Natural Migraine Solutions
By: Dr. Maille Devlin, ND – Naturopathic Doctor at Rose Health Clinic
It is estimated that approximately 2.7 million Canadians suffer from migraines — this is over 8% of the total population.1 Women are more likely to suffer from migraines than males are. Approximately 12% of females report migraines while only 4.7% of males report migraines.1 Theses numbers tend to be highest among those in the range of 30-40 years of age, hitting 17% of women in this age group.(1)
Migraines can be incredibly debilitating, impacting several aspects of daily life such as work, education, sports and recreation.(1) Of those who suffer from migraines, up to 90% are unable to work or function as they would without it.2 Additionally, migraines as associated with higher rates of depression.(1)
A migraine is different from a headache. Migraines are a form of chronic neurological disease which causes throbbing in usually just one side of the head (although both sides can be impacted). There are sometimes associated symptoms which come along with the head pain such as dizziness, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, visual disturbances, tingling and numbness.(2)
When looking to treat migraines, the key is to treat it early on at the first sign of a headache or even when some of those other neurological symptoms begin. However, the best way to treat migraines is with preventative measures, stopping the migraines before they begin.
There are some lifestyle practices which have demonstrated effectiveness at decreasing the risk of a migraine in those who frequently suffer. These include:
- Avoid triggers when possible. These are individual, however, there are common triggers such as caffeine, stress, hormones, medications, weather, foods and sleep changes.(3)
- Practice good sleep habits. Poor sleep is associated with increased migraine occurrence.(3)
- Exercise daily.(3)
- Practice yoga and other forms of relaxing movement.(3)
- Maintain a healthy weight.(3)
- Do not overuse pain medications, only use when necessary.(3)
Caffeine is one of the most common triggers for migraine patients.(4) However, caffeine is a unique trigger in that both high amounts of caffeine, as well as a lack of caffeine in those who regularly consume it, can both be a trigger. Those who regularly suffer from migraines should aim to keep their caffeine consumption to less than 200mg a day.(4) For reference, a cup of brewed coffee has anywhere between 75-140mg of caffeine.(5) Note, this is an 8oz cup — some mugs used for coffee have a volume of almost double this, so be mindful of how large the coffee cup is. If you consume more than 200mg of caffeine daily and are looking to lower your intake, do this gradually, stopping abruptly or decreasing by a large amount can trigger headaches and migraines.
There is no diet that is used to cure migraines, however it can be helpful to keep a food diary to help identify any possible food triggers. Some common triggers include chocolate, aged cheese and alcohol. Foods consumed within one day before the migraine can be culprits. If you see a trend with certain foods and your migraines, it may be helpful to try avoiding the food for four weeks and see if you feel better.
In general, a whole foods diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and low in processed foods can help you obtain adequate nutrients through your diet. Try to keep sodium less than 2300mg per day and ensure adequate intake of water throughout the day. Dehydration can also trigger headaches and migraines.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
Riboflavin can be potentially helpful for migraine prevention.(5) Supplementing with riboflavin at 400mg daily is recommended. Although it takes approximately 2-3 months to see improvements in migraine frequency.(5)
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Another common supplement recommended for migraines is Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). This antioxidant is well tolerated and can have benefits outside of migraine prevention.(5) A recommended dose is usually around 100mg taken three times daily. This supplement also takes about 3 months in order to see significant benefit.(5)
Magnesium is a mineral that is important for over 300 reactions in the human body. Magnesium supplementation can be helpful for migraine with aura and hormonal migraines.(5) Oral magnesium at a dose of about 400mg daily is often recommended.(5)
Due to the chronic inflammatory nature of migraines, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids can also be beneficial in a long-term treatment plan. Omega-3 fatty acids are an important component of cell membrane phospholipids and reduce inflammatory factors in the body. In a systematic review which assessed the role of these fatty acids in several studies, omega-3 intake led to a significant reduction of approximately 3.44 hours in the duration of migraine.
Although there are several effective lifestyle, dietary and supplemental treatments and preventative strategies for migraines, it is always important to check in with your healthcare practitioner before starting a new supplement.
- Ramage-Morin PL, Gilmour H. Prevalence of migraine in the Canadian household population. Statistics Canada; 2014 Jun 18.
- Migraine Research Foundation. Accessed May 12, 2021. https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/#:~:text=Amazingly%2C%2012%25%20of%20the%20population,ages%20of%2018%20and%2044.
- Robbins, Lawrence. Migraine Treatment: What’s Old, What’s New. Accessed May 12, 2021. https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/pain/headache/migraine/migraine-treatment-what-old-what-new
- Scher AI, Stewart WF, Lipton RB. Caffeine as a risk factor for chronic daily headache: a population-based study. Neurology. 2004; 63(11):2022-27.
Caffeine Content of Food & Drugs. (November 2014). Retrieved from http://www.cspinet.org/new/cafchart.html on December 7, 2015.
- Tepper SJ. Neutraceutical and other modalities for the treatment of headache. Continnum 2015;21(4):1018-1031.
- Maghsoumi-Norouzabad L, Mansoori A, Abed R, Shishehbor F. Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the frequency, severity, and duration of migraine attacks: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutritional neuroscience. 2018 Oct 21;21(9):614-23.