MIGRAINES affect around one in seven people worldwide and can be a burden on our everyday lives.
In the UK alone there are thought to be around 190,000 migraine attacks every day.
This costs the population around 25 million lost days from work or school each year and if you suffer from migraines they can be debilitating.
Experts says there are many reasons why people get migraines.
Speaking to The Sun during Migraine Awareness Week (6-12 September), Nutritional Therapist at Bio-Kult, Hannah Braye said each individual is likely to experience an attack differently.
“There are likely multiple contributing factors and potential triggers for migraines.
“These include genetics, hormone imbalances (3x more women than men suffer with migraine), nutrient deficiencies (such as magnesium, vitamin B2, B6, B9 and B12), poor gut-health (dysbiosis and leaky gut), stress, food intolerances, being over-weight, blood glucose-imbalances, irregularities in serotonin production and medication over-use.”
She added that getting to the bottom of why you keep getting migraines may take some detective work and require holistic changes to diet and lifestyle.
Hannah said that a common symptom is a disabling headaches usually characterised by one sided pulsating pain.
She said digestive symptoms, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, noise, movement and smell are often experienced with attacks.
She added: “Unfortunately there is no one clear cause or solution, which perhaps explains why less than 50 per cent of migraine sufferers are satisfied with their current treatment.”
But there are ways to prevent migraines, here Hannah gives her eight ways to stop you suffering.
Hannah said that migraines are often preceded by warning signs that an attack may be imminent.
She added that these can vary, but said they usually occur 48 hours before.
“These ‘prodrome’ symptoms vary but may include emotional changes, urinary frequency, fluid retention, and stiff neck, up to 48 hours prior to an attack.
“Recognising these signals and taking steps to minimise exacerbating factors may help to fend off attacks and reduce duration and intensity.”
Hannah said if you suspect an attack coming on then you should go home from work to rest in a room without stimulation such as TV or computers.
It’s important to drink plenty of water, eat regularly and focus on complex carb and protein rich foods to maintain blood sugar levels, massage the base of the head and temples and try warming the neck with a scarf or hot water bottle.
Hannah added: “Essential oils may also be of benefit, with lavender oil inhaled during attacks, and peppermint oil applied to the temples and forehead are both reported to decrease pain and ease symptoms.”
While we would usually associate migraines with just our head, Hannah said they can also be accompanied by digestive symptoms.
She said: “Low levels of beneficial gut bacteria can contribute to gut hyper-permeability (“leaky gut”).
“It is hypothesised that endotoxins originating in the gut, and able to cross into the circulation and able to sensitise pain receptors on the trigeminal nerve, potentially initiating migraine attacks.”
Recent research indicates that live bacteria supplements could be beneficial.
Hannah added that a recent clinical trial found that the 14 strains of live bacteria in Bio-Kult Migréa, significantly reduced both episodic and chronic migraine frequency and severity and reliance on medication in as little as 8 weeks.
“It also contains magnesium citrate and B6 both of which contribute to the normal functioning of the nervous system, and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue (which often accompany migraine attacks).
“Vitamin B6 also contributes to normal hormonal activity.
“Reducing processed foods and increasing fibre rich vegetables will also provide a food source for beneficial species of bacteria in the gut.”
Shedding the pounds can make us feel great and Hannah said that obesity is a significant risk factor for increased migraine frequency and can even make them more severe.
“An integrative approach including nutrition, physical activity and cognitive behavioural therapy may be particularly beneficial, and lead to sustainable, healthy weight-loss rather than short-term crash-diets.
“Consider seeking the advice of a registered nutritional therapist in your area who specialises in weight-loss”, Hannah said.
We’ve all been left with a troublesome hangover the night after a night on the tiles.
But research previously found that alcohol has been reported as a migraine trigger in approximately one-third of migraine patients.
Hannah said: “Wine and beer are most commonly reported to trigger attacks.
“If you feel left out at the pub or in restaurants, why not treat yourself to a delicious mocktail instead.”
If you suffer from migraines you know that they are mostly triggered by stress.
Hannah said that there is also evidence that stress may initiate the condition in those genetically predisposed to the disorder, and may also increase the risk of migraines becoming chronic.
“To make matters worse, migraine attacks themselves can act as a stressor, potentially leading to a vicious circle of increasing migraine frequency.
“Since the important factor is the individual’s responses to stress, rather than the stress itself, working on increasing stress management skills (eg. through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or bio-feedback techniques) may have the potential to reduce the impact that stress has on those with migraine.”
Hannah added that carving out time for yourself to relax is important.
“For example by having a bath, reading a book, spending time outdoors or re-engaging with hobbies and friends should also be prioritised.”
Aimée Benbow Director of Nutrition at Viridian Nutrition added: “Some dietary and lifestyle tips include staying well hydrated, avoid trigger foods (commonly wine, chocolate and cheese), try to reduce your stress levels and obtain a healthy sleep pattern.”
Many migraine sufferers are split when it comes to caffeine.
For some it is a trigger while others claim it can help ward off an attack if they feel as though one is incoming.
Hannah said that the general advice for migraine sufferers is to reduce/avoid regular consumption of caffeine as part of their daily routine
She added: “Herbal and rooibos tea, dandelion and chicory coffee or turmeric latte are nice caffeine-free alternatives.”
Most people who get a migraine drink more fluids and sit in a dark room.
But Hannah said getting your supplements right could help.
“There is a strong body of evidence demonstrating a relationship between magnesium status and migraine.
“Serum magnesium levels have been found to be reduced in migraine sufferers compared to non-sufferers, and research suggests magnesium deficiency may contribute to migraine development.”
In order to increase magnesium levels, Hannah said you should focus on eating more leafy green vegetables, avocados, nuts, seeds and legumes.
“Evidence suggests that oral magnesium supplementation may be effective for the prevention of migraine.
“Magnesium Citrate has shown most promise in studies for migraine prevention, and appears to be better tolerated than many other commonly used forms.”
Aimée added: “Supplementing with specific nutrients and herbal preparations have been shown to reduce the incidence and severity of migraines including Magnesium, Vitamin B2 and Feverfew.”
While intensive exercises can make a migraine worse, Hannah says it’s okay to do some gentle exercise and that it might even prevent an attack.
“Evidence indicates that gentle to moderate cardiovascular exercise may be beneficial in migraine as it is thought to modulate pain pathways, potentially decreasing the intensity of migraine pain.
“Intense exercise on the other hand can be a trigger for migraines and headaches in some.
“To reduce the risk of exercise-induced migraines its best to ease into any new exercise regime gently, only exercise when well rested, warm-up properly, fuel your body with good nutrition and stay well hydrated.”