By Quilla Watt, Integrated Naturopath
Migraines are a type of headache, in which the pain is severe and throbbing, and usually focused on one side of the head. Migraines can last from 4 to 72 hours. People who suffer from migraines can experience them as often as several times a week, or as little as once of twice a year.
The main symptom of migraines is a severe, throbbing, one-sided headache. It is often associated with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. People who suffer from migraines may also experience symptoms caused by disturbances in the nervous system. The most common of these symptoms is visual disturbances, but some people may experience speech or language problems, changes in smell, sensitivity to sound, or numbness and tingling in one or more limbs. These symptoms are referred to as auras. They usually occur before the onset of a migraine episode, and are transient, usually lasting 10 to 30 minutes.
Causes of migraines
The cause of migraines is not fully understood. Rapid constriction dilation of the blood vessels in the brain is part of the problem. But what is the trigger?
Here are some the most common triggers we look for:
- Food allergies and intolerances: Food allergies and intolerances appear to be one of the most common causes of migraines. It is important to identify any food allergies and eliminate the problem foods from the diet.
- ‘Trigger’ foods: Certain foods, even ones that you are not allergic to, are capable of triggering a migraine episode. It is important to identify which foods trigger migraines and avoid these. Common trigger foods include chocolate, caffeine, citrus fruits, cheese, and red wine.
- Stress: Stress appears to be a trigger for many people suffering from migraines. Stress management techniques and relaxation activities including yoga, meditation, and gentle massage, may be used to help manage stress levels.
- Hormonal imbalances: For some women, migraines can be cyclic and occur before their period. These women often have oestrogen/progesterone imbalances, and experience other PMS symptoms like mood changes, food cravings, and breast tenderness.
- Musculoskeletal problems: For some people, migraines can be caused or worsened by structural issues. Seeing a chiropractor or osteopath can be an important part of migraine management.
What you can do
Keep a migraine diary
Keeping a migraine diary can help to identify patterns in the nature of your migraine episodes. Keeping a thorough diary of diet, exercise, caffeine and alcohol intake, and stress levels for 6 weeks can help identifying factors that may be triggering migraine episodes. Common triggers include tobacco, oral contraceptive pill, caffeine, stress, certain foods, and menstruation.
Magnesium: People who suffer migraines have been found to be more likely to have magnesium deficiency. Studies have found magnesium supplementation may reduce the frequency and duration of migraine episodes.
Vitamin B2: Studies have found that supplementation with vitamin B2 may reduce the frequency of migraine episodes.
Your integrative team of health care specialists
We believe that a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals is essential in managing all the aspects of migraines.
- GP and naturopath: Your GP and Naturopath can help identify factors like food allergies and intolerances, trigger foods, hormonal imbalances.
- Psychologist: Stress may trigger migraine episodes. A psychologist may assist you in identifying areas in your life that cause you stress, and help you develop stress management techniques.
- Acupuncturist: Acupuncture may assist in reducing frequency of migraines, and well as assisting with pain management.
- Chiropractor: In many cases, migraines are associated with structural problems, especially of the neck and back. A chiropractor may assist in managing migraines by addressing any structural causes. This comprehensive and holistic approach is designed to support your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
The information in this section is of a general nature only, and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or consultations with your health care provider. We advise you to consult your health carers before considering commencing any therapies.