If you have ever had a migraine, you never want to have another one! Headaches are the third most common problem I see in my office and they can be very disabling and have a major impact in your daily life. According to migrainecanada.org if your headaches come with two or more of these symptoms: nausea, light sensitivity and problems doing usual activities; you probably have migraines. This type of headache is commonly under diagnosed and often mistaken as sinus headaches. People complain of nausea, dizziness, sharp head pain, sensitivity to sound and light, and often vomit due to the migraine. Here are 5 great tips to help avoid these terrible headaches:
1. Have a Headache Diary
This is an essential step before trying any of the other suggestions. Migraine headaches almost always are started by a trigger. You have to keep track of a number of factors that happen before you have a migraine to get a better accurate picture of what is really starting your headache. These include: the weather, what you ate, the time in your menstrual cycle, your sleep quality, and the level of stress you are having. There is a great headache diary resource you can download from the Canadian Headache Society at headachesociety.ca
2. Watch What You Eat
Migraine food triggers vary widely among patients but here are some common foods that you can avoid eating to help prevent a migraine. These foods include:
caffeine withdraw and/or having more than 100 mg a day
foods containing MSG, Histamine, and Tyramine
When logging in your journal what you ate, sometimes you will notice that you can get away with eating small amounts of trigger foods and you will notice that sometimes you can't if it is combined with other trigger foods or other basic triggers like stress. For foods to qualify as a trigger, you have to of had a headache within 24 hours of ingestion. The american migraine foundation has a great resource meal planner for people who suffer from migraines.
Migraines can also be triggered when you skip a meal and are in a state of fasting and a third of migraine sufferers say dehydration is a trigger.
3. Manage Hormones
Women are three times more likely to have migraines than men and about 60 percent of women with migraines get a type of headache called menstrual migraines. The American Migraine Foundation categorizes a menstrual migraine if you have headaches that occur between 2 days before your period and in the first 3 days of flow.
Right before your period, the amount of estrogen and progesterone, two female hormones, in your body drops. This drastic change can be a monthly trigger or contributor to migraines.
The most common treatment for menstrual migraines is the use of birth control pills to help maintain a level of estrogen throughout the month. It is important to talk to your medical doctor about medication options for menstrual migraines.
Studies suggest magnesium supplementation can be helpful for migraine with aura and menstrually-related migraine. Both the American Academy of Neurology and Canadian guidelines recommend its use for migraine prevention, either as oral magnesium citrate 400-600 mg daily or by eating more magnesium rich foods.
4. Get Some Sleep and Relax
Lack of sleep, and less common too much sleep, can be a common trigger. Having a regular sleep routine and excellent sleep hygiene habits are a must for Migraine sufferers. Nearly half of all migraine attacks occur between 4:00am and 9:00am, putting people at a greater risk for developing a sleep disorder.
Stress is the number one common denominator with migraine patients. 70% of them report it as a significant trigger. Sleep and stress go hand in hand and they both need to be managed.
Stress also causes the shoulder and neck muscles to tighten and this can be a trigger for migraines. Often when people present to my office they have very tight muscles at the base of their skull contributing to their headaches. Regular exercise is the best best place to start to eliminate these common triggers.
People often take medications for a headache or to help treat migraines. These include prescription medication as well as NSAID's and pain killers. If you have regular migraine headaches and take acute medication prescribed by your doctor more than 10 days out of a month, it can in actually be the cause of more migraine attacks—a phenomenon known as Medication Overuse Headache (MOH).
This is a topic you must talk to your doctor about and develop a plan to better use medications for treatment.
There is a lot you can do to help prevent migraines. Start with your headache diary and try to figure out your triggers and then start eliminating them.
Activity Fact: Based on data from the 2010 and 2011 Canadian Community Health Surveys and the 2011 Survey of Living with Neurological Conditions- an estimated 8.3% of Canadians (2.7 million) reported that they had been diagnosed with migraine by a health professional