Migraines – common triggers & what can help

February 24, 2017
Lyndall McAlpine

Here is some info about Migraines and safe ways to help prevent and treat them. I started out just focussing on Calcium and Acupuncture (as I already had covered these when studying my Bachelor of Nutritional Medicine) however, as usual, hours/days and many researches read later I am excited to see such Research showing the effectiveness of other nutritional supplements and non pharmaceutical methods.

It is not, as yet, a totally conclusive reason for Migraines but it is believed that  brain chemicals, blood vessels, and nerves of the brain are involved. Interestingly, I found many Research Articles including thisthis and this that found ” all Migraine triggers (except pericranial pain) showed oxidative stress as a plausible unifying principle behind the types of migraine triggers encountered in clinical practice”. This of course made me smile, as in my thinking, it would suggest that taking antioxidants and eating/living healthily should help prevent and treat migraines.

Common triggers of Migraines are:

After hours of studying loads of Research Studies I must say it seems that these triggers do not show true for all migraine sufferers, and in most cases a combination of triggers are needed to provoke migraines. For example this study shows that chocolate or Tyramine alone aren’t triggers for all migraines sufferers. This study concluded ‘..three-quarters of migraineurs have triggers at least occasionally for the acute attack, with stress, hormones in women, not eating, weather and sleep disturbance being the commonest”.

So any or a combination of the  below common triggers could be “your” trigger. The best way to figure out what food or activities cause your migraines is to keep a headache diary. Each time you get a migraine, write down the warning signs, possible triggers, and severity. You may be able to  work out your personal triggers so you can avoid or at least reduce the severity of future migraines:

  • A sudden drop in blood sugar from either skipping meals or eating high GI food which spike then subsequently crash blood sugar levels – see more here
  • Stress
  • Hormones including menstrual cycle
  • Flickering lights or glare from things like snow or water,  fluorescent bulbs, television or movie screens or even the wrong eye prescription.
  • Drop and fluctuations of barometric pressure
  • Sunlight or environments causing the scalp to be heated
  • Strong odours here
  • Certain foods such as MSG, red wine, chocolate, atiificial sweetener aspartame
  • Foods with high levels of tyramine such as  cured meats (plus the preservatives sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite have been linked to migraine), fermented foods (eg soy sauce), pickles, sharp cheddar or brie and beer (tap has about 25 times more tyramine that bottled beer). It seems this affects people who suffer migraine and epilepsy and people more susceptive to a substance released by tyramine that is able to cross the blood brain barrier.
  • Deficiency in magnesium, Vit B, D and Coq10

Non-pharmaceutical teatments that may help prevent and/or treat migraines

  • Oral or intravenous treatment of Magnesium (my assignment with references here). I looked at six medical reviews and found the overall results indicated that magnesium has an involvement in the occurrence of headache/migraine, with sufferers of migraines having lower magnesium serum levels.  Both oral and intravenous treatments seem to be beneficial in the length and severity of migraines
  • The effects of Acupuncture on relieving headache/migraine attacks (my assignment with references here). I researched the hypothesis that acupuncture is helpful in treatment of headache by means of activation of certain chemicals and hormones within the body, blocking pain transmission, increasing endorphins and other secretions of analgesic effect, by increasing blood flow in the brain and by relieving inflammation by decreasing cytokine expression.
  • Keeping hydratedstudies have shown drinking more water can reduce the hours and strength of migraine pain
  • Ice/gel pack or cold washcloth on your forehead, scalp, or the carotid arteries at the neck to reduce the flow of blood
  • Regular exercise can help prevent migraines by releasing endorphins, chemicals that fight pain and anti-inflammatory cytokines that inhibit COX-2 activity. Obviously exercise once a migraine has begun would be of detrimental
  • Relaxation exercises. Research  and here shows that regular yoga sessions reduce the occurrence and intensity of migraines
  • Slow deep breathing – fully inhaling and exhaling slowly and fully, meditation or at least thinking of a peaceful scene or listening to favourite music may help, here and here.
  • Chiropractic adjustment, here physiotherapy and massage here
  • Adequate and regular sleep, here
  • Caffeine can be both good and bad. When combined with some pain medications, caffeine can help reduce migraine pain. due to dilation of blood vessels once or twice a week — may help prevent migraines.. However, too much caffeine can lead to headaches when the stimulant effect wears off and skipping your regular morning coffee could become a trigger.
  • Wearing polarised sunglasses will help with glare induced migraines.
  • Sitting, lying is a dark quiet spot away from excessive noise and light can help speed up your recovery.
  • Riboflavin and Coenzyme q10 has been shown and here and herehere and here to help prevent migraines.
  • Grape seed extract has been shown to stabilise blood vessels and decrease the incidence and severity of migraine headaches.
  • Butterbu extract and B12 and Ginkgolide B, and here has been shown to reduced the number and intensity of headaches for some people.
  • More research results on above supplementation here, here, here

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