Mastering Your Migraine Symptoms

Dr. Clayton Lawrence, CEO, shares his thoughts in a weekly column focused on overall wellness in an otherwise toxic world. (Always consult with your own physician before beginning any new diet/exercise routine).

Having a headache is never fun, but throbbing pain that brings with it a slew of other debilitating symptoms is enough to halt anyone in their footsteps. Migraines affect about 28 million Americans, according to the National Headache Foundation, and that doesn’t include those individuals who go undiagnosed. Although triggers for migraines can be difficult to pinpoint, some have attributed the onset of a migraine to hormones, stress levels, environment or lack of sleep. It’s important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis, but if your headaches are preceded by visual disturbances (aura), changes in mood, if they last from four to 72 hours and are accompanied by nausea/vomiting or pain that worsens with activity or lights, or if others in your family suffer from frequent attacks, you’re likely experiencing migraines.

While there are medications that can be taken to both prevent the onset of a migraine and treat the symptoms after one has started, there are many holistic options that sufferers should consider, as well. Here are a few we suggest:

Listen to your body.

No one knows your body better than you. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to warning signs that a migraine may be about to make an appearance. Some individuals have reported trouble sleeping, an increase in yawning and more frequent urination as precursors for the onset of pain, while others simply wake to the familiar throbbing of the progressive headache. Get to know your body and do what it takes to either prevent a migraine with some ibuprofen before it becomes a problem or take time out from all activities until it passes.

Give yourself time.

It is important to be honest with yourself and others that you are a migraine sufferer. This means both showing yourself some loving kindness and asking for help from others should the need arise. Bosses, spouses, children and friends are more than likely willing to offer their assistance and understanding when a migraine attacks, allowing you the proper time to refrain from activities until the symptoms have subsided. It can be nearly impossible to complete routine tasks with the throbbing pain of a migraine and the quality of what does get done will likely suffer as a result.

Become familiar with triggers.

Oftentimes, migraine sufferers are able to backtrack to determine what might be a personal trigger for the onset of pain. Some foods include those with food dyes, additives, preservatives and monosodium glutamate, like ice cream, lunch meat, hot dogs and Chinese food. Even aged cheeses, artificial sweeteners (a presumably healthy alternative for sugar) and caffeine withdrawal can lead to a migraine. Consider how your sleep habits may be negatively impacting your health, as well, and take a look at your stress levels. Some individuals suffer from migraines on the weekends when a stressful workweek has ended or following a big event, when anxiety levels have started to decrease. Knowing your triggers can help you develop a more effective plan of action the next time the throbbing begins.

Eat regular, consistent meals and snacks.

Some people are incredibly sensitive to the rise and fall of the body’s glucose levels. While it is natural for blood-sugar levels to vary throughout the day, allowing glucose to fall too low can lead to multiple symptoms, from shakiness, sweating and anxiety, to extreme hunger, weakness, fatigue and, yes, migraines. Keep levels consistent throughout the day by planning three meals (the traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner) that include proteins, like lean meat, beans and eggs. Schedule healthy snacks in between meals that won’t cause a rapid crash – think nuts and yogurt, not candy bars and sugary sweets.