Migraine – A migraine headache can cause intense throbbing or a pulsing sensation in one area of the head and is commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. (via the Mayo Clinic)
Somehow, this clinical definition doesn’t seem to fully describe the excruciating pain and inability to tolerate the sound of my children’s voices last week. Days later I still have some pain and soreness. While rare now, these headaches where once a frequent part of my life. I am grateful for all have learned since I was that college kid huddled in a dark shower with my eyes closed in pain.
It is estimated that more than 37 million Americans suffer from migraines. The majority of them are women. This may be due to hormones changes in our bodies. Stress and diet also play a role. Here are five tips for preventing migraines.
1. Find your triggers – For many of us, there are triggers to our migraines. The best way to find these is to keep a journal. Write down what you eat and how you feel about 20 minutes after doing so. In a few weeks you may begin to recognize patterns to your pain. You can also use a headache diary such as this one.
Common triggers include hormone changes, alcohol, food (peanut butter, sugar, etc), food additives (dyes and preservatives, especially MSG) and caffeine.
2. Exercise – Physical activity can be a great stress reliever, which can help prevent migraines. However, strenuous exercise and dehydration can cause headaches, so be aware of your body’s response. If you are unsure whether exercise induces pain I suggest starting slowly. Yoga is great for reducing tension and increasing blood flow throughout the body.
3. Drink Water – As mentioned above, dehydration is often a headache trigger. Try to avoid beverages that contain caffeine. Instead drink water and herbal teas. Fruit-infused water is a great if you are looking for flavor.
4. Eat a Whole Food Diet – Whole, unprocessed foods are best for general health, this includes prevention of migraines. The chemicals added to processed foods are often triggers for migraines. This is especially true in the case of MSG (monosodium glutamate), a food additive used to enhance flavor. Nitrates, a chemical found in processed, has also been linked to migraines.
5. Control Stress – Stress is a well-known migraine trigger. This may be related to a rise in the stress hormone, cortisol. Regardless of the biochemical cause, reducing stress is essential to preventing migraines. Stress reduction methods include; yoga, meditation, prayer, warm baths with lavendar oil and time spent with friends.
However, sometimes these methods are not enough or life gets in the way. This happened to me last week. In this situation, I hope these ideas help you recover more quickly.
Reducing Migraine Pain
- hot shower in a dimly lit bathroom
- Rub peppermint and lavender essential oil on temples, base of skull and base of neck. Follow with DMSO if you have it available.
- SLEEP – this is the best way to recover
Severe migraine attacks are classified by the World Health Organization as among the most disabling illnesses, comparable to dementia, quadriplegia and active psychosis (Shapiro & Goadsby, Cephalalgia, September 2007). Be kind to yourself when dealing with a migraine.