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Last modified on August 25th, 2020
Migraines are an illness that typically causes moderate to severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to stimuli. People that have migraines may experience symptoms for hours or even days. This illness can be debilitating and interfere with daily tasks.
Migraines are not very well understood, but there are treatments that may provide relief from the symptoms. In this article, we will discuss what migraines are, how are they caused, and other common migraine questions, after this we will look at supplements which may help relieve and prevent migraines.
What are Migraines?
Migraines are more than just simple headaches; they are a neurological disease. This disease may have symptoms such as headaches, with throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. Migraines may also come with nausea, visual disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound.
The causes of migraines are not very well understood because different stimuli cause them for different people. Sometimes migraines may be caused by hormonal issues. They may even be caused by the specific food you did and didn’t eat. If you suffer from migraine-like symptoms it is a good idea to speak with your healthcare provider in order to determine what caused your migraine.
Migraines can last from 4-72 hours if left untreated. Some people experience more than 15 migraine days per month, this is called chronic daily migraine and is a very severe and debilitating condition.
Migraines typically occur in 4 stages, but some of these phases may not occur in some people:
- Prodrome- The prodrome phase can signal when a migraine may happen, it can occur in the days and hours before the attack and aura occur. Typical symptoms of the prodrome phase include yawning, mood changes, frequent urination, muscle stiffness, and difficulty speaking or reading.
- Aura- The aura phase typically occurs 5-60 minutes before the attack occurs. The aura phase is characterized by flashing patterns, shimmering or flashing lights, or blind spots in one or both eyes. The aura phase may come after the headache has started, or it may not even happen.
- Attack- This is the actual headache or pain phase of the migraine. This phase may last from 4-72 hours and it can cause moderate to severe headaches in one or both sides of the head. It can come with nausea, light sensitivity, or sensitivity to loud noises.
- Postdrome- This phase may occur after the migraine is over. It has been described as “The Migraine Hangover.” This leaves the sufferer feeling drained and sensitive to lights and strong scents.
What are the Different Types of Migraines and Their Symptoms?
People can experience migraines in many ways. Migraines are one of the most common debilitating illnesses, in fact, it is the 6th most common disabling illness. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of migraines because this disorder often goes undiagnosed.
Migraines affect people differently, this makes it necessary to diagnose and categorize the different types of migraines and their symptoms to better understand the factors that cause them, and to better treat them.
The types of migraines commonly described are:
- Complicated Migraine (Migraine with Aura)
- Simple Migraine (Migraine without Aura)
- Migraine without Head Pain
- Hemiplegic Migraine
- Retinal Migraine
- Abdominal Migraine
- Menstrual Migraine
- Chronic Migraine
Migraines are serious conditions, and these different categorizations are based on the symptoms someone experiences when they have a migraine. Migraines can have disabling symptoms so it’s very important that you speak with your medical provider if you experience these.
Migraine with Aura
Complicated migraines are those with auras, which are visual disturbances that cause spots, geometric patterns, blind spots or tingling in your hands or face. The aura can occur before or even during the migraine.
These can be somewhat disturbing the first time they happen. It is theorized that auras are caused by your eyes picking up on electrical or chemical waves moving through the brain. People who suffer from migraines with aura have a slightly increased stroke risk.
Migraine without Aura
Migraines without aura are typically harder to predict as they do not have the aura phase. The symptoms that come with the aura do not happen. However, there are still some warning signs which include, food cravings, stiffness, and difficulty with speech and reading.
70-90% of migraine sufferers experience this type of migraine. This gives it the moniker of “Common Migraine.” Many people still experience the postdrome phase even though they don’t experience the aura phase.
Migraine without Head Pain
Migraines without head pain are also called silent or acephalgic migraines. These can be quite disconcerting when experienced at first, the aura phase and even nausea phase can occur without the headache.
These are more likely to occur in people who already experience other types of migraines with head pain. These migraines resolve themselves quickly as the aura phase is relatively short.
Hemiplegic migraines are a very rare form of migraine described as being migraines with muscle weakness occurring in one side of the body. These migraines have an added symptom during the aura phase: muscle weakness. They can resemble strokes and even seizures.
