All of us get an occasional headache – and often the first impulse, when we do, is to reach for the painkillers. However, there are alternatives and most of them are natural and often free. When you feel a headache creeping in, one of the best things to reach for first is a glass or two of water. Dehydration can be a big cause of headaches and even if it’s not in that particular instance, drinking more water can help ease and reduce pain caused by inflammation.
Of the different kinds of headaches, migraine is one of the most difficult to manage as its symptoms can be the most severe including intense or debilitating pain, nausea and/or vomiting and aversion to light.
Research into natural alternatives that may help migraine sufferers reduce the frequency and severity of migraines has found merit in:
1. Regular exercise
In 2011 the University of Gothenburg in Sweden ran a randomized, controlled three-month study which found that 40 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week was as effective at preventing migraines as the preventive migraine medication Topamax. Unlike the medication, exercise had the added benefit of no side effects.
Regular, gentle exercise helps by reducing tension and protecting against stress through the release of those feel-good hormones, endorphins.
It’s important to keep it gentle and regular though because overdoing it is a common trigger of a migraine.
2. Stress management including getting more sleep
Both of these have a beneficial impact on the frequency of migraines in terms of reducing stress as a risk factor.
3. Incorporating foods rich in vitamins
Incorporate foods rich in Omega-3, magnesium, B2 or riboflavin, CoEnzyme Q10 into your diet or take them in vitamin supplements
- Omega-3, magnesium, B2 or riboflavin are found in fish and in varying nuts and seeds, soybeans and black beans as well as other foods.
- Omega-3 fatty acids protect brain cells and reduce inflammation, which is thought may help to reduce the pain, frequency and duration associated with migraines.
- B2 helps protect cells from oxidative damage and may have a role in reducing migraine occurrence.
- CoQ10 increases blood flow to the brain improves circulation and also protects cells from that same oxidative damage. It also helps stabilise blood sugar which is important as low blood sugar can be a major trigger for many migraine sufferers.
- Magnesium helps relax nerves and muscles and transmits nerve impulses throughout the body and brain and so this mineral is regarded as beneficial in both prevention and reduction of migraines.
Just as migraine triggers can vary from person to person so can symptoms and ways to alleviate them. Hypersensitivity to the smell of foods can count out, for example, massaging pressure points with lavender essential oil for some people with a migraine, whereas others in online forums swear by it.
Acupuncture is used successfully by many people to alleviate migraine pain and is gaining increasing credibility as an option worth considering.