Migraine is a biological disease more common than asthma, diabetes or congestive heart failure. More than a bad headache, migraine attacks are characterized by severe, throbbing head pain, usually on one side of the head, that can be disabling. Sometimes people with migraines also experience nausea and sensitivity to light or sound. And migraines can last anywhere from four hours to 72 hours. These attacks affect family, work and people’s social lives — and rob people of quality of life.One of the most frustrating traits about migraines is that just about anything can trigger them and the triggers are different for everyone. Common triggers include hormonal changes, stress, bright lights and loud sounds, smoke, sleep patterns, weather changes and certain foods and drinks. It’s hard to pinpoint specifically what will bring on a migraine, and in some instances, it takes a “perfect storm” of various triggers to cause a migraine.
Nutritional Treatments Show Promise
Several medications are available to prevent or treat a migraine attack. Like all medications, some are effective, some are not, and some have unpleasant side effects like drowsiness or nausea. The good news is growing research is showing other ways to prevent or treat migraines. Most popular on the list? Cocoa!
A new study presented at the International Headache Society’s 14th International Headache Congress offers evidence that cocoa (specifically Theobroma cacao) may repress inflammatory responses that are associated with the pain in migraines.
These study results are not a license to gobble your way through a bag of Hersheys® Kisses. Processed chocolate doesn’t count because the cocoa content usually isn’t high enough and other unhealthy ingredients come into play. And in those cases, chocolate may trigger a migraine, rather than prevent it. Only pure cocoa has been shown to have positive effects on health. This cocoa also has anti-depressant properties and can cause the brain to release pain-fighting chemicals.
Other nutrients that may help migraines include magnesium, feverfew, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), CoQ10 and butterbur.
One easy, no-cost natural treatment for migraines is exercise. Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce the frequency of headaches, the intensity and the amount of medication needed. It could be due to exercise’s ability to reduce stress, which is often a factor in migraines.
Additional prevention and treatments for migraines include:
- • Muscle relaxation exercises, such as meditation and yoga. Or try to take at least 30 minutes a day doing something you find relaxing, such as reading, listening to music, gardening, or taking a hot bath.
- • Steady amounts of adequate sleep. Don’t skimp on or over-do sleep and keep your sleep schedule consistent.
- • Ice down. If you have an attack, put an ice pack on the back of your neck and apply pressure to painful areas on your head.
- • Massage. Massage offers many snowballing benefits to reduce the frequency of migraines. It relaxes you, which can relieve stress to prevent migraines. And it can improve the quality of your sleep, which also can help prevent migraines.