To those who suffer from this disease the mere mentioning of its name brings fear and anguish to their faces. It strikes 15 to 20% of men and 25 to 30 per cent of women reaching its peak incidence between ages 20 to 35, and then gradually declining. More than half have a family history of the illness.
Migraines as a disease, is typically classified into several types with most people falling into three types (common, classic and complicated) while differentiation between these three types is important, it has very little therapeutic significance.
The cause of migraines as yet is not known, although there is considerable evidence supporting an association between migraine headache and vascular system insufficiency, platelet aggregation, and neurotransmitter substance P. The mechanism of migraine can be described as a three step process- initiation, prodrome and headache. The initial stressor is usually a combination of more than one factor. These stressors accumulate until a threshold is reached and a cascade event is initiated causing prodrome and then finally headache. When one considers the multitude of factors that need to be addressed, it is easy to see why a holistically orientated approach can be and is so very effective.
Due the diverse range of causes more than one therapy usually proves effective.
Dietary: It is a known fact that food allergy/intolerance is the major cause of migraine headache. Many double blind studies have shown that migraine symptoms in the majority of sufferers can be eliminated or greatly reduced by the removal of allergic/intolerant foods. These studies also suggest that the removal of allergic/intolerant foods can be effective in anywhere from 30 to 93% of the migraine population. The most common offenders being in decreasing order of incidence: cows’ milk, wheat, chocolate, egg, orange, cheese, tomato, shellfish, refined sugars, coffee, saturated fats and alcohol. Essential fatty acids which are typically found in ocean going fish have been found to be very effective by decreasing platelet aggregation in the inflammatory response.
Physical therapies: Proven to be effective in shortening the duration and decreasing the intensity of an attack, they appear to be relatively ineffective in curing this disorder.
Cervical manipulation: Effective in combination with other therapies. It typically decreases the amount of pain in a migraine headache.
Hydrotherapy: In acute episodes is very effective. Although no clinical trials have been performed to accurately assess the effectiveness of this therapy, my clients typically find it gives symptomatic relief. A hot footbath with a cold towel around the neck for twenty minutes followed by the application of two pairs of wool socks can provide effective relief. This therapy is contraindicated in people who have circulatory problems.
Acupuncture: Very effective in alleviating migraine attacks and in some cases can cure people of this ailment. The choice of acupuncture points varies from therapist to therapist and from one case to another. All therapists however do the point call “ho ku” with all their migraine sufferers. It is located in the web of the hand and in all migraine sufferers it is a very sensitive point.
Relaxation training and biofeedback: Can effectively decrease the intensity and frequency of attacks.
Vitamins and minerals: Niacin has been shown to be effective in a number of studies by providing relief to 17 out of 21 patients. It is because of its vasodilatation effects that it is effective.
Magnesium: When Magnesium is decreased there is an increase in platelet aggregation, which can result in the vascular problems so strongly associated with this disease.
B-complex and C: Help stabilize the entire system.
Chinese medicine: Very effective in migraine therapy. The exact use of these medicines is best left to one who has experience and training in Chinese medicine. Chinese medical philosophy suggests 9 different causes of migraines: (1) blood stagnation, (2) deficiency of blood (migraines associated with the menstrual period in women), (3) deficiency of yin (migraine that come on after exertion or later in the day), (4) due to indigestion or food stagnation, (5) due to liver congestion, (6) liver fire, (7) wind (pains moving from place to place within the head, associated with tremors in the tongue), (8) wind-damp, and lastly (9) restless shen syndrome (shen meaning mind). Chinese medicine is very precise and accurate in the hands of a well-trained and well-versed practitioner.
Western Botanical Medicines: Feverfew (tanacetum parthenium) in a recent study was found to be effective in 70% of 270 individuals who took it for prolonged periods of time. Valarian officinalis is another botanical medicine that found effectiveness in migraine sufferers who also suffer from insomnia and nervous restlessness. Hops is also effective as well as passion flower, goldenseal, chamomile, lady’s slipper and others.
Bowel Toxemia can be causative by the bacterial conversion of the amino acid tyrosine to tyramine. Tyramine is in high concentrations in the foods that are most indicated in initiating a migraine headache. The accumulation of toxic materials in the intestines should also be considered.
Homeopathy is incredibly effective, but in most cases the patient goes through a strong aggravation period in which their condition can be quite exacerbated.
- Belladonna – intense migraine, which come on rapidly and are accompanied by throbbing pains.
- Bryonia – has a ‘grumpy’ bear personality and the migraine is most marked by pains aggravated by motion.
- Caulubrina – irritable personality that craves stimulants. This migraine sufferer has a strong digestive upset associated with his/her migraines.
- Pulsatilla – weepy personality that crave fatty foods but is worse from them. Changeable head pains that are always better in the open air.
- Gelsemium – migraines start at the back of the head and progress forward ending up just above the eyes. Migraines are preceded by dimness of vision.
- Elimination diets and fasting are very effective in treating migraines but should be done under the direct supervision of a licensed health practitioner.
Any therapeutic regime that is made for a migraine sufferer should address diet. I typically use diet, homeopathy, bodywork, Chinese medicine, relaxation training and M.R.T. to effectively treat this painful disorder.
With some of the above recommendations individuals may easily help themselves! However self help can be costly and time consuming, leaving you with an inaccurate idea of how effective natural therapeutics can be. If you want successful long lasting results and want them reasonably quickly consult your local Naturopathic Doctor. He is highly trained to diagnose your condition and to set up an individualized therapeutic regime prescribing the appropriate therapies.