Migraine headaches can ruin your life. A debilitating migraine makes you unable to focus on anything besides the horrible pain inside your head.
About 37 million Americans suffer migraines. They’re more common among women – about one woman in six gets migraines compared to about one in seven men.
And pain is only part of the discomfort. A migraine can lead to nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to sounds and light. Even worse, episodes can last days.
So far, conventional medicine hasn’t been that much help to migraine sufferers. A survey of people who get migraines shows that only about 40% are satisfied with the available over-the-counter and prescription medicines that are supposed to offer relief.
I’ve got a couple of ideas for them that are worth a try. They’ve brought relief to a great many people.
Research has now linked folks’ overall diet to migraines. This finding is in addition to “trigger” foods that have long been known to bring on a headache in some people.
For instance, research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center shows that young adults and teens who suffer migraines are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D, riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).1
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that taking nutritional supplements containing those nutrients can clear up migraines for everyone, but to keep up your health, supplements with those nutrients are a good idea.
“Further studies are needed to elucidate whether vitamin supplementation is effective in migraine patients in general, and whether patients with mild deficiency are more likely to benefit from supplementation,” says researcher Suzanne Hagler, M.D.
Dr. Hagler’s study showed that female subjects in her research were more likely to have lower levels of CoQ10, while the males more frequently were short of vitamin D. Another finding: Those who suffered “chronic” migraines (defined as having more than 15 headache days a month) were more likely to be low in CoQ10 and riboflavin than people who suffered “episodic” headaches (less than 15 headache days a month).
Eat Better Fats
Another study – this one at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine – shows that changing the fats in your diet, along with other dietary changes, may help control migraines.
According to these researchers, two ways to reduce migraines is to avoid trigger foods and drinks that set off a migraine,2 and to follow a diet with fewer processed foods and more omega-3 fats (the types of fats found in fish oil.)3
In this research, a review that incorporates the results of 180 other studies, you can set off a headache by drinking too much caffeine – more than 400 milligrams a day (a cup of coffee has 125) — as well as too little (by skipping your usual coffee, for instance).
And so can consuming MSG (monosodium glutamate), a flavoring added to processed foods like canned soups, salad dressing, ketchup, seasoned salt, barbecue sauce, Chinese food and snack foods.
“You eliminate (MSG) by eating fewer processed foods,” says researcher Vincent Martin. “You (should) eat more natural things such as fresh vegetables, fresh fruits and fresh meats. MSG is most provocative when consumed in liquids such as soups.”
Other problematic food ingredients include nitrites – preservatives added to sausage, bacon, lunch meat and ham. Alcohol can also lead to headaches. Vodka and red wine are the drinks reported to be the most common triggers.
The three diets that have been found to most reliably control headaches are low-carb diets, low-fat diets and diets with more omega-3 fats and fewer omega-6s from vegetable oils. Flaxseed oil, which contains omega-3s, seems to be okay.
It all makes sense, if you think about it: Eating more fruits and vegetables and ditching processed food is always a good idea, no matter what your health issues are.