Headaches can be caused by a lot of things. Most often migraines must be differentiated from tension or cluster headaches, assuming that some of the more acute or more serious causes have already been ruled out.
Migraines usually begin around puberty and are more common in women than in men. Pain is usually localized behind the eyes, and is accompanied by visual changes, light and noise sensitivity, nausea and vomiting. Sometimes pain is preceded by flashing lights, called an “aura.”
Traditional medicine recognizes the importance of tracking triggers for your headaches by keeping a headache diary. When you begin to see a correlation between certain triggers and the onset of a migraine, you can avoid those triggers as much as possible. Unfortunately, triggers are different for different people.
For some, certain foods and food preservatives may trigger migraines. There are a few that are more commonly associated with migraines than others, but even that list is rather long.
For others, triggers may be bright lights, certain odors or perfumes, alcohol, allergic reactions, sleep pattern changes, dehydration, physical or emotional stress, exercise, loud noises, missed meals, smoking or exposure to smoke.
Beyond this, traditional medicine advises you to rest in a cool, dark room with a cool cloth on your head, and to use certain medications to control pain or stop attacks. There’s a spectrum of medications to control pain, ranging from over-the-counter to narcotics and sedatives. But beware that rebound headaches can occur if you take pain meds regularly to keep headaches at bay.
Many of the medications intended to stop attacks work on the vascular system, and these include medications ordinarily used for blood pressure, or those that cause blood vessels to narrow (including Imitrex, Cafergot and Midrin). These latter medications increase the risk of heart attack or stroke if you have heart disease already, and you must avoid some of them if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.
Other meds to stop attacks include certain antidepressants, and occasionally seizure medications.
THE NATUROPATHIC APPROACH
First, we will start with the headache diary to search for triggers. It will be important to avoid them until we deal with the underlying cause. At this stage we can also try several naturopathic treatments which are essentially suppressive, in order to control symptoms. I’m not opposed to using or continuing to use medications as long as they are necessary, either. Quality of life is very important.
About 50% of migraine sufferers have a rotated first vertebra in their necks. Try a chiropractic adjustment. This won’t likely take care of the whole case, but it can certainly help if it contributes to your headaches.
A very high percentage of sufferers also have food allergies. Delayed reactions to allergens can manifest in a wide variety of ways, and this one is relatively common. Your triggers may or may not correspond to the foods to which you are allergic, though, because it can take up to 72 hours for symptoms to show up after exposure to a food allergen. While we’re at it, we’ll also assess your diet for certain key nutrient deficiencies which occur frequently in those who suffer from migraines, remove additives known to cause migraines in some, and ensure that your blood sugar remains stable throughout the day.
Some migraines are associated with neurotransmitter imbalances, which is why antidepressants are used. If this is the case, the treatment may involve neurotransmitter testing and rebalancing in a similar fashion to the treatment for depression.
Environmental sensitivities frequently play a role in migraines, which may explain triggers like perfumes, cigarette smoke, and the like. If this plays a role in your headaches, detoxification and cleansing will be in order.
Many women find that their headaches worsen at menses and improve during pregnancy, which implies that hormone balancing and liver detoxification will be very important in recovery.
MY SUITE OF SUPPLEMENTS FOR MIGRAINES
These are some of the supplements I often prescribe for migraines, depending on the case. Click on each product for a description and dosing recommendation.