Q. Which are the most effective natural remedies for migraines?
A. Migraines have many triggers. Bright lights, loud noises, stress (physical or emotional), hormonal fluctuations, and certain foods all can set off severe headaches and an array of other migraine symptoms. Many migraine sufferers find that eliminating certain foods can reduce occurrences. Avoid the most frequent allergy-provoking foods—cow's milk, eggs, chocolate, citrus fruits, and wheat—for several weeks and then add them back one by one to see if any affect your migraines.
Compounds such as tyramine (a substance found in red wine, aged cheese, and liver), nitrites, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sulfites, tartrazine (FD&C yellow No. 5), and aspartame can also set off migraines in some people. A little dietary detective work can identify which, if any, of these contribute to your migraines. It may help to keep a food diary, noting when headaches occur. Be aware that symptoms may appear as many as three days after consuming one of these trigger foods.
To ease the frequency, severity, and duration of migraine attacks, try taking clinically tested feverfew. The herb won't offer instant relief, but taken daily for four to six weeks, it should start to protect against migraines. Choose a feverfew product that supplies at least 250 mcg of parthenolides per day. You may also want to take a magnesium supplement (200–600 mg daily), since levels of this mineral tend to be lower in people with recurrent migraines. Research also has shown acupuncture and chiropractic therapies to be effective for migraine relief.
This Q&A was written by Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH, a health journalist based in the Pacific Northwest, where she and her family enjoy hiking and cycling.