How to Relieve a Migraine Naturally - Nikki Yelton RD

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How to Relieve a Migraine Naturally

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Migraines aren’t simply a terrible headache. They press the pause button on life. That’s why it’s so important to know how to relieve a migraine when it comes on.

woman with a migraine

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It’s so important to know how to relieve a migraine when it comes on.

If you’ve ever experienced the excruciating pain of a migraine, you know just how debilitating and crippling they can be. One moment you’re healthy and well, the next, you’re lying in bed hiding from any noise or light. Migraines aren’t simply a terrible headache. They press the pause button on life.

Unfortunately, up to 18% of adults experience recurring migraines and women are of greater risk. Given so many adults experience migraines, it’s important to know what you can do to prevent them and how to naturally treat them if and when they occur. 

WHAT ARE MIGRAINES? 

Migraines are often mistaken for a bad headache. If you find yourself struggling with excruciating headaches more often than not, you actually might be experiencing chronic migraines. You might even classify as having a headache disorder. 

Is your headache a migraine?

The International Headache Society qualifies a migraine disorder as having at least 5 attacks per month with the following criteria:

  • Your headaches last between 4-72 hours long.
  • You experience at least 2 of the following— you would describe the pain as moderate to severe, it’s pulsating, it’s concentrated to one side of your head, and normal physical activity like walking is difficult.
  • And during the migraine, you experience either nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, or sound sensitivity.

Chronic migraines are not normal and there are things you can do to address them that actually work. 

MEDICATION OVERUSE HEADACHES

Like with most band aid solutions, constantly covering up migraine pain with medication perpetuates a cycle that exacerbates the source of the pain in the first place. Pain medication like Tylenol, Excedrin, or Motrin are intended to offer occasional pain relief. If you suffer from headaches more than once a week, then your body is trying to tell you something is wrong!

When you continue to pop a couple Tylenol and hope for the best every time you feel a migraine coming on, you’re not actually addressing the reason why your body is screaming for help and the problem often gets worse once the meds wear off. 

CAN FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE IMPROVE MIGRAINES?

As with everything else, functional medicine looks at the root cause of a symptom and migraines are no different. Functional medicine uses testing, research, and symptom analysis to determine the cause of migraines (more on this below). Once you better understand the cause of your migraines, how to relieve a migraine becomes much easier. Food, supplements, and lifestyle changes can help manage and prevent future migraine attacks. While Western medicine uses medicine to treat the symptoms of a migraine, functional medicine fights to understand why migraines occur and how to prevent them in the future. 

MIGRAINE TRIGGERS

The topic of migraines isn’t black and white.  There unfortunately isn’t a definitive answer as to what causes migraines. It’s likely a combination of factors— both genetic and environmental. 

Root cause of migraines

Possible physical root causes include: 

  • Inflammation of blood vessels in your brain
  • The way your brain stem interacts with the trigeminal nerve, a pain pathway
  • Imbalances in brain chemicals and neurotransmitters like serotonin

While there isn’t one cause we can pinpoint, there are certain things that definitely trigger that throbbing head pain. Migraines can be triggered by various factors, including diet, lifestyle, and heredity. Knowing your risk factors and how to best protect yourself is wise, especially if you have already suffered from the pain of migraines. 

Common migraine triggers
Here are the most common migraine triggers to take note of:
  • Hormonal Imbalances- Hormonal shifts throughout the month leave women more vulnerable to migraines. In fact, many migraines are experienced during a woman’s menstrual cycle when estrogen dramatically drops, as well as serotonin. These hormonal changes can trigger extreme headaches, and often, migraines.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies- Being depleted of essential nutrients is a common cause of recurring migraines. And, B vitamins are of the utmost importance, here! Low levels of vitamins B6, B9, and B12 are associated with frequent migraines. However, vitamin D deficiency can contribute, too!
  • Stress- Excess stress, physical or mental, harms the body in more ways than one. Migraines can be a nasty consequence. It’s essential to adopt stress management techniques during times when stress is at its highest!
  • Genetics- Family genetics can be the cause of increased risk of migraines. If your parents or grandparents frequently experience migraines, your risk could be higher. In this case, it’s even more important to stay hydrated, consume essential nutrients, manage stress, and be aware of your triggers.
  • Food Sensitivities Food sensitivities create inflammation in the body, resulting in various unwanted symptoms, including migraines. When overall inflammation is high, your body is screaming for help. Migraines could be one way your body is trying to get your attention. 
  • Poor Sleep- While you sleep at night, your lymphatic system is at its most active state. This means good restorative sleep allows the brain to clear itself of cellular debris and inflammatory byproducts. Basically, when you sleep, your brain sets itself up for healing. 
How to relieve a migraine naturally
HOW TO RELIEVE A MIGRAINE NATURALLY
1. Magnesium 

