With the high-stress, fast-paced life we live today, most of us fall prey to headaches. Most times the headaches are triggered by stress, lack of sleep or a hangover where a good power-nap and/or a couple of Aspirin do the trick. In some cases however, they could be caused by more serious health issues. This results in a more severe form of headache, called Migraines, which are not only more difficult to bear, but also harder to shake off.
The Science behind a Migraine
Researchers haven’t really been able to pinpoint the exact cause of a migraine, but they do understand the physiological changes that occur when a migraine hits. When the nerve cells in the brain become over stimulated, they release chemicals that cause inflammation and swelling in the blood vessels in the neck and brain.
Cure and Side-Effects
Sadly enough, not only do many migraine meds have side effects that range from nausea and stomach ulcers to an increased risk of stroke and even heart attack, but up to two-thirds of users have also reported that they don’t deliver satisfactory results.
Easily available preventive foods
To prevent and reduce the onslaught of migraine attacks, here are a few easily available supplements you can include in your diet.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
Riboflavin, an effective preventive treatment for migraines, is also known as vitamin B2 and is found in certain foods and supplements. It helps protect cells from oxidative damage and is involved in energy production. It has been widely reported to significantly reduce the incidence of migraine headaches when consumed at high levels (400 mg per day), although it doesn’t seem to help reduce the pain or length of a migraine once they occur.
Best food sources: Liver, lean beef, lamb, venison, whole grains, tempeh, yogurt, low-fat milk, eggs, almonds, crimini mushrooms, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and spinach. Make sure to store the food away from light, which destroys riboflavin.
5-hydroxytryptophan is a substance produced by our bodies from the amino acid tryptophan. Research by Harvard Medical School and Natural Standard suggests that 5-HTP may be particularly effective in reducing both the severity and frequency of migraine headaches. 5-HTP increases the body’s production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in blood vessel regulation. Low serotonin levels have been associated with migraines, so 5-HTP supplementation appears to help by correcting the imbalance.
Best food sources: (While 5-HTP cannot directly be obtained from food sources, the following foods are sources of amino acid tryptophan, which the body uses to make 5-HTP) Turkey, chicken, milk, potatoes, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, turnip and collard greens, and seaweed.
Because our bodies can’t make magnesium, we must rely on dietary and/or supplement sources to get it — and magnesium deficiency been directly linked to migraines in a number of major studies. Magnesium helps relax nerves and muscles and transmits nerve impulses throughout the body and brain. In addition, magnesium helps prevent nerves from becoming over excited. In short, this mineral aids in the prevention and reduction of migraines.
Best food sources: Pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, wild Alaskan salmon, halibut, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, amaranth, quinoa, soybeans, and black beans.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant nutrient that’s especially important in blood vessel health. Our bodies are able to make CoQ10, and we can also get it from dietary and supplement sources. CoQ10 increases blood flow to the brain, improves circulation, and protects cells from oxidative damage. It also helps stabilize blood sugar; low blood sugar is a major trigger for many migraine sufferers.
Best food sources: Food sources of CoQ10 aren’t well documented, but this nutrient can be found in fish and organ meats (especially liver, kidney, and heart) as well as whole grains.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory substances that are abundant in many food sources, especially fish, nuts, and seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids protect brain cells and reduce inflammation, which may help to reduce the pain associated with migraines. In addition, Omega-3s appear to be beneficial in reducing the frequency and duration of migraine headaches.
Best food sources: Wild Alaskan salmon, tuna, herring (not pickled herring), mackerel, rainbow trout, halibut, Pacific oysters, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Omega-3 fats are somewhat fragile and are easily damaged by exposure to heat, light, and oxygen, so store foods properly and avoid overheating (especially frying) when cooking.
Feverfew is a bushy, aromatic herb plant related to daisies and widely used by herbalists and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for preventing migraines and other types of headaches. Feverfew helps alleviate the throbbing pain associated with migraines by reducing inflammation, especially in the blood vessels in the brain. It also has minimal side effects. It can help quell vomiting and nausea in migraine sufferers who experience those symptoms.
Caution: Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking feverfew (or any herbal remedy). And don’t take it if you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant.
Other easy home remedies include a regular exercise regimen, applying an icepack to your head making use of its anti-inflammatory properties, herbal teas, acupuncture and several other relaxation techniques including Yoga.
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