01 May Natural Approaches to Headaches & Migraines
Millions of Americans suffer from headaches: migraines, cluster headaches and tension headaches.
In fact, three quarters are women. There are lots of herbal and non-herbal remedies – so many that it can be overwhelming!
What do you do when it doesn’t work?
Many patients come to me complaining that they have tried over-the-counter, natural remedies that don’t work. Sometimes they’ve been on pharmaceutical medications for years without getting the relief they need.
Severe headaches and migraines can make your life unbearable.
Personally, I can only imagine the pain you might feel. Last week, I woke up with a severe headache. First headache I’ve had in years! I had extreme tension in my neck and shoulders because it’d been more than a month since my last massage (COVID-19 shelter in place order here in the Bay Area, so my massage therapist has not been available).
Wow, could I relate to people who suffer from severe headaches! I could not function, so I finally relented and took one tablet of acetaminophen. I don’t regularly take painkillers so one was enough. Unfortunately, this is not the case for people who suffer from severe tension headaches, cluster headaches and migraines.
People who suffer from headaches and migraines miss work, quality time with their friends and family, and their overall well-being suffers regularly. It’s no surprise that I get a lot of calls from people who suffer from headaches and migraines. There’s a lot that natural medicine has to offer and I’m here to help my patients navigate what works and what doesn’t work. It’s also individual – I identify the cause.
Treat the Individual:
What works for one person may not work for another. There are different types of headaches. I treat a migraine very differently from a tension headache.
Identify the Cause:
If you don’t have tension headaches, you’ve probably been told that there is no cause to your migraine. It’s just the way you are. How discouraging is that? In fact, there are triggers and things that make migraines worse:
- muscle tension
- hormone changes-menstrual cycles to menopause
- blood sugar fluctuations
I suggest anyone who suffers from chronic, regular headaches and migraines to keep a journal. Write down what you eat, do (exercise, no exercise, work), stress levels, mood, and where you were that day.
Headache Elimination Diet
Sometimes, it only takes eliminating one food or one drink from your diet. I’ll never forget the first migraine patient I saw when I was a student. She said nothing seemed to work for her: herbs, supplements, diet, or medications. I gave her a diet diary and I saw that she was drinking diet soda every day. This diet soda contained aspartame, an artificial sweetener. I asked her to stop her diet soda, and her migraines disappeared.
The following are some common dietary triggers:
- processed foods and meat like hot dogs and salami
- artificial additives and preservatives
- aged cheeses
- fermented foods, including kombucha
It can be difficult to identify food triggers, especially if it’s not a common dietary trigger. This is why it’s so important to keep a food diary.
Herbs & Supplements
There are quite a few to choose from. This is why it is a good idea to see a professional, such as a naturopathic doctor. Naturopathic doctors are experts in natural medicine.
Like I said earlier, you’ve probably tried a few supplements or herbs and they haven’t helped. Feverfew is a good example. This is a commonly known herb to treat migraines. It is also commonly reported to me that it does not work. This is because feverfew is probably only effective in headaches and migraines that are related to allergies.
Feverfew is known to reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. It can also lessen symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Feverfew has been shown to decrease inflammation and histamine response. This is why I’ve only seen it help people who have seasonal allergies that worsen or trigger their migraines.
Caution: do not take feverfew if you have an allergy to ragweed.
Acupuncture & Massage
Relieving stress and muscle tension, acupuncture and massage are great techniques to relieve the pain caused by tension headaches and migraines. By reducing muscle tension, the underlying cause of a tension headache can be removed. Muscle tension and stress can often be a trigger to migraines.
Want to learn more about how Dr. Kimberly Brown can help you on your journey to a healthier life?
Dr. Kimberly Brown, ND, MSOM, LAc sees patients remotely via telemedicine and in her office in San Jose, California. Schedule your appointment or complimentary phone consultation here.
If you have any questions, contact us here.
Medical Disclaimer: Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, supplement, exercise or other health program. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read here. The use of any information provided here is solely at your own risk. Nothing stated here is intended to be, and must not be taken to be, the practice of medicine. Information provided here does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and any doctor affiliated with San Jose Integrative Medicine. Information and statements that may have been provided regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.