Migraine and headache occur through a complex reaction in the brain and nervous system involving nerve fibres, inflammatory molecules, blood vessel constriction and dilation, and neurotransmitter disruption. The drivers behind why this occurs for an individual will depend on many factors: diet, lifestyle, stress, mood and muscloskeletal issues are all big players.
Below is a brief summary of causes and drivers of migraine and headache. It is good to be aware of these factors, to avoid them if necessary and determine what is behind your migraine attacks. Often there is no one major culprit, but combinations of factors at play.
Stress hormones and sex hormones will often affect migraine attacks. This is often why migraines will occur before a women's period or around ovulation. Stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenalin and noradrenalin have a direct effect on blood flow in brain and muscles, which can mean a rush of blood followed by a constriction of blood vessels. This up and down of hormones and blood flow can add to the occurrence of migraine attacks.
Some key foods have been linked to migraine and headache is susceptible people. The main ones are:
- Vasoactive Amines -
These are a group of compounds mostly found in preserved foods but also some fresh fruits and vegetables.
The worst vasoactive amines are Tyramine found in red wine, olives and cheeses & phenylethylamine found in chocolate
All cured meat especially pork products e.g. ham, salami, pepperoni, game, bacon, sausages, fresh pork, fresh or canned tuna, canned sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon, herring, processed fish products (fish pastes, smoked, dried or pickled fish), fish sauce.
Milk and eggs, blue cheese, parmesan, brie, camembert, old gouda, cheddar cheese and other hard cheeses.
Oranges, bananas, tangerines, pineapple, grapes, strawberries.
Tomatoes, pickled cabbage, eggplant large leaf spinach, broad beans, peanuts, tree nuts
- Preservatives - Monosodium Glutamate or MSG (“flavour enhancer” or “E621”)
Asian foods, sauces, packet foods, takeaway food.
Processed foods with “yeast extract” on the ingredients – chips, savoury snacks.
Dried fruits, red and white wine.
Green tea, champagne, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, wine, beer
Equal”, “Splenda”, diet cola and soft drinks
Granny smith apples, cherries, strawberries, currants, raisins, kiwi, Gala melon, peaches and nectarines, raspberries.
Worcestershire sauce, honey, tomato sauce
Coffee, pineapple juice, cider, black tea, apple juice, cranberry juice, orange juice, tomato juice, fizzy drinks, wine, rum
A small amount of caffeine can often help with migraine, however long term use, or over use will aggravate
Coffee, tea, energy drinks, cola drinks
- Dietary Deficiencies
Specifically, Magnesium and B2 have been linked to occurrence and severity of migraine
Magnesium Foods – Sesame seed, unhulled tahini, leafy green vegetables, nuts, fish, wholegrains.
B2 Foods – Grass fed lamb, unsweetened natural yoghurt, mushroom, spinach, almonds
The liver detoxifies and metabolises all of the complex substances in our body. Our liver will be directly affected by our blood sugar levels, our diet and fat intake, our waistline, our hormone fluctuations, medications and our emotions. Not to mention the toxins we breathe, put on our skin or are exposed to daily!
A sluggish liver will often present as indigestion, bloating, fat intolerance, alcohol intolerance, night sweats, constipation and erratic moods.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine also attribute types of migraine and their location in the head to liver disfunction.
Sinus and Eyesight
Issues in the sinuses and eyesight must also be assessed and ruled out as contributing factors., eye strain, sinus infection, or vision impairment can all add to the occurrence of migraine and headache.
Misalignment, poor posture, muscle tension, and grinding of teeth can all contribute to the occurrence of migraine and headache. For example, when your neck muscles are tense and can’t relax, it can cause pain on the top of your head, temples, or in the front of the head depending on which specific muscles are tense. This sort of pain is called “referred pain” caused by the development of trigger points aka knots. All too often people mistake this pain as a regular headache or migraine and try to treat it as such, only to receive very little or no relief from the pain.
Some tell tale signs that the headache or migraine has occurred due to muscle tension are:
The level of pain changes as you move your head or shoulders.You wake up with headaches or seem to get them when you are stressed out.The muscles in your neck, shoulders, or upper back are sensitive to touch or pressure.You spend a lot of time on your smart phone, on the computer, or have a job that requires you to sit all day or look in a single direction.
You have trouble opening your mouth to speak, and your cheeks are sore to touch.
If you are experiencing any or all of the above in conjunction with a headache or migraine, your best port of action is to book in for a remedial massage for a treatment that includes trigger point therapy. Trigger point therapy involves firstly locating the trigger points in the muscles, this is done by first getting a detailed health history and consultation with the client, and then through palpation and/or massage to warm the tissue. Once the trigger point is located the therapist will apply gentle and gradual pressure to the point. This pressure causes the trigger point and the associated muscle to relax. When a trigger point releases, you can feel the tension melt away, like a wave of relaxation. The therapist will also prescribe some stretches and exercises to help prevent muscle tension creating active trigger points.
So, if you are continually getting headaches and/or migraines drop into Earth Mother Natural Health, we will work with you to reduce the severity and frequency of your pain.