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What is a migraine?

A migraine is a vascular headache that involves the excessive dilation or contraction of the brain's blood vessels. Migraines are a relatively common disorder and effect about 10 percent of the population. More women than men (ratio of 3:1) suffer from migraine headaches.

There are two types of migraine, common and classsic. 

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The common migraine...

The common migraine occurs slowly, producing a throbbing pain that may last for two to seventy-two hours. The pain is severe and is often centered at the temple or behind one ear. Alternatively, it can begin at the back of the head and spread to one entire side of the head. Migraine comes from the Greek word hemikrania, which means 'half a skull'.

The classic migraine...

A classic migraine is similar to a common migraine, but it is preceded by a set of symptoms referred to as an aura, which can consist of speech disorders, weakness and disturbances in the senses of vision and/or smell.

Migraine triggers...

There are a number of triggers that have been identified in initiating migraines:
(a) Injury to head or spine resulting in maladjustment
(b) Changes in barometric pressure
(c) Sudden changes in weather, particularly thunderstorms or hot dry winds
(d) Stress - emotions and noise
(e) Infrequent meals, resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
(f) Fluctuations in hormonal levels - drops in estrogen levels, particular prior to menstruation
(g) Infections - viral or bacterial
(h) Food allergy or dietary amines - food allergy and intolerance has been identified as a precipitating factor in 80-90% of cases
(i) High toxicity levels in the body - such as with constipation or liver overload
(j) Mineral deficiencies, such as magnesium & iron

Foods that contribute to migraines...

The following foods have been implicated in a number of clinical studies as potentially active in migraine progression.

  • MSG - found in KFC, Chinese takeaways and the flavour sachets in products, such as instant noodles
  • Cheese
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Canned meats
  • Eggplant
  • Figs
  • Sausage/salami

These all contain vasoactive amines, such as beta-phenylethylamine and tyramine, which cause vasoconstriction, either directly or indirectly, through the liberation of catecholamines. Enzymes that detoxify these amines have a significantly lower level of action in migraine sufferers.

Other contributing factors include food chemicals, exhaustion, sleeping problems, drug interactions and tricyclic antidepressants.

Natural supplements can help with migraine symptoms...

Fish oils, turmeric and ginger may alleviate headaches through hormonally controlling inflammation and regulating the formation of inflammatory eicosanoids. Turmeric and ginger act as strong antioxidants and reduce vascular inflammation. Nutritional support for the neuromuscular system is essential.

Swanson in 1988 proposed that 'low magnesium levels in the body may be a predisposing factor in many cases of migraine'. Various studies have proven magnesium's ability to work closely with taurine in dampening the hyperexcititation required to initiate a migraine. Because of this we recommend magnesium supplementation to all migraine sufferers.

Ideal Health has set protocols and supplements designed to treat migraines. Please contact us for further information.

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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

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