Debilitating and violent migraines are one of the most common health ailments worldwide as well as one of the top 20 causes of disability among adults (Dr. Mercola). While not all is understood about this issues, there are many theories and approaches to treat and cure migraines. Migraine headaches cause extreme pain, lack of balance, vision, nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to sound and light. This symptom is a warning sign of other elements of the body’s systems which are out of alignment, such as the health of the nervous system, and the body’s ability to eliminate waste and toxins. Understanding triggers, managing diet, and avoiding toxicity can help prevent migraines, helping people live fuller lives free from the chronic stress of pain.
There are many theories about what cause debilitating migraines, and indeed the causes many vary with individuals. One theory is the vascular theory which postulates that vasoconstriction of the arterioles bring about prodromal and aura symptoms before the migraine. The “aura” is seeing either a full circle or a half circle of light in one eye which makes regular vision and balance impossible. In this theory, “The lack of oxygen causes the localized release of serotonin and this results in vasodilation that causes arteries here to widen, leading to the headache. As the arteries widen the pain gets worse and worse” (Back to Health Wellness). Depending on many factors migraines can occur once in a person’s life, have intervals of days or months, and have varying lengths of time they last. All agree that a migraine is the most painful type of headache, especially during allergy season.
However, new research contradicts the vascular theory, finding that constriction and enlargement of the blood vessels is not always involved. In fact, “Most recently, a small observational study3 found that so-called migraineurs—people who get migraines—tend to have a different blood vessel structure in their brains compared to those who do not get migraines” (Dr. Mercola). Recent studies used magnetic resonance angiography to monitor the system of arteries that delivers blood to the brain, which has been called a “circle of Willis” (Dr. Mercola). This study found, “They found that an incomplete circle of Willis was significantly more common in those who get migraines, with or without aura, compared to the control group (73 percent and 67 percent versus 51 percent respectively)” (Dr. Mercola). This represented asymmetry in the hemispheric cerebral blood flow, and may affect the visual cortex in the form of migraines.
A secondary theory on the causes of migraines is the nervous system theory. Here it is suggested that “rapid changes in activity of nerve cells in the brain cell and in particular the brain stem have been implicated in migraine and a chemical messenger called serotonin is also thought to be involved” (Back to Health Wellness). Researchers speculate this may be due to a weakened or unstable autonomic nervous system, abnormal brain activity patterns, or reduced magnesium levels. Migraines are more common for women, and “More than 37 million Americans suffer from migraines; nearly five million of them experiencing at least one migraine attack per month.2 In all, an estimated 13 percent of the world's population suffer with migraines to a greater or lesser degree” (Dr. Mercola). Over 60 percent of women find that migraines coincide with their menstrual cycles. The onset of migraines are consistently linked with stress, as stress triggers hormone releases which imbalance the brain’s neurochemicals. Since PMS is a very stressful time, these may be linked. Migraines are also linked to hormonal treatment and taking birth control pills due to how they change the hormone balance in the body (Dr. Mercola). Making the choice to switch to non-hormonal IUD birth control may assist those women prone to migraines.
Also new studies link migraines to food allergies which may be due to the increased use of genetically modified organisms, especially corn and soy. These unnatural organisms do not react well with the body’s natural rhythms, and do not provide nutrition. The buildup in toxicity from food allergies should not be ignored. As Dr. Mercola emphasizes, one randomized, cross-over study published in 201012 found that a six-week long diet restriction produced a statistically significant reduction in migraines in those diagnosed with migraine without aura. Some of the top migraine-inducing foods identified Wheat and gluten; Cow’s milk; Grain cereals; Cane sugar; Yeast; Corn; Citrus; Eggs; Aspartame; MSG. (Dr. Mercola)
To avoid these triggers try an organic raw food diet heavy in non-citrus fruits, nuts, and greens. This contains antioxidants which help support neurological plasticity.
People are what directly affected by what they eat, and research has found that a diet high in processed foods, containing sulfates, nitrates, and food additives are more likely to experience more frequent and intense migraines. Those prone to migraines should avoid:
• Dairy products, especially cheese
• Smoked or cured meats
• Foods containing nitrates
• Artificial sweeteners
• Canned soups
• Food additives
• Red wine
• Extremely cold foods, like ice cream. (Kimberly Snyder)
Also, a key treatment for all headaches, and migraines specifically is to stay hydrated. Looking into this correlation, “A 2005 study of actual migraine sufferers found that increasing the daily water intake by one and a half liters resulted in a headache reduction of twenty-one hours in a two-week period” (The 3-Day Headache Cure). While so far research shows that hydration does not cure migraines, being dehydrated is a major trigger. This is because, “Glutamate and inflammation are migraine triggers. Glutamate in the brain is found to increase during a state of dehydration (study link). Histamine, also a migraine trigger, is released to stimulate thirst. This increases inflammation” (The 3-Day Headache Cure). Also, remaining hydrated is essential for the regular functioning of the detoxifying organs of the body which keep people clear of the toxic buildup of many substances which can trigger migraines (The 3-Day Headache Cure).
