A migraine headache is a painful condition that affects many people worldwide. Approximately 6-18% of the adults experience recurrent migraines. In addition, women experience migraines 3 times more often compared to men.
Even though migraine headaches have a genetic component, which means they typically run in families, some lifestyle choices can significantly affect the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.
However, you can fight a migraine without using prescription drugs. Namely, natural remedies for migraines and headaches include eliminating the foods that cause migraine, reversing nutrient deficiencies and managing stress.
Natural Remedies for Migraine Relief
It is important to know that there are a number of strategies for how to treat a migraine, and that what works for you may not work for others.
• Incorporate Foods that Help Fight Migraines in Your Diet
– Clean, Lean Protein Foods
Clean, lean protein foods include wild-caught fish, legumes and beans, and grass-fed poultry and beef.
– Organic, Fresh Veggies and Fruits
Veggies and fruits are packed with magnesium and many other essential electrolytes that help regulate muscular functions as well as blood flow. They can also help prevent an electrolyte imbalance. These foods are also abundant in antioxidants, which help balance hormones, lower inflammation, and counteract the effects of exposure to toxins.
– Foods High in B vitamins
Researchers found that migraine sufferers could benefit from increasing their vitamin B levels, particularly riboflavin (vitamin B2). Furthermore, foods high in riboflavin include seeds and nuts, legumes and beans, green leafy vegetables, certain dairy products, and organ meats.
– Foods High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Seeds, nuts, and wild-caught fish, like sardines or salmon, could help regulate blood flow and reduce inflammation.
– Foods Abundant in Magnesium
Foods high in magnesium include sweet potatoes, bananas, dates, figs, avocado, black beans, almonds, kefir, yogurt, pumpkin seeds, swiss chard, and spinach.
• Avoid Eating Foods that Make Migraines Even Worse
About 40% of migraines could be prevented if migraine sufferers avoided triggers and enhanced their diets. Did you know that a poor diet rich in processed grains and sodium is among the greatest culprits of migraine attacks? Avoid these foods because they can aggravate your migraine:
- Fried foods and fast foods, particularly those made with MSG (like Chinese food)
- Refined grains
- Added sugars
- Nitrates present in processed meats such as ham, bacon, cold cuts, hot dogs, and salami
- Aged cheeses
- Conventional dairy products
- Cold foods
- High intake of sodium and low intake of other electrolytes
- Preservatives and flavor enhancers in packaged foods, such as MSG
- Pastries or breads containing yeast and gluten
- Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and artificial food additives
- Red wine and other types of alcohol (particularly if you consume large amounts of alcohol)
- Cured or pickled fish
- Eggs (particularly if you have an unknown allergy)
- Caffeinated beverages (for some people, a cup of tea or coffee per day could help alleviate headaches, but consuming more or withdrawal can be problematic)
- Chocolate (possesses a chemical known as phenylethylamine that could contribute to blood flow changes, thus causing headaches)
- For some people, specific kinds of beans and legumes (like snow peas and lima beans that possess natural amine chemicals)
Moreover, other dietary tips on how to treat a migraine include preventing dehydration, avoiding consuming caffeine beverages on a regular basis, avoiding skipping meals or extreme dieting, and keeping optimal blood glucose levels (particularly if suffer from diabetes).
• Use Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils
Essential oils could help reduce muscular tension, alleviate pain, boost blood flow, lower inflammation, decrease anxiety and stress, and balance hormones.
You can apply them to the painful side of your head and neck to alleviate stress and muscular tension. That’s not all, you can also relieve pain by applying a few drops of essential oils to a heated towel (or by applying an ice pack or heating pad to your neck and head for fifteen minutes at a time).
The best essential oils for headache relief include:
– Rosemary: Rosemary essential oil helps relieve pain by boosting blood flow, improving digestion, reducing the withdrawal symptoms of medications and caffeine, and alleviating an upset stomach.
