Many people whom I consulted are suffering from migraines and might have to crawl in bed for several days. Out of 36 million people that experience migraines in the United States women account for 75%. Recent studies have shown that migraines occur as a result of triggers changing brain’s “migraine threshold” which can be genetically based and then hormonally and environmentally triggered due to temporary abnormalities in brain. Those abnormalities in turn lead to a cycle of events involving the brain’s nerve circuits, neuropeptides, neurotransmitters (including serotonin), changes in the brain’s small arteries, and the brain stem which houses our nausea and vomiting centers.
Migraines start start at any time – in childhood, teen years, or in adults and tend to diminish once women go through menopause because often one of the triggers for migraines is estrogen, explaining a large amount of women who experience menstrual and sometimes ovulatory migraines. That also explains why such an overwhelming number of women suffer from migraines comparing to men. Pregnancy and oral contraceptives can also change, decrease or increase the migraines. Migraines, especially with aura, suggest an increase risk of stroke for oral contraceptives users.
Women are often underestimated by medical community. In fact, in one study of over 1200 patients seeking care For headaches from primary care provider, 94% of the 377 who turned in their headache diary met criteria for migraine, yet at least 25% of them did not receive a diagnosis of migraine. Statistically, only 3-5% of chronic migraine sufferers receive adequate prophylaxis therapy. Many have such severe migraines that they’ve become anxious worrying that they have to constantly rearrange their lives to accommodate because they never know when the next migraine will strike.
Note that it can take up to several months for you to see any difference in migraine frequency and severity, so don’t give up if you don’t notice a change immediately.
1. Identify migraine triggers with a migraine diary
The most common triggers are:
- Hormonal Changes
- Red wine, alcohol
- Aged cheese
- Nitrites (found in hot dogs and deli meats)
- Food additives (Monosodium glutamate)
- Low blood sugar
- Stress, anxiety
- Neck and shoulder tension
- Allergies leading to sinus congestion
- Perfume odors
How keep a migraine diary:
When you get a migraine (You may not like doing it, but do it anyway because if you wait until the headache passes, you’ll forget the important details). Note what you ate and drank in the last 12 hours, what you were doing (sleep, exercise, walk, etc) that might have affected you. Also note here you were that you might have had an exposure (Home Depot? or the supermarket and walk through the aisle with heavily scented detergents, perfumed products, or chemicals; were you at a party where people were wearing perfume?, were you a few days away from your period?)
This is a very helpful headache diary from the University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine Center, you can download it and start to track your migraine patterns. You can also use it to monitor your progress once you get started on your headache prevention plan.
2. Elimination Diet
For 3 weeks remove all of the common triggers as well as gluten, dairy and sugar. Keep your blood sugar steady with regular meals that contain good quality fats and proteins. Drink enough water. Slowly reintroduce the foods and pay close attention to headaches and what causes it.
3. Get your digestion moving
In many clinical experiences constipation and migraine go hand in hand so make sure your bowels are moving every day: increase your daily intake of veggies to 6-10 servings, reduce flour products, pastries and paste, get a total of about 30 mg of fiber daily (that is 2 table spoons of flax seed). Probiotics can be very effective as well.
4. Reduce your use of common pain relieving medications.
When you take medications for headaches, including narcotics, Tylenol, aspirin, caffeine and Iboprofen, on regular basis, these medications may actually start to cause headaches and make your migraine and severity worse, creating a vicious cycle where you take more and more medications and feel even worse. As crazy as it sounds, stop all of your pain medications for a few months. You might be surprised to find that you are actually having fewer headaches.
Migraine is one of the many conditions in which essential oils and herbs may help to provide relief. As an Integrative Medicine Practitioner it is my goal to help relieve your suffering and part of it is to help you to prevent the very real damage that can result from the regular use of conventional medicines. Many doctors are very well trained to just throw medical band-aids at your problems and I want to help you get to the root causes of your problems.
Topically, I apply these oils to the back of the neck, temples and the forehead . I personally prefer to dilute them at only 20% with jojoba oil, you can dilute more if your skin is sensitive.
I also take 7 drops of Clary Sage essential oil in vegetable capsule with a cup of water.
Read more about Clary Sage essential oil here.
5. These Supplements help to reduce Migraines as well:
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
- Magnesium Glycinate
- Wild Salmon Oil
- Ginger oil or powder
6. Follow an anti-inflammatory diet
Pro-inflammatory foods such as sugar, red meat, poultry, and processed foods might make migraines worse. Try adding more antioxidant reach foods such as fruits, vegetables and good quality oils: olive oil, walnut oil and coconut oil.
Honest & Pure Migraine Relief Roll On contains all the oils for topical application to help with Migraines. You can also try ingesting Clary Sage essential oil when migraine strikes next time and Ginger essential oil or powder as a prevention.
Written by Lena Isayev, B.A., C.A.