What are Migraine Headaches?
Migraine headaches are severe headaches that are generally accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and/or sound. People with recurrent migraines may not be able to continue with normal daily activity during an attack. Attacks typically last several hours, and sometimes persist for several days.
Migraines might be preceded by prodromes (physical and/or psychological changes) or auras (sensory and/or movement disturbances) hours or even days before their onset. People who experience these phenomena may be able to prevent the headache from fully manifesting.
Natural interventions such as butterbur root and coenzyme Q10 may help prevent and provide relief for migraine headaches.
What Causes Migraine Headaches?
Note: The causes of migraine headaches are complex and not entirely understood. Possible causes include:
- Low serotonin levels
- Hormonal imbalances (which may account for the disproportionate number of women who suffer from migraines)
What are Conventional Medical Treatments for Migraine Headaches?
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and/or mild analgesics such as acetaminophen, sometimes combined with caffeine
- Triptan drugs (eg, sumatriptan, rizatriptan)
- Other drugs such as ergot alkaloids, opioids, and corticosteroids
Preventive treatments (generally for frequent recurring migraines):
- Blood pressure medications
- Tricyclic antidepressants
What Dietary and Lifestyle Changes Can Be Beneficial for Migraine Headaches?
- Avoid headache triggers (common triggers include nicotine, monosodium glutamate, nitrites, and red wine). Keep a migraine diary to track and pinpoint triggers.
- Reduce stress
- Improve sleep hygiene
- Relaxation, massage, chiropractic manipulation, etc.
- Get sufficient exercise and stretch frequently
What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for Migraine Headaches?
- Butterbur root. Butterbur extracts possess analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and vasodilatory properties. Standardized butterbur extract has been shown to be safe and effective for preventing migraines and was recommended by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and American Headache Society (AHS).
- Coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an important component of cellular energy production. Highly active areas, such as the brain, may rapidly deplete stores. Supplemental CoQ10 has been shown to be beneficial for preventing and reducing the frequency of migraines.
- Riboflavin. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is effective for preventing migraines among both children and adults. This may be due in part to its ability to enhance mitochondrial energy production.
- Feverfew. Feverfew inhibits the production of several inflammatory mediators that may be involved in migraine onset, suggesting it may be promising in managing migraine attacks.
- Magnesium. Magnesium deficiency has been linked with multiple processes implicated in migraine pathology. Studies with magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide showed the incidence and severity of migraines was reduced with supplementation. Magnesium-L-threonate is another form of magnesium that may better penetrate the central nervous system.
- Melatonin. Melatonin levels are often low in migraine patients, especially during an attack. Some preliminary clinical studies showed melatonin supplementation improved symptoms and reduced number of attacks.
- S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). SAMe takes part in a variety of biochemical processes in the body, especially in the central nervous system. Long-term supplementation with SAMe may relieve pain among migraine sufferers, possibly due to its ability to increase serotonin.
- L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin. Dietary tryptophan depletion exacerbates migraine symptoms, and an older clinical study showed supplementation was effective for preventing migraine attacks.
- Other natural interventions that may benefit migraines sufferers include ginkgo biloba, lipoic acid, vitamin B6, and ginger.