Do you suffer from headaches of migraines? Would you rather avoid pharmaceutical medications to ease the pain? If so you are not alone. Headaches and migraines are common complaints; and many people are concerned about the amount of strong medications they take to relive pain. Many pain relieving pharmaceutical medicines cause unwanted and potentially damaging side effects; especially if taken frequently or over a long period of time. Any type of medicine, including natural medicine must be taken at the recommended dose.
The Naturopathic Approach
The naturopathic approach uses natural methods to prevent migraines or headaches occurring. If they do occur we recommend natural remedies to relieve pain. Recent research has looked at the natural approaches to preventing and relieving headaches and migraines.
The Food and Drinks that can Cause Migraines and Headaches
There are various causes of headaches and migraines; naturopaths explore the reasons you have pain. Your diet and lifestyle is a major consideration. A food intolerance or allergy may be involved. Ensuring the basics of a health promoting diet is a starting point for all. Water will help prevent the headaches, avoid alcohol and caffeine as both can cause headaches and migraines[ 1-3]. Chocolate, sugar and monosodium glutamate (MSG), found in many fast foods and processed foods frequently trigger migraines, and are unnecessary in a healthy diet. [ 2-5] Dairy foods, wheat, oranges and eggs are a common triggers too[ 2, 4, 5], but do have health benefits so should only be excluded if absolutely necessary.
Caffeine: Why is it a problem? When does it help?
Although caffeine generally should be avoided as it can trigger migraines and headaches[ 6, 7], it can, in contrast also help give relief from migraine attacks and reduce pain[ 8]. In fact it is included in many pharmaceutical medicines to reduce migraine pain[ 8, 9]. However if medicines containing caffeine are taken too frequently the headaches reoccur [ 10]. Withdrawal from caffeine can also cause headaches and migraines[ 11]. Sometimes people find headaches and migraines only occur at weekends; a time they may be drinking less coffee[ 11]. Gradually reducing coffee or soft drinks such as colas which contain caffeine can stop withdrawal headaches and migraines from occurring[ 7].
Stress and Migraines and Headaches: Exercise and Relaxation
Feeling stressed can also cause migraines and headaches.[ 3, 5]. Regular exercise which helps in managing the stress will help decrease the frequency headaches[ 1]. Naturopaths suggest incorporating relaxation times into your day at home or at work; such relaxation techniques have been shown to decrease the frequency and intensity of headaches and migraines[ 12, 13].
Research: Nutrients that Prevent and Relieve Headaches and Migraines
Research has demonstrated that there are particular nutrients that may be beneficial to prevent or decrease the pain suffered in headaches and migraines.
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and Other B Vitamins
Research over many years has shown Vitamin B2 also called riboflavin can help prevent and decrease the frequency of headaches especially of migraines or tension-type headaches in both children and adults[ 14-17]. As well as being effective it also has less side effects and is cheaper than other treatments for migraine[ 15]. A study of people suffering from migraine who took Vitamin B2 found that the number of migraine attacks a month decreased by half, and when the attacks occurred not as much pain relieving medication was needed[ 16]. Other B vitamins have are also important, folic acid (a B vitamin), Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 have been shown to decrease the frequency and severity if migraines and headaches[ 17, 18].
Recent research indicates that Coenzyme Q10 is likely to be low in adults and children who suffer from migraine; and that taking supplements of Coenzyme Q10 over 3 months decreased the occurrence of migraines and headaches[ 17, 19, 20].
Of all the nutrients studied magnesium is perhaps the best known to decrease the frequency and severity of migraines and headaches.[ 6, 17, 21-25]. Naturopaths have always promoted foods that are naturally high in magnesium; such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. In one study all children with chronic tension-type headaches given magnesium supplements had a reduction of the headache symptoms; most had the symptom decreased by half. And pharmaceutical medication also decreased by half[ 26]. In another study over 3 months the improvements were even greater, with about a two third reduction in pain and medication [ 27].
Magnesium and the foods containing magnesium are considered especially important by naturopaths, not only for headaches and migraines but also where there are problems with muscles and bones [ 22, 24].
Vitamin D another nutrient which is likely to be low if the headache is related to problems with muscles or bones.[ 28].
Menstrual Problems, Migraines and Vitamin E
Naturopaths exploring other triggers for migraines and headaches such as menstrual problems will not only look at aspects of the diet and herbal medicine which help in hormonal balance but will consider the need for vitamin E as this has been shown to help prevent migraines associated with menstrual problems, and related reduce pain, light sensitivity, and nausea[ 29].
If I do use supplements I recommend the Entire Katoa Food State range for the optimum absorption, low dose and low toxicity.
Herbal medicine is frequently used by naturopaths to help people who have migraines and headaches. The choice of herbs varies enormously according to the areas of the body that are considered most in need of support; such as the nervous system, hormones, the muscles and bones. For pain relief, ginger and feverfew have been shown by research studies to be among the most effective and safe, although the research is still in early stages [ 30-32].
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