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Moving on From Migraines

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Migraine headaches afflict as many as 28 million North Americans, and the pain can leave some people crippled for day.

Migraine headaches afflict as many as 28 million North Americans, and the pain can leave some people crippled for days.

These debilitating headaches are often preceded by an "aura," which may consist of visual disturbances such as flashing lights. Migraines are often accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, sweats, dizziness, and slurred speech.

Although there is still debate over the cause of migraines, hormonal and dietary factors are often triggers.

Food allergies and sensitivities are particularly common in children with migraines, and approximately 30 to 50 percent of migraine patients notice a marked improvement by avoiding certain foods. To determine if foods are playing a role in your headaches, it is helpful to do an elimination diet.

In a research study reported in 1979 in The Lancet, subjects who avoided the most common food triggers exhibited a dramatic reduction in the number of headaches per month, with 85 percent becoming headache free. The most common reactive foods were wheat in 78 percent of patients, oranges in 65 percent, eggs in 45 percent, tea and coffee with 40 percent each, chocolate and milk with 37 percent each, beef in 35 percent, and corn, cane sugar, and yeast in 33 percent each. A study published in Headache in 1989 suggests that the artificial sweetener aspartame may trigger migraines and other headaches.

Preventing Migraines Naturally

As well as receiving acupuncture treatment to alleviate and help prevent chronic migraine and tension headaches, many natural herbs and supplements can be extremely beneficial. The latter, however, may take up to three months to start working effectively.

Magnesium: This serves in an enormous number of functions in the body, including the relaxation of muscles and arteries. Most North Americans get nowhere near the optimum amount of magnesium in their diet, receiving less than 250 milligrams a day as opposed to the 650 mg that the average Chinese diet supplies. Magnesium is present in beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.

Administered intravenously, magnesium has been shown to be effective in eliminating acute migraines, particularly those that accompany menstruation. A leading authority on natural prevention of migraine headaches is Dr. Alexander Mauskop, author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Migraines (Warner Books, 2001). In 1995, Dr. Mauskop published a study showing that intravenous magnesium could abort a migraine headache. He also found that intravenous magnesium could knock out other types of headaches as well.

Taken orally, magnesium is also effective against migraines. In one German placebo-controlled study, patients were given 600 mg of magnesium or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. The study found a significant drop in migraine frequency in the magnesium group. It may be beneficial for migraine patients to take 150 mg to 200 mg of magnesium in the morning, and again with dinner or at bedtime.

Riboflavin (vitamin B2): This crucial vitamin assists in the production of energy. In one study, migraine patients were given 400 mg of riboflavin with breakfast every day for three months. By the end of the study they experienced an average 67 percent decrease in migraine attacks as well as a decrease in attack severity. Note that it can take three months for riboflavin to start working.

Vitamin B12 : In a study reported in Cephalgia in 2002, patients received 1,000 mcg a day of vitamin B12 as a nasal spray, and their migraine frequencies decreased by an average of 43 percent after three months.

Feverfew: According to a study published in the Polish Journal of Neurology and Neurosurgery in 1999, taking feverfew resulted in a significant reduction in migraines in one-third of patients.

Butterbur: A shrub that grows in Europe, Asia, and Africa, much research has been done into the benefits of butterbur on migraine sufferers. In a study published in 2002 in Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, a standardized extract of butterbur was used in two double-blind studies. By the third month, those sufferers receiving active treatment with 100 mg a day of butterbur had 60 percent fewer migraine attacks than the control group. To help prevent migraines, take 50 mg of butterbur three times a day for one month and then reduce it to 50 mg twice a day. To eliminate an acute migraine headache, you can take 100 mg every three hours.

Fish Oil:  In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1985, fish oil was found to be effective in treating patients with frequent severe migraines that did not respond to medication. Take one to two tablespoons a day and give the treatment six weeks to take effect. Then you can decrease it to one to two teaspoons per day.

When it comes to eliminating migraines from your life, it is worth examining the underlying causes of this debilitating affliction. Addressing vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, as well as food allergies and sensitivities may be the first step down a path toward a pain free new you.

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