressful events, emotions (anger, fear, confusion), physical activities, unexpected news and weather changes. Record when a headache or migraine has occurred, the time and duration. This diet lifestyle headache diary will allow you to ascertain any patterns, food sensitivities, to try to avoid for the future. Understanding the cause, which foods or activities triggers a headache, will best help to manage the incident and the severity.
- Mauskop, A, et al, Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm. 2012 May;119(5):575-9.
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) Medline Plus http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/957.html
- Rozen TD et al, Open label trial of coenzyme Q10 as a migraine preventive. Cephalalgia. 2002 Mar;22(2):137-41.