Migraine headaches are a condition that I am seeing more and more often in my practice, and I would like to provide some insight into their treatment because in most cases they are completely treatable by first determining the cause and then treating it. Conventionally, migraines are treated with powerful medications and this is definitely a condition where the symptoms and not the cause are treated. Not to mention the fact that migraine medications notoriously have terrible side-effects and are very expensive.
Migraine headaches can have many different causes, and from a naturopathic perspective, the first key is to determine the cause. Here are some of the more common causes:
- Food intolerances: When migraine is caused by food intolerances or gastrointestinal imbalance, there may also be digestive upset, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, brain fog, sinus congestion, acne, eczema, among other symptoms. Food intolerances can easily be tested with a blood test for IgG or delayed hypersensitivity reactions. In some cases, an additional test for celiac disease (gluten intolerance) may be needed.
- Chemical triggers: Many migraine sufferers have triggers to their headaches such as MSG, aspartame, nitrites (in deli meat), sulfites (in wine, dried fruit and salad bars), and tyramine in chocolate and cheese. Testing out a whole food diet, free of additives for one month will usually determine if this is the cause.
- Hormone imbalance: When migraines come with menstruation, ovulation, puberty or near menopause a hormone imbalance is suspected. There may also be signs of PMS (fluid retention, cravings, irritability,…). Hormonal migraines can also be caused by oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy.
- Blood sugar instability: Low blood sugar can trigger migraines in some people and may also be accompanied by irregular energy patterns through the day, dizziness, irritability, extreme hunger and anxiety. Treatment is to stabilize blood sugar levels by eating small, regular meals through the day and eliminating sugars.
- Magnesium deficiency: When headaches are found in combination with palpitations, constipation, anxiety, insomnia, muscle cramps and menstrual cramps a magnesium deficiency is suspected. These symptoms are compounded by a poor diet, too much sugar, caffeine or alcohol and high stress. Treatment is to improve nutrition and use appropriate types of magnesium supplements.
- Structural problems: Tension in the jaw, shoulders and neck can cause migraines too, especially when triggered by stress. Work with a good osteopath, chiropractor, acupuncturist or massage therapist can get to the root of these headaches.
These are just a few of the more commonly seen causes of migraine headaches. The key is to get to the root of the problem and treat them by correcting the underlying cause. If you suffer from migraines, please book an appointment to investigate potential causes of your headaches and treat them in a lasting way.