Natural Migraine Prevention Starts With These 4 Items, Experts Say, But These Other 4 Can Hurt
As a lifelong migraineur, I'm always looking for new ways to manage my migraine headaches. This includes being aware of lesser known natural migraine prevention techniques and common things that can make them worse. While many people who live with migraines take a preventative or rescue medication, a majority of migraineurs also make lifestyle changes and use natural remedies to help manage their migraine headaches.
"Treatment for both tension and migraine headaches can include a natural holistic approach as well as prescription or over-the-counter medications. Prevention includes good health habits such as a healthy diet, adequate hydration, good quality sleep, an exercise program, and avoidance of smoking," Dr. Susan Hutchinson, a migraineur and director of the Orange County Migraine & Headache Center in Irvine, California, tells Bustle.
Because a lot of medications have undesirable side effects, being able to prevent the onset of a migraine using an all-natural approach can also help increase your quality of life. While everyday items can be a useful part of your migraine toolkit, other items you use on the regular could be making your migraines worse. According to the National Institutes of Health U.S. Library of Medicine, everyday things like certain foods, bright lights, and odors like perfume can trigger migraines. If you're not sure what to try and what to avoid to manage your migraines, here's what you need to know.
Bathing In Epsom Salts Can Alleviate Migraine Symptoms
Everyone loves a nice hot soak in the tub. In addition to being relaxing, taking a bath can help lessen migraine symptoms. "Epsom salts contains magnesium, which can help migraines both acutely and preventively," Dr. Hutchinson explains. "Some of the magnesium in the epsom salts can seep into the skin during bathing and may help prevent and treat migraines."
Drink Plenty Of Water To Prevent Migraines
I'm embarrassed to admit this now, but I didn't know until I was in my 20s that drinking water is not only vital to good health, but it's an important part of preventing migraines. "Staying well hydrated, drinking at least 64 ounces of water a day for most individuals. This can help prevent dehydration which is a common trigger for migraines. In fact, drinking a large glass of water may help prevent a mild headache from worsening," Dr. Hutchinson says.
OK, 64 ounces of water sounds like a lot, but when you're trying to stave off a headache, getting hydrated quickly is key.
Aromatherapy Is Your Migraine BFF
While artificial scents like perfumes and air fresheners can trigger migraines (scroll down for some more info on that), all-natch scents from essential oils can have the opposite effect. "Aromatherapy especially lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus can help prevent migraine and may help treat a mild migraine," Dr. Hutchinson says. These are my three go-to essential oils. In fact, I always carry a bottle of peppermint oil with me in case I encounter a scent that will trigger a migraine. I dab a little under my nose so I smell the peppermint and not the offending odor.
Ginger Is An Effective Migraine Treatment, Too
Although it doesn't work for everyone, a small study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that for some people, ginger powder works as well as a common abortive migraine medication. "The effectiveness of ginger powder in the treatment of common migraine attacks is statistically comparable to sumatriptan," the study reported. "Ginger also poses a better side effect profile than sumatriptan."
Bright Lights Can Make Migraines Worse
The National Institutes of Health U.S. Library of Medicine listed bright lights as a common migraine trigger. This is definitely true for me. If you notice that you get a migraine after spending a lot of time under fluorescent or other bright lights, it's possible that this is a trigger for you, too. While you can't escape all bright lights, use soft, low lighting in your home, and always carry a pair of sunglasses in case you have to spend a significant amount of time in a brightly lit room.
Certain Foods Can Trigger Migraines
You might be surprised to learn that some of your favorite foods are common migraine triggers, and unfortunately, the list is long. According to the National Institutes of Health U.S. Library of Medicine, fermented foods, baked goods, chocolate, nuts, dairy products, avocado (!!!), banana, citrus fruit, meats that contain nitrates, red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken liver, figs, and certain beans can all trigger migraines.
In addition, Dr. Hutchinson says that foods with preservatives and artificial sweeteners should also be avoided by migraineurs. Not every food is a trigger for every person. But if you have migraines, and you're not sure which foods might be a trigger for you, keep a food diary so you can note the correlation between certain foods and the onset of a migraine.
Put Away The Perfume
Perfumes and artificial air fresheners are a trigger for so many people that a lot of workplaces are going scent-free. Perfume is such a huge trigger for me that my friends know not to wear it around me. When I travel, I always request a room that hasn't been cleaned with scented products, and I have to tell anyone I date that they can't wear perfume or cologne in my presence. If you notice that you get a migraine after wearing or being around perfume, try going perfume-free and opting for scents derived from essential oils instead.
Watch Out For Weather
Weather is a big migraine trigger, and unfortunately it's something that's completely out of your control. When I lived on the east coast, I had three times as many migraines as do living on the west coast. Changeable climates, changes in barometric pressure, and damp weather can trigger migraines and make existing migraines worse, Dr. Hutchinson says.
One thing that can make managing weather-related migraines easier are MigraineX ear plugs, for which Dr. Hutchinson is a medical advisor. They work by relieving pressure in your head associated with weather-related migraine headaches. The ear plugs work in tandem with an app that tracks weather patterns and alerts you to put the ear plugs in when there is a significant change in barometric pressure. The great thing about the app is that you're warned in advance that you're at risk for developing a migraine, which allows you time to prepare and potentially prevent it from happening at all.
There's no two ways about it — having migraines sucks. That being said, knowing how to manage and prevent them can go a long way towards living with them.