You must be familiar with that debilitating pain, usually on just one side of the head, disrupting entire routine on the go. Even if you do not experience it yourself, you may know someone who suffers from it. This migraine headache affects 6 percent to 18 percent of the adult population in the US.
Although it affects both genders, women experience it three times more than the men do. In fact, the survey shows that over one in four women suffers from at least one severe migraine attack at some time in her life.
Mostly, migraine hits people in their teen years and remains throughout their 20s and 30s. Around 10 percent of the teenagers experience frequent migraines, particularly in puberty because of the hormonal changes.
Some migraines remain for more than 15 days per month. These are chronic migraines, which affect about 20 percent of the total population and arise in adults aging between the 30s and 40s.
While migraine headaches owe it mainly to genetic factors, one’s lifestyle choice can also impact the frequency and intensity of the migraine attacks.
What is Migraine?
Migraine refers to a neurological condition that gives birth to multiple symptoms. It is marked by intense, debilitating pain in the head. Its symptoms include vomiting, nausea, difficulty speaking, sens
itivity to light and sound, and numbness or tingling.
Symptoms of Migraine
Migraine symptoms may turn up one or two days before the headache. It is known as the prodrome stage, during which the symptoms include:
- Food cravings
- Fatigue or low energy
- Frequent yawning
- Neck stiffness
In migraine with aura, the prodrome stage is followed by the aura. Aura is characterized by sensory disturbances, i.e., issues with your sensation, vision, speech, and movement. These disturbances include seeing light flashes, or bright spots, tingling or prickling sensation in your arms, legs, or face, and temporary vision loss.
Next comes the attack phase—the most severe or acute of the phases where actual migraine happens. In some case, it overlaps with an aura. The attack phase may prolong from hours to days.
The symptoms of migraine vary from person to person. Some of them may include:
- Increases sensitive to sound and light
- Dizziness or faintness
- Pain on one side of the head, be it left, right, front, or back side of the head or in your temples
- Throbbing and pulsing head pain
After the attack phase, the person may experience a change in mood and feelings. These feelings can range from feeling euphoric and extremely happy to feeling apathetic and fatigued. A dull, mild headache may linger on for a while.
While the experts could not identify a definitive cause of migraines, they have discovered some contributing factors that can be the triggers for the condition. These factors include changes in brain chemicals, like a decrease in a brain chemical called serotonin.
Other factors that may start a migraine episode include:
- Severe heat or extreme weather
- Bright lights
- Loud sounds
- Hormonal changes, especially in women, such as fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy, menstruation, or menopause.
- Excess stress
- Change in sleep patterns
- Skipping meals
- Exertive physical activity
- Use of certain medicines like nitroglycerin or oral contraceptives
- Certain foods
- Unusual smells
- Alcohol use
Things That Can Help With Migraine
Apart from heeding medical advice, you can do a few things at home to keep your migraine in check. If these things do not make the pain ebb away completely, they can at least ease it and save you from getting incapacitated.
1. Take Migraine Safe Foods
There are certain foods that can help ease your migraine headache. Not only that certain foods can help you with the pain, but some foods can help prevent the migraine pain as well.
If you want to keep migraine at bay, include omega-3 foods in your diet. Seeds, nuts, and wild-caught fish like sardines and salmon are excellent sources of omega-3. These foods can help lower inflammation and control the blood flow.
Consuming organic foods, fresh vegetables, and fruits also help. These foods are high in magnesium and other vital electrolytes that play a significant role in controlling the blood flow and muscular functions.
They also prevent electrolyte imbalance, which is one of the major factors that contribute to migraine. These foods decrease inflammation, balance hormones, and provide antioxidants that offset the effects of toxin exposure. Some magnesium-rich foods include swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, spinach, yogurt, kefir, black beans, almonds, figs, avocado, dates, sweet potatoes, and bananas.
Foods rich in proteins are also beneficial if you frequently encounter migraine headaches. Good sources of proteins are poultry, beans, legumes, wild-caught fish, and grass-fed beef.
Research indicates that people having migraines can benefit from taking more vitamin B, especially vitamin B2 (riboflavin), You can obtain riboflavin from organ meats, green leafy vegetables, certain dairy products, nuts and seeds, and beans and legumes.
2. Avoid Triggers
You may notice that eating certain foods or doing certain things can trigger migraine pain. Identify your triggers by following the patterns. Avoiding these triggers can save you from a migraine attack more often than not.
Factors that may trigger migraines include:
- Foods: Certain foods can trigger migraine headaches. These foods include salty foods, aged cheese, and processed foods. Fasting or skipping meals can also cause migraine pain. Food additives like preservative monosodium glutamate (MSG) and sweetener aspartame can also trigger migraines in some people. Moreover, drinks like highly caffeinated beverages and alcohol are also a migraine trigger.
- Stress: Stress is one of the major causes of migraine, be it at work or at home.
- Sensory Triggers: Sensory stimuli like sun glare and bright lights are notorious as migraine triggers. Other sensory triggers include loud voices and strong smells, such as smell from paint thinner, perfume, and smoke.
- Changes in Sleep Patterns: Getting too much sleep or missing sleep altogether can induce migraines in some people. A jet lag can also trigger migraine headache.
- Changes in Environment: A change of barometric pressure or weather can also induce migraine pains.
