By Carla Challis
Migraines are one of the three most common disorders in the world – and attacks are noted by the World Health Organisation to be among the most disabling things that can happen to a human.
Yet despite their severity, there’s still a lot we don’t know or understand about migraines – which is why Migraine Awareness Week was set up to reduce the ignorance surrounding this condition.
From what causes a migraine to how to cure a migraine, we asked Dr Sam Christie, Nature’s Best migraine expert, for the lowdown…
Migraines can be genetic
Many people think migraines stem from a reaction or sensitivity to light or noise. However, migraines are influenced by genetics, and symptoms like sensitivity to noise and light are often triggers.
Consultant Neurologist Dr Nick Silver explains: “A migraine is a disorder that is brought about by an inherited or genetic tendency which cannot be tested in a clinical setting” – meaning that migraines often have no clear cause.
Magnesium deficiency is a key contributor to migraines
Low levels of magnesium has been associated with an increased incidence of migraine, a fact which is often unknown by sufferers. Studies show that those who get migraines have lower blood and brain levels of magnesium.
Magnesium can be obtained from the diet by eating wholegrains and dark green leafy vegetables. However certain factors, such as caffeine intake, can affect the absorption of this mineral. Alcohol, sugar and increased perspiration caused by exercise or hot weather are also known to increase magnesium excretion which reduces your body’s overall magnesium.
Nutritionist Dr Sam Christie recommends a magnesium supplement to help.
Migraines affect more women than men
Migraines are more prone to women than men, according to Dr Sue Lipscombe. Speaking on behalf of Syndol headache relief, she said: “Migraines affect 18% of women, 6% of men and 10% of children.”
Bad habits can impact migraine sufferers
Dietary and lifestyle habits can have a huge impact on migraine sufferers. There is often a connection between smoking and drinking – and limiting these habits may help reduce the frequency of migraines.
It’s also important to keep to a sleep routine. Many common migraines can be triggered by a disruption of your sleep pattern – and too much sleep can be as detrimental to your health as too little. Keep to a routine where possible, including at weekends.
For some people, certain foods can also be the trigger for migraines. This is often food that contains a chemical called tyramine.
Unfortunately this is in many foods we love such as chocolate, some meats and cheeses. So the recommendation would be to stop or limit the intake of your trigger foods.
There is no cure for migraines
In simple terms, you can’t ever cure a migraine. You can, however, help relieve common symptoms like nausea, vomiting and dizziness, among others.
Complementary treatments are also beneficial – particularly acupuncture, which can help by treating the underlying root cause of the problem.
Rhiannon Griffiths from the British Acupuncture Council said: “Acupuncture uses ultra-fine needles to boost the Qi or energy in the body; topping up this energy is what reduces the frequency, severity and susceptibility to migraines.”