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What’s more nagging than a bad headache? A migraine. I come across a lot of headaches and migraines in my practice, and I see the pain people endure on a regular or cyclical basis. Staying locked in a dark room due to sensitivity to light, sensitivity to noise, auras, flashing lights, pins and needles, nausea, pulsing, throbbing…. not pleasant. Women are about three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men. What are the causes and what are the cures?

Migraines or headaches can be caused by eating foods to which you are sensitive or allergic (commonly wheat, foods with tannins or sulfites such as chocolate or red wine, MSG or nitrites) to dropping hormone levels before menstruation, to stress, or certain medications. Interestingly, a congested liver, which leads to a build-up of toxins in the body, can cause recurrent headaches or migraines. Low blood sugar from skipping meals and dehydration can trigger headache too.

In the allopathic medical system, you may be prescribed the migraine drug Imitrex, a strong pharmaceutical that’s hard on the liver. And you’re not uncovering the underlying cause – you’re only treating the symptom. First off, migraines or headaches can often signal a food allergy. Many people find dramatic relief by eliminating eliminating wheat and other gluten-containing grains (rye, barley, spelt, teff). Follow a hypoallergenic whole foods diet to find relief: eliminate processed foods, gluten, soy, and dairy, and focus on organic proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Cut out alcohol and refined sugar. Try this for two weeks to one month to see results. Eat every 3 hours to avoid low blood sugar.

Drink enough water: about half your body weight in ounces per day. Support your liver or consider a cleanse. If your migraines occur on a cyclical basis before your period, try supplementing with plant-based hormones. Consider stress hormone and female hormone testing to bring cortisol and female hormones into balance.

There is some evidence that amino acid therapy can be successful for life-long migraines. Using tyrosine and 5HTP (the precursor to serotonin) together to replace low neurotransmitter levels in the brain has worked for many people. Consider neurotransmitter testing or consult a holistic health professional (like me!) for information on this. Taking amino acids without supervision can cause problems.

Finally, examine your lifestyle: keep a migraine or headache journal. See if you can pinpoint the triggers: is it a food? Cyclical? Relating to stress at work? In the home? Do some guided stress relief, exercise, or yoga. Massage or acupuncture can help too.

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