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Natural Solutions for Headaches and Migraines

Natural Solutions for Headaches and Migraines
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Harness the power of natural medicines to blast away headaches. Action Alert!

Millions of people suffer from headaches and migraines; they are one of the top 10 disabling medical conditions. People with migraines experience more pain and restrictions in their daily activities than people diagnosed with osteoarthritis, diabetes, and depression. The good news is that safe, non-addictive natural medicines can help address these common ailments. The bad news is that the FDA is attacking some of these medicines.

Migraine headaches are often described as intense throbbing or pulsating head pain that is sometimes made worse by physical activity. For many people, the pain is limited to one side of the head, though for some migraines present on both sides. They are associated with nausea and light or sound sensitivity and can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

In many cases, headaches and/or migraines can be caused by medications. The most common medications associated with head pain are Butalbital, opioids, acetaminophen, caffeine and aspirin, but any pain relieving medication may be a cause. Combination medications can also be the source. If this is the case, you can consult with your doctor and determine if it makes sense to create a plan to discontinue the use of the offending medication(s). Clinical trials have found that acupuncture can help patients with head pain transition away from medications; other trials found that acupuncture led to “persisting, clinically relevant benefits” for patients with migraine.

For some people there may be dietary triggers for headache/migraine. Integrative physicians will often have patients keep a headache diary, filling in information about foods that may trigger headaches like caffeine, chocolate, aged cheese, alcohol, or foods containing nitrites, how much sleep you’ve gotten, stress and anxiety levels, or possible environmental triggers (bright light, weather changes, or strong odors). This information can help you and your doctor identify lifestyle triggers for head pain and adjust accordingly by eliminating certain foods, getting more sleep, etc.

There are also dietary regimens aimed at reducing inflammation and involve limiting foods like seed oils, processed foods (due to their omega-6 fatty acid content), avoiding charred food, and reducing blood sugar through avoiding refined carbohydrates.

A variety of supplements have strong evidence to support their ability to prevent head pain. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) supports mitochondrial function; headaches could be linked to mitochondrial dysfunction. In studies, B2 has been found to decrease the frequency of migraines by 59 percent.

Magnesium is also helpful. Studies support magnesium’s benefit for menstrual migraines and for headaches in children. In one trial, high dose oral magnesium (600mg/day) after 9-12 weeks reduced the attack frequency of head pain by 41.6 percent in the magnesium group versus 15.8 percent in the placebo group. Certain forms of magnesium can cause diarrhea; magnesium glycinate, or chelated magnesium, is less likely to cause this effect.

Other helpful supplements include feverfew, CoQ10, fish oil and olive oil, and butterbur.

There is also literature that mind/body techniques can be helpful in addressing head pain. Mindfulness-based stress reduction programs have been found to have positive influences on many disease conditions, including heart disease, chronic pain, high blood pressure, and headaches. Biofeedback therapy helps patients learn how to stimulate the relaxation response and has been found to work as well as beta blockers for headache prevention and with no side effects.

Glutathione may also be a helpful treatment or prevention supplement for head pain. There is evidence that oxidative stress plays a role in the pathophysiology of migraines; as the body’s most important antioxidant, glutathione can help reduce this oxidative stress. Other evidence points to the effectiveness of antioxidants like glutathione to address head pain. Unfortunately, the FDA is threatening access to compounded glutathione treatments. This is a huge problem because alternative forms of glutathione are not effective at increasing blood levels of this antioxidant; it needs to be administered intravenously, intranasally, or in some other more direct form to bypass the gut. These superior forms can only be accessed through compounding pharmacies. While ANH-USA, grassroots activists, and other stakeholders scored a major victory in protecting compounded glutathione last year, the FDA could still decide to ban this critical medicine. We can’t let that happen.

Action Alert! Write to Congress and the FDA, urging them not to ban compounded glutathione. Please send your message immediately.

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