3 Nutrients and 2 Herbs for Preventing Migraine Attacks
Whether you’ve been hit with a classic low-grade migraine or a full-blown migraine complete with aura and flashing lights, one thing’s for sure: it’s nobody’s idea of a picnic.
Not to be confused with tension headaches, migraines are much more severe and incapacitating, lasting anywhere from four to seventy-two hours. More women experience migraines than men, most likely because of the role that hormones play.
Consider the fact that most women get them either right before or during menstruation and that most migraines actually disappear after menopause. In fact, according to a 1999 study in the Medical Tribune about 10 to 15 percent of women who suffer migraines have them primarily during their menstrual cycle.
But there’s hope. Research has shown that a number of nutrients—and a couple of powerful herbs—may significantly help sufferers of migraines, and perhaps headaches in general.
How a Migraine Begins…
Migraine triggers can be different and varied for each person, but when that switch is flipped on, substances called excitotoxins overstimulate the nerve cells. As this is happening, the nerve cells send out impulses to the brain’s blood vessels and release substances that cause inflammation and swelling.
People who are prone to headaches may benefit by supplemental 5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP. 5-HTP is made in the body from the amino acid tryptophan and then converted into serotonin, the “feel good” brain chemical.
In one study a group of headache sufferers treated with 300 mg of 5-HTP a day had a significant reduction in their use of painkillers as well as a significant decrease in the number of days with headaches in the two weeks following the study.
Avoid the Trigger Foods…
Chocolate and alcohol are among the most common food triggers because they contain tyramines. For many people, tyramines are a huge trigger for migraines. High-tyramine foods include anything fermented (for example, aged cheeses, fermented soy sauce, and sauerkraut) and processed meats (like pepperoni and sausage).
Individuals who have reactive hypoglycemia—low blood sugar that occurs one to three hours after a meal—may find that being on the blood-sugar roller coaster triggers severe headaches.
Reducing refined sugar and eating smaller, more frequent meals (with more protein, fat, and fiber) will help balance blood sugar and keep it on a more even keel.
But for goodness’ sake, don’t reach for aspartame instead of sugar: It contains an amino acid called phenylalanine, which also has the potential to be a migraine trigger.
Add Three Nutrients and Two Herbs…
Riboflavin (vitamin B2), magnesium, and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) have been researched, reviewed, and studied for their effectiveness in managing migraines. They are all good, effective alternative treatments that can help prevent migraines.
One study found that those who took 300 mg of CoQ10 for four months experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction in frequency of migraine attacks, significantly different from those just using a placebo.
Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, is another nutrient that has been shown to be effective in the treatment of migraines. It can potentially decrease the number of migraine days by about 25 percent and lower the frequency by 30 percent.
Magnesium also plays an important role in migraine prevention and reduction. Like 5-HTP, it has an effect on serotonin, so when magnesium levels are low, the risk for a migraine may increase. Up to 50 percent of patients who experience acute migraines have been shown to have a magnesium deficiency.
Two herbs stand out when it comes to treating migraines: butterbur (Petasites hybridus) and feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), the most frequently used herb for the long-term prevention of migraines.
Compelling evidence from human trials suggests that butterbur may have real benefits in preventing migraines, and a number of well-done studies have suggested that feverfew may prevent migraine headaches as well.
In these studies, feverfew users seem to have milder headaches, fewer headaches, and less vomiting and nausea, though the herb doesn’t necessarily shorten the length of time each headache lasts. Using feverfew together with another herb, white willow bark, also reduces the frequency, intensity, and duration of migraine attacks, by up to 60 percent.
For migraines (and headaches), we recommend these three stand-out products…
This excellent combination supplement contains butterbur, magnesium and riboflavin. Take one capsule per 50 pounds of body weight per day for 4 weeks, then go to 1-2 caps per day.
We like this product because it contains a nice 100 mg dose of 5-HTP per capsule, along with 20 mg of B6 which is needed to convert 5-HTP to serotonin. You can work up to 3 capsules per day.
This gives you a very high dose of emulsified CoQ10 in a single chewable gel. Take one per day.
Modifying your diet as suggested above, including moderate exercise in your weekly routine, and taking these three supplements may make your migraines a thing of the past.
Wishing you health and happiness,
The Rockwell Nutrition Team