All those who experience an occasional headache, popping few aspirins will do the trick. However, all those who get regular migraine attacks don’t have it so easy. Not only do their migraine meds have so many side effects, ranging from stomach ulcers to nausea to increased risk of stroke and sometimes even heart attack, but about two-thirds of them have also reported that they fail to provide the lasting relief.
Although exact cause of migraine is still not clear, most researchers do understand that some physiological changes occur immediately after a migraine hits. When nerve cells in the brain are overstimulated, they will release chemicals that cause swelling and inflammation in the blood vessels situated in the brain and neck. The tips listed below work by addressing most of these issues. I’m listing simple yet effective natural cures for migraines that can help prevent and even reduce the severity and frequency of your attacks.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
Riboflavin (vitamin B2), is found in certain supplements and foods. It protects cells from oxidative damage and is involved in energy production. In a 2003 trial for measuring the efficacy of riboflavin in preventing migraine attacks, 63 percent of participants who tool 450 mg of riboflavin daily for four months experienced a 55-60 percent reduction in their migraine attacks.
How it helps: Riboflavin helps when it is consumed in high doses (400-450mg per day), although it doesn’t seem to reduce associated pain or the length of the migraine once it occurs.
How much of it helps: You should take 400-450 mg per day for at least three months. It’s best to take riboflavin with a good B-complex supplement, since riboflavin improves the absorption of other vital nutrients, including zinc, iron, vitamin B3, folate, and vitamin B12. In addition, vitamin B1 also increases levels of riboflavin.
Best food sources: You can get riboflavin from lean beef, liver, venison, lamb, tempeh, whole grains, low-fat milk, yogurt, almonds, eggs, crimini mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, spinach and broccoli. However, you should store foods away from direct sunlight because it destroys riboflavin.
Exercises are recommended by most doctors to migraine patients, and now there’s even more evidence to suggest that even mild physical activity appears to help migraines. In a 2012 randomized, controlled study by University of Gothenburg, Sweden, researchers found that aerobic workouts are as effective as topiramate (brand name Topamax) when done on a regular basis. Half of the patients in this three-month study exercised on a stationary bike four times a week for 30 minutes, while another half took a topiramate regiment that was gradually increased to the highest tolerable dose (max of 200 mg per day).
Both the exercises and drug groups experienced similar reduced number of migraines, but 36 percnet of the topriamate users also experienced many side effects, while the ones who exercised reported none. So the researchers concluded that regular exercise may be the option for migraine patients who cannot bear with the daily medication regimen, and many in the medical community agree that findings of the study are encouraging.
How it helps: Regular, gentle workouts will help reduce tension and will also ward off stress, a big migraine trigger. Exercises also boost the release of endorphins which acts as a mild sedative.
How much of it helps: According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 140-170 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or about 80 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, ideally spread out evenly over the course of the week is the best. Avoid intense exercises as they can actually trigger migraines rather than preventing them, so never overdo it.
As our body cannot make its own magnesium, it’s important to rely on dietary and/or supplement sources. Magnesium deficiency is directly linked to migraines in many studies carried out in past three decades. Some estimates say that four out of five adults in the United States may be deficient in magnesium.
How it helps: Magnesium can help relax muscles and nerves and transmits nerve impulses throughout your body and brain. Also, magnesium helps prevent nerves from becoming overexcited. So this important mineral actually helps in preventing and reducing migraines.
How much of it helps: Experts have different opinion on the exact amount of magnesium required by the body for migraine prevention; some recommend 250-650 mg per day, while others recommend as much as 900 mg per day. Talk to your doctor to work out the best regimen that would for work for you. If you want to use magnesium supplements, use chelated forms (such as magnesium oxide or magnesium citrate). This means that the magnesium is directly connected with another molecule in order to speed up its absorption.
