Naturopathic Approach to Treating Migraine Headaches
Migraine headache is a condition I am really passionate about treating. In the past, I had migraines myself. I know how miserable they are and how much it can affect the quality of life for people who experience them. I also know how liberating it is to be free of them. And since becoming a Naturopathic Doctor over two decades ago, I have been successfully helping migraine sufferers get lasting relief with natural solutions.
Migraine headaches aren’t just cases of “having a bad headache.” Migraine headaches meet specific diagnostic criteria that is distinctive from other types of headaches. Migraines are also one of the most prevalent health complaints in the world. It is estimated that approximately 40 million women, men, and children in the United States and approximately 10% of the population worldwide suffer from migraine headaches. That is a staggering number of people struggling with this chronic neurological disorder. I can still vividly remember my first childhood migraine headache. The pain was so intense that it was terrifying.
A typical migraine lasts between 4 and 72 hours. It is characterized by unilateral or localized pain that feels pulsating or throbbing in nature. Many migraine sufferers can point to exactly where they feel the pain and describe it in great detail.
About one third of migraine sufferers also experience other neurological symptoms prior to the onset of the migraine. This may be a characteristic visual disturbance called an aura. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo, or dizziness can also occur. Other symptoms that accompany a migraine may include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, or sensitivity to sound. This is a combination of symptoms that makes it difficult to even leave bed, much less feel functional.
For some people, migraines are a periodic affliction. However, for others, it is a chronic incapacitating disorder that destroys their quality of life. Most people’s experience with migraines lies in the middle of this spectrum.
The susceptibility to migraines is usually hereditary. Although the lining of the brain (the cortex) normally fluctuates in thickness to some extent, MRI’s have demonstrated that this lining is thicker than normal in migraine sufferers. This may explain why migraine sufferers are more sensitive to changes in their environment and fluctuating weather patterns. (1)
The cost for treating migraines with conventional medicine is substantial. A visit to the emergency room for treatment of a migraine is not unusual. And prescription medications for migraines are either costly or fraught with potentially harmful side effects. Most standard medical treatments fail to provide lasting results and the migraines almost always return again after conventional treatment. (2)
On the other hand, Naturopathic Medicine recognizes that migraine headaches are symptomatic of profound imbalance in the body. Naturopathy is perfectly suited to helping people address the nutritional and lifestyle conditions that have direct effects on the underlying cause of their migraine headaches. To get to the root cause of the disturbance, a person’s entire health picture is explored. Diet, food allergies, cellular toxicity, stress, poor sleep quality, dehydration, and nutritional deficiencies are some of the factors that play contributory roles in the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches.
I am being honest when I say there is no single magic bullet for treating migraines. I help individuals by evaluating the contributing lifestyle and nutritional factors that are inflaming their nervous system. I then recommend a natural, individualized, multi-pronged approach to stimulate the body’s intrinsic healing process. The more willing the individual is to make the necessary changes to improve their overall health, the more likely they are to start getting positive results within a few weeks to months.
(1) Hadjikhani, N. The relevance of cortical thickness in migraine sufferers. Expert Rev Neurother. 2008 Mar; 8(3): 327–329. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3745624/)
(2) Shao, E., Hughes, J., Eley, R. The presenting and prescribing patterns of migraine in an Australian emergency department: A descriptive exploratory study. World J Emerg Med. 2017; 8(3): 170–176. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5496823/)