We asked headache experts which products to use to prevent migraines

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Whether you know someone who suffers from migraines or have suffered from them yourself, you probably know that these excruciatingly painful headaches can be debilitating.

The good news is that we have a better understanding of migraines than ever before, according to Angel Moreno, a nurse practitioner in the UCLA Goldberg Migraine Program who specializes in non-pharmacological migraine remedies.

“Migraine, for a long time, was a very invisible disease,” Moreno said.

Headaches like migraines and cluster headaches affect nearly 3 billion people worldwide each year. It is one of the most common neurological conditions, with up to 50% of women and 20% of men suffering from migraines in their lifetime. While there are prescription medications that can help treat and prevent headaches and migraines, many people want to explore non-pharmacological remedies or lifestyle changes that will also help.

For those looking for alternatives, we asked the experts for tips, over-the-counter products, and home remedies that can be used for migraines and headaches.

What causes headaches?

There are two types of headaches, primary and secondary, said Dr. Juliana VanderPluym, a United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties-certified headache specialist and neurologist at the Mayo Clinic.

Primary headache disorders occur when there is a problem at the cellular or electrical level, or when the nervous system generates the headache without prompting. In other words, the headache itself is the problem. Migraines are an example of a primary headache.

Secondary headache disorders are cases where another condition is potentially damaging or irritating to the nerves, such as a neck injury or sinus infection. People with secondary headaches would likely seek treatment for their primary concern, which would hopefully resolve the headaches.

While lifestyle or behavioral factors were once thought to trigger migraines, VanderPluym said studies show that the hypothalamus, the region of the brain that regulates appetite, temperature and other bodily functions, can activate early, even before people have a headache.

“Some doctors speculate that maybe what we think are food triggers like cravings for chocolate or wine or cheese or salty meats or things like that, maybe those foods we think are food triggers aren’t actually triggers,” she said. “Maybe it’s the hypothalamus that makes us crave these things. Then we eat them and we get migraines, but we were going to get migraines anyway because the hypothalamus became active.

By focusing too much on potential triggers, people feel personally responsible for their symptoms when they may not be doing anything at all to cause them. While it’s a good idea to pay attention to sleep issues or stress management that can increase migraine risk, people don’t need to be overly concerned about everything they put into their bodies. , VanderPluym said.

Since there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating headache sufferers, it is important to work with a doctor on treatment plans and preventative measures to find the right balance between general guidelines and individual needs.

How to get rid of a headache

Once VanderPluym identifies whether a patient has a primary or secondary head disorder, she breaks down her treatment into three categories: lifestyle recommendations, rescue treatments, and preventative treatments.

“Migraine is a condition that doesn’t really like big changes, so we want to make sure that people have some sort of consistency in their lifestyle habits and follow healthy lifestyle habits as well,” he said. she declared.

Moreno recommends a healthy diet for his patients with headaches. He suggests eating small, protein-rich meals scattered throughout the day to provide a steady amount of energy to the brain.

“We have problems when people eat a lot of sugar, a lot of processed carbs,” Moreno said. These types of foods can create an energy spike followed by a crash, while a diet high in vegetables and animal protein can help maintain an appropriate amount of energy delivered to the central nervous system, he said. he declares.

Both experts said those prone to headaches might consider taking a supplement of magnesium and vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin. Moreno also likes to incorporate coenzyme Q10, another type of supplement.

“The data tells us that if you combine these three supplements for about two months, you start to see a reduction in migraine severity and potentially migraine frequency,” he said. “The way these supplements work, they’re basically co-factors to help the body extract energy from the food we eat and the air we breathe. It’s all about supporting metabolism.

The next category would be what VanderPluym calls rescue or acute treatment, which is the medications people take for relief when they start having migraine symptoms. Rescue treatments can be prescription medications (like triptans for migraines) or over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

She said to be careful with this class of pain medication because some products like Excedrin, which contains caffeine, can lead to rebound headaches if overused.

It is possible for rebound headaches to occur if you go into a cycle of using these drugs and you have another headache when the drug wears off, then you take the drug again. If you take headache medication two or more days a week, you should see a doctor to discuss preventative measures to avoid this cycle.

For those who experience nausea with their migraines, Moreno said treating nausea can help. Certain medications can relieve this symptom, but one non-pharmacological treatment he recommends is ginger extract. He also stressed the importance of staying well hydrated, which doesn’t always mean just drinking water.

“You need the right electrolyte balance to get water into the cells,” he said. He’s a big proponent of electrolyte replacement products without tons of added sugar to achieve optimal hydration levels.

Not everyone who suffers from headaches or migraines necessarily needs the third category – preventative treatments. VanderPluym said it depends on how often you have migraines or how severe they are. If they are very frequent or severe, having a preventative plan in place will ideally reduce the symptoms.

These preventative measures could involve trying Moreno’s trio of supplements or turning to behavioral interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy or biofeedback training.

“If you want to avoid taking anything altogether, these have very strong evidence, but require work and research from a trained psychologist who can provide instruction,” VanderPluym said.

Whether you have migraines, cluster headaches, or tension headaches that you’re looking to treat or even avoid without relying too heavily on prescription medications, here are some products that can help.

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