Best food sources: Spinach, pumpkin seeds, Swiss chard, halibut, wild Alaskan salmon, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, halibut, amaranth, flaxseeds, soybeans, quinoa, and black beans.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fats possess anti-inflammatory substances that are abundant in so many foods sources, especially nuts, fish, and seeds. In a well-documented four-month Swedish study, it was found that 32-percent reduction in the migraine attacks and 42-percent reduction in the intensity of the attacks. Similarly, in a Danish study that took place at the same time, it was reported that 76 percent of the patients said their migraine condition has been dramatically improved by daily omega-3 supplementation.
How it helps: Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and protect brain cells, which may help in reducing the pain associated with migraines. In addition, omega-3s appear to be helpful in reducing the duration and frequency of headaches.
How much of it helps: Nutritionist Joy Bauer also recommends 1,100 mg daily from the combination of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), two helpful types of omega-3. If you want to take omega-3 supplements, store them in a cool place like fridge to prevent these oils from oxidizing.
Best food sources: Herring (not pickled herring), Wild Alaskan salmon, tuna, Pacific oysters, halibut, rainbow trout, mackerel, sardines, chia seeds, walnuts, and flaxseeds. Omega-3 fats are highly fragile and are easily damaged when exposed to light, heat, oxygen, so it is important to store foods in a proper way and avoid any overheating (especially frying) when you’re cooking.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Coenzyme Q10 is an important antioxidant nutrient that is vital for blood vessel health. Our bodies cannot make CoQ10, and we can only get it from our dietary or supplement sources. In one trial to measure the efficacy of CoQ10 as a preventive for migraines, more than 68 percent of patients who took 220 mg of CoQ10 daily experienced greater than 63 percent reduction in the number of migraine days. In a subsequent, double-blind, randomized trial exactly the same benefits were found-and in both these studies, patients experienced no side effects.
How it helps: CoQ10 improves blood flow to the brain, enhances circulation, and also protects cells from oxidative damage. It also stabilizes blood sugar; lower blood sugar is the biggest migraine trigger among patients.
How much of it helps: Nutritionist Phyllis A. Balch recommends 65 mg of Q10 as a preventive treatment for migraines in her text Prescription for Nutritional Healing (4’th edition). Nutrition guru Jonny Bowden recommends 120 mg per day, which is to be taken three times in a day (the same amount prescribed in the double-blind study). It’s best to consult your doctor to determine the best possible dosage for you.
Best food sources: CoQ10 food sources aren’t well documented, but this nutrient is found in abundance in fish and some organ meats (especially heart, kidney, and liver) as well as whole grains.
5-hydroxytryptophan is produced by our bodies from the amino acid tryptophan. In a collaborative research by Natural Standard and Harvard Medical School, it was found that 5-HTP may be highly effective in reducing both frequency and severity of migraine headaches.
How it helps: 5-HTP improves body’s serotonin production, a vital neurotransmitter that helps in blood vessel regulation. Low serotonin levels are associated with migraines, so 5-HTP supplementation helps by correcting the imbalance.
How much of it helps: Closely work with your doctor to determine the best dosage for treating your migraines. Usually daily dosage begins at 220 mg per day and may go as high as 650 mg per day. It’s best to drink a glass of water with your supplement.
Feverfew is aromatic, busy herb plant related to daisies and is mostly used by practitioners of traditional Chinese Medicine and herbalist for preventing migraines and for handing other types of headaches. Jonny Bowden, the famous nutrition guru says, “Using feverfew together with other herbs, such as willow bark, can reduce the frequency, intensity and duration of migraine attacks by up to 67 percent.”
How it helps: Feverfew can help alleviate intense throbbing migraine pain by reducing inflammation, especially in blood vessels of the brain. It has no side effects and can quell nausea and vomiting in migraine patients who experience these symptoms.
How much of it helps: You need to take a minimum of 240-250 mg of feverfew per day for two weeks. Some experts recommend a ongoing regimen that can last five weeks or even more before you can expect some results.
Caution: It’s important to talk to your doctor before you take feverfew of any other herbal remedy. Avoid it if you’re planning to get pregnant or are pregnant.