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Migraines are more than just headaches, the pain is severe and throbbing in nature and can last several days, sometimes people have visual disturbance known as an aura, which can include dizziness and they may also be accompanied by nausea or even vomiting. A migraine attack usually means lying very still until it passes and this can be up to 72 hours. They can be a very dilapidating condition. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between a headache and a migraine so keeping a diary of symptoms may be useful.


• Blood vessel instability – where blood vessels dilate and contract excessively

• Nerve disorder – Some research suggests in migraine sufferers the nerve mitochondria (the working factory inside our cells that makes energy) do not produce much energy. Poor function leads to an over reaction to the environment, such as dehydration, sunlight, overstimulation.

• Serotonin deficiency Syndrome – low serotonin levels may lead to increase sensitivity to pain in people with chronic headaches.

• Inflammation – Migraine sufferers tend to release substance P (P stands for pain). The release of this substance is associated with dilation of blood vessels, histamine and other allergic substances that then leads to inflammation.

• Chronic stress may also be indicated.

Preventative measures

• Identify triggers– keep a food/life diary for a month.

• Foods to consider as triggers: chocolate, cheese, beer, wine, cured meats, soy sauce. These are rich in in histamine that can cause blood vessels to expand. Tyramine rich foods may also cause migraines: aged meats, avocadoes, bananas, cabbage, canned fish, potatoes, raspberries, red plums, tomatoes, wine and yeast.

• Other triggers may be: food intolerances – wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and nuts are key foods to watch out for, allergies, constipation, little sleep, emotional changes, hormonal changes, sun glare, flashing lights and weather.

• Low blood sugar may also be a trigger. Support blood sugar by; eating protein at each meal, avoid refined white foods i.e. sugar, white bread, rice and pasta, cakes, breakfast cereals, replace with wholegrain complex carbohydrates and finally eat a good breakfast and do not skip meals.

• Too much caffeine can be a trigger, limit to one cup of tea or coffee a day. Avoid fizzy drinks containing caffeine, artificial sweeteners and additives.

• Avoid foods that contain MSG – the following list is hidden additives that contain MSG:

o Hydrolysed vegetable protein (HPV), Hydrolysed protein, Hydrolysed Plant Protein, Plant Protein Extract, Sodium Caseinate, Calcium Caseinate, Yeast Extract, Textured Protein, Autolyzed Yeast, hydrolysed oat flour, malt extract, malt flavouring, bouillon, broth, stock, flavouring, natural flavouring, natural beef or chicken flavouring, seasoning, carrageenan, enzymes, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, soy sauce, tamari sauce, whey protein isolate and miso. – Check ingredients and go organic for sauces as less chance of it containing MSG.

• Increase magnesium rich foods. Research has suggested migraine sufferers can show a deficiency in magnesium. Stressors, excessive alcohol, hormonal imbalances and certain drugs may deplete magnesium levels. Foods that contain magnesium are: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, beans, nuts and seeds. A supplement with higher levels of magnesium may be useful but check with a health professional for any drug nutrient interactions.

• Increase anti-inflammatory and foods with lots of colour – olive oil, salmon, mackerel, herring, flaxseeds, walnuts, berries, carrots, peppers, apples, sweet potato, green leafy vegetables garlic and onions.

• Avoid inflammatory foods – excessive amount of foods that contain omega 6 and arachidonic acid, both may lead to inflammation if eaten in excess– baked foods, vegetables oils, fried foods, high intake of grain-fed meat and dairy. Grass fed meat and dairy contains more of the anti-inflammatory omega 3 fat, so if eating meat and dairy opt for grass fed. Ask your butcher and supermarket if you are unsure.

• Eat foods that contain vitamin B2, B2 is needed for making energy in our cells, if there is a deficiency our cells will not work as well and a link has been made between poor cell function and migraines. Include almonds, asparagus, avocado, eggs and broccoli in your diet. Check that some of these foods however don’t aggravate.

• Include foods with all B vitamins in your diet, studies have found a link between B supplements and migraine improvement and one recent study in Australia found a link between folate, B6 and B12 reduced migraine attacks by half in volunteers as well as a reduction in pain. Eat more wholegrains, beans, pulses, vegetables, chicken, red meat (grass fed) and eggs. (If tolerated)

• Try to find ways to relax – 10-minute meditations daily; learning breathing techniques to calm the body and baths with Epsom salts may be useful. Epsom salts contains magnesium and may be absorbed through the skin.

• Exercise is important as it may reduce stress levels.


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