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A Quick Guide to Migraines

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

Approximately 95% of the population has experienced headache disorders at some point in there life. Migraine is the third most common disease in the world (behind dental caries and tension-type headache) with an estimated global prevalence of 14.7% (that’s around 1 in 7 people).The World Health Organization defines headache disorders as a recurrent headache that is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system. The three primary headache disorders are migraine, tension type headaches and cluster headaches. Headaches affect all races, ages, income levels and areas of the world. This article will focus on migraine headaches.

Migraine Quick facts

Migraines are classified as a primary headache. Migraines and tension type headaches account for 98% of all headaches. The World Health Organization(WHO) includes headache in the top 10 causes of disability in both genders, and in the top 5 for women. Among people that experience a migraine, 75% report functional disability during a migraine. In the United Kingdom, 25 million working days are lost yearly because of migraine headaches.

Description of a Migraine

The word migraine derives from the Greek word ‘hemicrania’ (imikrania; ημικρανία) which means ‘half the skull’. In 400 BC Hippocrates described in detail the occurrence of migraine attacks, including the visual disturbances during migraine aura and the relief from vomiting. The word ημικρανία was later established by the Greek physician Κλαύδιος Γαληνός (Galen of Pergamon). A migraine headache is described as a one sided, recurring, throbbing and pulsating condition. It can be moderate to severe in pain intensity. It can last for 4-72 hours. A migraine can be triggered by light, smell or sound causing vomiting and nausea. When a person experiences a migraine, they often want to lay still in a pitch black room with no noise. The headache usually wears off with sleep.

Nutrition and Migraines

Make sure that you are putting the right foods in your body. Nutrients can be classified as micro or macro nutrients. Your body requires the right fuel to power it through the day. Macro nutrients are the whole foods you are eating on a regular basis. Are you getting plenty of greens in your daily meals or are you eating more of a processed foods diet? You may have deficiencies in micro nutrients that are showing up as dysfunction of your body in the form of migraine headaches.

The top 5 micro nutrients to prevent migraines are:

  1. Vitamin D3

  2. Coenzyme Q10

  3. Riboflavin

  4. Omega 3 Fish Oils

  5. Magnesium

Vitamin D3 is important for cellular level processes in the body. Every cell in your body has a receptor for Vitamin D3. The most important role of vitamin D3 is absorbing calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D3 also promotes a healthy immune system. If you are not getting enough Vitamin D3 you could have trouble fighting disease, have weak bones and teeth, and are more likely to be depressed. You should check your vitamin D3 levels twice a year to make sure you are not deficient. The best place to get Vitamin D3 is by getting in the sun for a few minutes a day. If you are not able to get into the sun each day then supplementation will be the next best way to acquire proper Vitamin D3 levels in the body. Foods that are rich in Vitamin D3 are salmon, egg yolks, oranges and yogurt.

Coenzyme Q10 is important for producing energy by all of the cells in your body. One study stated that Coenzyme Q10 not only prevents but can treat migraines. It also regulates free radicals. It promotes protection of the cells in your eyes by preventing overexposure from the sun. It has been proven to improve heart health by preventing congestive heart failure. The American Cancer Society says that when Coenzyme Q10 is used in conjunction with other vitamins that it helps to fight cancer. An improvement in tissue repair was seen in those with gum disease. Foods rich in Coenzyme Q10 are pork, beef, chicken, trout, sardines, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, oranges and pistachios to name a few.

Riboflavin is a B vitamin that is necessary for normal cellular growth. Riboflavin has been used to address acne, muscle cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome, cataracts, glaucoma and migraines. It can be taken by mouth in supplement form or found in common foods such as milk, yogurt, fruits and vegetables.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids play an important role in the body. They provide energy, help build cell membranes and serve as raw materials for many specialized roles in the body. Omega 3’s have been researched to show that they decrease inflammation, reduce risk of artery diseases and the risk of dying. The best source of omega 3’s, is fatty fish such as salmon or sardines, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds and plant oils such as flaxseed oil. Omega 3’s can be supplemented in the form of flaxseed oil or krill oil among others.

Magnesium is a vital mineral in the body. It is used by just about every cell in the body. Organs that use it are your heart, muscles and kidneys. Foods that are rich in magnesium are dark leafy greens like spinach and chard. Other foods that have magnesium are pumpkin seeds, almonds, tuna, avocado, figs and bananas. The most absorbable form of magnesium is in the form of magnesium chloride. Benefits of supplementing with magnesium chloride are lowering the risk of developing migraines, better heart health, lower blood sugar levels, improved bone health, better digestion and improved sleep.

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