– Frankincense: It helps boost your immune system, decrease inflammation, balance hormones, and lower anxiety.
– Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus essential oil helps cleanse your body of harmful substances and toxins, lower high blood pressure, boost blood flow, and decrease pain.
– Lavender: It helps reduce anxiety and stress, enhance the quality of your sleep, and lower muscular tension. Lavender essential oil also has natural sedative and antidepressant properties.
– Peppermint: Peppermint essential oil helps decrease inflammation and pain. It has a natural cooling effect on your skin, preventing muscle contractions and boosting blood flow around your head if applied topically.
• Take the Right Supplements
Take these supplements in case you suffer from migraines or other form of headaches:
– Medicinal mushrooms
– 5-HTP: 5-HTP is an amino acid that helps enhance serotonin levels and decrease the severity and frequency of migraine attacks.
– Vitamin B2
– Omega-3 fish oils: Research has proven that taking an omega-3 supplement could reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks.
– Melatonin: Melatonin helps enhance the quality of your sleep if used in moderation.
– Kudzu extract: It is an herbal remedy with about seventy phytonutrients or phytochemicals.
– Feverfew: It is an herb that may help lower the frequency of migraine symptoms, such as sensitivity to noise and light, vomiting, nausea, and pain.
– Capsaicin cream: Use a nose spray that possesses capsaicin or apply a bit of capsaicin cream to the inside of your nostril, because it helps block nerve pain signals.
• Other Strategies for How to Treat a Migraine
– Detect Your Personal Triggers
Migraine sufferers have overly sensitive central nervous systems, which respond to triggers in their environments. You may want to keep a journal and write down your migraine symptoms in order to find out what your personal triggers. Specifically, the most common migraine triggers include:
- Sleeping habits
- Sleeping positions
- Weather changes, like increased pressure and humid temperatures
- Drug, caffeine, and alcohol
- Exposure to loud noises
- Exposure to sun and other artificial light-creating stimuli like computer screens
- Balance Your Hormones
It has been found that going through hormonal changes, like menopause, pregnancy, puberty, or before a menstrual cycle could be a risk factor for migraines. Research has proven that girls have their first migraine attacks once they begin having their menstrual cycles. You can balance your hormones naturally by using adaptogen herbs, following a healthy diet, avoiding toxins, getting moderate exercise, and getting enough sleep.
– Practice Mind-Body Techniques
Massage therapy, guided imagery, meditation, biofeedback therapy, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques that connect the mind and body are useful for any type of migraine. All these techniques help decrease muscular tension, regulate blood pressure, boost blood flow, and control the “fight or flight” stress response of your body.
– Decrease Stress
Researchers found that being under emotional stress or not getting enough sleep and experiencing physical stress (like suddenly elevating physical activity too much or overtraining) could cause migraines or make them worse. Keep in mind that being under physical or emotional stress can have a negative impact on your blood flow and result in contraction or expansion of blood vessels that reach your head. So, you should use natural stress relievers to help manage stress.
– Get Good Night’s Sleep
Anxiety and poor sleep can cause migraines by increasing inflammation and leading to hormonal imbalance. You should sleep for about 7-9 hours of sleep every night. However, avoid overdoing it because sleeping too much may aggravate migraine symptoms.
– Get Moderate Exercise
Exercise helps prevent headaches as it enhances the quality of your sleep, decreases stress, helps balance your hormones, and helps reduce inflammation. As mentioned above, as elevating your activity suddenly can aggravate your migraine symptoms, you may want to keep up with a regular exercise schedule, which includes a combination of thirty-sixty minutes of resistance training and aerobic exercise 5 days within a week. But, you should not exercise during a migraine attack in order to avoid making it even worse.
- Leroux, Elizabeth. ”Migraines: More than a Headache”;
- Cohen, Jay. ”15 Natural Remedies for Migraine Headaches: Using Natural Supplements, Nutrition & Alternative Therapies to Better Manage Migraine Pain”;