How to get rid of a migraine: Seven ways to reduce the pain and long-term changes to make

Migraines are a complex and multi-factorial condition of the nervous system and unfortunately there is no one clear cause or solution. Identifying your individual triggers and taking steps to avoid them is one of the primary steps to reducing attacks. However, once a migraine has been triggered, for many sufferers unfortunately there is no stopping it, and the only thing left to do is ride it out. Hannah Braye, nutritional therapist at Bio-Kult offered some helpful tips to lessen the negative impact.

Eating regularly can help reduce migraine symptoms

1. Know the warning signs

Migraines are often preceded by warning signs indicating that an attack may be imminent, according to Hannah.

She explained: “These ‘prodrome’ symptoms vary but may include emotional changes, urinary frequency, fluid retention, and stiff neck, up to 48 hours prior to an attack. Recognising these signals and taking steps to minimise exacerbating factors may help to fend off attacks and reduce duration and intensity.”

2. Take your medication

If you have been prescribed medication to help ward off acute attacks, Hannah said to take it at the earliest opportunity once the warning signs prevent themselves.

3. Get somewhere quiet and comfortable as soon as possible

If you suspect an attack coming on, Hannah said: “Go home to rest in a dark, cool room, without stimulation (eg. TV computers).

4. Drink plenty of water

Dehydration is one potential trigger for migraines, so Hannah said if you notice the warning signs, consider whether you have drunk enough water today, and if not, top-up sharpish.

5. Eat regularly

If not feeling too nauseous, try and eat small regular snacks.

Hannah advised: “Focus on complex carb and protein rich foods to maintain blood sugar levels.”

6. Massage

Try massaging the base of the head and temples and try warming the neck with a scarf or hot water bottle, said Hannah.

7. Essential oils

Hannah said: “Certain essential oils may also be of benefit, with lavender oil inhaled during attacks, and peppermint oil applied to the temples and forehead both reported to decrease pain and ease symptoms.”

While the above may help you to ride out a migraine, potentially reducing its length and severity, as with all aspects of health, prevention is better than cure.

Sufferers are likely to see far greater benefits by approaching migraines holistically, by making long-term changes to their diet and lifestyle. Migraine sufferers are therefore advised by Hannah to:

1. Eat a wholefoods anti-inflammatory diet

Hannah advised: “Cut out highly processed and sugary foods, and instead focus on eating a variety of different coloured fruit and vegetables, good quality protein such as organic/grass-fed meat, eggs, tofu, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds and healthy fats such as oily fish, olive and flax oil, and avocado.”

2. Reduce alcohol

Alcohol has been reported as a migraine trigger in approximately one-third of migraine patients, according to Hannah.

She added: “Wine and beer are most commonly reported to trigger attacks. If you feel left out at the pub or in restaurants, why not treat yourself to a delicious mocktail instead.”

3. Look after your gut

It is believed that inflammation originating from poor gut health may contribute to inflammation of major pain pathways in the brain, triggering migraine attacks.

Hannah said: “Newly emerging research indicates that live bacteria supplements may be of benefit. A recent clinical trial found that the 14 strains of live bacteria in Bio-Kult Migréa, significantly reduced both episodic and chronic migraine frequency and severity and reliance on medication in as little as 8 weeks.4 The product also contains magnesium and B6 both of which contribute to the normal functioning of the nervous system, and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue (which often accompany migraine attacks).”

4. Reduce stress

Stress is the factor listed most often by migraine sufferers as a trigger for their attacks.

In addition there is evidence that stress may initiate the condition in those genetically predisposed to the disorder, and may also increase the risk of migraines becoming chronic.

Hannah said: “Working on increasing stress resilience and stress management skills through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or bio-feedback techniques may have the potential to reduce the impact that stress has on those with migraine. Carving out time for yourself to relax, for example by having a bath, reading a book, spending time outdoors or re-engaging with hobbies and friends should also be prioritised.”

5. Gentle exercise

Evidence indicates that gentle to moderate cardiovascular exercise may be beneficial in migraine as it is thought to modulate pain pathways, potentially decreasing the intensity of migraine pain, said Hannah.

She added: “Intense exercise on the other hand can be a trigger for migraines and headaches in some. So opt for restorative exercise options such as walking, gentle jogging, yoga, or swimming.”

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