Migraine: Characteristics, Causes & Treatment

What is a Migraine?

When you have a migraine, it is not a typical headache. It can come with excruciating pain, sensitivity to light and sound, debilitating nausea and even temporary loss of sight. The symptoms of a migraine can be so intense that they can confine you to bed or require hospitalization. Migraines have become the third-most prevalent condition in the world, affecting one billion people worldwide. One out of four households has someone that suffers from this recurring health concern. (x)

The American Migraine Foundation defines “migraine” as a specific type of headache that occurs five or more times in a person’s lifetime. These headaches last 4-72 hours and are severe enough to interfere with, prohibit or restrict daily activity. They’re usually accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound and bring on nausea. (x)

Even though migraines occur less often than other types of headaches, they are still a significant problem for millions. Figures show that about 12 percent of people in the U.S. suffer from migraines, with women being two to three times more likely than men to experience them. (x)

What triggers migraines and how someone experiences them differs from person to person. However, science has identified many common triggers and risk factors that cause migraines. Several treatment options exist, ranging from rest and fluids to prescription medication. Natural remedies can also help prevent the onset, prevalence and severity of migraines. Of course, you have to rule out the possibility of a severe health condition that could trigger your migraines. 

Migraine Symptoms

Research has identified four phases of migraines, which generally occur in sequential order — prodrome, aura, headache and postdrome. Different symptoms accompany each phase. However, not everyone experiences all of the migraine phases or all of the symptoms associated with each phase. In other words, your migraine can differ greatly from another person’s. (x)

The prodrome phase may occur about 24 hours before the actual headache. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Food cravings
  • Mood changes
  • Increased yawning
  • Fluid retention

During the aura phase, one experiences 20-25 percent of migraine suffering and can bring on temporary visual, auditory and sensory changes that can feel scary or unsettling. (x) These include:

  • Seeing flashing lights or zig-zag lines
  • Feeling as though someone keeps touching you 
  • Inability to speak or hear properly
  • During the headache phase, the following symptoms can appear:
  • Moderate to severe pain in the head, sometimes on just one side
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to light, sound and smells
  • Pain that worsens with movement
  • No pain in the head at all (also called a “silent” or “ocular” migraine) (x)
  • Finally, the postdrome phase can cause symptoms that linger up to 24 hours that include:
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Weakness

People also may experience temporary changes in cognitive ability, which is yet another disruptive symptom that can interfere with productivity. (x)

Causes of Migraines

Many factors can bring on migraines, and they’re not all yet fully understood. Researchers currently believe that, most likely, the activity of the person’s biochemistry is unique and individualized. Sensitive and excitable triggers reduce blood flow throughout the body, influencing the blow flow to the head. This reaction seems to be the underlying cause. But what triggers the changes in the blood flow that cause excitability? The list is long and varies from person to person because each person has a unique biochemistry. (x) Migraines also appear to have a genetic component. (x)

  1. Hormonal Shifts

Women of childbearing age are far more likely to experience migraines because of fluctuating estrogen levels at the onset of headaches. Migraines related to hormonal shifts can occasionally or regularly coincide with the menstrual cycle. (x)

  1. Lack of energy Production

Lack of energy production from your brain cells can cause migraines. Research supports that suffering cannot produce adequate energy associated with the brain cells to meet demands. Vasospasm — the persistent contraction of the blood vessels — is the result. Supplementation can help remedy this health concern. (x)

  1. Histamine

Histamine is a chemical compound found in the body’s cells and in many foods, plays a role in the onset of migraines in some people. (x)

Migraine Triggers

While neurological and structural shifts happen in the brain, skull and upper spine appear to cause migraines, certain things are more likely to set them off. Triggers include: (x)

  • Insufficient sleep or disruption in sleep pattern
  • Stress, anxiety and other strong emotions
  • Changes in weather
  • Too much stimulation such as bright lights, loud noises or potent smells
  • Certain medications
  • Taking medications for headaches too often
  • Food or drinks that are high in histamine
  • Physical overexertion
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Tobacco
  • Looking at a computer screen for too long
Migraine Symptoms

Migraine Treatment & Natural Remedies

Managing migraines includes treating symptoms as well as trying to prevent them in the first place. If you’re suffering from chronic migraines but can’t identify the cause, keeping a journal of activity, food and symptoms can help hone in on what triggers them.

While medication might be unavoidable in some cases, there are ways to help prevent and treat migraines naturally. Often, a combination of approaches works best. Again, what works for one person will differ from what works for another.

  1. Medication

Over-the-counter pain medications usually treat migraine symptoms of pain and inflammation like NSAIDS or a combination of acetaminophen, caffeine and aspirin. (x) You can try triptans, lidocaine and nasal sprays. (x) You can treat secondary symptoms like nausea with antiemetics. 

In 2018, the U.S. FDA approved the first drug to help prevent the occurrence of some migraines in people who experience them several times per month. The drug erenumab (Aimovig) requires a once-a-month injection and may produce fewer side effects than previous drugs that aimed to do the same thing. The new drug is expensive and will take some time to see if it’s truly as effective as the drug company claims, including its safety for long-term use. (x)

These medications only suppress the acute symptoms, and its short term. It’s more beneficial to discover why migraines keep cycling through and treat that as permanent handling for your overall well-being. (x

  1. Lifestyle

Get regular, adequate sleep.

