Pain Series: A Natural Approach to Headaches and Migraines

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headache-painMigraine Basics

What is a migraine? It is a severe, painful headache that can last anywhere from several hours to several days. Migraines differ from traditional headaches in that they are usually accompanied by other symptoms such as sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or flashes of light.

Who is affected? Migraines can affect adults and children, but are most often reported by adults. Women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men.

Migraine Versus Headache: Which Do I Have?

To better understand headaches and to differentiate migraine headaches from other types, see common signs, symptoms and frequencies of headaches listed below. Our certified wellness counselors recommend keeping a headache diary—noting when your headaches occur, what your headache signs and symptoms are, and any diet or lifestyle triggers you can identify. This detail will help our professionals provide a personal assessment of your situation and make recommendations for you. There are many options for taking a natural approach to headaches and migraines. 

Are the headaches dull and achy? Tension-type headaches, the most common variety of headaches:

  • Often feel like a tight band around your head
  • Cause mild to moderate pain on both sides of your head
  • May be triggered by stress, neck strain, missed meals, depression, anxiety or lack of sleep
  • May occur occasionally, or more than 15 days a month (chronic)
  • Can last from 30 minutes to an entire week

Are the headaches throbbing, sharp, and severe? Migraines:

  • Often are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or increased sensitivity to light or sound
  • May affect only one side of your head
  • May include head pain that worsens with routine activity
  • May be triggered by stress, weather changes, environmental factors (like strong perfumes and other smells), certain foods, and menstrual cycles or fluctuating estrogen levels
  • Untreated, typically can last from four to 72 hours

Common Headache & Migraine Triggers

  • Low serotonin levels
  • Food allergies/food sensitivities
  • Alcohol
  • Chemicals (e.g., MSG, nitrates)
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Stress/emotional changes
  • Hormonal changes
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor posture
  • Muscle tension
  • Weather changes
  • Eye strain

There are many natural supplements that can help you manage headaches and migraines. Here are a few that may provide some relief.

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals that you can take to help relieve your headache symptoms. Studies have shown that magnesium relaxes muscle tension and manages tension headaches better than over-the-counter pain relievers. Migraine sufferers also tend to be magnesium deficient; in fact, some studies show that more than 50% of patients during an acute migraine have lowered levels of magnesium.

Another supplement that has proven to be effective is 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). Research suggests that 5-HTP may be particularly effective in reducing both the severity and frequency of migraine headaches. 5-HTP increases the body’s production of serotonin, and low serotonin levels have been associated with migraines.

At Village Green Apothecary, we have many natural headache remedies and migraine treatment options. Call us, or talk to one of our practitioners to see what might be the best supplement for your particular situation.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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February 2023