An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so we’ll start by discussing natural ways to prevent migraines. Keep in mind, that while some treatments may overlap between preventative and acute treatment, prevention is only useful for treating migraines if you know the underlying cause. This can make preventing migraines tricky since the cause is essentially unknown and probably multi-faceted for most sufferers. For these reasons, the treatments available are numerous, and go well beyond what I discuss here. I will focus on the most common treatments I have seen clinically and/or ones that research has shown to be effective.
Stress, or the mismanagement of stress, can be a common cause of migraines. Stress management tools and techniques include counseling, meditation, daily gratitude practices, healthy nutrition, regular exercise, and a good nights sleep. For most of us, stress is a large factor of chronic disease in general, so implementing stress management tools that work for you can be life-changing, beyond just reducing migraines. Exercising just a few times a week can have profound effects on reducing the number of migraines one might have.
A great place to start as nutrition is a key factor for many chronic diseases. When it comes to nutrition and migraines, there are a few different approaches that have been beneficial for different people. For some, identifying and avoiding food allergies may provide a huge relief by reducing the number of migraine attacks. Wheat (gluten), eggs, dairy, or soy may be common triggers that can cause a migraine. Other types of foods that sufferers can react to can include; tyramines (aged cheeses and wine), MSG (flavor additive, also found naturally in some foods in small amounts), sulfites (dried fruits and red wine) nitrites (preservative in processed meats), aspartame (artificial sweetener), or histamine (fermented and cured foods, older/more ripe foods). Currently, there is a growing body of research supporting the link between digestive disorders, the gut microbiome, and migraines.
Along the same vein are nutritional supplements. Whether it’s due to an individual’s biochemistry or nutritional habits or needs, supplementing with magnesium, vitamin B12, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) has shown to provide some relief over time. Beyond vitamins and minerals, a more recent study found using 3mg of melatonin to be as effective and better tolerated than amitriptylline for migraine prevention. While the mechanism behind the efficacy of melatonin is unknown, it is interesting to note that migraine sufferers tend to commonly suffer from insomnia as well, and disrupted sleep patterns (getting too much or too little sleep) can be a trigger for a migraine.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and butterbur (Petasites hybridus) are herbs with a long-standing history of use for migraine prevention. Feverfew has a strong anti-inflammatory effect and may even supply some melatonin. The only downside is that it can take months of daily use before the health benefits are seen. A few fresh leaves can be eaten daily for this benefit. While feverfew is a generally safe herb, some people are sensitive to plants in this same family (Asteraceae, which includes Chamomile) so use it cautiously to start.
Other Specialized Treatments
Acupuncture has been in existence for thousands of years and there’s a reason it’s stuck around for so long. There is a growing body of research supporting the benefits of acupuncture treatments for chronic pain, including migraines. Homeopathy, a distinct system of medicine that falls under the naturopathic umbrella, can also be an effective treatment for prevention. Chiropractic manipulations have also been found to help decrease the occurrence of migraines. And a relatively newer treatment that has been shown to prevent migraines is biofeedback. Biofeedback is a technique involving a machine in which people are trained to use signals from their own bodies to improve their health.
Hopefully this has introduced some new treatment ideas, or given you a new perspective on ones you’ve tried in the past. Since migraines are usually multifactorial caused, the best way to start, is to try one treatment or approach at a time. While this list may seem overwhelming, taking it one step at a time can guide you along on your journey to become migraine-free.