A migraine is a throbbing, unilateral headache often associated with nausea, vomiting, photophobia, or a sensory, olfactory (smell) or audible aura prior to migraine. Eight percent of Canadians over 12 years of age have been diagnosed with migraines and women are 3 times more suscepti­ble than men.

This article addresses the factors which trigger mi­graines and how to prevent or lessen the severity with nutritional or hormonal therapy.

Factors triggering migraines fall into several categories such as dietary, environmental, hormonal, lifestyle and medications.

Dietary: Reactive hypo­glycemia appears to be a common cause of mi­graines. This is a term used in non-diabetics when 4 hours after a high-carbohy­drate, low- protein meal is consumed; a higher amount of insulin is released to decrease the glucose load. Studies have shown im­proved or complete relief after consuming high-pro­tein, low-carbohydrate diets, restricting refined sugar and consuming 6 small meals a day.

A high salt load particu­larly on an empty stomach can cause migraines 6 to 12 hours later. Continuous aspartame ingestion and high caffeine consumption are also known triggers.

Food allergies appear to be common cause as well. These allergies are suc­cessfully unmasked by an elimination diet. Foods or additives that can trigger migraines are as follows: tyramine found in cured meats, aged cheeses and smoked fishes, monosodi­um glutamate (MSG) found in many processed foods, (Read The Labels!), nitrates are found in processed meats. Other foods most fre­quently causing migraines in descending order are wheat, oranges, eggs, tea and coffee, chocolate and milk, beef, corn, cane sugar, yeast, mushrooms and peas.

Environmental triggers such as bright or flickering lights, tobacco smoke, loud noises, strong perfume, weather changes or high al­titude can cause migraines.

Hormonal triggers which usually occur before a wom­an’s cycle, pregnancy and menopause will cause mi­graines. Balancing out hor­mones with Bio-identical hormones and not synthetic hormones will help.

Medications such as birth control pills (synthet­ic hormones) are known culprits. There are many other drugs that can cause migraines (including cho­lesterol, high blood pressure medications). If you suspect your medication may be an issue, consult with your pharmacist.

One effective nutrition­al supplement used for prophylaxis is magnesium glycinate. It has been sug­gested that a magnesium deficiency is involved in the development of migraines. Other factors that decrease magnesium stores and therefor trigger migraines include stress, menstrua­tion, alcohol ingestion and medications. If prone to migraines take magnesium glycinate 100mg – 300mg twice a day.

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and Coenzyme Q10, both of which plays a role in cell energy production, appear to be impaired in migraine patients. Taking riboflavin (15mg to 400mg/day) and CoQ10 (60mg-300mg/day) can help.

Other vitamins and min­erals studied with which provide positive results include niacin, folic acid, alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin C, vitamin B12, L-tryptophan, omega 3 and 6, vitamin D, calcium and melatonin.

Nutritional supplements for “acute” treatment of migraines include intrave­nous magnesium and the Myers Cocktail which is a combination of magnesi­um, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin C. Contact your naturopath for this specific type of treatment and vita­min protocol.

Lifestyle changes includ­ing improving stress levels, dealing with inadequate or excessive sleep, fatigue, yo-yo dieting, fasting and strenuous exercise can all influence a migraine. Stick to a schedule of proper­ly balanced meals and adequate amounts of sleep each night. Avoid as many triggers a possible and follow a comprehensive vitamin and mineral plan.

Maria Musitano, B.Sc Pharm., Compounding Pharmacist


Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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