Nearly ten percent of all people experience migraine headaches at some time in their lives. The fortunate ones have only one or two episodes in a lifetime, but others may suffer migraine headaches several times a week.

Migraine headaches usually affect only one side of the head and are experienced by the sufferer as a throbbing or pounding sensation. Their onset is sometimes signaled by alterations in the senses, such as smelling or hearing things that other people do not, tingling sensations, or numbness in the arms or face, especially in the upper lip. A common warning is an alteration in vision, known as an aura, in which the person sees areas that sparkle with bright colors or assume a zigzag appearance. These symptoms are thought to be caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels supplying the brain.

After half an hour or so, the blood vessels dilate again and become stretched, causing pain. The throbbing or pounding sensation is the result of the pulsation of blood caused by the heart beating and altering the pressure inside the blood vessels. It is usually so intense that the person needs to lie quite still in a dark quiet place. Nausea and vomiting are often present; some people report that they pass large amounts of urine as the migraine clears. For many people, sleep cures the symptoms.

What Causes Migraine?

Migraine is sufficiently common and disabling to have resulted in extensive research. It is probably best regarded as a symptom that can be produced by a number of different changes in the biochemical activity of the body. As the tendency to migraine runs in families, these changes are probably to some extent inherited. There are, however, several immediate triggers to migraine headaches, which have to be identified for any one individual, and avoided whenever possible. These triggers include:

  • Food intolerance
  • Eating foods that contain or release histamine
  • Food additives, such as MSG or nitrates
  • Withdrawal from caffeine or certain painkillers used to treat migraine, such as ergotamine or those that contain caffeine
  • Stress, exhaustion, or emotional changes, including excitement
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Hormonal changes in women, including taking the birth control pill
  • Muscle tension (e.g. grinding the teeth), eyestrain or poor posture
  • Weather – for example, changes in barometric pressure or exposure to the sun
  • Minor head injury

What you can do to avoid migraine?

There are many types of headache with many different causes, so it is important to consult your doctor for a correct diagnosis. If you grind your teethm consulting your dentist may also be helpful

Consult your doctor about any medication you are taking. If you are having frequent migraines, it could be that the trigger is simply the withdrawal of the medication each time an attack wears off.

Try to identify your migraine triggers as listed above. You may find that a food, mood, and symptom diary is helpful, for it has been suggested that 80 to 90 percent of people who suffer migraines also have some form of food allergy or intolerance. The diary may also help you decide whether you would benefit from reducing the foods that contain or release histamine, or whether food additives are a problem.

Look at your lifestyle. Can you reduce your stress or increase the amount of exercise you take?

Eat a good diet. The tendency to migraines may be increased if your diet is deficient in B vitamins, magnesium, and essential fatty acids, or if it contains excessive animal fat.

Consider following the diet plan, unless you have lost the use of an arm or leg or have experienced severe visual disturbances during the course of a migraine in the past. In such cases experienced medical supervision is needed, since severe migraines can occur when foods are reintroduced.

Helpful therapies include homeopathy, western herbalism, massage, chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture, shiatsu, hypnotherapy and biofeedback.