Experience has shown that chiropractic treatment can greatly assist migraines because many headaches are linked to neck and spinal misalignments. Researchers found around 22 [of patients] had reduction - which means that more than 60 percent of their symptoms reduced during the course of the treatment…What makes this a really strong result is that this was a really chronic group - the average length of time they'd had migraines was 18 years. (News Medical)
Also, getting regular chiropractic adjustments can help manage many aspects of health, and the heathier a person is overall the less likely they are to suffer consistent migraines. Other tips for assisting the body to prevent migraines:
• Stay on a regular and fulfilling sleep schedule. Both missing sleep and oversleeping can trigger a migraine. 1
• Moderate alcohol intake.
• Get regular exercise.
• Eat breakfast.
• Take vitamin and mineral supplements, especially B-12 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
• Avoid caffeine.
• Do not smoke. Prescription medications are available for smoking cessation.
• Do not use heavy chemical based body products or cleansers.
• Use a humidifier. (Kimberly Snyder)
For those who are suffering a migraine often traditional painkiller do very little to help. Other suggestions for pain management is resting in a dark room with a cold pack. Drinking ginger tea can help with anti-inflammatory and calming. Using organic essential oil of lavender is calming, cooling, and can reduce stress on the brain. Eating raw pumpkin seeds high in magnesium can help relieve headache pain. Taking a hot shower or bath is very helpful as well. A short boost of exercise, like a mild ten minute walk can release endorphins which help the headache to pass. Gently massaging the area (or having someone else do it) can relieve the pressure (Kimberly Snyder).
Many people who suffer from chronic migraines also have other health issues they are taking medication for, and it is important to avoid medications which can cause or aggravate migraines. Researching this correlation, it was found that “The most common co-occurring conditions are depression, anxiety disorder, chronic fatigue, asthma, and fibromyalgia” (Yoffe). How to discover the risk of complicating medicines can be done through making a list of all medications and their side effects. While doctors who do not suffer from migraines will often not understand how debilitating it is, any headache expert will be able to help modify medication patterns to avoid triggers (Yoffe). It is important to highlight
A recent study published in the journal Headache found that migraine sufferers who overuse opioids and barbiturates, including butalbital, codeine, and oxycodone, to treat their migraine are actually at risk for developing chronic migraine. This is defined as having migraines on 15 or more days per month. (Yoffe)
Opioids are addictive, and may be habit forming, which is why it is especially important to break this self-defeating pattern before chronic migraines are gained, because once addicted it is difficult to break the cycles (Mayo Clinic).
Debilitating and painful migraines affect too many people today, a result of the increasing toxicity of a culture far removed from the beneficial patterns of nature. Reducing stress, improving diet, and making preventative care a priority is key for overcoming chronic migraines.
1: Dr. Mercola
Back to Health Wellness. “Migraines.” Bthcc.co.uk, n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.bthcc.co.uk/migraines.html
Dr. Mercola. “Migraines—What Causes Them, and How You Can Best Address Them.” Mercola.com, 22 Aug. 2013. Retrieved from: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/08/22/migraine-causes.aspx
Mayo Clinic. “Migraine.” Mayclinic.org, n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/basics/definition/con-20026358
News Medical. “Proof that chiropractic treatment helps migraine sufferers.” News-medical.net, 22 May 2005. Retrieved from: http://www.news-medical.net/news/2005/05/22/10268.aspx
Snyder, Kimberly. “27 Tips to Beat that Headache!” KimberlySnyder.com, 19 Feb. 2013. Retrieved from: http://kimberlysnyder.com/blog/2013/02/19/27-tips-to-beat-that-headache/
The 3-Day Headache Cure. “Hydrate with Migraine Minerals to Cure Migraines.” 3dayheadachecure.com, n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.3dayheadachecure.com/blog/hydrate-with-migraine-minerals-to-cure-migraines/
Yoffe, Lynn. “Medications That Can Cause Headaches.” EverydayHealth.com, n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.everydayhealth.com/headache-and-migraine/headache-medications-to-avoid.aspx