April 27, 2021 6 min read

In this article

    In this article:

    • How is a migraine different than a headache?
    • Common causes of a migraine
    • Natural supplements for migraine prevention
    • Other natural forms of migraine treatment

    More Than Just A Headache

    Anyone who has had a migraine knows they're more than just a headache. A migraine is a neurological condition that comes with a wave of different side effects. Migraine headaches are different from other headaches due to all the additional, total-body, side effects that often accompany them. Before you even begin feeling any headache pain, you may experience cravings, fatigue, irritability, depression, or neck stiffness in what is called “the prodrome stage”. The next phase of a migraine is called an aura which makes you feel disoriented or confused. You may have difficulty speaking, temporarily lose your vision, see strange shapes or flashes, or feel tingling sensations throughout your body. Once the migraine attack is in full swing, you may feel dizzy, nauseous, begin vomiting, become sensitive to light and sound and experience throbbing pain and/or sharp migraine pain in an area of your head.

    Common Causes of Migraines

    Not everyone's migraine symptoms are the same. For some chronic migraine sufferers, it is a very severe, painful, and drawn-out process. Sometimes they can be linked to certain events, like menstrual migraines. For others, they come and go quickly without warning. Overall, women are three times more likely to experience migraines due to hormone fluctuations. Family history is another strong indicator of the severity and frequency of migraines.

    Common causes of migraines include:

    • Stress
    • Bright lights
    • Blue light
    • Severe heat or cold
    • Hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause
    • Dehydration
    • Insomnia
    • Certain medications
    • Smoking
    • Alcohol
    • Loud noises
    • Certain food ingredients like caffeine, aspartame, and MSG
    • Vitamin deficiencies

    Treating and preventing migraines is often a difficult process that requires advice from a specialized healthcare professional. Migraine patients can undergo a series of tests such as a CT scan or MRI to rule out any underlying causes like tumors or stroke.

    Natural Supplements for Migraine Prevention

    Migraine medications can be bought over the counter and may be able to provide relief, but in many cases they just don't cut it. Prescription medications like amitriptyline or even antidepressants may be given under the advice of a healthcare professional. Oftentimes, these medications come with the potential for severe side effects such as insomnia, nausea, constipation, fatigue, lowered blood pressure, decreased libido, and weight gain. If you want to go the natural route, consider using the following natural dietary supplements as a preventative measure against migraines.

    • Magnesium:Magnesium is an essential mineral for our bodies. Magnesium helps to regulate blood pressure, improve bone health, and keep us energized. Surprisingly, as much as 75% of America's population is deficient in magnesium. Deficiencies have been linked to fatigue, nausea, poor sleep schedules, muscle cramps, and migraines. It's recommended to take 400 to 500 mg of magnesium a day. Magnesium can be found in foods like leafy greens, seeds, kefir, yogurt, lentils, avocado, bananas, and lucky for you, dark chocolate. With that said, magnesium deficiencies are extremely common, so if you don't want to rely on your diet alone, you can try magnesium supplements. Oral magnesium oxide supplements have been found to decrease the frequency of migraines by as much as 41.6%.
    • Vitamin D:Vitamin D is complementary to magnesium as a natural preventive migraine supplement. Unfortunately, especially in people who live in Northern latitudes, vitamin D deficiencies are very common. This "sunshine vitamin" influences our neurotransmitters and has powerful antioxidant properties to protect our brains against oxidative stress. Deficiencies have been linked to depression, sleep issues, autoimmune diseases, inflammation, and migraines. Vitamin D supplementation has been linked to migraine prevention both due to its ability to boost serotonin (a common way to prevent migraines and tension headaches) and reduce oxidative stress on our brains. In a 24 week study, those who had taken a vitamin D3 supplement showed a significant decrease in their migraine frequency compared to the placebo group. It's recommended that adults take at least 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day, especially during the winter months.
    • Better Together - Magnesium and Vitamin D:The effects of these much-needed but hard-to-find supplements are actually enhanced when taken together. Magnesium helps to determine how much vitamin D our bodies can make and absorb. It has been suggested that taking magnesium supplements can boost vitamin D levels in those with deficiencies. In addition to reducing the frequency of migraines, when taken together, vitamin D and magnesium may also relieve muscle tension, boost energy, increase flexibility, and improve sleep quality.

    Other Natural Forms of Migraine Treatment

    • Lavender oil: Lavender is considered to be one of the most soothing scents on Earth. A study in European Neurology determined that inhaling lavender essential oil may help to relieve migraine pain.
    • Riboflavin:Riboflavin, AKA vitamin B2, works as an antioxidant to help prevent migraines. In one study, taking high doses of riboflavin was found to decrease migraine frequency by upwards of 50%. The American Headache Society has classified riboflavin as "probably effective" at treating migraine headaches.
    • Acupuncture:Acupuncture is an alternative, traditional medicine that in some studieshas been linked to lowered migraine frequency.
    • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10):CoQ10 is often viewed as a vitamin that acts as an antioxidant and stimulates the production of ATP, adenosine triphosphate. Most individuals obtain enough CoQ10 through a balanced diet that includes oily fish, organ meats, and whole grains. Supplementation of CoQ10 over the span of 5-12 weeks may also be effective at preventing migraines.
    • Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium): Feverfew is a yellow flowering plant that is related to chamomile. Studies have found that taking feverfew daily as migraine prophylaxis may reduce migraine severity and frequency by about 24%. It's recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women and those taking anticoagulants do not take feverfew to treat migraines.
    • Peppermint oil: Similar to lavender oil, inhalation of peppermint oil may help to soothe and relieve pain during migraine attacks. Peppermint oil can be diffused or diluted with a carrier oil, like coconut oil or jojoba oil, and applied to the temples for safe and soothing migraine relief.
    • Ginger powder:Ginger powder is recommended as a complementary treatment for migraines. When consumed in food or beverages, ginger can help to ease some of the side effects of migraines such as nausea and headache.
    • Yoga postures:Certain yoga postures may be done to help relieve migraine pain and help calm the mind. Try:
      1. Hastapadasana (Standing Forward Bend)
      2. Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
      3. Shishuasana (Child Pose)
      4. Marjariasana (Cat Stretch)
      5. Paschimottanasana (Two-legged Forward Bend)
      6. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
      7. Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
      8. Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

    A quick aside: butterbur extract was once used as a common migraine treatment. In recent years, however, butterbur products have been found to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which have been linked to liver toxicity and are no longer recommended for the safe treatment of migraines.

    Migraines are no easy hurdle. When developing an "attack plan" to overcome migraine attacks and reduce migraine pain, start off by visiting your doctor to rule out underlying causes and set you on the right path to a safe, effective, and natural treatment plan. Whether you want to boost your immunity, fill in some nutritional gaps, improve energy, or possibly prevent future migraines, taking vitamin D and magnesium could be right for you!

    Summary Points

    • Migraine headaches are different from other headaches due to all the additional, total-body, side effects that often accompany them
    • Overall, women are three times more likely to experience migraines due to hormone fluctuations
    • Natural supplements to relieve migraine pain include magnesium, vitamin D, and the combination of the two for the best results
    • Certain yoga postures may be done to help relieve migraine pain and help calm the mind

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