10 ways to manage migraines (…without popping a pill)

About six million people in the UK – ten per cent of the population – suffer from migraines: painful headaches of ten accompanied by nausea, vomiting, visual disturbance and a stiff neck. Sufferers, who include Elle Macpherson, Elizabeth Taylor and Ben Affleck, experience, on average, 13 attacks a year.

There are many medications, both with and without prescription, that can help relieve some of the symptoms but there is, as yet, no cure for migraines. However, by making small changes to your diet and lifestyle you can reduce the frequency and severity of the attacks.

AVOID YOUR TRIGGERS

Keep a diary for a few weeks to see if a pattern emerges. Common migraine triggers include smoking (nicotine is thought to narrow the blood vessels in the brain), too much strenuous exercise, stress, changes in sleep pattern, head and neck pain and dental problems.

WATCH BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS

A drop in blood sugar levels is a common migraine trigger as it leads to glucose being released into the bloodstream, causing blood pressure to rise. Eat regularly every four hours and do not go more than 12 hours overnight without food. Choose foods with a low Glycaemic Index (GI) such as fruit and vegetables, lowfat yogurts and cheeses. Avoid high GI foods such as white breads, pastries, sugary drinks and sweets.

CHECK YOUR CAFFEINE INTAKE

Too much caffeine may cause the blood vessels around the brain to become overly constricted, which can trigger a migraine. More than 300mg of caffeine daily (three cups of ground coffee or five cups of instant) could cause problems. Try cutting down, or switch to decaffeinated drinks. Chocolate also contains caffeine.

WATCH FOR FOOD ADDITIVES

Many sufferers report sensitivity to food additives such as monosodium glutamate (found in sundried tomatoes, parmesan cheese and canned meats), aspartame (an artificial sweetener), tartrazine (yellow dye used to colour fizzy drinks and marzipan), sulphites (found in wine), and sodium benzoate (found in prawns, margarine, soft drinks and sweets).

CHEW GINGER

Chewing raw ginger root can ease the nausea and digestive problems that tend to accompany migraines. Ginger also appears to block the effects of prostaglandins, substances that may cause inflammation of the blood vessels in the brain, leading to migraines.

BOOST SEROTONIN LEVELS

Studies have shown low levels of serotonin in migraine sufferers. Eat protein-rich foods such as chicken, turkey, eggs, dairy foods, bananas, beans, dates, oats, rice, wholegrains, nuts and seeds to boost levels.

DRINK WATER

Dehydration is a common trigger. The tissues surrounding the brain are composed mainly of water. When they lose fluid, they shrink, leading to irritation and pain. Drink between one and two litres of water a day to reduce the severity, duration and frequency of attacks.

TAKE SUPPLEMENTS

5HTP, used to make serotonin (see above), may help to reduce the body’s vulnerability to migraine attacks. Butterbur and Coenzyme Q10 are also believed to help prevent migraines.

EAT MAGNESIUM-RICH FOODS

Too little magnesium is thought to lead to a reduced blood flow to the brain and low blood sugar, both linked to migraine attacks. Fresh green leafy vegetables, tomato puree, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, beans, peas, potatoes, oats and yeast extract all contain magnesium.

TRY YOGA

Yoga induces calm, relieves stress and eases aches and pains. Certain postures relieve stiffness in the neck and shoulders.

source: dailymail.co.uk

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