Description: this debilitating headache can destroy a person’s quality of life. It starts with an aura in almost half the cases – jagged visions, unusual lights, sounds or even smells and other unusual sensations. This is then followed by a severe thumping headache, often with nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light. It can be precipitated by foods like chocolate, cheese or red wine, food additives (MSG, nitrites); in women it may be premenstrual and is less common during pregnancy, other precipitating causes include changes in weather, lack of sleep, excess use of pain killer tablets and virus infections.
What your doctor can do
- Investigations. These are usually unnecessary because the history gives the diagnosis. However reassurance that the headaches do not represent a more serious condition is helpful.
Acute migraine – aspirin, paracetamol or NSAIDs such as naproxen or Voltaren are effective depending on the severity. Sumatriptan (Imigran) is very effective orally, intranasal or subcutaneous injection. If vomiting is a problem, then antinausea drugs (metoclopramide or stemetil) may help. In severe attacks, both a NSAID and sumatriptan can be given together with or without an antinausea drug.
Preventive drugs – There are a number of drugs which can be tried as preventatives: beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, clonidine, amitriptyline, valproate, pizotifen. Note that these do have side effects and it is best to try more ‘natural therapies’ first (see below). Melatonin is also effective (click here) with fewer side effects, in some countries this does need to be prescribed by a doctor. In the past, injections of ergotamine were to treat migraine, but today, the drug sumatriptan, also known as Imigran, orally or by injection is very effective.
What you can do
Every time you have a migraine, look back on what you have done, eaten or drunk in the preceding 24 hours and see if you can find a common cause. If you do, then avoid this in future if possible. Avoid bright lights or flashing light areas (such as driving past a row of trees with sunlight coming through).
Don’t drink very cold liquids or solids if they precipitate a headache. Many people get brain freeze with cold food and drinks, this can be eased by forcing the tongue onto the palate at the top of the mouth and keeping it there.
Chiropractors, osteopaths and acupuncture therapists believe they can help with migraine.
- These can make a real difference in the treatment of migraine and it is hard to see why more people are not given this information.
- Magnesium helps the arteries to relax, and reduces the spasm which creates the ‘aura’. It takes some months for the full effect to occur, but over time 800– 1,000mg taken daily may eliminate migraine completely.
- Some doctors give an intravenous injection of magnesium when the migraine occurs and can stop it. (1 gram is given over 15 minutes). Maybe chewing 2-3 magnesium tablets at the onset or even when the migraine is present, could help with an acute attack. A recent trial of iv magnesium gave very promising results in over 50% of patients..
- A good multivitamin/multimineral ensures that the arteries have all the nutrients and minerals required to function optimally. Maybe the phytonutrient switches found in the Cellsentials * which help switch on and off cell processes, might help migraine sufferers.
- Omega 3 fish oils, 1–2 grams daily. These, when incorporated into the artery walls and the brain tissue, can help in the prevention of migraine.
- Coenzyme Q10 – 100-300mg per day may help (74% of migraine sufferers are CoQ10 deficient)
- Grape seed extract (proanthocyanidins) is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which can help in the prevention of migraine.
- Sometimes hormonal changes cause migraine attacks and the use of some hormones (especially natural progesterone) can be helpful.
- Other treatments which some have found beneficial include Feverfew. Niacin and Vitamin B12 have also helped, but there should be sufficient in a good
The Nutritional supplements I use and recommend to my patients
For my patients with Migraines I recommend –
USANA – Cellsentials *, Biomega, Active Calcium plus (contains magnesium), Proflavanol C, Coquinone –