Naturopathy for Headaches & Migraines
What are the symptoms of migraines?
The symptoms of headaches and migraines include:
- Head pain. The pain can feel throbbing, aching, pounding, sharp, dull, shooting, squeezing or just pressure. It can be on one or both sides of your head. It can also be behind your eyes.
- Visual changes. Migraine sufferers can experience blurred vision or auras. They are also sensitive to light.
- Nausea and vomiting. Migraine pain can be so severe that it triggers nausea and vomiting.
- Sensitivity to noise. Migraine patients often want to be alone and in the dark.
- Sensitivity to odours.
What causes headaches & migraines?
There are several possible causes for headaches & migraines:
- Magnesium deficiency
- Low blood sugar
- Caffeine or caffeine withdrawal
- B vitamin deficiency
- Histamine intolerance
- Food sensitivities
- MTHFR mutation
- Increased prostaglandins
- Nerve inflammation
Lack of magnesium
Magnesium allows your muscles to relax, while calcium helps them to contract. Muscle tension headaches may be due to something as simple as a lack of magnesium.
Hypoglycemia or Low Blood Sugar
Blood sugar dips from not eating the right foods regularly can cause headaches. Diet changes like eating protein with each meal can help you stabilize your blood sugar. Supporting your adrenal glands also helps to maintain stable blood sugar.
Caffeine or caffeine withdrawal
Caffeine constricts your blood vessels. For headaches from dilated blood vessels, having a cup of coffee sometimes helps relieve the pain. This is because the caffeine constricts the blood vessels. For those trying to quit coffee, you can experience caffeine withdrawal headaches.
B vitamin deficiencies
A deficiency of the B vitamins, particularly vitamins B2, B6, folate and B12, contributes to migraines. Supplementing with these B’s helps prevent migraine attacks.
Histamine is found in higher amounts in certain foods such as packaged foods, leftovers, wine and aged foods like cheese. Some people lack sufficient DAO enzyme in their gut to break down dietary histamine efficiently. Chronic daily headaches can be the result of too much histamine because of a DAO deficiency.
If your immune system is producing antibodies against certain foods, that creates inflammation. That inflammation can affect your brain and your blood vessels. Inflammation creates pain and pressure. Through testing for and removing food sensitivities I have helped people with chronic, daily migraines find relief.
MTHFR C677T variant
This genetic variant has been linked to an increased risk of migraines with aura. There is genetic testing that can be done to determine whether you carry this genetic mutation.
High prostaglandin levels are associated with menstrual migraines. Prostaglandins are chemicals that your body makes that are either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Through diet and supplementation, we can better balance out the inflammatory prostaglandins.
Increased reactive oxygen species contribute to inflammation that aggravates headaches and migraines. Certain antioxidants like vitamin C can help. Vitamin C is also a natural anti-histamine if your migraines are related to excess histamine.
The hormonal instability at menopause and perimenopause is associated with an increased frequency of menstrual migraines. This is also new onset of migraines in women at this time. Women are generally more susceptible to migraines, suggesting a link to hormone imbalance.
Natural Treatment of Headaches and Migraines
Naturopathy treatment for headaches or migraines includes:
- Addressing magnesium deficiency
- Stabilizing blood sugar through diet and adrenal gland support
- Reducing or eliminating caffeine intake
- Addressing B vitamin deficiencies
- Reducing histamine intake from foods, supplement DAO enzyme
- Testing for and eliminate food sensitivities
- Supplementation to offset problems caused by MTHFR variant
- Reducing inflammatory prostaglandins with vitamin E, Evening Primrose Oil or fish oil
- Supplementing vitamin C or other antioxidants to scavenge reactive oxygen species
- Balancing hormones, regardless of your age
For naturopathic treatment for this or any other health problem, book an appointment here or call the clinic for more information at 416-481-0222.
Authored by Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND
Headaches and Migraines Research
Shahrami A, Assarzadegan F, Hatamabadi HR, Asgarzadeh M, Sarehbandi B, Asgarzadeh S. Comparison of therapeutic effects of magnesium sulfate vs. dexamethasone/metoclopramide on alleviating acute migraine headache. J Emerg Med. 2015 Jan;48(1):69-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2014.06.055. Epub 2014 Sep 30.
Wantke F, Götz M, Jarisch R. Histamine-free diet: treatment of choice for histamine-induced food intolerance and supporting treatment for chronic headaches. Clin Exp Allergy. 1993 Dec;23(12):982-5.
Menon S, Lea RA, Ingle S, Sutherland M, Wee S, Haupt LM, Palmer M, Griffiths LR. Effects of dietary folate intake on migraine disability and frequency. Headache. 2015 Feb;55(2):301-9. doi: 10.1111/head.12490. Epub 2015 Jan 19.
Shaik MM, Gan SH. Vitamin supplementation as possible prophylactic treatment against migraine with aura and menstrual migraine. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:469529. doi: 10.1155/2015/469529. Epub 2015 Feb 28.
Ibrahimi K, Couturier EG, MaassenVanDenBrink A. Migraine and perimenopause. Maturitas. 2014 Aug;78(4):277-80. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2014.05.018. Epub 2014 Jun 2.