The Build-Up Of A Migraine
- Over time stresses in the body start to add up. This can be any type of stress – physical and emotional. Things like lack of sleep, too much work not enough rest, food allergies/sensitivities, hormonal imbalance (eg- high estrogen levels), constipation, no/not enough exercise, blood sugar imbalances throughout the day, smoke in the air, nicotine, climate, flashing lights, dental problems, etc. The body can only handle so much stress, and when the threshold is reached, a migraine may occur.
- The body then responds to this stress by releasing serotonin which constricts blood vessels, and as a result, less blood will be sent to the brain.
- The migraine will occur as a reflex dilation of blood vessels occurs. This increases blood flow to the brain which has had low blood flow previous to this (step 2.) The body also releases inflammatory substances that cause swelling and pain.
- Omega 3 fatty acids can be good for prevention. Upping the foods that contain these nutrients can help – so flaxseeds and the oil, walnuts, soybeans, tofu, organic canola oil, and hemp oil (or a DHA/EPA supplement);
- Magnesium – whole grains, nuts, seeds, green leafy veggies, or a supplement if you are really low;
- Drink lots of pure water;
- Check to make sure you are getting enough protein (average is about 50g/day, but need goes up if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, growing, or healing from an injury);
- Increase intake of green leafy veggies, garlic, onions, and fiber;
- Try an elimination diet to test for food triggers.
- preservatives, tyramine (found in chocolate, wine, fermented foods, and vinegar) and phenylalanine (found in MSG, aspartame, and nitrates), nitrates and nitrites,
- tartrazine (found in food dyes),
- salt and sugar (reduce and avoid refined sugar),
- artificial sweeteners,
- trans- and hydrogenated fats,
- and food allergies or sensitivities.
- Get enough quality sleep,
- Regular exercise. Moderate activity like walking, biking, and swimming are great for migraine sufferers. Start off slow,
- Reduce stress. Set aside time each day for an activity you find relaxing (yoga, meditation, tai chi, massage, a long bath, a slow walk through nature, etc.),
- Keep a journal related to your migraines. In it you can include what you eat and how much, how you feel after, and record your migraines – when they start and how long they last. You can then look back and think of things that could have triggered it – food, environment, stress, reaction to a smell or sight. Also note what you took to help with the migraine and anything that happens – did it help; if so, how long did it take to work and how many did you take; if not, how many did you take, etc. You can be your own detective.
Things to try when you have a migraine:
- Go into a dark, quiet room. Put an ice pack in a towel and wrap it around the back of your neck and head for 10 – 15 minutes;
- When you first feel one coming on, place feet in a hot foot bath and put a cool cloth/ice pack as above on the back of your head and neck. This can help with drawing blood away from the head to reduce pressure.
These lifestyle changes in addition to any food changes you make, will have a big impact on your migraines. You may also notice other changes happening with your health that you never expected! That is the beauty of a whole food diet.
- Control, perfectionism,
- Saying ‘yes’ to too many things for your life and schedule,
- A need for love and approval,
- Putting other’s needs before your own – ignoring your own needs,
- Feeling angry and annoyed with those around you – saying ‘You are giving me a headache.’
Do any of these sound like you? If so, spend the next couple of weeks closely examining them and finding ways to work through your feelings rather than holding onto them. This is no easy task, and you may need professional help, but you can get through it.
Segal, Inna. “The Secret Language Of Your Body.” New York: Atria Paperback, 2010. 153.
Sherry Torkos, BSc Phm. “The Canadian Encyclodedia Of Natural Medicine Second Edition.” Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2013. 354-358.