Hemiplegic migraines are placed into two categories; familial and sporadic. As the name suggests, familial hemiplegic migraines run in families, and you may be more likely to experience them if a close relative has them as well. Sporadic hemiplegic migraines occur in just one individual without a family history of hemiplegic migraines.
These are a very rare form of migraine, so if you experience any new muscle weakness symptoms or stroke-like symptoms it is a good idea to go to your healthcare provider immediately.
Abdominal migraines typically occur in children aged five to nine. The symptoms are very similar to the common migraine, except there is no head pain there is stomach pain instead. Many people who suffer from it describe it as a soreness or dull ache within their central abdomen.
There have been some cases of abdominal migraine in adults; however, this is rather rare. People may experience nausea and vomiting as well as the pain. 50-70% of children with abdominal migraines will grow up and have migraines with head pain.
Menstrual migraines describe migraines that are directly related to menstruation in women. Menstruation can be a trigger for some migraines, but menstrual migraines are a separate condition. These may be caused by a lowering in oestrogen levels and an increase in prostaglandins.
Studies suggest that the risk of menstrual migraines developing is greatest during the 2 days leading up to menstruation and during the first three days. Menstrual migraines typically have similar symptoms to the common migraine and migraine with aura.
Ocular Migraines may refer to two different types of migraines; migraine with aura, and retinal migraines. Both have visual symptoms, but retinal migraines are more severe. They both describe visual disturbances occurring in the aura phase of the migraine.
Migraines with aura cause a visual disturbance in both eyes. Retinal migraines only affect one eye instead of both at the same time. Retinal migraines are very rare and can cause blindness and blind spots or seeing blinking lights. These symptoms only occur in one eye; however, blindness in one eye may be a sign of other more serious conditions. Speak with your medical provider if you experience blindness or blind spots in one eye.
Migraines are defined as chronic whenever a person has more than 15 headache days per month. It is estimated that 1% of the global population experiences chronic migraines. These can describe migraines of any type.
With chronic migraines the treatment is slightly different than with episodic migraines (less than 10 migraine days per month). People with chronic migraines need to be very careful when taking painkillers to ensure they don’t develop medication overuse headaches.
What are the Causes of Migraines?
The causes of migraines are not directly known; however, studies suggest many different factors can be at play in determining the potential for migraines to develop. These factors include hormones, diet, and other genetic and environmental factors.
A chemical imbalance of serotonin and other pain-regulating neurotransmitters may be a cause of migraines. There are ongoing studies on the effects of such neurotransmitters on migraines. The brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve may also play a role.
Along with the causes, there are certain triggers. Triggers are factors which can cause migraines, these vary from person to person, but common triggers include:
- Hormonal Changes in Women
- Irregular or Interrupted Sleep Schedule
- Alcoholic or Caffeinated Drinks
- Caffeine Withdrawal
- Changes in the Weather
- Irregular Eating Habits
- Foods (chocolate, aged cheeses, monosodium glutamate (MSG), fermented or pickled food, yeast, cured meats, some fruits and nuts)
- Shoulder or Neck Tension
- Taking migraine medication too often
Triggers vary from person to person as does the threshold of these triggers. The migraine threshold is the measure of how many triggers and how much of them you can withstand. For example, just drinking alcohol may not affect someone, but drinking alcohol and not getting enough sleep the night before may bring on a migraine.
Because migraine triggers and causes vary so much from person to person; it is a good idea to speak with your medical provider if you experience migraines. Your doctor can assist you in developing a plan to reduce the risk of migraines.
Who is at Risk of Developing Migraines?
Genetics, environmental factors, and gender can all play a role in migraine susceptibility. Some of these factors are not well understood. People that may have an increased risk of having migraines are:
- Women are 3 times more likely to develop migraines
- People experiencing hormonal changes (especially women going through menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, generally migraines happen less severely and frequently after menopause.)
- Those with a family history of migraines. If someone in your family has migraines, you may also be at an increased risk of developing migraines.
- People in their 30s. Migraines can develop at any age and can occur during adolescence. The most severe migraines typically occur for people in their thirties and decrease in frequency and severity as people age.
- People that have other medical conditions (depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, epilepsy, or bipolar disorders)
These factors may increase your susceptibility to developing migraines if you feel you are at risk and have concerns about this, speak with your healthcare provider for more information.
