Approximately one out of every six Americans struggle with migraine headaches. The statistic is even higher for women, with one in five women reporting a migraine over a 3-month period. (4) Unfortunately, there is no known medical cure for migraines but there are medications that can help in preventing migraines before they start. While these can be effective they sometimes come with unwanted side effects which is why many people are searching for natural alternatives. There are many natural ways to prevent and treat migraines such as dietary changes and supplementation. I personally suffer from migraines and have found some effective ways to stop them right as they are presenting. I’ll get into that in a few! First, let’s talk about some lifestyle and dietary changes that can help prevent migraines from occurring.
Migraine Risk Factors and Triggers
Risk factors for chronic migraines include:
- Being either obese or underweight
- Being female
- Ineffective acute treatment
- Overusing migraine medication
- Stressful life events (22)(12)
Some of the studied trigger factors include:
- Fasting or not eating in time
- Premenstrual periods in women
- Sleep disturbances
- The time after stress when the relaxation or “letdown” occurs
- Weather changes, specifically low barometric pressure (21)(26)(30)
Keeping a journal of foods and life events that seem to trigger migraines may be helpful as individual causes may vary.
Best Supplements and Diets for Migraine Sufferers
The following supplements have demonstrated effectiveness in supporting the treatment of headaches and migraines:
While science is still on the fence about the effectiveness of cbd as it relates to the prevention and treatment of migraines, anecdotally many migraine sufferers sing its praises. This makes sense because Cannibidiol (CBD) is a very powerful anti-inflammatory that crosses the blood brain barrier and can readily affect the central nervous system. I have personally had amazing results as it relates to acute relief of migraines. In fact I have felt relief within 20 minutes of the onset of a migraine when taking 40 mg or more of CBD.
Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
Butterbur is a perennial shrub from the daisy family, Asteraceae, whose root can be used for preventative treatment of migraines. (20) The plant itself contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA), which are known to be hepatotoxic. However, certain butterbur extracts are found to be alkaloid-free and therefore, do not pose the same risks. (2)
Butterbur is well-tolerated and is commonly recommended as an alternative for prophylactic treatment in migraine patients. (1)(8)(13)(19) Studies have shown that supplementing with butterbur root extract can result in a 50% to 68% decrease in frequency of migraines. (1)(8)(13)(19) Butterbur root extract has been found to be safe for migraine prevention.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
Feverfew is a perennial plant native to Europe, North America, and South America. The aerial parts of the plant (leaves, flowers, and stems) are used in herbal supplements. (24) The chemical constituents of the plant include sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids, and volatile oils. Supplementing with feverfew has been shown to be safe, with only mild adverse effects being reported, such as inflammation of the tongue or oral mucosa. (25)
Feverfew has been shown to be beneficial in the prevention of migraines and may reduce migraine frequency and severity. (9)(29)(7)(23)(28) Feverfew has daisy-like flowers and commonly grows in gardens or along roadsides.
Magnesium is an abundant mineral required by over 300 enzymes involved in many physiological processes in the body. Magnesium is present in drinking water and in foods such as leafy green vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes. Food processing and cooking, specifically boiling, can lower the magnesium content in food. Low magnesium status has been linked to adverse clinical outcomes, including diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, and migraines. (31)
Supplemental magnesium has been shown to reduce the intensity and frequency of migraine attacks as well as improve cerebral blood flow. (27)(32)(16) Further research has shown that intravenous magnesium may decrease acute migraine attacks within 15 minutes to 24 hours following administration. (3)(6)
2000 IU total per day, minimum 12 weeks
- Prophylactic supplementation of 100 μg (4000 IU) per day for 24 weeks decreased the frequency of migraines and number of days with a headache in patients aged 18 to 65 when compared to placebo
- Patients with episodic migraines experienced 9 fewer days with migraine compared to 3 fewer days in placebo groups; additionally 29% of patients in the treatment group experienced at least a 50% reduction in number of migraines compared to 3% in placebo
As you can see there are so many alternative ways to treat and prevent migraines that can be highly effective and actually have an overall benefit on your health.
- Agosti, R., Duke, R. K., Chrubasik, J. E., Chrubasik, S. (2006). Effectiveness of Petasites hybridus preparations in the prophylaxis of migraine: a systematic review. Phytomedicine, 13(9-10), 743-6.
- Aydin, A. A., Zerbes, V., Parlar, H., & Letzel, T. (2013). The medical plant butterbur (Petasites): Analytical and physiological (re)view. Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis, 75, 220-229.
- Bigal, M. E., Bordini, C. A., & Speciali, J. G. (2002). Arquivos de Neuro-Psiquiatria, 60(2-B), 406-9.
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- Chiu, H. Y., Yeh, T. H., Huang, Y. C., & Chen, P. Y. (2016). Effects of intravenous and oral magnesium on reducing migraine: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pain Physician, 19(1), E97-112.
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- Gelaye, B., Sacco, S., Brown, W. J., Nitchie, H. L., Ornello, R., & Peterlin, B. L. (2017). Body composition status and the risk of migraine: A meta-analysis. Neurology, 88(19), 1795-1804.
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