Magnesium is essential for many functions in the body, including regulating muscle contractions and facilitating enzyme reactions, which is why it can be helpful in managing migraine pain. To ease migraine pain, try eating more foods that are high in magnesium, such as cashews, sprouted brown rice, spinach, dark chocolate, sunflower seeds, beans, and avocado.  

2. Feverfew 

Feverfew is an anti-inflammatory herb that has been used in the treatment of migraines for centuries. It contains a compound, called parthenolides, which widen the blood vessels, relieving inflammation and pain. 

3. Yoga 

Yoga is a restorative movement. It helps reduce stress, refocus the mind, and release tension in the body. No wonder it’s beneficial for migraines! I recommend using the Glo Yoga app for a variety of at-home yoga and meditation routines. 

4. Stress Management

Adopting effective stress management techniques is essential for those who are dealing with ample amounts of stress- physical or mental. Start by setting boundaries and taking on less responsibilities. Learn your limits and when to say “no.” Practicing deep breathing and enjoying evening epsom salt baths are a couple of my favorite ways to manage stress.

5. Quality Sleep

A good sleep routine means you’re not sleeping too little, but also not sleeping too much. Your body craves consistency and the key is to get your circadian rhythm in balance. I recommend going to bed at the same time each night and wake at the same time each morning 

Tips to improve your sleep and relieve migraines
6. Aromatherapy 

Essential oils encourage relaxation in the body. Better yet, they can relieve migraine pain! Lavender and peppermint essential oils can be diffused, added to bath water, or applied topically (in combination with a carrier oil) to relieve migraines.

7. Elimination Diet 

An elimination diet is beneficial in identifying potential food sensitivities or migraine triggers. Start by eliminating suspect foods, if you have any. Alternatively, you can start by eliminating highly inflammatory foods one-by-one, including gluten, grains, dairy, polyunsaturated oils, soy, sugar, etc. You want to eliminate each food group for at least 1 month. Track any changes in symptoms, including pain level, frequency, etc.

8. Butterbur 

Butterbur is plant extract in functional medicine. Its anti-inflammatory properties ease migraine pain and other migraine symptoms. It decreases the vasoconstriction of vessels and excitation of neurons, helping to prevent migraine attacks. 

9. B2-Riboflavin 

Low vitamin B2 can lead to mitochondrial dysfunction which has an effect on migraine occurrence. Taking 400 mg of vitamin B2  per day can help many reduce the number of migraines you have. 

WRAPPING IT ALL UP 

While migraines might be a common symptom in adults, it’s important to understand why migraines occur. Once you do, you can better utilize these natural remedies to heal your body on a foundational level, instead of simply band-aiding the symptom!

So in short, how to relieve a migraine? My #1 suggestion is to see a functional practitioner who can interpret lab work and get to the source of your symptoms. The best way to heal is through testing because it provides a foundation to base your roadmap to symptom relief on. I encourage you to reach out to a functional practitioner who can interpret your labs and help you set up a plan to eliminate triggers and heal your body the right way. Check out my programs at nikkiyeltonrd.com/my-programs and let’s see if we’re a good fit! 

How to relieve a migraine naturally
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"When it comes to balancing our body, healing the gut, reversing autoimmunity, and achieving optimal health—we are a lot like a car that won’t run right. In order to fix the problem once and for all instead of relying on jumper cables, we must get underneath the hood, run the diagnostics, and replace the battery so that it runs good as new."

-Nikki Yelton, RD

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