How are Migraines Treated?
Migraines are treated in several ways; however, there is no cure for migraines. The focus of migraine treatments is to reduce the severity of symptoms and to prevent future migraine attacks from occurring.
For natural symptom relief, you can try putting a cool cloth or ice pack on your forehead, drinking fluids, and/or resting in a quiet, dark room.
Typical medications used to reduce symptoms are triptan drugs, ergotamine drugs, and pain relievers.
Triptans are used to reduce the pain and nausea of migraines. The earlier these are used, the more effective they are in relieving migraine symptoms.
Ergotamines are used to relieve migraines by constricting the blood vessels in the brain. It isn’t known how these drugs help in relieving migraines. Like triptans, ergotamines work most effectively when taken in the beginning stages of the migraine.
Pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen can be used for moderate migraine pain. These medications can cause medication overuse headaches if used too often. Pain relievers for migraines with aspirin and caffeine should only be used for mild migraine symptoms.
Anti-Nausea medications may be used with migraines to prevent nausea and vomiting from occurring due to migraines.
Opioids are occasionally used in the treatment of migraines. Due to their addictive nature, these are typically used as a last resort if all other medications have failed to reduce migraine symptoms in a patient.
Preventative treatments are another way that can reduce the occurrences and severity of migraines, some of the types of medications and strategies for preventing migraines include stress management, recording triggers, blood pressure-lowering medications, Botox, anti-seizure medication, Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) monoclonal antibodies, and antidepressants.
Stress management strategies such as exercise, relaxation techniques (such as meditation), and biofeedback which uses electronics to teach people how to control their bodily functions like blood pressure, heartbeat, and muscle tension.
Recording triggers will help you to avoid these specific triggers in the future. Avoiding triggers is a very good start to reducing migraine occurrences because it gives you the ability to understand what leads to your migraines. You can then know what foods or stimuli to reduce your exposure to.
The medications mentioned work to prevent migraines in various ways. It is not well understood how they work to prevent migraines. They can cause side effects as well. It is important to speak with your medical provider about your migraines before you begin taking any medications to ensure their effectiveness and safety.
What Types of Vitamins and Supplements are Good for Migraines?
Vitamins and herbal supplements may be used in addition to, or as an alternative to common pharmaceutical drugs in some cases. Supplements tend to be safer without as many side effects as other medications when taken in the correct dosages.
Like many pharmaceutical migraine treatments, most supplements focus on reducing migraine frequency. Some of the best types of vitamins and supplements that may lessen your number of migraine days per month include:
- Butterbur (Petasites Hybridus)
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Vitamin D
Tips for Taking the Best Vitamins for Migraine Prevention:
Taking supplements is generally safe when they are taken in the right dosages. It is important to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any medication or supplement. Before you begin buying supplements it is a good idea to follow these guidelines:
- Always speak with your medical provider before starting new supplements.
- Check to see that your supplement is from an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and GMP (Good Management Practices) certified facility in order to ensure the quality of the product.
- If you are vegan, vegetarian, have food allergies, or other dietary restrictions check to see that the product is free from things you can’t eat.
- Check to make sure the supplement will not cause adverse reactions with your other medications.
Always remember supplement guides like this one are no replacement for advice from a medical professional. Ask your doctor if you are unsure about how to take supplements to best benefit you.
The Top 6 Supplements for Migraine Prevention:
This best supplement for migraine prevention uses magnesium which is one of the top supplements for reducing the frequency of migraines. Magnesium is a very important vitamin for the body, it helps to regulate bodily functions such as sleep, and digestion.
Magnesium also helps to keep bones and joints healthy. On average, there are 24 grams of magnesium distributed throughout the body. It is a very important nutrient that has been used in the treatment of Migraines for a very long time. Magnesium has minimal side-effects, but if taken in higher doses it may cause gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea.
Magnesium may reduce migraine days per month by reducing brain excitability. It also promotes nervous system health which may also help. When compared to a placebo, magnesium supplements reduced headache days in migraine sufferers by 41.6%.
