Headaches are unavoidable and happen to everyone once in a while. They make daily living uncomfortable but are mostly tolerated silently. Life becomes too difficult when these recurrent headaches are more than just a disturbing pain from the neck to the head. Sufferers identify these fearful crippling headache pains, as awful, nauseating, tiring and unmanageable. Medically these insufferable headache episodes are called “Migraine”.
What are migraine symptoms?
It is a neurological disorder often described as intense pulsing pain in one area of the head. Recognizing the main reason for it is almost impossible. Migraine is one of the common causes of headaches and is the third most prevalent and seventh leading cause of disability worldwide. Migraines occur more frequently in females than in males. These headaches can be extremely debilitating and have negative physical, social, mental, and financial impacts on quality of life. It also increases the risk of developing anxiety and depression.
Symptoms of migraine can be divided into stages but not everyone goes through all the stages:
- Pre-headache stage: This starts with aches and pains several hours or days before a migraine attack accompanied by changes in mood, energy levels, behaviour and appetite.
- Aura: This stage normally lasts around 15 minutes to an hour. A special sensation is experienced just before a migraine starts. Symptoms include flashes of light or blind spots, difficulty focusing, and seeing things as if looking through a broken mirror.
- Headache stage: This stage lasts for four to 72 hours and is usually a pulsating pain on one side of the head. It is associated with nausea or vomiting, extreme sensitivity to bright light and loud sounds, with a strong desire to lie down in a darkened room.
- Resolution stage: Most attacks gradually fade away. Headache stops suddenly and brings sleepiness as symptoms relive.
- Recovery phase: This is a stage of exhaustion and weakness.
- Other symptoms include: Poor concentration, sweating, feeling very hot or very cold, abdominal pain, and a frequent need to urinate.
What are common migraine triggers?
Triggers can be categorized as physiological, dietary and environmental factors. These differ from person to person and hence cannot be generalized for everyone.
- Physiological triggers: Stress, hunger, fatigue, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, perimenopause, menopause and usage of oral contraceptive drugs may initiate migraine attacks.
- Dietary triggers Dieting, delayed and irregular meals, dehydration, alcohol intake, food containing a high amount of tyramine like a few dairy, meat, poultry and fish products, caffeine products and specific foods like chocolate, cheese and citrus fruits.
- Environmental triggers: These include bright light, smoke, crowded atmosphere, loud noise, changing climate and flickering television, computer and mobile screen.
How can dietary and lifestyle interventions reduce migraine complications?
Many attempts have been made to find migraine preventive strategies that are efficient and safe. Available migraine medications and non-drug strategies are not fully beneficial and migraine control is still challenging. Presently researchers are enforcing to follow lifestyle modification strategies like managing symptoms, reducing triggers, and alleviating pain to manage migraine.
- Stick to a healthy eating plan
Migraine attacks frequency increases with irregular, untimely eating habits, keeping too much gap between food intake and skipping meals. Eating a balanced diet including the right proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, good fats, fruits, vegetables and an adequate amount of water prevents migraine triggers.
- Stay away from triggers.
Identifying and avoiding the triggers is crucial to keeping sudden migraine attacks at bay.
- Prevent nutrient deficiencies
Vitamin B2, B6, B12, D, folate, magnesium and polyunsaturated fatty acids aggravate migraine attacks. Plant-based diets rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, high in omega-3 fatty acids (fish, nuts, seeds), and low in saturated fat, sugar, salt, and processed foods may help prevent and replenish nutrient deficiencies.
- Adopt positive lifestyle habits
Engaging in 30 minutes of physical activity daily, limiting alcohol consumption, skipping smoking, indulging in mindful practices like yoga and meditation and getting good quality sleep help to prevent migraine complications.
- Retain a health diary
Maintaining a diary, and tracking migraine symptoms, their frequency, duration and pattern will help to manage them in a better way. This will also improve self-preparedness towards this helpless headache experience.
The real reason behind intolerable migraine attacks is still not fully explored. However, it can be managed well through self-awareness, a disciplined lifestyle and a healthy positive mindset. Patients are to be counselled to conserve their healthy living ways to prevent unnecessary consumption of medicines. It is highly recommended that correct lifestyle advice should be followed under the guidance of the right expert rather than opting for unauthentic self-help methods and tips. All these remedies should not only improve migraine symptoms but also enhance the overall quality of life.
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