Do you ever wonder what the root cause of your migraine is? Likely not in the middle of having one! Maybe you’ve tried medications that treat your migraine problem, but it’s only a temporary fix. This is where integrative medicine comes in. Integrative medicine is a healing approach by root cause; not by symptom. And the root cause of migraines may not even start in the head.
First of all, what is a migraine? Migraines are severe headaches that can occur anywhere from once a year to four times a week. Migraines can last for hours and up to days, with people experiencing light sensitivity, nausea, vomiting, and severe throbbing pain. Apart from adding between 13 to 17 billion dollars to our health care costs each year, headaches are the most frequent pain-related complaint among workers.
While more than 10 million Americans have migraines, the reasons for migraines are not all the same. Migraines can be caused by a variety of issues:
- Hormonal fluctuations. Too much estrogen and too little progesterone can cause premenstrual migraines in women. Otherwise, hormonal imbalances can be caused by stress, little sleep and exercise, in addition to high alcohol, sugar, flour, and starch intake.
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Some people may suffer from migraines because they do not consume enough Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and Coenzyme Q-10, which both improve energy metabolism, or magnesium, which helps to relax.
- Food sensitivities and allergies. Some people go through life with an undiagnosed allergy or sensitivity that creates inflammation and therefore persistent migraines.
- Low blood sugar. Your body needs glucose or energy, and fluctuations in glucose levels can result in a headache or even a migraine.
- Stress. Stress can trigger a lack of breathing, high blood pressure, and tension, which can lead to a migraine.
There are several risk factors of migraines such as family history, hormonal changes, sex (women are more likely to have migraines), and age (migraines peak during your 30s).
There are several ways to manage migraines and headaches before resorting to drugs.
- Balance your hormones. Eliminating caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, as well as exercising are important in balancing your hormones. A diet full of empty calories and quickly absorbed sugar creates high insulin levels and inflammation.
- Eat and take your vitamins. As mentioned before, Vitamin B2, Coenzyme Q-10, and magnesium are important in fighting migraines. Foods rich in Vitamin B2 include salmon, eggs, oysters, clams, and mussels. Coenzyme Q-10 can be found in fatty fish, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, and peanuts. Foods high in magnesium include wheat germ, dry beans, pumpkin seeds, nuts, and even dark chocolate.
- Eat frequently. Eating frequently minimizes fluctuations in blood sugar.
- Deep breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing and the 4-7-8 breathing technique can reduce stress, decreasing the number and severity of migraines and headaches.
- Chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage therapy. Chiropractic care adjusts patients to reduce joint restrictions or misalignments; by increasing joint mobility and improving your nervous system function and spinal health, individuals can better manage the pain caused by migraines and tension headaches. In a systematic review of 22 clinical trials, the frequency of headache is dropped by 50% or more in up to 59% of individuals receiving acupuncture, an effect that can persist for more than 6 months. Massage therapy has also been proven to be effective in reducing the number of headaches per week in chronic tension headache sufferers.
Migraines can often feel like an insurmountable and chronic part of life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The main goals of migraine treatments are to relieve pain, restore function, and reduce frequency. From an integrative medicine perspective, supporting cellular function, avoiding potential triggers, and creating a personalized treatment plan for their migraines are helpful in improving patients’ health.