Natural Ways To Treat Migraines Through Lifetstyle Management
Migraine is a common disabling brain disorder. Headache accounts for 4.4% of all consultations in general practice, approximately 5% of all medical admissions to hospital, and approximately 20% of neurology outpatient consultations. Migraine affects over 20% of people at some point in their lives.
Treatment of migraine
There are three broad approaches to treating chronic migraine: lifestyle and trigger management, acute treatments (i.e. those taken during attacks or exacerbations of chronic pain), and preventive treatments (medication or other interventions designed to reduce the tendency to have attacks). While many patients find that lifestyle adjustments such as regularizing meals and sleep can reduce the frequency of their attacks, some form of medication or other treatment is almost invariably necessary in patients with migraine.
Lifestyle modification and trigger reduction
When patients have chronic severe headaches, it can be difficult to recognize specific triggers. Paradoxically it is often the case that as chronic headaches start to improve with treatment, triggers become more obvious. Regularity of regimen regarding meals, hydration, sleep and stress is always helpful in reducing the tendency to migraines; recognizing that this is helpful is straightforward but making the requisite changes in modern busy life may be more difficult.
Many patients with chronic migraine will have other problems that exacerbate their tendency to headaches: these include depression, anxiety, other pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia, localized pain in head and neck structures, and conditions that create ‘metabolic’ strain such as sleep apnoea or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Proper management of these is necessary to maximize the effect of any other migraine treatments. It is particularly important to recognize and manage medication overuse (including caffeine overuse) as failure to do so will render most attempts at preventive treatment ineffective.
Trigger Avoidance to Control Migraines
One of the simplest but most important things to do in the management of migraines is to manage your migraine triggers. While it seems an obvious thing to do, it may not always be easy. Some things are obvious: eat regular meals, maintain good hydration, get enough sleep. Things that are not as easy to accomplish, although we "know we should," are keeping a regular schedule and a regular bedtime, exercising regularly, and maintaining a moderate caffeine intake.
It is impossible, of course, to control the amount of stress that we are exposed to on a day-to-day basis, but stress management techniques are available to help with managing the toll it takes.
Lifestyle Migraine Triggers
There are many things that count as lifestyle triggers, but if you follow a generally healthy lifestyle, it covers most of them
- Get enough sleep. Although many people try to skimp on sleep, most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night
- Follow a regular bedtime. Did you know that sleeping in more than an hour past your normal awakening time can trigger a migraine for some people?
- Drink enough water – dehydration causes headaches
- Eat regular meals – skipping meals can trigger a migraine
- Exercise regularly
- Use caffeine moderately
- Use alcohol moderately
- Take breaks
- Take vacations
Sleep disorders deserve special attention. There have been two studies which have identified sleep disorders as a risk factor for the development of chronic daily headache and improving sleep can help with the control of migraine. If getting on a good sleep schedule does not help, and you are still having trouble sleeping, discuss this with your doctor. A sleep study may be helpful in making a proper diagnosis, as the problem may be more complex than simple insomnia.
Maintaining a healthy weight can also be important in controlling headaches. There have been several studies that have identified obesity as a risk factor for the development of chronic daily headache, as well as several studies linking obesity to the increased frequency and severity of migraine.
If you can maintain a regular schedule, you will be one step ahead of the game in keeping your headaches at bay.
Managing lifestyle triggers can go a long way toward reducing migraine headache frequency and severity and decreasing the amount of medication you might need.
Foods Recommended in Migraine
Patients suffering from migraine should consume foods, which are rich in complex carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium. Low fat foods should be eaten. Vegetables like dark green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains and cereals, lean chicken and fish meats, beans, sea food, sardines, trout, turkey and duck meat, fish oil and olive oil are recommended as they help with migraine. Other food supplements such as Vitamin C and Vitamin B complex, calcium, fish oil supplements, and coenzyme Q10 can be prescribed by the doctor. Allergies to certain foods such as eggs, milk, shellfish, peanuts and gluten are common in migraine and should be avoided. Tests for allergy can be done to find out the exact allergens, which are causing migraine.
Foods to Avoid in Migraine
Foods which trigger migraines are known as migraine food triggers and these include foods containing monosodium glutamate and other food items such as tea, coffee, red wine, chocolate, cheese, peanuts, processed meats etc. all are migraine food triggers. Some individuals may develop craving for food, such as high carb foods, before the onset of migraine. This is known as migraine food craving and should not be confused with a trigger. Given below are some of the food items which are considered to trigger or aggravate migraine episodes:
- Cheese (especially Aged or blue cheese)
- Citrus fruit
- Fatty foods
- Ice cream
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Alcohol (especially red wine and beer)
- Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Yoghurt and other mild products
- Meat or fish which is smoked, cured or pickled
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