What you consume can make a difference
Migraines, which can be debilitating for many, are a serious health issue for millions of Americans. The pain is excruciating, and often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light.
Powerful drugs can treat the acute symptoms of migraine, but overusing these medications can actually increase an individual’s susceptibility to further headaches, creating an ongoing cycle of pain.
Migraine-preventive medications seek to break the cycle of recurrent migraines, but come with a host of side effects. Moreover, finding an effective medication can take months or years.
Some migraine sufferers have found relief by using nutritional and herbal strategies.
Butterbur root extract
- According to Life Extension Foundation (www.lef.org) butterbur root extract has demonstrated impressive efficacy in preventing migraine headaches. Used in Germany as a prescription remedy, this plant extract can reduce the frequency of migraine by 50% when used daily for three to four months.
- Scientists believe that butterbur works by promoting the relaxation of smooth muscle lining cerebral blood vessel walls and by combating inflammation.
- Butterbur also demonstrates efficacy in managing seasonal allergies and asthma.
- A dosage of 50-75 mg of standardized butterbur extract twice daily for up to four months has demonstrated efficacy in migraine prevention, while 50 mg twice daily has been used in the management of allergic rhinitis.17
- Humans should only consume commercially processed butterbur extracts that are free from potentially harmful pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
Purchasing Butterbur: Purchase as a standardized extract from a local health food store or after doing an online search.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, chronic headache sufferers may soon have some new alternatives. The active ingredient in cayenne peppers, capsaicin, is believed to bring headache relief by depleting Substance P, a neurotransmitter that helps send pain signals.
Take 10 teaspoons of cayenne pepper in a glass of water. Endorphins are released by your brain when the cayenne hits your stomach lining.
According to Herbs for Health from Rodale Books, feverfew is an herb that not only relieves migraine pain, it decreases the frequency of attacks.
Warning: Do not use any feverfew product made with dried feverfew. It won’t help your migraines, and may actually make them worse.
Instead, buy feverfew tincture…or use capsules that contain freeze-dried feverfew leaves. The recommended daily dosage is 15 drops of the tincture or three 300-mg capsules per day.
Other nutritional therapies may combine with butterbur’s activity to prevent migraine headaches. Among the best studied and most promising of these are riboflavin (vitamin B2) and ginger.
The omega-3 fatty acid you get from fish oil capsules helps stop the inflammation that causes headaches. Eating fatty fish like mackerel, salmon or tuna gives you a tastier alternative to pills.
Ginger has long been valued for its ability to combat inflammation, nausea, and pain. As such, it is ideally poised for combating the many manifestations of migraine—ranging from head pain to vomiting. Importantly, ginger acts effectively in relieving acute symptoms as well as a preventive therapy.
Scientists have found that ginger works via numerous mechanisms to fight inflammation and pain. Ginger inhibits the proinflammatory cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX) pathways that can contribute to acute and recurrent pain. These properties have led researchers to conclude that “ginger may exert abortive and prophylactic effects in migraine without any side effects.”
Riboflavin is a B vitamin that is crucial to mitochondrial energy production. Researchers have discovered that patients who suffer from migraines have depleted mitochondrial energy reserves between attacks.21 Riboflavin helps increase neuronal energy production and has been shown to be effective as migraine-preventive therapy.
A randomized trial of 55 migraine sufferers found that those who consumed 400 mg of riboflavin daily for three months experienced a dramatic reduction in migraine headaches. Nearly 60% of those who received riboflavin saw a 50% or greater reduction in the number of migraines per month.
Vitamins and minerals
A little more of the following may mean the difference between a migraine and no pain.
Magnesium. A deficiency can contribute to migraines. Sources of magnesium are oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, broccoli, peas, shrimp and skim milk.
Riboflavin. Take 400 mg of this B vitamin daily to cut the number of migraines you get in half. Food sources are milk, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin D and calcium. This dynamic duo has helped women who get migraines during their period.
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