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Migraine Symptoms and How to Naturally Heal Them
- Migraines are more common than you think. In fact, around 37 million Americans experience migraines every year, with almost five million having at least one attack per month.
- A migraine can be caused by a range of factors, including high inflammation levels, changes in neurotransmitter levels and nerve signals, the presence of excess hormones, and overwhelming levels of anxiety or stress.
- Scientists are beginning to discover strong connections between the presence of certain genetics, and the likelihood of suffering from migraine attacks – particularly in genes related to the vascular system.
- The common symptoms of migraines can follow a pattern of four stages: Prodome, Aura, Headache, and Postdrome. Different people often experience different responses to migraine attacks.
- There are a number of natural ways in which people can fight back against migraines, either by reducing their frequency, or limiting the intensity of the symptoms involved. From supplemental remedies that involve magnesium and vitamin B complex, to therapeutic solutions and dietary changes.
How Common Are Migraines?
While migraines are definitely less common than standard or “tension” headaches – they still represent a significant health issue for millions of people. In fact, migraine headaches are recognized as one of the most common health conditions in the world. These debilitating pain experiences are more prevalent than asthma, epilepsy, and diabetes combined, and represent one of the top causes of disability among adults in America.
Each year, around 37 million Americans experience migraines, with nearly five million getting at least one migraine attack a month. Overall, approximately 15% of the world’s population currently suffer with some form of migraine. Despite the overwhelming presence of migraines in our society, these problems are still some of the most poorly diagnosed and misunderstood disorders in the medical world. Perhaps one of the primary reasons behind this, is the fact that the symptoms for migraines can differ widely.
What Causes Migraines?
Before we begin to look closer at the symptoms of migraines and how to cure them naturally, let’s examine the cause of these severe headaches. While at this time, the full range of potential causes isn’t fully understood, most scientists agree that genetics, and environmental factors play a role.
At a basic level, migraine headaches are caused by the presence of abnormal neurological events that connect with changes in nerve signaling, blood flow, and muscle function. Usually, the symptoms of a migraine are triggered by a range of different factors including lack of sleep, dysfunction or damage to the brain stem as a result of previous illnesses and injuries, and more. Just some of the aspects that might lead to migraines include:
- Higher levels of inflammation within the brain that affect normal blood vessel function and blood flow.
- Changes in neurotransmitter levels and nerve signals that lead to pain. This can include the presence of lower serotonin levels and changes to the trigeminal nerve – which is responsible for releasing substances known as “neuropeptides”.
- Stress or anxiety
- Changes in hormones – potentially caused by a change in diet or the presence of a particular health condition.
- Side-effects or reactions to medications – particularly those that affect hormones, nerves, and blood pressure.
- A deficiency in vitamin B. One particular study found that vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid supplements could produce a reduction in migraine symptoms over a period of six months.
The Role of Genetics in Migraines
Recently, researches have begun to recognize the presence of specific genes that might impact the development of migraines within the human body. While differences in DNA might not directly cause migraines – they can push the body to behave differently, which increases the likelihood that migraines will affect you. For example, mutations identified in GWAS analyses have been found to contribute to an accumulation of glutamate. Glutamate is a crucial neurotransmitter responsible for moving messages throughout the body, and too many messages can trigger a migraine attack.
A meta-analysis of 29 genome association studies discovered five genetic regions all linked to the presence of migraines and migraine susceptibility. What’s more, a recent study conducted by an international research consortium has identified around thirty new risk factors in genetics that might contribute to the common migraine. Many of these genes are responsible for regulating the vascular system, and the results of these studies further support the theory that abnormal blood vessel functioning could drive migraine attacks.
