June is national migraine awareness month and as such, I’d like to talk about what you can do to lessen its impact in your life if you are a migraine sufferer. I have a lot of patients in my integrative medicine clinic in San Jose, CA who have migraines. And…I have experienced migraines three times in my life as well, and I can tell you, I know it’s debilitating and can put a stop to whatever you have going on in your life if you’re not prepared for it.
So, what are some of the things you can do to lessen migraine events in your life?
The easier part is to have your labs checked for your vitamin B2 level by your doctor and if that’s low, you should have that level repleted by taking a vitamin B2 supplement and then having your doctor recheck that level in 4 weeks to see if you’re at a good level. Key is to get it into a solid range without overdoing the dosing.
Another easy thing to check is your magnesium level. You should have your doctor check an intracellular magnesium level called RBC magnesium on labs and see if you could use some more magnesium. Similar to the B2 situation, you should aim for a solid level on labs and if you’re low, use magnesium supplement to replete you and then check a level again 4 weeks after to see where you are at and if you should have your dosing lowered or increased or if it’s a good dosage. The limiting factor for magnesium is that it can lead to diarrhea in some people. If you already have issues with diarrhea or upset stomach, you may want to try magnesium glycinate or magnesium taurate. If you have constipation issues, magnesium oxide or magnesium citrate might help you get to the level you want while also helping you with constipation. Magnesium also is great for helping with improvement of quality of sleep, anxiety, and muscle aches and pains. For some people, if you have a tendency towards heartburn, indigestion or gastritis, try to avoid magnesium citrate since that sometimes can flare those symptoms.
Finally, ubiquinol which is a better form of CoQ10 in supplementation as far as absorption goes, is something that you should look into for migraines. It can help with energy and so should be taken in the morning so as not to cause insomnia. For those of you who are taking a statin medication like Lipitor, you should be on ubiquinol anyways since statin type of medications can deplete CoQ10. Because ubiquinol can be an upper type of supplement, those of you with palpitations, jitteriness, anxiety or insomnia should be careful about taking it since it can worsen those symptoms. You should try a lower dosage only with clearance by your doctor and if you’re doing well, then can slowly up the dosage until you max out at 400mg/day, but again, only with clearance and monitoring by your doctor.
Now that we’ve covered some supplementation options that can help migraines, let’s talk about your diet. I know, I know, it’s not fun to deal with food/diet restrictions but in the case of migraines, it is very important in helping migraine severity and frequency.
The foods that typically can worsen migraines you probably already know about such as foods high in nitrites, amines, MSG, and alcohol. But while caffeine can help with migraines, if you then stop having caffeine, there is such a thing as caffeine-withdrawal migraines or worsening of headaches. Also, foods high in sugars or processed chemicals or food allergies can also trigger migraines. So, in general, try to avoid foods with MSG, sugars or chemicals. You should also try to avoid foods like chocolate, cheese, and hot dogs to avoid amines and nitrites. And if you know certain foods don’t make you feel good, avoid those foods since those foods then are an issue specifically to you.
At the end of the day, moderate exercise, getting plenty of rest and sleep and avoiding stressors also are essential to helping you avoid migraines. If you make sure that you are doing what you need to keep your body, the machine, running in tip top shape, you’ll feel the positive benefits of those efforts.