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What Causes Migraines - Understanding Our Personal Triggers that Cause Migraines

What Causes Migraines - Understand Your Personal Triggers

            Migraine headaches have at one time or another affected over 15% of men and almost 30% of women. Over 20 million Americans suffer from either migraine or cluster headaches . For women, many migraine headaches are tied to their menstrual cycle. Migraine headaches usually affect women, while cluster headaches usually affect men. Symptoms of migraine headaches can include: rainbow-like colors or blank spots in one’s vision, severe head pain, fatigue, nausea and/or vomiting, and sensitivity to sounds and/or lights. Migraine symptoms are much different than the common tension headache, which affects 90% of headache sufferers. A tension headache is dull, affects both sides of the head, and is often associated with muscle tension around the neck.

            Causes of migraines can be many. Over one-third of headache sufferers say that alcohol intake is a main factor in causing their headache, and over half of migraine sufferers also point to alcohol as a culprit. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer used in many foods, changes blood vessel tone and blood flow, which may cause many migraine headaches. MSG can be disguised in food ingredient lists as “hydrolysed vegetable protein” or “natural flavor”. Nitrates, which are commonly found in cured meats, may also cause migraines. People with migraine headaches should try avoiding fermented aged, and yeast-containing foods, such as: baked yeast products, aged cheeses, sour cream, pickles, red wine, milk, chocolate, and cured meats like fermented sausages. Clinician Dr. Braly believes that almost all migraine headaches are aggravated by food allergies or sensitivities. Interestingly, migraine researcher Dr. Milne recommends that sufferers take two tablets of alka-seltzer immediately after symptoms appear.

            Since the pain of migraines can be intense, many sufferers choose to try different drugs for their condition. Lidocaine nose drops are sometimes used to stop migraine-induced sinus pain. Side effects of lidocaine include: confusion, vomiting, convulsions, unconsciousness, respiratory depression, and allergic reactions. One of the most common drug classes to treat migraines are the triptans (ex. Imitrex). Side effects of triptan drugs can include: heart attack, eye problems, and interactions with certain psychiatric drugs. Sometimes older antidepressants are used to help control migraines. This class of drugs, called tricyclic antidepressants, can be very dangerous to use, and overdose is often fatal. Other side effects can include: heart attack, stroke, hallucinations and/or delusions, hypomania, seizures, liver damage, and multiple drug interactions.

            Valproic acid (Depakene) is normally used as an anti-epileptic drug, but is sometimes used for migraines. Side effects of this drug can include: liver failure that has been fatal, abnormal blood clotting, deformed fetus in pregnant women, and possible increased risk of cancer. Gabapentin (Neurontin) is occasionally used to treat migraines. Side effects can include: withdrawal-induced seizures, cancer, unexplained death, and depression. Another off-label drug that can be used to treat migraines is methylsergide maleate (Sansert): side effects can include heart problems and seizures. Lithium Carbonate is normally used to control bipolar disorder, but is also sometimes used to help migraines. Side effects can include: kidney and heart problems, seizures, coma, hallucinations, and multiple drug interactions.

            Fortunately, there are many different nutritional supplements that can significantly help migraine headaches. The B-vitamins are important in brain function, and two of them can help migraines. Four hundred milligrams a day of riboflavin (vitamin B2) can help prevent migraines. At the above dose, over half of the study participants showed at least 50% improvement in their migraine symptoms. Supplementing with vitamin B6 may help lessen headaches. This vitamin helps to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which is involved in the regulation of pain. However, some drugs that help migraine headaches block serotonin activity, so supplementation with B6 could in theory worsen headaches in some people.

           The mineral magnesium can be helpful for treating migraines. Study participants that supplemented with 600 mg/day of magnesium significantly reduced the frequency of migraine attacks. If you choose to supplement with calcium and vitamin D, include a moderate amount of magnesium (600 mg/day or less). At least half of migranes are linked in some way to magnesium, but very high doses of magnesium are usually needed to actually help migraine symptoms. Do not supplement with more than 500 mg/day of magnesium without notifying your physician. Although chocolate has a good amount of the mineral magnesium, which helps migraine symptoms, it also contains a chemical called phenylethylamine, which can cause headaches.

            Essential fatty acids (EFA’s), such as gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) may help migraine attacks. The above EFA’s administered to migraine sufferers resulted in 86% less duration, severity, and frequency of migraines. Dr. Jensen recommends flaxseed oil for EFA supplementation. White willow bark can be used as a natural alternative to aspirin. White willow bark cannot be used with synthetic aspirin or other NSAIDS such as ibuprofen. Pregnant or nursing women, diabetics, hemophiliacs, asthmatics, and people with ulcers should avoid use of white willow bark.

            Seventy percent of migraine sufferers had decreased frequency and severity of attacks after taking the herb feverfew daily. Feverfew should not be used with other blood-thinners such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Some people are allergic to feverfew, and so everyone should take a small dose of this herb at first, especially if they have a history of multiple allergies.The herb black cohosh is an effective pain reliever and can be used for headaches. Do not use Black Cohosh for more than one month at a time, and do not use if you are on estrogen-replacement therapy, chemotherapy, are on medications for high blood pressure, or taking sedatives, heart medications, or if you are pregnant or nursing.

            As you have read above, there are many natural treatments to help reduce or even eliminate migraine headaches. There are also many lifestyle and dietary changes one can make to help reduce migraine symptoms. Supplements and dietary changes are much more rewarding to make compared to enduring the side effects of pharmaceutical medications for migraines. If you would like to learn more about controlling migraine headaches naturally, you can contact Dr. Jensen at 1-800-390-5365, or send an e-mail to drjensen@individualizednutrition.com.

Dr. Jensen provides science-based holistic health care and guidance. He can advise you on specific problems you are experiencing, or help you create a comprehensive health care plan for optimum health.

Dr. Jensen will provide you with a free initial consultation to discuss your situation and suggest a course of action.

Contact Dr. Jensen at 1-800-390-5365 or use the contact form.

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