According to a recent report, the prevalence of a migraine in the US is even 20 % (R)
Conventionally, migraine is treated with prophylaxis, painkillers, and opioids. However, these sometimes come with adverse side effects. For example, every day more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. (R)
There are also plenty of science-backed natural ways to treat a migraine and normally without harmful side effects. This article provides some tips and tools for managing migraines and headaches naturally.
Insomnia is one of the major causes or migraine and often co-occurs with stress. It is not only important to get enough hours of sleep but also optimize the sleep quality and get enough uninterrupted REM sleep, deep sleep and light sleep each night.
Tools to ensure good quality night sleep:
- Magnesium glycinate 300-600 mg (supports deep sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA)
- Regular sleep timing (follow your chronobiology)
- Avoiding stimulants 4-hours prior to sleep (coffee, chocolate (theobromine), ginseng, cordyceps etc)
- Read my post on 30 tips for better sleep
2. Supplements for migraine: Ubiquinol (CoQ10), magnesium and B2-vitamin
Ubiquinol, magnesium, and B2-vitamin are added to the current care guidelines for preventing migraines in Finnish healthcare. Take lab tests especially from your Q10 levels. They are sometimes too low for migraineurs and can explain some of the headaches. These supplements have shown to be helpful for migraines:
- Ubiquinol 100 mg
- High-quality Magnesium
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B complex
4. CBD and CBD-A oils (cannabis oil)
Within the past few decades, the popularity of CBD in treating chronic pain has grown very fast. Its research with a migraine is limited but very promising.
For example, in one study of 48 people with a migraine, cannabis reduced migraines for almost half of the participants. (R) Also, cannabis compounds may help reducing the usage of opioids for those who suffer from chronic pain (S)
CBD is one of the two main active compounds found in the cannabis plant (the other is THC). CBD, unlike THC, does not have any psychoactive properties – meaning it won’t make you high. CBD interacts with the natural pain-regulating system in the body; the endocannabinoid system. It interacts with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain and nervous system and prevents the break down of anandamide, which can decrease pain sensations. Cannabis oil does not have any negative side effects, unlike opioids, which makes you dependent. You can find cannabis oil in natural and health stores or online.
A purified CBD oil that contains no THC received approval by the FDA in June 2018 to treat two rare and severe types of epilepsy. (S) Migraine and epilepsy are similar in their mechanisms and effects on the nervous system.
4. Hack your coffee, reduce coffee or quit coffee
Coffee can also be a migraine trigger.
If reducing coffee feels too much for you, there are some supplements that smooth out the caffeine spike that might trigger a migraine. L-theanine, for example, increases the alpha waves in the brain, which is associated with relaxation. As a calming agent, it stabilizes the nervous system activation and thus the stimulating effect of the coffee.
Cinnamon and ginger can help in reducing the spike in blood pressure followed by coffee. (S)
- combine with L-Theanine 200 mg
- Use superfood coffee that has less caffeine and stabilizing herbs: https://maisongern.com/
- Add Ceylon cinnamon that declines the spike in blood pressure
Instead of coffee try:
- chaga, cordyceps
- Yearba Mate
Mindfulness teaches you ways to detach yourself from the experience of pain and treat it like any other signal like noise or light.
It is one of the most powerful internal tools in pain management.
For example, you can take an 8-week MBSR course if you have a really strong will to learn techniques for Mindfulness. It is a great way to profoundly learn meditation and work on some underlying emotional issues as well. All these techniques can also be found in the book Full catastrophe living by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Another way is finding meditations from Youtube or downloading a basic meditation App like Headspace.
Also, Learning different meditation techniques might be helpful in order to understand what works best for you. Some other meditation forms that can help in pain management are Focused Attention Meditation and Loving-Kindness meditation.
6. NAC = N-Acetyl Cysteine
N-acetyl cysteine is a new innovative treatment for migraine and there over 20 promising studies about NAC in the prevention of neurological disorders. NAC modulates glutamatergic, neurotrophic, and inflammatory pathways and may prevent excessive glutamate circulating in the brain. Excessive glutamate is associated with migraine pain (S) (S) (S).
- Take 500 mg NAC daily to prevent migraines.
7. Use computer glasses and blue light blockers
Staring at the computer screen for a long time can cause strain to the eyes, which may trigger a migraine. Using yellow-tinted glasses helps – especially if you tend to be on the computer for long periods of time or in the night. Blue light, especially in the night, can prevent the pineal gland to produce melatonin and this has a negative effect also on sleep.
Yellow-tinted glasses block the blue light, which computer screens, phones, and led light emits.
- BluBlox Blue light Blocking glasses (Get -15 % off with the code INKA)
8. Calming herbs: Ashwagandha
Stress is a major trigger of a migraine, so if you learn to prevent stress, you can also prevent some migraines. Ashwagandha a powerful herb and supplement that can decrease stress and anxiety according to many scientific studies (R).
In one study of 64 participants with chronic stress, ashwagandha reduced the biological stress markers and psychological stress for 75% of the participants (S). It also decreases oxidative stress in the brain. (S)(s) Also, it blocks a peptide that is released during the buildup of oxidative stress and prevents a rapid release of glutamate, which is associated with migraines. (S) (s)
9. Breathing and HRV training
Migraine shares many mechanisms with a chronic sympathetic nervous system disorder. Migraine elevated levels of certain neurotransmitters, for example; dopamine, prostaglandins, adenosine triphosphate, and adenosine, which are all linked to SNS-activation. (R)
Learning to mindfully calm down your nervous system might be a very powerful tool for controlling nervous system activation and anxiety related to pain. For example, breathing techniques like boxing breathing and belly breathing are really powerful ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and cultivate emotional balance.
Another way is to use HRV training where you combine breathing and meditation. You can use some Apps like Elite HRV with HRV-sensing belt.
10. Low-carb, dairy-free, sugar-free diet or the ketogenic diet
Certain foods are among the most common triggers for headaches and migraines. They include
- Artificial sweeteners
- Casein (dairy)
- MSG (glutamate)
Avoiding allergens, especially gluten dairy and artificial sweeteners have really helped can help in preventing migraine. From the sweeteners, sucralose has been strongly linked to migraines. (R) Pay close attention to pain medicines, since some (at least in the UK) painkiller often have added sucralose.
A balanced healthy diet not only helps in migraines but helps you maintain your positive mood, energy levels and increase longevity.
Also, the ketogenic diet has shown to be effective in treating epilepsy and there is preliminary evidence that it can help migraineurs as well. Read more in the post: Brain benefits of the ketogenic diet
This post offered 10 tips for natural (non-medication) migraine prevention.
If you have tried some of these and find them especially effective, comment and share!
If you are interested in learning how to reduce headaches with light optimisation, check out the post about: How to prevent migraines with optimizing light