Change Your Lifestyle to Avoid a Migraine

Edited by Mireya, Eng, Maria Quinney

Turn off the lights and shut-up! These are some of the most common expressions you hear when someone is experiencing a painful headache called "Migraine".

Migraines are so common that everyone knows someone who suffers from them or is someone who struggles with migraine themselves. If you have never experienced it, you may think of it as a bad headache but it is a lot more painful than that.

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What's A Migraine?

A migraine is a set of neurological symptoms that are extremely incapacitating. It is described as a severe throbbing recurring pain, usually on one side of the head. It causes visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, and your extremities (arms or legs) feel tingling or numbness or face.

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Some people might not even be able to drive, go to work, or perform any of their daily routines and activities because of the pain they are feeling. Even kids as young as twelve years old can experience a migraine, the pain is so excruciating that it would prevent them from going to school.

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Anyone who suffers from migraine periodically should learn as much as they can about this disease, in order to find a way to reduce migraine attacks as much as possible and improve their quality of life.

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Let's learn some facts about migraine, according to the Migraine Research Foundation:

  • It affects 1 billion people worldwide, including adults and children.
  • Amongst them, 4 million people have chronic migraine with daily episodes.
  • Women are more predisposed, making the 85% of migraine sufferers.
  • About 50% of the migraine sufferers have their first attack by the age of 12.
  • Each episode can last from 4 hours up to 72.
  • Most of them affected, have a migraine episode once a week, but they worsen can even have a migraine episode per day.
  • Usually, only one side of the head is affected by the pain, but sometimes both sides are affected.
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It is a very common disease that a lot of people have to deal with. It is so common that many people affected by it are not even aware they have an illness and confuse it with a severe headache. The worst part of it is that most of us go for the easier and fastest way to alleviate the pain by taking prescribed painkillers which won't really help, instead of going for a more permanent treatment. There is particular medication for migraine, you should consider visiting your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

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  • Disabling and recurring headaches.
  • Pain intensification when around light, noise and/or smells.
  • Intense throbbing sensation, usually only on one side of the head.
  • Visual disturbances such as flashes of light shortly before the migraine starts (this is called Aura).
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Neck pain.
  • Sinus symptoms like a stuffy nose or watery eyes.

Risk Factors

Family history and personal health habits are all migraine risk factors. Patients with at least one of their parents with this condition are likely to experience at least a few migraines a year. Women are twice as susceptible to migraines, although they tend to decrease while pregnant, then usually increase after delivering their first child. Of course, there is medication to help relieve the symptoms, but make sure you stick to your dose because actually, medication overuse is the most common reason why an episodic migraine turns chronic. Knowing this, it might be better being able to prevent having a migraine rather than to treat it once you have it. Research have shown that there are many foods that can trigger a migraine and avoiding them might be the best option to prevent it. This way you would reduce the use of medication and gain control of your migraine episodes appearance.

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Steps To Have A Healthier Lifestyle

