The best way to deal with migraine is to find the cause. Sometimes this is obvious such as if the attacks happen after eating chocolate or come on after stress. However the cause is not usually so clear cut.
Two common causes of migraine are FOOD INTOLERANCE and HYPOGYLCAEMIA (low blood sugar).
Food intolerance is the most important cause. Food intolerances occur in 85% of migraine patients. To find the cause do the stone age diet or a partial exclusion diet (See Food Intolerance leaflet). Common triggers are wheat, chocolate, cheese, milk, tea, coffee, orange, wine, corn, sugar and yeast. The diet is tough but only takes a short time. Be aware that withdrawal headaches often occur around the third day of the diet. But it’s a sign you are on the right track.
Hypoglycaemia was first described in 1949. With hypoglycaemia migraines typically occur in the early hours of the morning when people haven’t eaten for a while. It can usually be resolved by removing sugar, artificial sweeteners and refined carbohydrates from the diet.
Other common migraine triggers are cigarettes and the contraceptive pill. Nitrates (in processed meats), monosodium glutamate (MSG) and foods containing tyramine can also trigger migraine in some. Aerosol sprays (such as air fresheners) are another cause.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are also a known trigger for migraine. When smart meters were installed in California in 2011 people started complaining of migraines, insomnia, palpitations and breathlessness. Similarly exposure to other sources of EMFs such as mobile phones, DECT phones and wifi can cause or contribute to migraine.
Standard medical treatments include sumatriptan and migraleve for acute attacks and pizotifen, clonidine and beta-blockers for prevention but these are not always effective.
Remember nutrients take longer to work than drugs, often months, but are lower in side effects.
Half an hour of exercise four to five times weekly has been found to reduce migraine attacks.
600mg daily for 12 weeks reduced attacks by 40% in one study. Another doctor found 80% of 3000 patients improved on 200mg daily (however this seems a low dose). Another recommendation is Magnesium orotate 500mg three times daily .
150mg daily reduced attacks in 55% of patients after 3 months, however it took 3 months before the full benefits were felt.
1000mg three times a day works well with magnesium.
400mg daily if Vitamin B2 reduced attacks by 67% in 12 weeks in one study. (This is a very high dose). It may be best to start at a lower level such as 100mg daily and reduce the dose as symptoms improve and only use the highest dose (400mg) for short periods. Other B vitamins can also help.
This was a chance discovery made by a lady who was treating her arthritis with glucosamine. This led to a small study using 500mg three times daily which helped significantly but took 6 weeks for the benefit to show.
has reduced attacks by 24% to 70% in various studies.
one-third of a teaspoonful of powdered ginger three times daily proved as effective as sumatriptan for acute attacks in one study. It may be better to repeat the dose every half hour or so during an attack.
1500mg twice daily reduced frequency and severity of attacks in one study.
is a herbal mix sprayed under the tongue. Some have found it effective.
Migraine was reduced by 90% on stopping sugar, refined carbohydrates and caffeine (probably by stopping hypoglycaemia) in one study.
Philip Kilsky put migraine sufferers on a diet of only raw fruit and vegetables and their juices with a 99% success rate.
This is often improved by magnesium and high strength multi B vitamins. The pill can be a factor (it reduces B Vitamins).
Migrainous Neuralgia (Cluster Headaches)
These may not be a true migraine. It usually happens in people without a history of migraine. It has a very typical pattern: pain is often very severe and usually happens at night. It is one-sided, located around the eye or temple and accompanied by redness of the eye and blockage of the nostril on the same side. Attacks usually last 30 minutes to 2 hours and can happen more than once in a night. It comes in clusters of 6 to 12 weeks, often at the same time each day. There can be long intervals without pain. Food is not usually a trigger but alcohol can be.
It may respond to drugs like sumatriptan (imigran) or verapamil. Some studies have found melatonin helps but these have been inconclusive.
An interesting study found cluster headaches were helped by using capsaicin (cayenne pepper tincture) on the inside of the nose on the side of the headaches. Initially this treatment was painful but this became less so becoming almost non-painful by the fifth day. This treatment cut the number of attacks by half and 80% of patients benefitted in some way. Half the patients were cured.