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If you or someone you know has migraines, you probably know all too well how uncomfortable they can be. Throbbing pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light or sound are some of the symptoms of migraines. About 20 percent of people experience an aura—flashes of light, zig zags, or blind spots in your vision or tingling in one arm or leg.
Treating migraines can be complicated because the causes and triggers are individual.
Here are remedies that may help to address some of the factors that could be causing yours.
Diet and Food Triggers
Certain foods may trigger migraines in some people. Food triggers tend to be individual, so an elimination diet is sometimes recommended to pinpoint a person’s triggers. Although it may be frustrating to figure out which foods are causing problems, it can be well worth it. Here are foods that tend to cause problems:
- Alcohol – The sulfites used as preservatives in red wine have been linked to migraines, and alcohol, in general, can be dehydrating and can increase blood flow to the brain. Besides red wine, whiskey, Scotch, beer, and champagne have also been identified as potential triggers.
- Aged cheese – Certain types of cheese are reported to be high in tyramine, such as blue cheese, brie, cheddar, feta, gorgonzola, parmesan, and swiss.
- MSG (monosodium glutamate) – A food additive in soy sauce, soup base, meat tenderizer, and a wide range of packaged or processed foods, MSG is used to enhance flavor. It’s also found in restaurant food. Besides the MSG, foods that contain it are often high in sodium, which can lead to dehydration, which is another possible trigger.
- Processed Meat – Hot dogs, pepperoni, salami, sausage, and bologna are high in tyramine, nitrates or nitrites, which may dilate blood vessels and trigger migraines in some people.
Other foods that may cause problems include caffeine, nuts, vinegar, citrus fruit and juices, and certain fruits, vegetables, and bread products.
Some research suggests that a low-fat diet may help prevent migraines. For example, a study published in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases examined three types of diets (habitual, normal-lipid, or low-lipid diet) in participants with episodic or chronic migraines. After three months, the low lipid diet significantly reduced the number and severity of migraine attacks in comparison to a normal lipid diet.
Essential oils are sometimes used for migraines. The oils are typically inhaled or applied (diluted) in small amounts to the skin. They shouldn’t be applied at full strength or in large amounts or ingested.
A study published in European Journal of Neurology found that inhaling lavender oil may help ease symptoms more quickly during a migraine. Participants in the study inhaled lavender essential oil or used a placebo (liquid paraffin) for 15 minutes. They were asked to record their headache severity and symptoms every 30 minutes for two hours. Those who used the lavender oil had a greater reduction in headache severity.
For some people who get migraines, stimulating certain pressure points on the body (often on the hands and wrists) may help relieve symptoms.
For example, a study published in Neurological Sciences found that pressure applied to an acupressure point on the wrist (called PC6) relieved nausea symptoms during migraines. PC6 is sometimes used for motion sickness and other types of nausea and is the acupressure point stimulated in products marketed as “Sea Bands” or acupressure wrist bands.
While acupressure stimulates points using finger pressure, some research suggests that needle-based acupuncture may help prevent migraines. A report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2016 reviewed previously published studies on the use of acupuncture for preventing episodic migraines.
The study’s authors concluded that the available evidence suggests that acupuncture may reduce the frequency of migraines and may be at least as effective as treatment with prophylactic drugs.
Practicing yoga may help to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines, suggests a study published in Advanced Biomedical Research. For the study, women with migraines received medication or took part in a 12-week yoga training in addition to receiving medication. After the three month period, those who participated in the yoga training had a significant reduction in migraine frequency, severity, and impact of the headache on their lives. There was no difference in blood levels of nitric oxide (a molecule thought to play a key role in migraines).
If you or someone you know experiences migraines, you likely know how debilitating they can be. Regular management and lifestyle changes may help keep migraines at bay. Even small changes, such as staying hydrated and being on a regular sleep schedule can make a big difference for some. Your doctor can help you explore your treatment options and discuss diet and lifestyle changes that can help you manage your symptoms.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.