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Migraine is a disabling neurological condition that impacts 38 million men, women and children in the United States, and 1 billion people worldwide. Although migraines do tend to run in families and have a genetic component, other factors trigger whether or not someone will actually experience a migraine headache. These triggers can include stress, hormonal changes, sleep disturbances, environmental and weather factors, along with diet. Migraine headaches also disproportionately affect women 3 times more often than men.

If you’ve ever experienced a migraine headache for yourself then you’re likely well aware just how debilitating the experience can be. In addition to severe throbbing pain, symptoms may also include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, sensitivity to light or sound, and blurred vision, and may last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours.

If you or someone you love suffers from migraines, the following considerations could potentially help prevent or reduce their frequency and duration.

Herbs and Supplements

Magnesium: People with migraines often have lower levels of magnesium than non-sufferers, and several studies suggest that magnesium may reduce the frequency of migraine attacks in people with low levels of magnesium. Some studies also suggest that magnesium may help women whose migraines are triggered by menstruation. Both the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and Canadian Headache Society recommend its use for migraine prevention, either as 400 – 600 mg per day of oral magnesium or by eating more magnesium rich foods (see diet recommendations below).

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): This B-Vitamin has been shown in a few studies to be potentially helpful in preventing migraine in adults. Both the AAN and the Canadian Headache Society recommend its use in adults with migraine because it is well tolerated and side effects are very limited and mild. The recommended dose in adults is 400 mg of riboflavin per day, and it may take up to at least 2 to 3 months to see benefit.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): An antioxidant important for proper cellular function, it has been studied in migraine prevention. Based on the available studies, the AAN considers CoQ10 to be possibly helpful in migraine prevention. Adults typically use 100 mg three times per day. Similar to riboflavin, it can take 2 to 3 months to see benefit.

Butterbur: This herb has been shown to be helpful in reducing migraine frequency in three randomized, placebo-controlled studies. In these studies, the optimal dose was 150 mg per day and it took three months to see headache improvement. For that reason, it has been deemed effective in preventing migraine by the AAN. Look for Butterbur that is labeled as PA-free.

Feverfew: This herb has been used traditionally to treat headaches, and some studies have found that it may help prevent and treat migraines. In one study of people with migraines, those who took feverfew capsules every day for 4 months saw a substantial drop in the number of attacks, as well as far fewer symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, compared to those who received the placebo.

Always consult a healthcare practitioner before starting these supplements to discuss optimal therapeutic doses, possible contraindications with current medications, and/or potential side-effects. These herbs are not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Diet & Lifestyle Considerations

The following foods have been known to trigger migraine headaches. If you suspect that one or more of these could be potential triggers for you, consider eliminating them and then carefully reintroducing them back in and monitoring your symptoms.

‣ Chocolate
‣ Nuts
‣ Peanut Butter
‣ Cheese and other Dairy products
‣ Fermented or pickled foods
‣ Certain fruits such as avocado, banana, and citrus
‣ Onions
‣ Processed meats containing nitrates (bacon, hot dogs, luncheon meats)
‣ Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer
‣ Foods containing the amino acid tyramine, found in red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and some beans

• Eat more magnesium-rich foods including: leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, almonds, plain yogurt, kefir, black beans, avocado, figs, dates, bananas and sweet potatoes.

• Eat more foods rich in B-Vitamins, particularly Riboflavin (B2). Good sources include: organ meats and other meat, vegetables and leafy greens, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds.

• Stick to the same eating and sleeping schedule every day. Try not to skip meals or change sleep patterns.

• Keep hydrated by consuming plenty of water and water-rich foods (i.e. veggies and fruits). Dehydration is a common migraine trigger.

• Exercise regularly.

• Maintain a healthy weight. An increase in BMI (body mass index) may result in an increase in the frequency of migraines.

Resources:
umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/migraine-headache
migraineresearchfoundation.org
americanmigrainefoundation.org
umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/feverfew

Elaine Brisebois
About the Author

Elaine is a Certified Nutritionist and Women’s Health Coach. She works with clients across the globe to help them improve their health and relationship with food. Elaine believes in a real food approach to health that is rooted in optimizing digestion and includes ongoing and intelligent cleansing. You can download her FREE Hip, Healthy & Holistic Makeover Guide to learn 5 simple things you can do every day to lose weight, increase energy, kick cravings, and feel beautiful inside & out.