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The Role of Diet, Therapies & Supplements for Migraines

Ahead of Migraine Awareness Week, we take a look at some natural interventions for migraine relief. Over 6 million people in the UK suffer from this debilitating condition according to the charity Migraine Action Association (http://www.migraine.org.uk)

There is certainly some strong evidence for Complementary and Alternative approaches for Migraines, but anyone experiencing more than 4 migraines a month should discuss this with their GP.

Migraines affect all ages, but two thirds of sufferers are women, with prevalence being higher between the ages of 20 and 50. Hormonal factors are thought to play a huge role, but migraine triggers can vary tremendously between individuals.

First and foremost, an all round healthy lifestyle and plenty of rest and relaxation is an absolute must for migraine sufferers. Stress and tiredness are going to impact significantly on both the severity and frequency of attacks. In the frenetic World we live in, this itself can be difficult to achieve, but it is a foundation for the management of this condition. The simple act of setting aside 10 – 20 minutes a day to simply relax and rejuvenate can pay dividends. You may want to explore meditation (huge amount of clinical evidence for it’s impact on well being), yoga, tai chi and other holistic activities. For some, taking the dog for a walk, gardening, whatever it is that enables you to fully forget your woes will do the trick. But make sure that you incorporate regular relaxation and activities that bring positive “you time” into your week

Whilst foods may not be a migraine trigger for all, diet and nutrition is an area that should be addressed. Again, a healthy lifestyle is a foundation.  A diet packed with natural foods – fruit, vegetables, legumes, lots of grains, fish for those who can, and the total elimination of processed foods, additives and hydrogenated trans fats. These simple steps will reap rewards in every aspect of life, and may, make quite a difference to your migraines.
 
Specific Dietary Steps for Migraine Sufferers

Regular meals are a must, going for long periods without food should be avoided at all costs, in particular, breakfast is essential.  After vigorous / prolonged exercise, make sure you eat something to keep blood sugars balanced.  Keep the amount of carbohydrates in a meal to a minimum (excessive carbohydrates can lead to a rapid insulin secretion and subsequent migraine).

For some people, certain foods may be the underlying cause of migraine attacks, so this is definitely worth exploring to the full.  According to surveys and various research, foods shown to be triggers in significant numbers of people include:
 
Cheese (especially aged cheeses such as cheddar, brie, gorgonzola), chocolate, aspartame, monosodium glutamate, alcohol (especially red wine and beer due to the higher tannins), citrus fruits, ripe bananas, yeast extract, hydrolyzed soy, corn protein, nuts, nitrates (found in many processed meats), tyramine (found in aged meats such as salami), cultured milk products (for example yoghurt, sour cream), food additives and colourings
 
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and if you suffer from migraines, it may seem overwhelming - that’s a lot of food. But it’s easy to see that much of the list includes highly processed foods, so this should be the first major step to take. Checking labels thoroughly should always be part of your shopping. Keep your food as natural as possible, and avoid additives and colourings. Let’s not forget that many health supplements are themselves packed with additives, and care should be taken.
 
Food Elimination Diet
 
You may already have an instinctive feel for problem foods, and these should certainly be eliminated first. But not all triggers may be immediately obvious. Track your progress with a food chart / diary noting down everything you consume and the incidence of migraine attacks, for accuracy, begin this process before you start an elimination diet so you can make direct comparisons.  After a couple of weeks, you can experiment introducing foods back into your diet one at a time, if you discover after a period of elimination that bringing back a certain food triggers an attack, then you have a definitive answer of foods to avoid at all times. This can be a long process, but if the end result is totally clarity, then this is, for many people, an avenue definitely worth pursuing. If a broad elimination diet is not for you, and certainly it can be very difficult to adhere to, then at the very least, tracking your diet thoroughly may itself be very revealing.
 
Complementary Therapies and Migraines
 
Acupuncture is endorsed by the British Medical Association as an effective treatment for migraines, and in some areas is available on the NHS. But there are many other physical therapies that may yield excellent results for some people, these include Acupressure, Chiropractic, Osteopathy, Physiotherapy, Hypnotherapy, the Alexander Technique and the Bowen Technique. The choice of complementary practitioner will be determined by your personal needs and preference, but ensure you select a registered practitioner in your modality of preference.
 
Also worth considering is the dental angle, misaligned teeth, clenching the jaw and tooth grinding may be contributing to your problems with migraines. For some people, wearing a dental splint overnight can help; certainly it is worth discussing this aspect with a dental professional if you feel it might be a factor
 
Tinted glasses have some anecdotal evidence of being useful, and cooling head packs are also on the market that can provide some relief during an attack
 
Nutritional Supplements and Migraines
 
Both Magnesium and a B Complex (in particular B2 - riboflavin) are often recommended for migraine sufferers. At Seventh Wave, our preferred method for ensuring adequate intake of all vitamins and minerals, is with 100% natural, broad spectrum supplements. These have a far superior absorption than isolated, synthetic products. For Magnesium, either Chlorella or Barley Grass provide good amounts, and so much more besides - they are an excellent foundation for all around health. And for the B Vitamins, again both of these provide some B Vitamins, but also take a look at Zell Oxygen Plus, a superior, live, liquid supplement that is packed with “food-state” B Vitamins.
 
Good food sources of Magnesium are unrefined grains and green vegetables. B2 can be found in meat, liver, milk, eggs, brewers yeast (again see Zell Oxygen Plus whose baby yeast cells are tolerated far better than those in Brewers Yeast) mushrooms and dark green vegetables. For both, a broad and varied diet will help ensure adequate intake, of course unprocessed, organic if possible and avoiding those foods you have identified as triggers

Some people also find Ginger helpful, fresh ginger tea is fabulous, or you can buy herbal ginger tea bags, we do also supply a pure Ginger Supplement

Serrapeptase may also be worth trying if other avenues relating to triggers, diet and nutritional balance are unsuccessful.
 
Final considerations
 
Finally, some other factors to consider that have been shown to be triggers – stress and fatigue levels, bright lights, exercise, and the hormonal cycle for women (interestingly, oral contraceptives have been shown to both make things worse for some, and better for others). Some people find caffeine actually helps migraines, so a regular coffee drinker looking to reduce caffeine intake, should do so with care, total elimination can cause the blood vessels to dilate, potentially resulting in a headache / migraine
 
And as we began, let us finish with another reminder that taking care of yourself is critical, remember that your rest and relaxation is fundamental to you taking some control of your migraines. We hope that this article has been of use to you, and as ever, please do contact us if you have any questions about your nutritional programme.

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