Common Triggers and Natural Therapies for Migraines
BySarah Axtell, ND •March 21, 2012
Migraines are one of the most common causes of recurrent headaches. It is estimated that 10-20% of the population is affected by migraines.
Migraines are a symptom, or a sign that something deeper is going on with the body. Many people are left without answers or solutions to these all too common debilitating headaches because they are offered only a symptomatic approach to treatment.
As a naturopathic doctor, I am always looking to identify the cause. There are many common precipitating factors or triggers that can induce a migraine headache. Here are some examples of potential triggers:
- Emotional and physical stress
- Abnormal cortisol patterns, affecting sleep and energy levels in addition to causing headaches
- Blood sugar dysregulation (skipped meals, hypoglycemia)
- Changing weather conditions (changes in barometric pressure, changes in altitude or temperature)
- Poor structural integrity (musculoskeletal problems)
- Hormonal imbalances (birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, PMS)
- Food intolerances/allergies
The last trigger, food intolerances or allergies, is more common than you think! The top 10 food triggers for migraines include:
1. Cow’s milk
6. Benzoic acid (common food preservative)
7. Cheese, especially aged-cheeses high in tyramine (blue cheese, feta, brie, gorgonzola, parmesan, cheddar, mozzarella and swiss)
9. Tartrazine (aka FD&C Yellow 5, a synthetic yellow dye used as food coloring)
Spicy foods, alcohol, coffee, caffeine, and fried foods can also be common culprits.
Natural Solutions for acute migraines include:
- Short fasts to rid the body of toxins (5-7 day medically supervised fasts)
- Castor oil packs
- Herbal tincture for pain management
Natural Solutions for chronic migraines include:
- Anti-inflammatory diet/ Gluten-free, Dairy-free Diet/ Avoidance of food allergies or intolerances*
- Fish oil
- Flax seeds
- Hormone balancing therapies
- Adrenal gland support and stress management
- Liver support to enhance detoxification
- B vitamins
- Anti-inflammatory herbs
- Castor oil packs
- Biotherapeutic drainage- a gentle form of detoxification that utilizes vials of homeopathic medicines that have been formulated from plants and minerals.
*A blood test is available to identify food allergies that may be causing your migraines. It is also very helpful to track your headaches and daily food intake in a diet diary/headache diary to identify patterns.
Taking one of these recommended supplements without adapting lifestyle changes and investigating the cause will not result in true cure. An effective approach is a holistic one, in which a partnership is formed between you and your doctor to bring your body back into balance. Contact your naturopathic doctor to develop a specific plan for YOU. Don’t live with migraines if you don’t have to!
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.