Following this nutritional treatment approach can help break the chain of events that leads to painful migraine attacks:
- Identify food sensitivities: An exclusion diet that initially eliminates dairy products, wheat and other gluten grains (rye, barley and oats), eggs, oranges and tomatoes will cover about 90 per cent of food sensitivity cases. Keep to this for a month and then, if you haven’t suffered from a migraine in this time, reintroduce one food at a time, allowing four days for a reaction to occur. Meat and animal fats should also be avoided during the elimination diet, since these tend to promote the production of arachidonic acid, which causes pain and inflammation.Eliminate harmful amine chemicals from your diet. Cut out any amine-containing foods – chocolate, aged cheese, tinned and pickled fish, sauerkraut, dates, figs, raisins, pineapple, bananas and yeast extract.
- Cut out caffeine: Caffeine is a bit of a paradox, since it can both cause and relieve migraines. It stimulates adrenaline production, which causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of your arteries), so it can either contribute to the initial phase of a migraine or relieve symptoms temporarily during the second phase, when most of the pain is due to over-dilation of your arteries. It is best, however, to exclude coffee from your diet entirely, in addition to other drinks which contain caffeine, such as tea and fizzy drinks. A gradual reduction is advisable to avoid a withdrawal headache. Drink plenty of water instead, since dehydration leads to histamine release and vasoconstriction, which can trigger migraines. Stay clear of alcohol and tobacco, too.
- Eat plenty of fresh foods to avoid the buildup of bacteria: Base your diet on the freshest, most natural foods you can obtain. Plan meals and shop frequently, so food doesn’t stay in your fridge for days. Avoid food additives as far as possible, especially nitrites in cured meats, MSG, tartrazine and aspartame.
- Balance your blood sugar levels: Follow a low-carbohydrate diet and include plenty of fibre from fresh vegetables and salads. Avoid sweet foods, refined flour products (even if you do not suffer from a wheat sensitivity) and potatoes, as they can cause blood sugar levels to rise fast. A supplement of 200-600mcg of chromium picolinate taken daily can help keep your blood sugar stable.
- Correct hormonal imbalances: A natural diet and supplementation with essential fatty acids, B group vitamins (especially B6) and magnesium will help to avoid female sex hormone fluctuations, which can result in migraines. Herbs such as dong quai and agnus castus have also been shown to help. Natural progesterone cream (currently only available on prescription in the UK) has also been shown to prevent menstrual cycle migraines.
- Benefit from the healing power of herbs: Feverfew can reduce migraine frequency in about two thirds of cases. Cayenne pepper, valerian, goldenseal and ginger have also been used successfully to prevent or treat migraine. But be careful to avoid St John’s Wort if you are a migraine sufferer, since it blocks the action of monoamine oxidase enzymes that break down amines.
- Natural relief for migraines: Magnesium and calcium can reduce the severity of blood vessel spasms and prevent the onset of a migraine. Vitamins B2, B3, B6, C and E can also help and appear to work by preventing vasoconstriction or inhibiting blood platelet clumping, which occur during attacks. Essential fatty acids in fish oils reduce the production of inflammatory prostaglandins, which contribute to migraine pain.
Simply altering your diet and taking the natural remedies outlined above, can help prevent migraines – meaning that you don’t have to live under the constant fear of the next attack.
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