This best supplement for migraine prevention is non-GMO (which means it has not been genetically modified), it is also manufactured in an FDA approved facility in the United States. This product is vegan and third party tested which ensures it follows safety and purity standards. This product contains 500 milligrams of magnesium per capsule with up to a 2 month supply.
Best Supplement for Migraines #2
- Studies suggest butterbur is very effective for lessening headache days per month
- This product also contains feverfew, another powerful anti-migraine supplement
- May support healthy blood flow to the brain
Butterbur (Petasites Hybridus) is a perennial shrub that grows in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America. This plant has been used since medieval times for treating several ailments from the plague, to inflammation. This plant has also been used in the treatment of wounds.
In modern medicine, Butterbur has been used to treat allergic rhinitis (hay fever), urinary tract symptoms, upset stomach, and migraines. This supplement uses chemical compounds called petasins to have an anti-inflammatory effect.
It is very important when taking butterbur, to make sure your supplement is free of toxins as butterbur contains some toxins when it is left unprocessed. Make sure your supplements are screened and proven to be free from toxins.
This best supplement for preventing migraines also contains feverfew which is another powerful herb for fighting migraines. This product is GMP certified, and is free of PAs which are the toxins in butterbur.
Feverfew is an herb that grows in Europe and in North America. This daisy-like flowering herb has been used for centuries to cure everything from psoriasis to tinnitus and allergies. There are records of its usage even in ancient Greek medicine.
Feverfew is a very versatile herb. It is small but packs a powerful punch as it is filled with different vitamins and compounds that may benefit not only the head, but the entire body. There have been studies that suggest feverfew may have anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits as well.
This herb is generally safe; however when taken in higher doses it may cause irritation on the mouth and lips. It is also important to check with your medical provider as feverfew may interact with other medication.
This best supplement for reducing migraines is non-GMO, vegan, and certified authentic by a third-party company. There are 180 capsules which are 380 mg each. The reviews say that this supplement has reduced their number of migraine days per month.
CoQ10 is a vitamin-like nutrient that occurs naturally in the body. CoQ10 has many uses in the body and is good for cardiovascular, nervous, and digestive functions. CoQ10 is very concentrated in the brain and heart.
Studies suggest that CoQ10 can reduce the number of migraines experienced each month by almost 50%. CoQ10 is generally very safe when taken in the suggested dosage. It is important for energy production and works as an antioxidant.
This best supplement for reducing migraines is vegan, gluten free, and GMP certified. It is also non-GMO. This product contains bioperine (black pepper extract) and coconut oil in order to increase absorption. This supplement contains up to a 120-day supply of CoQ10 capsules.
Riboflavin is also known as vitamin B-2. This vitamin works similarly to CoQ10, it is an antioxidant, it also assists with energy production. Vitamin B-2 is naturally occurring in many different foods.
Studies suggest riboflavin can reduce the number of headache days you experience by over 50%. Vitamin B-2 may when taken with other supplements may also reduce the pain experienced during a migraine. It has many other non-migraine benefits as well, such as assisting with cataracts.
This best supplement for migraines is GMP certified and made with non-GMO ingredients. This vitamin is made in the USA and contains minimal amounts of fillers. This product contains up to a 90-day supply.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that the body uses for calcium absorption, nervous system signaling, muscle movement, and more. This vitamin can be obtained from foods; however, many people may still be deficient.
A 2017 study suggested that many migraine sufferers are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiencies may cause many other side effects such as brittle bones, or even cancer. This study also suggested that a larger number of headache days per month correlated with a deficiency in vitamin D.
This Vitamin-D supplement is dairy free, gluten free, and non-GMO. This best vitamin to reduce migraine days is free of unnecessary fillers. This supplement is also bottled in the USA. There are 360 capsules that each contain 5,000 IU of vitamin D, this is an almost one-year supply.
Migraines are a very common neurological illness that affects approximately 12% of the global population. These can be very serious and even disabling especially if they become chronic. Migraines affect all people but are most prevalent for people in their 30s.
There are many supplements that may help reduce migraine days per month, we have described quite a few of them. However, this guide is no replacement for the advice of your medical professional. Speak with your doctor before starting any supplement, or if you have questions about your supplements and medications.
Please tell us if you have questions, comments or personal experiences with these supplements. We’d love to hear from you!