June is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month (MHAM). Nearly 40 million Americans and one billion people across the globe suffer from migraines. Migraine is ranked globally as the seventh most disabling disease among all diseases (responsible for 2.9% of all years of life lost to disability/YLDs) and the leading cause of disability among all neurological disorders. Currently, about 16 million people with migraines in the U.S. are undiagnosed. Approximately 400,000 Americans experience cluster headaches, recognized as one of the most painful diseases a person can have.

A survey by the Headache and Migraine Policy Forum and Migraine Again revealed a nearly 70% rise in the number of migraine attacks during the pandemic, and 84% of people have more stress managing their disease.

Migraine headaches are three times more prevalent in women than men and can run in families. They are diagnosed using specific criteria:

  • At least five previous episodes of headaches
  • Lasting 4–72 hours
  • At least two out of four of these: one-sided pain, throbbing pain, moderate-to-severe pain, and pain that interferes with, is worsened by or prohibits routine activity
  • At least one associated feature: nausea and/or vomiting, or, if those are not present, then sensitivity to light and sound

A migraine may be foreshadowed by aura, which can cause you to see:

  • Flashing or shimmering lights
  • zigzag lines
  • Stars
  • blind spots

If you suffer from migraines, you can take steps to lessen the severity or prevent them from happening and as always, keeping an eye on what you put in your body is a significant factor. Diet plays a key role in preventing migraines. Many foods and beverages are known to trigger migraines. Stay away from:

  • foods with nitrates including hot dogs, deli meats, bacon, and sausage
  • Chocolate
  • Cheese containing the naturally occurring compound tyramine (blue, feta, cheddar, parmesan, and swiss).
  • Alcohol, especially red wine
  • MSG
  • Extremely cold foods (e.g., ice cream or iced beverages)
  • Processed foods
  • Cultured dairy (e.g., buttermilk, sour cream, and yogurt)

On the contrary, make sure you’re getting enough of these on the daily:

  • Ginger – Ginger is known to ease nausea caused by many conditions, including migraines. It may also have other migraine benefits. According to research, ginger powder decreased migraine severity and duration and the prescription drug sumatriptan, with fewer side effects.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium deficiency can be one of the culprits. Studies show magnesium oxide supplementation helps prevent migraines with aura. It may also prevent menstrual-related migraines. Make sure to include magnesium-rich food in your diets, such as almonds, certain seeds and nuts, peanut butter, oatmeal, eggs, and milk to pack a powerful magnesium punch.

The debilitating pain caused by migraines is no joke. If you are impacted by migraines or know someone who is, our sincerest compassion and sympathy go out to you. We know it can be a challenge to function when you are suffering. You can read our three-part series here, here, and here to find out more information on specific types of headaches. 

Sources:

https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/understanding-migraine/migraine-and-aura/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23657930
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393401/
https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Programs-and-Services/Documents/CP0403MagnesiumRichFoods.pdf

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