Nearly 1 in 4 households in the US has at least one migraine sufferer. Despite its prevalence, the condition remains under-diagnosed, poorly understood and too often mis-treated.
Currently the most common coping strategy when a migraine headache strikes is to take a potent prescription or over-the-counter drug (e.g Ibuprofen). This is a totally understandable response, but many people don’t realize that taking these medications regularly (twice or more a week) has the potential to wreak havoc in our bodies by damaging the lining of our stomachs and intestines.
And the FDA recently strengthened the warning on prescription and over-the-counter NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) due to the increased risk of heart attacks and stroke associated with their use, in both people with or without other risk factors.
At Parsley, we’re constantly on the hunt for underlying causes and safe, supportive treatments. We work with our patients to help them understand that there is a root cause behind their headaches and that by addressing that cause, they can be pain free – and pain-medication free.
Here are 5 frequent reasons why you may be getting migraines, and tips on what you can do today to avoid them.
You might be Magnesium deficient.
Magnesium deficiency is much more prevalent in migraine sufferers than in people who don’t get migraines. Magnesium is a very important nutrient because it supports so many biological functions in the body – including liver detoxification, hormone regulation, nerve function, muscle relaxation and the proper constriction and dilation of our blood vessels, including those supplying the brain.
Good food sources of Magnesium to include in your diet every day are pumpkin seeds and dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and swiss chard. Taking regular Epsom salt baths promotes Magnesium absorption through the skin while doubling as a a great mind-body relaxation tool. Sometimes supplementation can help as well, in which case, at Parsley we recommend magnesium glycinate taken daily before bed.
You could be intolerant to something you’re eating.
Sensitivity to certain foods, such as gluten, dairy, soy, alcohol, sugar, or caffeine, could be triggering your migraines. By identifying and avoiding foods that your immune system is reacting to, you’re able to naturally decrease inflammation in your body.
Doing an expert-supported 21-day elimination diet is the only way to know for sure if and which of these foods are irritating your gut and brain. If you you’ve never tried an elimination diet and suspect that certain foods may be causing issues for you, schedule a free 10 minute consult with one of our Parsley Health Coaches to find out if your program could help you.
Stress might be the culprit (big surprise!)
Short term stress can lead to tightness in the neck and head that may present as a tension headache or a migraine caused by constricted blood vessels.
Also, both chronic psychological stress (external adverse events, anxiety, time pressures, financial pressures) and chronic internal physiological stress (inflammation, exhaustion, indigestion, toxicity) may all be causing or perpetuating your migraines.
The stress response activates the flight-or-flight reaction, which over time can lead to impaired detoxification of toxins, hormones, and amines (e.g. histamine and thyramine that naturally occur in some aged and preserved foods like cheese, wine, and fish), all of which, when built-up or imbalanced in the body, can trigger a migraine.
Chronic stress also tilts the body into a pro-inflammatory state. A migraine, and pain in general often signifies some level of inflammation somewhere, in this case the brain.
Lastly, stress hormones interfere with normal thyroid hormone function and both low and high thyroid levels can cause headaches. Which brings us to point 4.
You may have thyroid dysfunction.
Thyroid disease, usually associated with fatigue, hair loss, dry skin and stubborn weight gain when thyroid levels are low, and rapid heart rate and restlessness when thyroid levels are high, surprisingly may present with migraine as the only significant symptom.
A simple blood test can assess thyroid hormone dysfunction and personalized interventions with a Functional Medicine Practitioner can help restore balance.
Other hormone imbalances
Migraines occur in both sexes but are predominantly found in women. Fluctuations in estrogen seem to trigger headaches in women with migraines. Both estrogen and progesterone are neuromodulatory hormones (affecting several neurons in the brain) and imbalances between estrogen and progesterone may give rise to conditions that increase susceptibility to migraine.
Balancing hormones is a complex process involving multiple organ systems. At Parsley we not only support the reproductive organs, we also pay special attention to healing the gut, helping the liver and balancing the adrenals – all of which play a role in hormone balance.