By: Sammy Cusimano
The renowned scientist, James D. Watson, who is regarded as the father of modern genetics, once said, “The brain is the most complex thing we have yet discovered in our universe.” It is the central processing unit of our bodies as well as the source of all emotional responses within our existence. Being that the brain is the most integral organ of our human experience, any pain affecting it directly or within the surrounding area will have a resounding effect on the entire mind and body as a whole.
One of the most debilitating conditions that can affect the brain and the head, in general, is a migraine. There are more than three million cases of migraines per year in the United States alone. The symptoms are very severe. There is usually an extreme throbbing pain located on one side of the head, commonly accompanied by feelings of nausea (which may lead to vomiting in some cases) and a severe sensitivity to stimuli such as light and sound.
Migraines can last for hours or even days, and the pain can be so overwhelming that all a person can do is lay down in a quiet and dark room for a period of time until the pain begins to lessen. It is crucial to the overall health of your body and mind to talk to a doctor if you experience the symptoms of a migraine. Not only can he/she help diagnose the causes of the condition, but also, he/she may be able to prescribe the proper medication to help alleviate the painful symptoms so that you are able to resume normal activities again. There are also natural remedies for migraine symptoms that may be able to help relieve some or all of the pain when a migraine attack occurs.
The food that you put into your body could be affecting the severity and frequency of migraine attacks. While some foods trigger attacks, other foods prevent and relieve them effectively. Migraines are commonly triggered by processed foods (such as hot dogs, sausages and bacon) containing preservatives (nitrates, nitrites, MSG). Focus on eating fresher foods that do not contain these preservatives to limit the chances of a migraine attack. Also, chocolate, dairy products, aged cheeses and alcohol (especially beer and red wine) can be triggers of migraine attacks.
Whole foods are always a much wiser choice in the prevention and relief of migraines because they do not have the preservatives and artificial sweeteners that can trigger an attack. Orange, yellow and green vegetables, along with whole grain foods, are excellent choices for a diet aimed at preventing migraines from occurring. Fresh meats, poultry and fish are safe for those affected by migraines, especially salmon and red meat, which both have vitamin B-2 (riboflavin). This vitamin helps reduce the frequency of migraines. It is a very good idea to keep track of what you eat on a daily basis with a food journal to correlate migraine attacks and relief with the effect of certain foods that may have positively or negatively impacted the condition.
Essential oils such as lavender and peppermint can help relieve migraine tension in a variety of ways. Both oils can be applied topically to the temples and/or utilized in a room diffuser that helps to make the oils easily inhaled over an extended period of time. Peppermint oil also contains menthol which helps to relieve migraines by being a natural muscle-relaxing agent. Other essential oils that can reduce migraine tension are eucalyptus, rosemary, roman chamomile, clary sage and sweet basil. It is important when applying essential oils topically to dilute them with what is called a “carrier oil” before applying them to the skin. Coconut oil and almond oil are excellent carrier oils that keep the skin safe when mixed with other essential oils.
Vitamins, supplements and herbal remedies are also helpful in treating migraine symptoms, when taken in the proper amounts. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant that can help relieve migraines. Taking 300-500 mg/day can help to prevent and treat migraine-related pain as well as lower blood pressure. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is another naturally occurring nutrient that can be taken as a supplement for minimizing the frequency of migraines. It is found in many oily fish, but supplementing with CoQ10 can deliver the high enough dosage needed to significantly reduce migraine occurrences.
Herbal remedies can be very effective in relieving migraine symptoms, with little to no side effects. Ginger and mint can be ingested in tea form or taken as supplements to naturally reduce the tension of a migraine attack. Feverfew herb can also help relieve a migraine, and butterbur can reduce the frequency of the attacks. For thousands of years, the herb Ginkgo biloba has been used as a natural treatment of a variety of conditions, including migraines. As an added bonus, it is also an excellent memory-enhancing supplement. Because of its antioxidant properties, Ginkgo biloba may even slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, in some cases.
Hydration is crucial to helping prevent migraine attacks. Especially in the hotter months of the year, it is very important to drink plenty of fluids so that the body does not become dehydrated, which can lead to the onset of migraine tension. Although tea and coffee are diuretics that can lower the fluid levels of the body, the caffeine contained within them can actually help to reduce the pain of a migraine attack. If you choose to drink coffee and/or tea, please do so in moderation to keep the body hydrated at all times. A potassium-rich tonic containing apple cider vinegar, honey and water may also help prevent and relieve the onset of a migraine. In addition to migraine relief, apple cider vinegar and honey are both holistic powerhouse food and drink sources that contain a multitude of health benefits.
The key to living well is feeling well each day. Nothing should prevent you from enjoying all the activities that you love. Combining every resource available to prevent and treat migraine attacks is the first step towards ensuring that your life is not put on hold because of chronic pain. There is great hope for anyone who battles migraines. It will be a lifelong personal journey of finding what nutritional remedies work best for you, but a life of health and wellness is within your reach!