Millions of people suffer from migraine headaches. Migraines are the number one reason for ER visits in the US. I suffered for years with weekly debilitating migraines. Who has time for blurry vision, nausea, pulsating pain, stiff neck, confusion and sensitivity to light. After much research and experimentation I have narrowed down the most common reasons for migraines. Not everyone will fit into these top 5 causes but it’s a great place to start! Although everyone’s migraine symptoms can very, you can usually narrow down the cause by looking at a few simple things.
Gluten and Dairy – This would be the first place I would start when struggling to find a cause to migraines. Gluten and dairy sensitivity includes a large number of people with top symptoms including migraines. It’s also one of the easiest causes to test out. Take 2 weeks and eliminate gluten and dairy. Keep track of how your feeling. Did your headaches change any? Record your food intake and symptoms in a food journal. After cutting out gluten and dairy for 2 weeks you can slowly add them back in one at a time and continue to track your symptoms. Take note of how you feel, does your head feel full or light. Any brain fog? Congestion or sinus trouble?
Hormone Migraines – Since gluten and dairy can cause hormone problems I would still start with eliminating the above. If you have done that without success looking at your hormones would be the next step. Estrogen dominance can lead to migraines as well as low progesterone levels. Keeping track of your symptoms according to your monthly menstrual cycle can help determine which hormones need assistance. Mark down when you have a headache on the same calendar that you track your period and look for connections.Over the counter progesterone cream can help balance dominant estrogen levels. Your OBGYN may want to run a few tests to see how your hormones are behaving.
Vitamin Deficiency – Low magnesium levels have been linked to migraines. Magnesium can effect the blood vessels in the brain which are a major cause in migraine headaches. Magnesium is also great for smooth muscle relaxation. If you are a tense person it can help you find a way to relax. If your suffering from migraines supplementing 400mg of magnesium a day can be a great preventative. (Ramadan 1989) A 1989 study suggested, “Low brain magnesium is an important factor in the mechanism of the migraine attack”.
Histamine Intolerance – This is generally caused by low levels of diamine oxidase in the bowels. Histamine builds up in the body from high histamine foods, environmental allergies and immune reactions. An enzyme called diamine oxidase is designed to “eat” the extra histamine to keep your levels at normal range. When there is dysbiosis in the bowels diamine oxidase levels can run low, causing too much histamine in the body. Migraine headaches is a prominent symptom of histamine intolerance. Cutting back on high histamine foods definitely decreases migraine occurrences. These foods include pickled items, vinegars, fermented foods, leftover items, alcohol and naturally occurring histamine foods like avocado and tomato. A great natural anti-histamine is Quercetin.
Stress – Stress can cause headaches for a number of reasons. It disrupts our hormone balances, causes blood sugar problems and muscle tension. Chronic stress defaults the body into fight or flight mode and we are never at a relaxed state to repair and regrow. Seeking out times to relax and unwind is so important. Many people have had success with meditation, prayer and yoga. When we focus on a positive and let all the other worries melt away, our bodies begin to relax and repair.
I can say from personal experience, cutting gluten and dairy has cut my migraines in half. After studying out histamine intolerance (which I will be writing on in the near future) my days are looking brighter and my head is lighter and more clear. Everyone’s body is different but the above causes are an easy way to get started in finding the root of your headaches. I know there are cases of migraines being caused by more serious issues such as brain tumors and neurological disorders. If your migraines are severe you may need to seek the help of a physician to rule out a diagnosis.