Are migraine headaches an autoimmune disease? Are there natural remedies for migraine headaches?
Although doctors are not certain that migraine headaches are an autoimmune disease, they do know that migraines are the result of inflammation in the brain.
They have found that, although migraines are not necessarily an autoimmune disease, migraines do seem to be prevalent in people with many forms of autoimmune disease.
They also know that there are many things that can trigger this inflammation and result in a migraine headache. Such things as diet, stress, injury, illness and some medications could trigger a migraine.
Environmental allergens can also be a trigger. Basically, anything that would cause a flare up in any autoimmune disease could also bring on a migraine.
The best solution that most doctors can offer are pharmaceuticals, most of which come with a long list of side effects. They are even using some chemotherapy drugs for treatment of migraines these days.
Doctors themselves cannot even seem to agree on the best way to treat migraines. Some doctors say the immune system is over active. Others insist that the immune system is under active.
Is there hope for relief?
YES! There are dietary changes that can help. Certain vitamins and supplements offer relief and/or aid in prevention of migraines. Regular exercise helps to relieve stress which is a known trigger.
I will discuss these for you individually.
Although there is no specific “diet” for migraine prevention, there are a number of foods or food groups that seem to trigger migraines.
Doctors often suggest that patients keep a food diary and record all migraine episodes for a period of time to try to identify foods that trigger their migraines as this can actually differ from one person to another.
These foods include, but are not limited to alcohol, bananas, beans, caffeine, chocolate, cheese, especially aged cheese, citrus fruits, nuts, MSG and yogurt.
While these have all been reported by patients as the trigger for their migraines, they are not all reported by migraine patients as triggers.
That’s where the elimination diet comes in handy.
Remove all of these foods from the diet for a time, but do this one at a time for a few weeks. Continue to keep your food and headache diary while doing this so you can be sure this food is, in fact, a trigger for you.
Be sure to keep track of other factors such as stress, menstrual cycles, environmental factors and other notable events.
Once you have identified any possible triggers for your migraines you can try to eliminate that food from your diet or, at least, limit the frequency and amounts of that item in your diet.
First, there is the obvious environmental allergen – the very air we breathe!
Reactions to pollen, dust and other allergens that we breathe in cause swollen and blocked sinuses. This, in turn, can result in a migraine headache.
Aside from the usual pollen and dust in the air, some people are allergic to chemical odors such as pesticides, cleaning products, and even perfumes. In small amounts these may not cause a problem.
However, in some environments they can certainly become a trigger – buildings without windows where air continues to be re-circulated without being completely exchanged, odors that linger in your home from certain cleaning products and, as I stated, just being exposed briefly to certain perfumes can trigger a migraine.
There’s not a lot to be done for these triggers other than being mindful of them and trying to avoid them where possible.
Believe it or not, strenuous exercise can actually be a trigger for migraines! Research is showing, however, that aerobic exercise in moderation can actually benefit migraine sufferers.
Recent research shows that frequent moderate exercise can actually reduce the severity of migraine attacks as well as the frequency. It is now believed that regular exercise can possibly even prevent migraines.
Start out slowly and build up to at least 30 minutes of some form of exercise three times weekly. You can do anything you like such as cycling, dancing, jogging, low impact aerobics, swimming or power walking. Just be sure it’s something you enjoy.
Be sure that you eat properly beforehand so that you don’t get blood sugar drops and hydrate yourself properly before, during and after exercise.
Again, keeping an exercise diary with a log of your migraine events will help you to see how your exercise regime is helping reduce your migraine frequency.
Herbs and Supplements/Essential Oils
Feverfew – Feverfew has a very long history in herbal medicine. It has been used for fevers, as the name would suggest, but also has long been seen as useful for headaches as well as pain from other conditions. If used, feverfew should be taken in capsule form. Feverfew should not be used along with blood thinners.
Butterbur – Another herb used for pain and fever, neurological studies now show butterbur’s usefulness in treatment of migraines. There are, however, some liver toxins in the raw plant, so a commercially prepared source is best to use.
CoQ10 – A powerful antioxidant, CoQ10 has been found very useful in migraine therapy. The frequency of migraines is reduced with use of CoQ10. It does take 4 to 5 weeks for effects to be noticeable.
Riboflavin – Also known as vitamin B2, this is another powerful antioxidant found to be very helpful in treating migraines. It has been found to greatly reduce the frequency of migraines.
Lavender Essential Oil – A little dab massaged into the temples can often bring relief. You can also inhale the steam from a few drops added to a pot of boiling water. Another way to use lavender essential oil is to take a relaxing lavender milk bath. Add a few drops of the lavender to a cup of whole milk and then add it to the bath. The fat in the milk helps to keep the lavender from dissipating.
Peppermint Essential Oil – A good oil to inhale for migraine relief, it opens up the sinuses and can actually help blood vessels
dilate. You can use peppermint oil to massage the temples if you add a few drops to some oil such as coconut oil, almond, or vitamin E oil – use about a tablespoon of the oil – this is because peppermint oil is not suitable to use directly on the skin.
One last note. Stress can be a factor in migraine triggers. Massage therapy or other stress-relieving activities can be a great addition to your routine.
I hope that this has given you some useful tools and insights into how to deal with and, possibly prevent, migraine headaches.
I would be very interested to hear how this information on natural remedies for migraine headaches has helped.
Please be sure to leave your comments and questions for me.
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