Migraines are brutal. They can be caused by hormonal shifts, stress, allergies, weather changes, lack of sleep, poor diet, the list goes on. They can feel like a dull soreness, throbbing or stabbing pain. They can last days. Migraines can cause dizziness, nausea and so much more. Instead of covering up the pain, I chose to search for natural answers to combat the root of these symptoms rather than medicate. Here I will share with you the ways that I have found relief through the years.
Suffering from migraines is a particularly brutal experience that I have been managing for over 20 years and I finally have them under control. They started when I was a teenager and seemed to be allergy related and cigarette smoking induced, but that was not all.
I have learned some tricks along the way that I would love to share if they can be of help to anyone. I will tell you where I got each one if I can remember. Please don’t take this as medical advice, talk to your doctor* before trying. I am going to start with what I eliminated.
–Quitting smoking (duh) was a big relief for my migraines. The regularity greatly decreased as I was no longer making my blood thicker or causing my blood vessels to constrict 20x/day. I happened to have a brain aneurysm/surgery at the end of 2013 which was what finally got me to quit. I suggest not waiting for something like that. Quitting smoking is the best gift you can give yourself. When you realize that you are enslaved to that chemical garbage and it rules your life you will be so disgusted with yourself and it will make it much easier to quit. You suck into your lungs chemicals made to cause addiction. That makes all of us (former and current) pathetic suckers, literally. Get yourself on the other side and help others out if you can.
–Cut out or greatly reduce your sugar intake. I have never cut out sugar completely, but I have greatly reduced my intake and since then I have had such migraine relief. Now, if I consume too much sugar for my body I immediately experience a migraine. It’s incredible that I can hear my body talking to me, telling me that it’s too much. This is not only with sugar. For you it may be wheat or something else that triggers you. The most important point is to listen to your body and follow the connections. Consider keeping a food/migraine journal until you figure out your triggers. A plant-based whole food diet is key to healthy living.
–Hair weight/scalp sensitivity. I know this sounds strange, but I have been cutting my hair to donate it every 2ish years since I was 18 years old. I am about to cut it for the 9th time. Now, since I keep track of my headaches I was able to see that my headaches are so much worse in the months before I cut my hair. I know not everyone is going to run and get a dramatic hair cut to reduce headaches. When my hair gets long enough that it contributes to my headaches, but not long enough to donate (10-12 inches beyond a low pony) I have found that a loose braid is the best way to gently pull your hair back without hurting your scalp. If you are looking to donate your hair I have used: Locks of Love, Children With Hair Loss and Pantene Beautiful Lengths (they are not taking donations any longer, as of 2018).
–Constipation: This can cause migraines along with many other problems. Some tips to avoid constipation are hydration, increase the fiber in your diet as well as water-rich foods, look into a magnesium supplement, probiotic and workout daily. There are some yoga flows that are beneficial, just search yoga for digestion.
–Hydration! Starting your day with lemon water increases your alkalinity, improves digestion, boosts your vitamin c intake, improves your skin and can freshen your breath among other benefits. Make sure you are getting the proper amount of water daily for your height/weight. Dehydration is a common cause for headache and so easy to avoid for those of us who have access to potable water. You should be drinking 1/2-1oz. of water for every pound that you weigh: You weigh 150lb, drink at least 75oz which is about 2.5qt.
-Yoga/prayer/meditation. Practicing yoga every day helps me avoid headaches of all kinds. I can tell very quickly the difference if I miss a couple of days. If you suffer from TMJ, the best yoga flow that I have found for it- Google “Yoga for TMJ Eckhart”. It is a great pre-bed flow. In general, stretching and staying loose, especially around the back/neck is very helpful. Prayer and meditation will also help you with migraines triggered by stress/anxiety.
–Breath work can be very helpful for migraines as well. A simple way to do this is to slow your breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on taking the breath deeper into your belly and fully exhaling slowly. You can feel your whole body relax. This is also very helpful to get deeper into meditation.
–Supplements: I went to a migraine specialist who (mostly) focuses first on natural remedies. For the causes of migraine in my case my doctor suggested B-6, Butterbur, CoQ10 and Vitamin D. I stuck with all of these, upgrading the B-6 to a B Complex. For the Vitamin D supplement I had to try many different brands before finding one that didn’t make me feel dizziness and painful exhaustion. I ended up finding one without Vitamin K (most brands add K with D) that doesn’t cause those issues. I believe that since Vitamin K helps your blood clot, perhaps it was causing some issues around the area in my brain where I had the aneurysm which has since formed an embolization. This is why it is important to listen to your body.
-Allergies: A doctor also suggested I take Cetirizine all year round as opposed to spring only because I am allergic to dogs and I had one at the time. The cetirizine (generic Zyrtec) was helpful, but I am now attempting to get off of it. I have idiopathic hives when I stop taking it for a day, so that is my next medical investigation I will be performing on myself. Will keep you posted.
-For migraines that you can attribute to tight neck muscles my specialist prescribed small doses of tizanidine (muscle relaxer) when a headache comes on, along with 2mg before bed for helping with TMJ relief. This is for when yoga/stretching are not enough. I have been able to completely get off of this medication, but it was effective when I needed it.
–Pressure points– massaging in the fatty part between your thumb and forefinger can be helpful. Also massaging your temples. If possible, massage in general will help, especially when your migraine is triggered by muscle tension.
-Warm water with 1tsp. pink Himalayan salt and half of 1 lemon has helped me many times. Similarly some people say a swig of pickle juice helps them which I tried once out of desperation at a bar and it worked almost as well.
-For ocular migraines: If you experience these, you know. I started experiencing these after my aneurysm surgery. You get an aura of light in one or both eyes and then, for me a day-long migraine and nausea. As soon as I start to see the light effect I take 2 ibuprofen and lay down with my eyes closed. If I catch it early enough I won’t get the all day migraine that usually follows.
–Essential oils: Some helpful oils are peppermint, lavender and chamomile.
-Heat or ice therapy: Depending on the cause of the migraine it can be very helpful to put a small ice pack on the forehead or put a heating pad on your shoulders/neck.
I will add more to this list as I find tricks that work. The most important point to take from this is to take control of your health and do your own research. It is so important that you listen to your body and get to the root of what is causing the migraine, not to just cover up the symptoms. Covering symptoms will likely lead to bigger problems in the future.
*When choosing a doctor I hope you will first look for a naturopath. A doctor’s hippocratic oath, “first do no harm” seems to have been lost in medicine. I have gone through many doctors, when they look to cover symptoms with pharmaceuticals before trying to figure out what the root cause of the problem is they get the pink slip. The human body is amazing and when cared for properly through a healthy diet, spirituality or meditation and exercise it will protect and heal itself. Your doctor works for you, find out where they stand on this very important issue and keep searching until you find one that you can trust.
Please share in the comments if you have any tips that will help others with their migraine struggles!
Feel good and have a great day!