Manage stress. You can achieve this in many ways, including exercise, meditation, chiropractic care, massage and spending time outdoors, for example.

Exercise often but not during a migraine attack or if you feel one is coming on. Finding the right intensity of exercise is important because while it lowers stress levels, improves sleep quality, balances hormones and lowers inflammation, overexertion can actually trigger a headache. (x)

Maintain stable blood sugar by eating regularly. 

  1. Diet

Diet can make a big difference for migraine sufferers. It’s because certain foods contain a lot of histamines or contribute to their activity in the body. Histamine is a compound that has many functions, one of which is acting on the body as a neurotransmitter. The link between histamine and migraines and certain foods is similar to food allergies as common migraine triggers for some people. (x) (x) These foods include:

  • Wine (especially red), beer and other alcoholic beverages
  • Hard cheese
  • Cured or pickled fish
  • Meat, especially if cured or processed
  • Pastries and bread made with yeast and gluten
  • Eggs (especially if an individual is allergic)
  • Dairy products
  • Excessive amount of caffeinated drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Artificial sweeteners and artificial food additives
  • Flavor enhancers like MSG in packaged foods
  • Beans, legumes and peanuts
  • Some tree nuts
  • Most citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • Onions and garlic
  1. Compresses

Placing a warm or cold compress on the neck and head area can help reduce the pain and soothe a migraine. The majority of people with migraines prefer using a cold compress, but both do work. However, the use of compresses can have some side effects, especially for people with diabetes, circulatory issues or skin disorders. (x)

  1. Limit Exposure to Light

Prolonged exposure to artificial light emitted from electronic devices like a TV or a smartphone can trigger your migraines. Try limiting the usage of such devices, or wearing light-blocking glasses can help. Sometimes sunlight can trigger a migraine. In such cases, wearing sunglasses that are specially tinted to block UV rays from reaching the eyes may prevent its onset.

Supplements for Migraine Management

When considering a new supplement, consult with your healthcare provider. Below are proven supplements that may help remedy the migraine cycle:

  1. Ginger Root Extract Powder

Ginger has well-known anti-nausea properties, which are often much needed during a migraine attack. Research shows it can also reduce the severity and duration of a migraine. (xx) You can take Ginger root extract once daily in a dose of up to 1,000 mg with a large glass of water.

  1. Magnesium

Studies also link headaches and migraines to a deficiency of magnesium. Research shows that taking magnesium supplements can help prevent migraines and reduce their severity. (x) Magnesium supplements come in many forms, including magnesium oxidemagnesium citrate, and magnesium gluconate. You can find a comparison of the forms here. Since different supplement forms contain varying amounts of elemental magnesium, it’s essential to refer to the label for specific dosage instructions.

  1. Melatonin

Studies show that melatonin can improve sleep quality, which can help reduce the symptoms of a migraine. (x) You can take melatonin by getting a prescription from your doctor (in some places, you need a prescription) or, if available, as a supplement. Some suggest you take melatonin in a single serving size between 1 mg and 3 mg before bedtime.

  1. Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone, can be effective in preventing migraine attacks. (x) The suggested serving size of coenzyme Q10 is anywhere from 50 mg to 200 mg once daily, depending on the intended effect. Individuals with specific health conditions may benefit from taking higher doses too, but consult your physician and discuss this possibility with you. Always measure this product with an accurate gram scale to get the best effects. No person should exceed the maximum limit of 800 mg per day.

Suppose you’re taking drugs that include statins (such as Lipitor), anything derived from fibric acid (such as Lopid), beta-blockers (such as Toprol) and antidepressants containing Tricyclin (such as Elavil). In that case, you should speak to your doctor before taking a coenzyme Q10 supplement.

Where to Buy Supplements for Migraines?

You can purchase these supplements for your migraines at BulkSupplements.com. The company is an industry-leading manufacturer and distributor of pure dietary supplements. 

BulkSupplements.com is not just a consumer brand. It also supplies pure ingredients to other food and supplement brands to make their products. All products at BulkSupplements.com are manufactured and tested according to current and proper manufacturing practices.

Are you interested in trying any of these powders or supplements mentioned in this article as a possible solution to helping you with migraines? Contact BulkSupplements.com to place an order today.

The Bottom Line

Migraines can debilitate and negatively affect a person’s quality of life. With symptoms that might include intense pain, nausea, extreme sensitivity to stimuli, and even temporary inability to see or hear properly, those who suffer from them are often very motivated to find relief. While the exact cause of migraines is still unclear, it seems to stem from neurological disturbances in the brain. Many things trigger these disturbances, including hormones, food, and stress. Genes may also play a role.

Despite the havoc they cause, there are some drug treatments available. But drugs only treat acute symptoms. Drugs do not handle the cause of migraines. Some doctors work with your body to discover what triggers the cycle of migraines. 

In addition, making relatively minor lifestyle changes and using certain dietary supplements can be part of the overall strategy to reduce their occurrence and severity.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Author: BulkSupplements Staff