If you've ever experienced a migraine, you know that it is much more different than a normal headache. If left untreated, a migraine can last from 4 to 72 hours. Unlike a typical headache, migraines can be so severe that they interfere with your daily activities. If you are looking for solutions, you may be interested to know that there are common migraine triggers that you may need to know to avoid.
Migraine pain can be so severe that it keeps you in bed, unable to function. Migraines can cause nausea and be very sensitive to sound and light, and can even cause nervous system disorders known as auras.
Symptoms of auras include flashes of light, blurred and wavy vision, auditory hallucinations, pins and needles, weakness, and difficulty speaking.
The onset of migraine headaches can occur anywhere between the ages of 10 and 40. The frequency of these headaches varies from person to person, however, most people who get migraines get them on a regular basis, usually a few times a month.
Women are about three times more likely than men to experience migraines, and that number is increasing.
Researchers suspect that the higher prevalence of migraines could be related to our toxic environment, higher levels of stress, sedentary lifestyles, and other chronic illnesses that are also on the rise include depression and anxiety, high blood pressure, and autoimmune diseases.
Although it is generally classified as a nervous system disorder, new research suggests that migraines may have an autoimmune component. Autoimmunity rates are higher in people who suffer from migraines regularly.
For example, migraines tend to be more common in patients with systemic lupus or irritable bowel syndrome. One reason for this may be due to inflammation.
Inflammation is at the root of almost all chronic diseases, and the more inflammation you have, the further along the autoimmune spectrum you are. At the same time, patients diagnosed with migraine tend to have higher levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
When the blood vessels in your brain become inflamed, be it from stress, hormonal imbalances, environmental toxins, etc., white blood cells flood the area to “fight” the danger, just as they would respond to a scratch or a virus. This can cause swelling that leads to the painful symptoms associated with migraines.
As with autoimmune diseases, migraines also have a genetic component. If one of your parents experienced migraines, you have a 50% chance of inheriting them. If both parents had them, their probability increases to 75%.
However, just because you inherit the gene does not necessarily mean that you will develop an autoimmune disease or migraines. There are common triggers that can activate these genes and increase your risk.
Fortunately, this also means that there is a lot you can do to prevent migraines by using simple changes to your diet and lifestyle.
The 5 common migraine triggers
Stress is not purely psychological: it is a real inflammatory response. When faced with a stressful situation, your body releases cortisol and other fight-or-flight hormones. It is one of the most common migraine triggers.
Your immune system raises in response, ready to fight any danger. Our modern lifestyle, full of chronic stressors, creates an inflammatory state that never allows your immune system to cool down after the perceived threat has passed.
Migraines can be triggered by stress-induced inflammation, be it physical or emotional, so finding ways to relieve your stress every day is crucial.
Meditation, deep breathing, or even a short walk outside are great strategies for managing stress. Find a technique that works for you and use it regularly.
2. Hormonal fluctuations
One explanation for why women are more susceptible to migraines is hormonal imbalances. An underactive thyroid, which controls the body's metabolic rate, can cause fluctuating hormones (estrogens in particular), which can trigger migraines.
This may be the reason why women going through menopause or perimenopause may experience an increase in migraine attacks.
This connection could be due in part to the effect estrogen has on serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates pain and mood. Estrogen increases serotonin levels, so a significant drop in estrogen can lead to painful migraines, as well as depression and anxiety, which can exacerbate the severity of migraines.
3. Food, drink and additives as migraine triggers
Certain foods are known to cause migraine headaches in some people. These foods include chemical additives like aspartame, nitrates and nitrites, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
In fact, the FDA received so many reports of adverse reactions to foods containing MSG that these reactions (characterized by headaches, nausea, and facial pressure) were called "MSG symptom complex." Avoid this as much as possible, whether you have migraines or not.
Aged cheeses, red wine, cured meats, and other histamine-rich foods can also cause migraines, especially in those who have a histamine intolerance.
Histamine is a neurotransmitter that causes your blood vessels to swell or dilate. This action notifies your immune system of possible dangers.
People with histamine intolerance do not break down histamines properly, and the accumulation of histamine-rich foods can cause inflammation of the blood vessels that leads to migraines, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, facial flushing, and a host of other symptoms.
Skipping these common food triggers can go a long way in reducing the recurrence and severity of migraine headaches. n.
As simple as it sounds, dehydration could be behind your migraine headaches. When you are dehydrated, your body's fluid balance is disrupted and your brain may actually shrink away from your skull.
Dehydration can be caused by excessive sweating during strenuous exercise, or simply not drinking enough water during the day. Even being slightly dehydrated can lead to a migraine headache.
The good news is that migraines caused by dehydration are easily avoided. Drink plenty of water (aim for at least 8 glasses at intervals throughout the day) and increase that amount when you exercise or when it's hot.
5. Sleep disorders
Half of all migraines occur between 4 am and 9 am. People with migraines also tend to experience sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea.
Disturbed sleep can cause disruptions in hormone secretion and other bodily functions such as regulating blood pressure, which affects blood vessels in the brain.
Regulating your circadian rhythm and developing healthy sleep hygiene habits may help you overcome recurring migraines, especially if you tend to wake up with a migraine.
Find relief naturally
For a quick fix, many people rely on NSAIDs like Advil, Motrin, and Excedrin to treat their migraines. However, these drugs have their own risks. NSAIDs can alter your gut flora and cause intestinal leakage, which can leave you even more susceptible to autoimmune problems.
They have also been shown to cause intestinal bleeding, even at very low doses.
Fortunately, you don't have to sacrifice your gut health to find relief from migraines. Natural lifestyle solutions, like avoiding common food triggers, managing stress, staying asleep, and staying hydrated, are all simple steps you can take to help prevent migraines in the first place.
Consider a daily dose of curcumin. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, supports a healthy inflammatory response and optimal blood pressure. It also fights oxidative stress. Also, there are no known negative side effects from taking curcumin.
2. Omega 3
The most powerful Omega 3s to support the immune system and an adequate inflammatory response are those found in fish oil: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Prioritizing quality sleep and stress relief can help reduce your risk of migraines. One of my supplements that helps maintain a relaxed mood and restful sleep is magnesium. Magnesium promotes optimal dilation of blood vessels.
Adequate blood flow is critical for optimal brain health, including the processes that produce the visual and sensory disturbances characteristic of auras. Blood flow also affects chemicals in the brain that cause pain, including substance P and glutamate (as in monosodium glutamate).
Migraines can be a disruptive and extremely frustrating condition. However, your genes are not your destiny. You can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines by minimizing or avoiding all five triggers entirely.
Plus, adding some natural supplements to support wellness and optimal inflammatory response can give you even more tools to regain your health and improve your life.
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