- Physical Factors: Intense physical activity can also provoke migraines in some people.
- Medications: Vasodilators like nitroglycerin and oral contraceptives can exacerbate migraines.
- Hormonal Changes: In many women, fluctuations in estrogen result in headaches. Women having a history of migraines complain about headaches before or during their periods, as they undergo a drastic drop in estrogen.
Many women have a high risk of developing migraines during pregnancy or menopause. Another trigger of migraines is hormonal medicines like hormonal replacement therapy and oral contraceptives. However, some women see their migraine symptoms mitigated after taking these medications.
According to many researchers, around 40 percent of migraines can be avoided if people improve their diets and avoid triggers.
3. Take Supplements
Certain supplements can help you a great deal with the migraine headaches. These supplements include omega-3 fish oils. Several studies have shown that omega-3 supplements can help decrease the intensity and frequency of migraines.
Other supplements that ease migraine pain include vitamin B2 and 5-HTP. The latter is an amino acid that help improves serotonin levels, lowering the frequency and intensity of pain.
Another supplement that helps is Feverfew, an herb that reduces the instances of migraine headaches and the related symptoms like nausea, pain, light and noise sensitivity, and vomiting.
You can also take Melatonin in moderation. It can keep migraines away, as it helps to improve sleep quality. You can block the nerve pain signals by using the Capsaicin cream. Just apply a small amount of the cream to inside the nostril or use the nose spray filled with capsaicin.
Furthermore, according to numerous studies, magnesium helps prevent headaches. Several other studies indicate that the magnesium levels lower in a person’s body during a migraine. Therefore, taking a magnesium supplement can ease migraine pain.
American Migraine Foundation recommends consuming a 400-500 mg supplement of magnesium oxide daily to prevent migraines.
4. Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are used for several purposes, including the one to get rid of a migraine. These oils are natural painkillers and have the capability to help reduce inflammation, lower stress or anxiety, improve blood flow, lower muscular tension, and help balance hormones.
You can apply essential oils on the aching side of the head or neck to relax the muscular tension and stress. Applying oils directly to the affected area via ice pack or a heating pad can numb the pain. Just let the ice pack or the pad remain on the affected area for 15 minutes.
Aromatherapy is known to help as well with migraines. Some scents are believed to help dull headaches like that of peppermint and lavender. Peppermint makes you less aware of the pain while lavender helps reduce anxiety.
You can apply these oils on the inside of the wrist or on your temples. Essential oils that are deemed as magical in terms of headaches include eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, frankincense, and rosemary.
Evidence has it that eucalyptus improves blood flow and helps cleanse the body of harmful substances and toxins. Peppermint reduces inflammation and pain. It imparts a cooling effect on the skin, curtailing muscle contractions and regulating blood flow around the head when used topically.
Lavender alleviates stress and anxiety. It can improve sleep quality and reduce muscular tension. Known as a natural antidepressant, this essential oil has sedative qualities.
Frankincense reduces inflammation and improves overall immune function, maintains hormonal balance, and helps manage anxiety.
Whereas, rosemary essential oil lowers pain through stimulating blood flow. It also helps ease withdrawal symptoms of medications or caffeine, soothes an upset stomach, and helps with digestion.
5. Manage Stress
Stress is one of the major contributors to migraine headaches. It disrupts sleep and blood flow along with causing muscle tension, all of which are migraine triggers themselves. Therefore, managing stress can help prevent migraine attacks to a great deal.
Try clinging to a regular sleeping, exercise, and diet schedule. It will keep a check on your blood sugar and hormones throughout the day. Take some time aside for activities like acupuncture, going outdoors, exercise, taking a walk, and meditation to relieve stress.
While you cannot control every stressful situation, you can control the way you react to such situations. Migraines usually occur amid stressful events. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and biofeedback.
Keep a journal to track events that rendered you stressed out. By this, you can identify the cause of stress and reflect on the ways to improve your reactions.
Check out these 7 Mental Health Tips for Your Tired Self
6. Keep a Migraine Journal
Some people are unable to pinpoint their triggers of migraine. It can be anything from nutrient deficiencies like magnesium deficiency, diet, exercise routine, or overexposure to light and noise.
You can maintain a log of the symptoms and their probable triggers like time and kind of exercise, dietary patterns, stress levels, and sleep hours to identify your migraine triggers.
Jotting down the details and probabilities can help you narrow down the factors inducing migraine attacks.
For example, you can keep track of what you ate or drank throughout the day, weather, strong emotions, exercise schedule, medications, and side effects. Compare these factors with the intensity and frequency of your headaches.
Writing all this will help you find a pattern in your migraine instances and will help you determine things to avoid to prevent an attack.
7. Adopt Lifestyle Changes
Not taking proper diet and getting inadequate sleep can induce migraine headaches. Make sure you eat something within an hour of getting up and then don’t skip the meals. Dehydration is another trigger of migraines. Make sure you drink at least 11 glasses of water (2.7 liters) a day.
Be mindful of how much you sleep. Lack of sleep can exacerbate migraine symptoms. So, sleep through at least seven to eight hours every night. Do not overdo it though, as getting too much sleep also induces migraine in some people. Therefore, trying to make up for the lost sleep by snoozing extra hours can be a very bad idea if excessive sleep is your migraine trigger.