Complementary Medicine

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Migraines: Easy to Prevent—NATURALLY

Prevent migraines naturally

Migraine headaches can be very severe and often leave people crippled for days. They may afflict as many as 28 million Americans. Over 85% can be prevented naturally!

Migraines are often preceded by an "aura," which may consist of visual disturbances such as flashing lights. The headaches are often associated with nausea, sweats, dizziness and slurred speech. Light and sound sensitivity can also be severe. Headaches that go away over the first night are more likely to be tension headaches (which respond well to our SHINE protocol for muscle pain).

There is still marked debate over the cause of migraines. Regardless of the cause, over 85% of migraines can be prevented naturally. Here’s how!

Let’s begin with how to treat an acute migraine:

1. There are two natural treatments that can knock out an acute migraine. Butterbur (Petadolex) can both prevent and eliminate migraines. Take 50 mg 3 times a day for 1 month and then 1 twice a day to prevent migraines. You can take 100 mg every 3 hours (for a maximum of 300 mg in a 24 hour period) to eliminate an acute migraine.

2. In the hospital emergency room or Holistic doctor's office, 1-2 grams of intravenous magnesium over 15 minutes will effectively eliminate an acute migraine within minutes.

3. In the U.S., medications in the Imitrex® family still remain the first choice that most physicians use for the treatment of acute migraines. No one is paying to give them the research showing that the old combo of aspirin, Tylenol and caffeine (cost ~ 20 cents vs. $10-25 per dose) is equally effective, so don't forget that you can use these if needed (e.g., 1-3 Excedrin Migraine or Excedrin Extra strength—the dose recommendations on the bottle are fairly low). The natural and prescription treatments in this article can be combined if needed.

4. A fascinating study can guide you on when to use Imitrex family medications vs. when to go with other therapies. 75% of migraine patients get painful sensitivity to normal touch around their eyes (e.g., wearing eyeglasses). If you use Imitrex before you get the tenderness/pain around the eyes, it will knock out the migraine 93% of the time. If the pain/tenderness around the eyes had already set in, Imitrex only eliminated the migraine 13% of the time (although it still helped the throbbing). In other words, if you already have pain/tenderness around the eyes, use the Petadolex and/or Excedrin Migraine instead of Imitrex. If you do use Imitrex family medications, this also means that you should take the Imitrex early in the attack (the first 5 to 20 minutes) before the skin hypersensitivity gets established.

The good news is that most migraines can be prevented naturally. I recommend taking:

A) 300-400 mg of vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) in the morning. This has been shown in placebo controlled studies to decrease migraine frequency by 67% after 6 weeks.

B) 200 mg of magnesium at night.

C) Overall nutritional support (use a good vitamin powder).

D) If the cost is not prohibitive, I would add butterbur 50 mg 3 times a day for 1 month, then 2x day (you can use 100 mg once a day but it is not as effective). The brand I would recommend is Petadolex® Pro-Active by Enzymatic Therapy (other brands can be toxic as they need to have certain components removed).

For many of you, the above will be enough to prevent your migraines after 2-3 months. Natural approaches can commonly eliminate even frequent and horribly severe migraine problems, but remember that it usually takes 2 to 3 months to see the effect. So give them time to work. If the migraines persist, avoiding hidden food allergies can reduce or eliminate migraines in 30 to 85% of patients. In one study, the most common reactive foods were wheat in 78% of patients, oranges in 65%, eggs in 45%, tea and coffee in 40% each, chocolate and milk in 37% each, beef in 35% and corn, cane sugar and yeast in 33% each. Clinical experience also suggests that the artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet®) can trigger migraines and other headaches (although this is controversial).

If the migraines are predominately around the time of the period or associated with taking estrogen, the key is to prevent the fluctuating estrogen level. One way to do this is to use an estrogen patch for one week beginning a few days before the period is expected (e.g., a Climara® .025 patch).

Preventing and treating migraine headaches is an area where natural therapies shine. Give them 2-3 months to work—You'll be glad you did!

For more information on how to say goodbye to migraine headaches, and the references for the studies discussed, see A Comprehensive Medicine Approach to Migraines.

Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., internist and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic!, researches treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia.

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