If you’re one of the one billion people worldwide who suffer from migraines, you’re probably very intrigued right now to hear that there are things you can do to naturally help reduce the severity or frequency of your migraines!
Let’s start with a basic rundown of what migraines are.
Migraines often start with the appearance of an “aura” which can be a spot in your vision, or in my case when I used to be a migraine sufferer, it showed as twinkly stars in one side of my field of vision. The aura is the warning bell that you are about to experience a full blown migraine, with symptoms such as severe head pain, nausea, vomiting, and light sensitivity. This pain and its accompanying symptoms can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days.
So what is causing your migraines?
The causes vary from person to person, but 4 common causes are
- Food sensitivities (amines)
- Neck misalignment
Sometimes it is a combination of two or more of the above causes, which can make it tricky for people to figure out their own triggers. You should speak to your doctor to determine the possible causes of your migraines.
For hormone triggers there is usually a pattern such as migraines during menstrual cycles. Stress is an easier trigger to pick as we tend to know when we are under increased pressure that leads to a migraine (a good sign to slow down and take a break!). Neck misalignment requires assessment by your doctor who may recommend appropriate treatment. Lastly though, is the food sensitivity migraine.
My migraines were caused by food sensitivities, and by eliminating two foods from my diet, I’ve never had a migraine since!
So what are these foods?
It can vary person to person, but the main linking factor is the amine content of foods.
Amines are naturally occurring compounds in foods that are formed by the breakdown of proteins. Some of us (specifically migraine patients) appear to have a reduced capacity for our enzymes to deal with foods that are high in amines. For myself, it was an inability to break down chocolate and bananas. If I had a chocolate binge at night, I would wake up the next morning with a full-blown migraine.
Some people are affected by all foods that have high levels of amines, such as cheese, wine, chocolate, bananas, avocado, soy sauce, and mushrooms. The list of foods is quite long, so the best advice is to stick to a low amine diet with fresh foods (amine content increases as food ages) and slowly introduce high amine foods back into your diet one by one, checking for headache responses as you go. If a certain food that is known to be high in amines gives you a headache, it should go on your “do not eat” list. If you need help figuring out what your triggers are, I would suggest you visit your health practitioner of choice for some guidance and support.
Acupuncture has been determined to be an effective treatment choice for migraine prophylaxis. Source: The Acupuncture Evidence Project.
NB It is not advisable to try and diagnose yourself. See your health care practitioner for individualised advice and treatment plans.
Photo credit: Anna Dziubinska