  1. 1
    It has been found that some food can trigger a migraine. Here is a list of the most common food and beverages that have been found to trigger migraines:
    • Energy drinks: coffee, tea, cola these all contain high levels of caffeine
    • Chocolate: it is rich in tyramine.
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    • Takeaway food: these foods are often high in flavor enhancer, MSG which has been shown to trigger migraines in people.
    • Artificial sweeteners: low calories beverages and food are often sweetened with aspartame, which can trigger migraines.
    • Citric acid: mostly found in fruits and veggies, it is also used as a natural preservative.
    • Bacon: and most processed meats are rich in nitrates, which have been shown to increase the intensity of migraines.
    • Red wine: due to tyramine.
    • Alcohol: alcohol abuse could cause dehydration which also triggers migraines.
    • Beans: the tannin in beans seems to be the cause.
    • Pickles: and all sorts of brine like cucumbers, olives, eggs, etc. due to their high sodium content.
    • Olives: due to tyramine.
    • Red plum: again tyramine.
    • Aged cheese
    • Whole milk
    • Monosodium Glutamate.SG: anything with Message
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    • Red and balsamic vinegar: unlike white vinegar, these both contain tyramine. Keep this list in mind and try to avoid them as much as you can. However, everyone is unique so you may need to experiment with your tolerance limits.
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  2. 2
    An excellent idea is to keep a food diary to help you to identify triggers and symptoms. Record everything you eat, this way anytime you have a migraine you are aware of your food intake and will be able to discover your triggers. Also, if you feel brave enough, you could try eating the same food again at a lower dose as an experiment to determine your tolerance to it. The primary purpose is to identify if there is any improvement in the intensity and frequency of your migraine attacks with specific foods you are eating. Food can only be considered a trigger if it gives you a headache within 12 to 24 hours of eating it. Tracking down everything you ate during that period can help you find similarities on each migraine you get and finally avoid them.
    Fooddiary 45445.jpg
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  3. 3
    1. One of the principal causes of a migraine is dehydration. More than half of the brain is made up of water. Therefore the brain requires a lot of water to function like every other part of the body. When you don't have enough water in your system, it could trigger a migraine. The general recommendation is taking half a gallon of water through the day.
    2. Eating regularly is crucial, skipping meals could also trigger migraines. Eating five or six small meals throughout the day will not only increase your metabolism and help you feel more energized, but it has been proven to help avoid migraines.
    3. Eat healthily, experts advise eating wholesome food, fresh, and unprocessed as much as possible. Pumpkin seeds, whitefish, and brown rice are also recommended.
    4. Dark green leafy vegetable and food high in B2 vitamin have been shown to help people with migraines. You con try the use of a vitamin B complex supplement by asking your doctor.
      Greensalad 34932.jpg
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  4. 4
    Smoking is bad for your lungs, and reduces the oxygen intake to your brain, increases inflammation and can also trigger migraines, quitting smoking could be a quick way to get rid of it.
    Smoking 41952.jpg
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  5. 5
    If you are prone to migraines, you may have found that intense exercise can provoke an attack. Experiencing migraines after exercising have led you to a more sedentary lifestyle? If this is the case, then you are missing out on the benefits that exercise can bring to your overall wellbeing. When you exercise a broad range of body chemicals change their level. Exercise stimulates your body to release natural pain controlling chemicals and natural anti depressant chemicals. This means that getting involved in a well planned exercise program could enable you to reduce your drug intake. However, if you have detected that exercise is triggering migraine attacks. These could be the reasons:  
    1. You were not ready to start exercising, your start was sudden without prior planning, and your body has an urgent demand for oxygen.
    2. You have not eaten properly before exercising and that your blood sugar level falls as you become starving.
    3. You have not taken enough fluids before, and during exercising then your body becomes dehydrated.
    4. You start a demanding 'keep fit' program and a 'healthy' new diet at the same time. Pay close attention to all these changes to your lifestyle because they can act as an additional trigger.
    5. You start exercising in an extreme way but infrequently which causes stiff, aching muscles which can then serve as a trigger.
      Stretching 22767.jpg
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  6. 6
    Sleeping and too much or sleeping too little can trigger migraines, that's why it is important that you create a sleep pattern as regular as possible no matter how busy you are. By general health, it is suggested that you sleep at least seven hours, but no more than nine.
    Sleeping 76220.jpg
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  7. 7
    Meditation, acupuncture, and therapy massages are a great alternative aid to alleviate the pain during a migraine episode that could last up to 48 hours.It might seem like a lot of information but take it one step at a time. Overall, keeping a healthy lifestyle is a great option, not only to aid your migraine episodes but to live to the fullest and prevent any other unwanted disease.
    Massage 33569.jpg
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In Summary

  • Keep in mind the most common foods that can trigger a migraine and try to avoid them.
  • Eat regularly don't skip your meals.
  • Have an active life.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Keep a journal.

Your diary will be a key factor to discover your triggers and tolerance to food, exercise or stress situations, write it all down! As soon as you notice your migraine episodes decreasing, you will know it was all worth it.

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Remember that these suggestions are a general overview and that you should always talk to your doctor about your health choices.

Stay healthy!

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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Article Info

Categories : Physical Health

Recent edits by: Eng, Mireya

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