Ten to fifteen percent of the population suffers from migraine headaches. Migraine headaches are a painful headache sometimes preceded by an aura. Auras are sensory warnings that pain is about to appear. They can include flashes of light, blind spots or tingling in the extremities. Migraine symptoms can also include nausea, vomiting and an increased sensitivity to light and sound. For some sufferers, migraine pain can last for days. Many common drugs used to treat migraines can have long-term side effects in the gastrointestinal tract. Overuse of these drugs can lead to rebound headaches. Finding the root cause of your migraines is essential and finding natural migraine headache remedies to use in the meantime is very important.
If you have very severe pain that feels like the worst headache of your life or a headache that accompanies numbness, slurring of speech or vision problems, call 911 to rule out other more serious conditions.
Possible Root Causes of Migraines
- Food Allergies/Sensitivities – can be a trigger for migraines. Certain foods have been linked to migraines like foods that contain ‘amines’ such as tyramine in cheese, octopamine in citrus fruits and histamine in beer, wine or other fermented food. Gluten, caffeine, cured meats, and aspartame are other headache trigger foods.
- TMJ – Bite alignment problems are a source of migraines. The constant contraction of muscles in the face and head restrict blood flow and increase the pressure in the head.
- Toxins – Toxins interfere with the digestion process including nutrient absorption leading to nutrient deficiencies. Toxins are chemicals, pollutants, internal toxins due to normal body functioning, GMO foods, cigarettes, and other environmental toxins including hormone mimickers. Toxins interfere with cellular metabolism and cellular transport which can lead to oxidative damage and cause imbalances in hormones due to hormone-mimicking. Unbalanced hormones are implicated in migraines.
- Antibiotics, NSAIDS, stress, steroids, chemicals in food – Antibiotics disturb the balance of good to bad bacteria in the gut which can lead to intestinal infections or inflammation and cause disturbances to the gut barrier of the stomach. Medications, toxins, and stress can also result in GI distress (IBS, IBD). GI issues are implicated in migraines.
- Magnesium deficiency – Magnesium deficiency is a big problem in America. Magnesium is an essential nutrient for the human body. Studies show that over 70 percent of Americans are not getting enough magnesium. We are not consuming enough magnesium-rich foods and eating too many foods that deplete magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is a contributor to migraines.
- Dehydration – Most Americans are walking around in a dehydrated state. Dehydration can occur in cold weather as well as the summer. Many people do not think of drinking adequate water during the colder months. Dehydration occurs when we lose more water than we take in. When we are dehydrated, we are losing electrolytes which contribute to headaches.
- Poor sleep – Headache clinics show that there is a relationship between chronic sleep problems and headaches. As headaches get more severe, chronic sleep problems get more severe. Sleep induced migraines typically occur between four a.m. and nine a.m.. This type of sleep induced migraine is also known as ‘an awakening headache’.
- Stress – Of course stress is at the root of most health problems and migraines are no exception. Stress is the body’s reaction to an event or situation. Stress can come from happy events, adverse events or extreme exercise. Stress can make migraines worse or last longer. Migraines can occur after the end of a stressful event due to the release of tension sometimes referred to as ‘weekend migraines’.
- Low serotonin levels – Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in blood vessel regulation. Low levels are associated with migraine frequency and duration.
- Vitamin b2 – (Riboflavin) Vitamin b2 has been found to be an impressive migraine remedy. According to research, patients who received 400 mg of riboflavin per day found their frequency and duration of migraines improved. B2 improves mitochondrial dysfunction that results in impaired cellular oxygen in the body which can result in migraines.
- Magnesium supplementation – As noted above, magnesium deficiency is common in Americans and migraines can result from sub-optimum levels of this essential mineral. In fact, IV magnesium therapy is administered in hospitals for acute migraines. Supplement with the glycinate and malate forms that are easier on the stomach and well-absorbed. 300 – 400 mg taken twice a day is a standard amount. If you have kidney disease, talk to your doctor before supplementing with magnesium.
- CoQ10 – Another possible cause of a migraine is mitochondrial dysfunction which impairs oxygen metabolism and energy. Supplementing with CoQ10 helps repair mitochondria that is responsible for turning food into energy in the body according to research.
- Essential oils – Essential oils of lavender and peppermint when used at the first sign of a migraine can help with heading one off. Apply to pulse points and inhale while lying in a dark room for the best effect.
- Exercise – A Swedish study has found that aerobic exercise was found to be as good as a preventive for migraine headaches as the prescription drug Topomax. Riding on a stationary bike for 40 minutes three times a week can do the trick.
- 5-HTP – 5-HTP increases the body’s production of serotonin. According to Harvard Medical School, 5-HTP can incorrect any imbalance in serotonin levels thus reducing the severity and frequency of migraine headaches. Dosages of 5-HTP are something you always discuss with your qualified health professional.
- Feverfew and White Willow Bark – Feverfew and white willow bark are herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both herbs work on reducing inflammation in the blood vessels in the brain and can reduce symptoms up to sixty percent. They can also help with nausea associated with migraines. A minimum of 250 mg per day may be helpful.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and help reduce the pain of migraines. They can also reduce the frequency and duration of migraines. Taking a high-quality omega supplement with a combined EPA and DHA of 1000 mg is a recommended amount.
Finding the right natural remedy might take a little trial and error, but worth it in the long run. Medications can be helpful in the short term, but ongoing reliance can cause rebound headaches and other health issues. Finding the root cause of your migraines is important to reduce or eliminate the need for medication in the long term. Food sensitivities, gut health issues, and nutrient deficiencies are just a few of the root causes of migraines. Figure out what your triggers are and you will experience more quality of life. In the meantime, finding a natural remedy that works for you is important to strengthen the body while working on the root cause.
If you have a natural migraine remedy that works for you, please comment below!
Linda is a Functional Medicine Health Coach