Headache or Migraine? The Common Symptoms of Migraines
So what differentiates a migraine from a standard headache? In most circumstances, migraines are far more severe, and can last for a lot longer than a standard headache. Beyond that, they can also include the presence of symptoms that move far beyond head pain, and cover a range of areas throughout the body. Most medical professionals categorize the symptoms of migraines in four stages:
During the Prodome stage, which usually occurs one or two days before a migraine, you might experience changes to your wellbeing that indicate an upcoming migraine. These symptoms may include:
- Unusual cravings for food
- Changes or loss of appetite
- Mood changes (some people switch between euphoria and depression)
- Stiffness around the neck and jawline
- Increased urination and thirst
- Frequent yawning or exhaustion
Following the Prodome stage, some people will experience the “Aura” level of a migraine headache, which might occur either before or during the migraine itself. Importantly, it is possible to have a migraine without going through the aura stage. Most of the time, auras involve symptoms that relate to the nervous systems, and may include visual disturbances such as wavy vision, or flashes. Sometimes, auras can also have a sensory, motor, or verbal impact, leading to a number of different and uncomfortable conditions. Examples of aura symptoms may include:
- Difficulty speaking
- Vision loss or blurring
- Visual phenomena – such as seeing bright spots or shapes
- Weakness around one side of the body or face
- Trouble hearing noises
- Difficulty controlling your movements
The actual migraine attack can last anywhere between four and seventy-two hours when left untreated. Usually, the frequency with which headaches and other pains occur will vary from one person to the next, and some people may find that their migraines strike several times each month. During the attack stage, you might experience:
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Dizziness, shakiness, or weakness
- Blurred vision
- Vomiting and nausea
- Sensitivity to various stimuli including touch, smells, sounds, and light
- Pain that throbs and pulses
- Pain in either one or both sides of the head
The last stage of a typical migraine is known as “Postdrome” and it takes place following the attack. Usually, after someone has suffered a migraine, they’ll find themselves feeling washed out and exhausted. In fact, you might find that you experience weakness, dizziness, confusion, and changes to mood or light sensitivity. The reason for this final stage is that your body generally needs to recalibrate and repair following a migraine attack. Don’t be surprised if you feel the need to rest for a few days after your migraine.
Natural Ways to Heal Migraines
Migraines frequently go untreated and undiagnosed – which is part of the reason why they can last for such a long time. However, if you’re able to effectively recognize the symptoms of migraine attacks, you could be able to minimize your discomfort by trying a few simple, and natural at-home remedies. While the treatments we cover below shouldn’t be regarded as an alternative to visiting your doctor, they could help you to fight back against symptoms, or even reduce the number of migraines you experience on a regular basis.
When it comes to health remedies, there are few things more effective than magnesium. In fact, magnesium is largely regarded to be one of the most important substances in the human body – safer and more effective than many standard painkillers.
Magnesium helps to manage some of the brain signals that are sent throughout your body by a wave known as “cortical spreading depression”. This process produces the unpredictable sensory and visual changes that can be common when people experience a headache or migraine. In simple terms, magnesium might work to block some of the pain-transmitting chemicals in the brain, while improving platelet function to promote better response to injuries.
Magnesium deficiencies can lead to a number of health problems, from migraines to stomach problems and more. This means that upping your magnesium intake could be the first step you take in protecting yourself against migraines. People who are more prone to low magnesium might include those with diabetes, heart disease, and alcohol abuse problems.
Consider adding a magnesium supplement to your daily routine, or increasing the amount of fiber in your diet. Ingredients such as broccoli, nuts, seeds, and leafy grains could all be useful in the fight against migraines.
2. B-Complex Vitamins
As mentioned above, one of the causes of migraines can be a deficiency in the correct level of B-Vitamins. Many B vitamins are responsible for forming various neurotransmitters, including serotonin – which can be seriously low in people who suffer frequently from migraines. Today, a huge number of Americans suffer from B-vitamin deficiencies which can lead to unhealthy blood cell effects, poor concentration, reduced energy, and more.
Consider improving your natural defense against migraines by taking a regular B-complex vitamin that includes thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate vitamin B12, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, and biotin. Combined, these various water-soluble vitamins should boost immune function, circulation, and even cardiovascular health.
3. Essential Oils (Lavender and Peppermint)
Throughout the decades, essential oils have been used in a number of therapeutic practices – generally for managing stress, and improving relaxation. The numbing and calming effects of oils made from extracts such as lavender and peppermint can make them perfect for relieving the symptoms of headaches and migraines.
Peppermint oil is perfect for producing long-lasting skin cooling effects, while research shows that this particular substance stimulates circulation within the skin when placed on the forehead. What’s more, peppermint helps to reduce muscle contractions – and when mixed with ethanol, it has been proven to lower headache sensitivity.
