First, I want to talk a little bit about what a migraine headache is for those who may not have experienced one. A migraine is not just a headache. It’s actually a whole syndrome of symptoms that happen that sometimes result in an excruciating headache, along with different neurological symptoms.
The components of a migraine usually include some type of prodrome. The person knows that the migraine is coming on – either because they feel some kind of sensation in their head, like a foggy sensation, or they might start to get light sensitive, or sound sensitive, and some people may even see something called a scotomas, which means they are seeing spots, or flashes of light. That’s the beginning signs that a migraine is coming on.
Then it’s accompanied by nausea, dizziness, vomiting, along with, a lot of times, an excruciating headache that is sensitive to any light, sounds, sometimes smells, and even movement. For many people with migraines, the only treatment besides prescription medication is to go into a dark room and take a nap.
Why do people get migraines? Migraines are associated with the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is part of the “Fight or Flight” syndrome; serotonin is associated with anxiety and depression. When these neurotransmitters are in excess or deficient, it causes the blood vessels in the brain to contract, causing the scotomas, then the vessels become inflamed, dilating and causing an excessive amount of blood to rush to the brain, causing the excruciating headache.
How do you manage a migraine naturally? If you are a person who has just started experiencing migraines as an adult, you need to go checked by your physician. They need to make sure that there is no physical cause for your migraine. A brain tumor or hormonal imbalances, but usually the most common causes are stress, certain food allergies, lack of sleep, and prolonged hunger.
If you are a long time sufferer, then we can look into some natural ways to manage your migraine. First – avoid the triggers. Personally, when I avoid my primary triggers, I don’t get a migraine. For you it may be certain foods. I’ve seen patients who react too turkey, nuts and almonds.
Staying hydrated is also a great way to prevent your migraines from coming on. Dehydration and over exposure to heat are major trigger for migraines. So when you feel a migraine coming on, you make sure that you have eaten, have rested, and that you are drinking plenty of water.
There are some natural things that you can do to actually start to eliminate your migraine at the first sign that your migraine is coming on. I do recommend that anytime you know a migraine is coming on, that you get to whatever supplement that you are going to use, and take care of that.
First is valerian. Valerian works by modulates the serotonin system in the brain. The main side effect of valerian root is drowsiness, so when you take it, make sure you are in a place where you can take an 8 hour nap.
Second is lavender & peppermint essential oils. If you are a person who is out and you frequently experience migraines, you should carry a little bottle of essential oil or a mix of lavender & peppermint in a carrier oil such as coconut or almond oil. When you feel the migraine coming on, you can rub a bit on your temples, as a scent, or rub on your chest area, and that will help to disperse the migraine.
Third is breathing, as in deep breathing meditation. Doing 5-15 minutes of deep breathing and meditation and getting hydrated are good ways to deal with a migraine without medications once it has come on.
There are a couple of ways to prevent your migraines from coming on. First is regular exercise. It helps keep the muscles relaxed, the inflammation down and the endorphin and serotonin system regulated so that the migraine doesn’t come on in the first place.
Second is omega fatty acids. The reason they work is that the basis of migraine is inflammation. The omega fatty acids help to decrease that inflammation. Taking a fish oil, krill oil, or flaxseed oil (if you are a vegan) is a good way to keep your inflammation down. Similarly, coconut oil is a great anti-inflammatory.
Third is magnesium. Magnesium keeps the blood vessels and muscles relaxed. Because many migraines begin as tension headaches, it keeps you relaxed overall, so that the migraine never gets triggered. There is a particular product called Calm, a powdered magnesium supplement that you can mix in hot water and any tea.