If you suffer from migraines, you know that managing this painful condition is not an easy task. Migraine headaches typically causes severe, throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, which is typically worse with movement, loud noises, bright lights and strong smells. Often there is nausea, dizziness, and blurred vision. Before the headache starts, some people may experience auras, such as flashing lights or jagged lines gradually moving across the visual field or numbness moving up or down the body. Migraine headaches usually first occur before age 40 and often start in childhood.
No matter what type you have, migraines are associated with pain, disability and diminished quality of life. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to heading off migraine pain, there are simple switches you can make that can lessen the frequency and severity of this debilitation condition.
Simple switch: Recognize your triggers.
You may think you know the cause of your migraines, but by keeping diary, you can home in specifically on the times, routines, foods or external factors that may be contributing to your migraine. Things you may want to track include your exercise routine, the weather, what you eat and drink, when your stress levels spike, when and how long your migraines occur, and any medication side effects. Identifying patterns and behaviors can get your one step closer to understanding – and avoiding – migraine triggers.
Simple switch: Supplement with proper nutrients.
It can be hard to get all the nutrients our bodies need through food alone. Some studies have suggested that certain dietary supplement and vitamins – like magnesium and riboflavin – may be helpful in preventing recurring headaches. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to the onset of migraines, specifically those related to menstruation. Riboflavin or vitamin B-12 has been shown to reduce the frequency and duration of migraine attacks – with no serious side effects noted.
Always check with your doctor before starting any herbal medication or supplement to ensure they won’t interact with any prescribed medications you’re taking.
Simple Switch: Limit or avoid foods known to initiate headaches.
Once you’ve kept a headache diary, you’ll have more information about what foods may trigger a migraine. Certain foods and drinks – like chocolate, red wine, sweeteners, aged cheese, preservatives and processed meets – are the most widely noted migraine triggers. Paying attention to your food choices, limiting what you consume, or eliminating them from your diet could offer significant relief.
Simple Switch: Limit alcohol consumption.
For people who are sensitive to headaches or migraines, even a small amount of alcohol can bring on an attack. If you’ve ever had one too many drinks and felt the effects the next day, that’s completely normal. But for many, just one glass of bubbly, red wine or a stiff cocktail can lead to a serious headache. Dehydration that’s caused by drinking may also play a role. If you decide to imbibe, be sure to sip water along with your beverage.
Simple switch: Stay hydrated.
Because headaches thrive on dehydration, drinking enough water every single day is critical to preventing them. When the amount of fluid your body uses isn’t replenished during the day through eating and drinking, your body can become dehydrated. Dehydration can temporarily cause the brain to shrink or contract, causing pain and triggering a mild headache to a full-on migraine.
As a baseline, drink at least eight cups of water a day and eat fluid-rich foods like cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, watermelon and cantaloupe, strawberries, peaches, and citrus fruits. To make sure you’re drinking enough fluids, sip throughout the day rather than just at meal times or when you’re exercising.
Simple switch: Manage your stress.
We admit, this one might not be so simple. Unregulated stress can have negative effects throughout your body, including increasing the frequency and severity of tension headaches and migraines. Whether it’s through regular exercise, yoga, meditation, or participating in a hobby that relaxes you, finding ways to reduce psychological stress will do your body good.
Simple switch: Stick to strict sleep schedule.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, people who have migraines are between two and eight times more likely than the general public to experience sleep disorders. Sleep loss or oversleeping are common headache triggers, and regular, adequate sleep leads to fewer headaches. Going to bed and waking at the same time every day can help contribute to healthy, restorative sleep. If you’re suffering from sleep issues – like snoring, sleep apnea or teeth grinding – addressing those problems may also help reduce migraines.
Effective management of migraines often includes avoiding triggers, lifestyle modifications, non-pharmacological pain management and prescription medication. If you’ve tried these tips and haven’t found relief, it may be time to talk with your doctor about additional ways to stop the migraines and start living life with less pain. To find a physician in your area, visit CHIMemorialMedicalGroup.org.