Managing Migraines Naturally

If you regularly suffer from migraines, you may be familiar with this song by Twenty One Pilots.  The lyrics ring true for so many that have to deal with these debilitating attacks.

“Am I the only one I know? 

Waging my wars behind my face 
And above my throat 
Shadows will scream that I’m alone

I-I-I’ve got a migraine 
And my pain will range from 
Up down and sideways…”

Migraine by Twenty One Pilots

Listen here: 

Migraines plague millions of adults across the US. While headaches may induce pain in the general forehead area, migraines bring a new level of intensity. With pain on one or both sides of the head, nausea, dizziness, temporary blind spots and more, migraines are truly debilitating.

Painkillers like Excedrin, Advil, Tylenol and even prescriptions are given to manage migraines, but there are also a number of natural remedies you can leverage to reduce them. In this blog, we’ll share four ways to prevent and ‘nip this pain in the bud’.

1. Increase magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin D

A number of vitamins and minerals can help you prevent migraines. You can incorporate these into your diet directly, or opt for daily supplements.

Magnesium is a key mineral which supports dozens of functions in the body. The boost it provides to your overall health makes it an incredibly helpful agent in preventing migraines. Eating foods like legumes, nuts, spinach, kale, squashes, and broccoli can weave more magnesium into your diet. In addition, recent research suggests opting for 200-600 mg of magnesium per day may be linked to decreasing the frequency of migraines as well.

For more magnesium, check out Biooptimizer’s all-seven forms of magnesium supplement, found here. This is part of my daily arsenal for general health but I pop these as soon as I feel a headache coming on…

In addition to magnesium, vitamins B (B-complex) and D have also been shown to decrease migraines. A lack of B vitamins can cause headaches, brain fog, and eventually, migraines, as these vitamins are involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain (chemical messengers in the brain). In terms of a supplement, always look for methylcobalamin which is the active form of B12 (NOT cyanocobalamin).

Check out the liquid form of B12 from Pure Encapsulations, linked here. For best absorption, make sure to put the liquid under your tongue.

Vitamin D can come from your diet or from the sun, and whatever its source, it is highly linked to overall health improvement. Salmon, eggs, and mushrooms are good sources of vitamin D, but it’s also important to spend time outside! Ask your primary care physician to run a test of your vitamin D level so you have a baseline. If you are deficient like most people, you may want the higher dose (especially in the winter).  NatureMade has a great vitamin D3 gummy (5000IU), which you can find here.

2. Manage your stress levels

Chronic stress wreaks havoc on all parts of the body. When you’re stressed, you’re typically in “fight or flight” mode, meaning the majority of your body’s resources are dedicated to activating your muscles to more effectively fight or flee. When we get “stuck” in this mode because we’re chronically stressed, our body isn’t able to dedicate its resources to other integral processes, like digestion, immune support, daily repairs, and more.

The difficulty that stress brings to the body has been shown to lead to migraines. In addition, when stressed, we typically take more shallow breaths. The lack of oxygen provided from shallow breathing has also been shown to lead to migraines. To decrease your stress and increase your deep breathing, try a few rounds of deep breathing a few times per day. Inhaling for a count of four, holding for a count of two, and exhaling for a count of six is a great way to start!

Try this breathing exercise for migraines – you can go to minute marker 3:30 if you want to skip the intro.

3. Remove inflammatory foods from your daily diet

When thinking about chronic pain, autoimmune issues and migraines, excess inflammation is often to blame. An inflammatory diet (like the standard American diet) often can be one of the overarching causes of migraines, so removing inflammatory foods from your diet can help decrease the intensity or frequency of your migraines.

Foods to avoid are typically any highly processed foods (with preservatives like nitrates, food colorings and other additives that we cannot pronounce), deep fried foods (yes, that oil is rancid – and highly inflammatory), packaged goods, fast food, and foods high in sugar (real or fake). For some people with additional sensitivities, dairy can also be an inflammatory agent.

It’s not all about removing foods, though! You can add a variety of anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to improve your overall health. Consider adding in:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Raw nuts
  • Lean proteins like eggs, grass-fed beef or wild caught fish
  • Turmeric, ginger, and garlic
  • Herbs like mint, rosemary, and thyme
  • Switch to olive oil (and don’t deep fry) over canola oil or margarine

Essentially, any fresh fruits and vegetables or lean meats will help decrease inflammation and avoid migraines.

4. Sleep more (and better!)

Sleep is required for good health, and it’s also a necessary ingredient to combat migraines. There are two factors to consider: sleep quantity and quality. For adults, seven to nine hours per night is recommended for overall health and to avoid adverse events like migraines. What many people often ignore, however, is sleep quality. To improve your sleep quality, try:

  • Sleepytime meditation (here’s a guided meditation to sink into slumber: )
  • Avoiding food / snacking 3 hours before bedtime
  • Use an eye-mask or get black-out curtains when sleeping so your room is in complete darkness
  • Avoid caffeine after lunchtime
  • Avoid alcohol to try to get to sleep
  • Incorporate exercise into your regular routine, but avoid exercising late at night

Research has shown that getting too few hours of sleep can lead to more frequent and intense migraines. Schedule your days to ensure you get enough sleep and try some of these tips to improve your sleep!

Migraines are truly debilitating, but the situation isn’t hopeless. If you are not finding symptom relief with the above strategies, speak with your doctor about what other factors can be causing your migraines – there are many beyond what’s been discussed here including: hormone imbalance, mold/toxin exposure, posture and possible infections.

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