By: Dr. St Jean
A migraine is a complicated condition with a wide variety of symptoms. It is debilitating characterized by moderate to a severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head. This is often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound. In this video, we are going to talk about how you can eliminate your migraines by avoiding these triggers that are fairly common.
Hormonal imbalances are really common for all those patients suffering from migraines. The hormonal imbalances could be emanating from an issue with the cycle whether that be with menstruation or ovulation. It could be too long of a cycle or too short. There could be spotting as well as a whole host of issues. We actually used a great test in our clinic called the 208 from Biohealth Diagnostics for this. It maps out your entire cycle, so we can pinpoint exactly where the problem is and correct the imbalance. Other issues can be from oral contraceptive use or hormone replacement therapy. The only other thing I want to point out about this is that sometimes when patients that are suffering from migraines go in and talk about hormone imbalances, they are actually given birth control or hormone replacement therapy in an attempt to treat the migraine. That is fine but just keep in mind that often times when this happens, it actually makes the migraines worse.
Lack of Exercise
We were meant to move and we all know that. A lot of patients whom I see when asked them about their physical activity, it is almost none. That is a problem because being active is not just going to help your migraines. It is going to help your overall health. But when it comes to migraines, I am not saying when you are having an attack to go lift weights or go for a run. It is actually prophylactic meaning it is more preventative and helps reduce the number of migraines and the intensity overall. Keep in mind, sometimes, you do not want to go intense as really vigorous intense exercise can actually trigger migraines. So there is a sweet spot and only you know that sweet spot. It really depends on your level of physical activity, endurance levels, and your aerobic capacity. There are so many different variables. Basically, how fit are you and that will determine, where and when and how much you should be exercising.
You always want to make sure that you are asking your prescribing doctor, “Do any of my medications trigger or aggravate or mitigate my migraine headaches?” That is a really important starting place. Now, think about it. Anybody that has migraines or any kind of headache for that matter is going to take medications. They take medications to relieve the headache, but over time the more medication uses the more likely they are to develop something called medication overuse headaches.
Medications that have been specifically linked to triggering migraines include things like pain relievers, ergots, triptans, opioids and combo analgesics. So these are all things you want to consider if you have migraines.
Two really important ones that come to mind are cocaine and marijuana. Cocaine will, in fact, trigger a migraine attack. Not everytime but it will so definitely avoid it. Marijuana does not necessarily trigger the attack but when you are on the substance, it is more difficult to treat the attack. So I know that is not what something you want to hear. You might think that hey you know, my migraine headaches are only responding to marijuana. That is fine but just know that it makes it harder to treat the attack. So keep that in mind, you always want to search for the root cause of migraines.
Stress and Anxiety
These are really pervasive mental emotional stressors in our life in our everyday society. So when you encounter something stressful, the model that I would like to live by is, let the emotions flow, experience them and then let them go. Make sure not to internalize. When you internalize those types of stressors and anxious feelings of fear and excitement or whatever it is, it actually creates physiological changes in your heart and in your nervous system that become overtime pathological. So stress and anxiety, those are things that you are going to want to find away to reduce whether that is meditation, counseling, whatever works for you. Reduce your stress and anxiety and you will eliminate your migraine headaches.
You definitely want to dial in your sleep when it comes to avoiding the triggers of migraines now. That could be either too much sleep, or may be you are sleeping way too much or your are not sleeping enough. Either one can be problematic when it comes to migraines. The discussion of sleep in terms of how much you need is a very controversial subject.
I always recommend my patients between 7 and 10 hours depending on the individual. Personally, I tried to get 10 every night. It does not always happen, why? Because life gets in the way just like the rest of us, right? But in general, you want to try to sleep between 10 and 10:30 and then wake up when your body feels rested. It is really important. There is a whole bunch of information on sleep on my other functional medicine website drstjean.com. So feel free to go and read and watch a bunch of videos on that as well. But sleep is something you really need to dial in when it comes to migraines.
In addition to getting your sleep dialed in, consider your computer screens and how much time you are spending in front of them. Computers, iPads, iPhones, all of it. You really want to minimize if you can. If your work surrounds them like mine, then I get anti-glare screens, take breaks, and wear blue glasses.
Blue glasses filter a certain wavelength of light so it calms down the stimulation to a part of your brain called mesencephalon which placed a very important role on migraines. So when it comes to avoiding specific triggers, you really want to figure our what works best with your computer screens. Again, anti-glare screens, take breaks throughout the day, make sure there is proper lighting, and look on my website for those blue glasses.
All too often, these things find their way into our food stuff and we do not even know about them. Things you want to think about are MSG, aspartame, and nitrates. All definitely need to be avoided to help you eliminate migraines.
These are different than allergies. Allergy is things like hypersensitivity reactions. For example, if you have a peanut allergy, you have this really intense reaction to peanuts. Food sensitivities are a completely different category. Some of the top offenders are gluten, dairy, and soy. I am not a gluten zealot by any means. Not every single person is sensitive to this types of foods, but if you are suffering from migraines, you really want to make sure that these are not causing problems in your gut and causing inflammation because that can be triggering your migraines.
Avoid artificial sweeteners. Do not use Splenda. Go for Stevia specifically the sweet leaf Stevia. It does not have the maltodextrin in it. So it is much better for you and it is not going to trigger your migraines.
Caffeine is definitely a trigger for migraines. Whether that is too much caffeine in one sitting or throughout the day or abstaining from caffeine too quickly. So try to find other natural sources of energy boost like exercise, good sleep, and B vitamins. There is a ton of different sources that you can use to boost your energy naturally.
This is found in red wines and certain cheeses like camembert and brie. So you really, if you are suffering from migraines, avoid red wines and these cheeses. Probably take out alcohol and cheese until you can figure out what is actually causing your migraine so you do not have to suffer from it.
You need to make sure you are drinking enough water. We are about 70% water. Meaning, literally, our body is about 70% water so you need a lot of it. As a general rule of thumb, half of your body weight in ounces per day. For example, if I weigh 180, I need to drink on average 90 ounces of water each day to stay hydrated. Now of course, that will go up or go down depending on how many vegetables or fruits or other foods containing water that I am consuming each day. Again, as a general rule of thumb, half of your body in ounces will keep you good and hydrated.
Great! So we covered a plethora of different triggers for your migraine headaches. Definitely avoid these triggers if you are suffering from these types of headaches. Keep in mind however, this does not necessarily guarantee that you are not going to have the headaches. You really want to get to the underlying root cause of your migraine headaches.
To learn more about headaches and migraines, check out our article and video blog. You can search for more information on the top left hand corner of this website. There is a ton of information to help you get started feeling better!