Lavender oil is extensively used as a substance for stabilizing mood fluctuations and promoting relaxation. A study conducted in 2012 found that 92 out of 129 headache-suffering participants responded positively to lavender oil when they inhaled it for fifteen minutes.
4. Herbal Treatments
Herbs are useful for more than simply adding flavor to food dishes. The right herbs, such as feverfew and butterbur have been found to be excellent at reducing headache pains and symptoms. For instance, feverfew has been found to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches – diminishing symptoms such as nausea, pain, and light sensitivity.
Similarly, butterbur can reduce the inflammatory impact of various chemicals that can trigger headaches and migraines. This substance can work as a beta blocker that promotes healthy blood-flow to the brain. In one study, migraine attack frequency was reduced over a four-month period in 48% of people consuming 75mg of butterbur twice per day.
5. Gluten-Free Foods
If you suffer from a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten, then eating this substance could lead to various symptoms, including headaches and migraines. In fact, information from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness reveals that of patients who experience undiagnosed celiac disease and migraine headaches, most generally see a complete resolution to their condition when they cut gluten out of their diet.
It is possible to be sensitive to gluten even if you don’t have celiac disease. In this instance, you may not need to give up gluten entirely, but you might benefit from gradually reducing your daily intake, and recording the results. Watching your reaction to less gluten over time could indicate whether you have an underlying intolerance.
6. Chiropractic Care
Over time, a number of clinical trials have suggested that spinal adjustments and chiropractic care could be effective in managing headaches and migraines. In one recent study, 22% of the people who were given chiropractic adjustments reported that they experienced a 90% or more reduction in their headaches, whereas 49% people found that their headache intensity was significantly reduced.
Chiropractic adjustments help to alleviate unnecessary stress within your body, which can reduce the presence of migraine and tension headaches. If you have experienced a number of migraine headaches within a short space of time, then your doctor may recommend trying chiropractic care.
7. Regular Stretching or Moving
It has become increasingly obvious that staying within a single position over an extended period of time – for instance, sitting at a desk, or standing behind a counter at work, could lead to body tension which promotes headache and migraine symptoms. To avoid the chain reaction typically associated with lack of mobility, all you need to do is take a break every so often to stretch, move, and get your circulatory system working as it should be.
A study conducted in 2012 found that a 12-month program of regular stretching had a positive impact on 60 women. Over the course of the treatment, 69% of participants saw a reduction in symptom intensity and headache frequency.
8. Cayenne Muscle Stimulation
Plenty of research over the years has indicated that cayenne pepper can naturally help to stimulate the circulation in your body and reduce acidity. Recently, we have also discovered that cayenne pepper could have a part to play in reducing migraine and headache symptoms. The primary ingredient “capsaicin” is ideal for treating inflammation and pain – because it reduces the presence of an element known as “substance P”.
Capsaicin simulates pain responses in different areas of the body, which reduces “substance P” – the element that makes us feel pain. The reaction means that pain messages are less likely to reach the brain – creating a sense of relief from headache and migraine symptoms.
Inactivity isn’t the only lifestyle problem that can lead to an increased risk of migraine headaches. The dehydrating effects of sugar-laden drinks, alcohol, and coffee can all leave us with a greater chance of experiencing headaches. In fact, research done by the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery has confirmed that “water-deprivation headaches“ really do exist.
Most people today simply don’t get enough water, but it’s easy enough to quench your thirst by drinking regularly and packing your diet full of water-enriched vegetables and fruits, such as:
- Green peppers
10. Detox Bath
Finally, keep in mind that detox bathing isn’t just a great way to cleanse your body and skin, it’s also a fantastic solution for drawing toxins out of your body that could be increasing stress and making you unwell. The best way to have a detox bath is to draw the water as hot as you can handle, then sit in the cooling water, allowing your body to release toxins over time.
To enhance the tension-reducing abilities of your detox bath, try adding lavender or peppermint oil to the water to combine their benefits with the advantage of the hot water. Epson salts can also be a fantastic solution for evening baths when you want to promote proper relaxation.