20 Mar 20 Ways to Mitigate Migraines
Migraines really know how to kill a day, as the severity can be excruciating and the pain may subsist for hours. Triggers may include food, flashing lights and other visual distractions, alternative sources of body pain, hunger, hormonal imbalances, medication interferences, and of course, environmental and personal stress.
That being said, there are preventative measures you can take to stop a migraine in its tracks. And if you’re too late? Don’t freak out: stay optimistic, try some home remedies and locate where the migraine generated from in order to be better the following day.
- Be Careful What You Eat: A lot of foods can activate migraines and tension pains. Common culprits include: chocolate, foods containing tyramine, such as aged cheeses (gouda, brie, blue, Swiss, Parmesan and Cheddar) and alcohol (red wine), nitrates and nitrates found in cured & processed meats (hotdogs, links, bacon, lunchbox meats), fermented & pickled foods (sauerkraut), MSG (soy), citrus fruits, bananas (avoid the strings on the peel!), caffeine, peanut butter, and foods containing sulfites (dried fruits). If you sense a flare up, monitor your plate. If you’ve been experiencing migraine symptoms, cut back on these foods for a few days or reassess your portion sizes.
- Eat Foods High in Magnesium: A deficiency in magnesium can lead to headaches and migraines. Magnesium relaxes muscles that both helps prevent onset and relieves symptoms. This is especially beneficial for women during menstruation, as this point of the cycle is known to increase migraine frequency due to the low levels of estrogen. Eating whole grains, such as quinoa and brown rice, sweet potatoes, seeds, such as flaxseed, pumpkin and sesame seeds, lentils, fish and dark, leafy greens will both mitigate migraines and PMS symptoms.
- Avoid Environmental Stress: Many people react strongly to scents and visuals, predominantly those of perfumes and lighting displays. If you know you have a problem with these triggers, go out of your way to avoid them! If you’re stuck in an elevator with a woman donning way too much patchouli scented perfume, hold your nose until you get out (it’s okay to be rude under these circumstances) and dart the other way. Or, carry around an essential oil of peppermint in your purse or jacket; take a few sniffs to block it out. For lighting? Be vigilant on Saturday nights at the club.
- Avoid Personal Stress: The activation of sensors in the brain causes a hormonal imbalance and an influx of cortisol that produces tension headaches. If you begin to feel anxious, try some breathing exercises or distract yourself with a silly video or a walk. Remove yourself from the stressful situation, and revisit it when you’re in a better emotional state.
- Carry “Essential” Oils: Lavender, peppermint and basil oils have been shown to relax the muscles and promote circulation. Migraines often happen because of poor blood flow, but these oils, peppermint in particular, can reopen the sinuses to bring in fresh, oxygenated blood. Store a small bottle in your workbag or jacket so that it’s easy to inhale on the go.
- DIY Massage: Massaging your temples and the spot at the back of the head and base of the skull has been shown to alleviate pain. It takes a few minutes and minimal effort, so there’s nothing you lose by trying.
- Invest in a Yoga Mat: Yoga releases tension and brings the body and mind into balance. This relaxed state wards off migraine attacks and better prepares the body to counter their debilitating effects.
- As always, Omega 3’s: These fatty acids are truly miracle workers. While reducing inflammation and supplying a healthy dose of magnesium per serving, oily fish and seeds minimize the pain. Eating salmon, mackerel, sardines, or albacore tuna, in addition to flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, olive oil and walnuts can stop a migraine before it gets worse. Also, taking a daily fish oil supplement may decrease the likelihood of migraines in general.
- Don’t Get Hungry/Hangry: Going too long without a nibble can trigger migraines, as sufferers are more likely to react to low blood sugar. So, it’s important to always have a snack with you on-hand. Stash some almonds, an apple or a high-fiber, high-protein bar under 200 calories in your purse or at the office. Eat every 4 hours and you should be fine!
- Acupuncture: Studies, like Cohrane review and the Canadian Medical Association Journal, have shown positive effects between acupuncture and migraines. Seek out a trained professional or ask some friends for referrals.
- Break A Sweat: Performing aerobic exercise regularly has been shown to decrease the frequency of migraines amongst sufferers. Inconsistencies and high-intensity levels can trigger them, so it’s important to get your body used to the sensations. It also leads to better sleep! However, exercise can create tension in other areas of the body, such as the legs, back and neck. To prevent this pain from spreading to the head, be sure to stretch for 10-20 minutes post-workout.
- Mindfulness Mediation: Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that mindfulness meditation can reduce migraine frequency and symptomatic pain. Set aside 10-20 minutes morning or night to let your mind relax, joining mind and body in peaceful harmony.
- Drink Enough Water: dehydration can trigger migraines, so it’s critical to carry a bottle with you and take sips throughout the day. Avoid sugary drinks and caffeine—stick to good ol’ H2O. Aim for 9 cups/day for women and 13 for men, and perhaps more depending on your level of physical activity.
- Reap Riboflavin Benefits: Aka B2, this vitamin keeps energy stores high, a need to offset migraines. Adding rich foods to your diet, such as lean meat, mushrooms, cruciferous and leafy green vegetables, and fortified cereals could reduce risk. If you find it hard to incorporate enough onto your plate, you may want to pop a supplement.
- Get Water Through Food: Eating foods like watermelon and cucumbers, both of which have a high volume of water and nutritional value, keep your body hydrated. Fresh fruits and vegetables offer tons of vitamins and fill you up, two factors that can help you maintain a stable, appropriate weight. Obesity and weight fluctuations can increase inflammation and cause migraine symptoms.
- Prioritize Potassium: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut water, and leafy greens are great sources. This mineral treats migraines by rebalancing electrolyte stores and keeping us hydrated. Be wary of bananas—they can trigger migraines!
- Go Greek: Eating a plain Greek yogurt will give you the calcium you need for proper brain function, and it will help balance out your gut, promoting healthy bacteria and smooth digestion. Gut health can cause inflammation if it’s out of whack, and this will contribute to migraine pain.
- FeverFew Supplements: This can be a bit controversial, but some studies have shown benefits in reducing migraine pain and endurance.
- Get Spicy: Capsaicin, found in cayenne peppers, can halt migraine symptoms. It also comes in a cream form—put a dab in the corners of your nostrils to interfere with nerve pain. Creams can be found at local health stores.
- Grab Some Ginger: An anti-inflammatory and nausea reducer, it alleviates migraine tension. Put some in a smoothie, mix it in a veggie stir-fry, add it to some hot herbal or green tea, or carry around ginger candies for a shot of relief.