10 lifestyle hacks for migraine sufferers

Migraines are multifactorial.  That means there isn’t just one magic bullet.  If you are prone to migraines, you need to look at all aspects of your life.  We’ve all heard about migraine triggers, and probably tried to identify one.  The problem is, we all have lots of migraine triggers, which build up on top of each other.  We need to make lots of small changes, not just one big change.

This includes food, lifestyle, exercise, cosmetics, everything!

To help you get started on this journey, here are 10 things to change today to start to reduce the severity and frequency of your migraines.

1. Swap your evening cup of black tea or coffee for a cup of chamomile or passionflower tea. This reduces your caffeine intake, which is helpful as high caffeine intake can increase migraines.  It has the added advantage of hydrating and relaxing you.  Chamomile and passionflower are my two favourite herbal teas for a good night’ sleep.  Sleep quality will improve, which in itself is protective against migraines.

2. Change your pillow. Moulded, orthopaedic-style pillows keep your head, neck and spine in better alignment.  This reduces pressure on the sensitive blood vessels in your neck, which trigger migraines when irritated.  Floppy, soft, old pillows aren’t supportive enough.  If you find you wake in the morning will a headache or migraine, change your pillow.

3. Do you use perfume, fragranced body creams and deodorants?

No actual flowers have been harmed in the making of these products!

They are just cocktails of chemicals, blended together, which you then lather all over your skin.  These chemicals and fragrances can trigger migraines.  To smell a bit special, experiment with some essential oils, such as lavender.  These can actually help alleviate migraines.

4. Do you kick start your day with a cup of coffee? If you need the coffee, your adrenal glands may be under stress.  Test yourself and see if you can last until 10am until your first coffee.  If you can last the distance, you probably have your caffeine habit under control.

If you are a mess until the coffee, you may need to cut back, as your body is too dependent on it.  Instead, start the day with a big glass of water.  Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar for a detox boost.  Your body will be able to rehydrate after the night before, and your liver will get a kick start.  An efficiently working liver is essential to avoid migraines

5. Non-stick (Teflon) cookware became fashionable when low fat was de rigueur.

Now we know that the low fat era was based on some fraudulent scientific data.  So it is time to revert to cast iron or stainless steel, and use some fat suitable for frying.  Removing Teflon from your food chain reduces the toxins in your food.  Less toxicity = fewer migraines

6. Do you love a glass of Shiraz in the evening? You may love the red wine, but unfortunately, it doesn’t love you back.  Red wine is a notorious migraine trigger.  Swap red wine for white wine, preferably organic and preservative-free.  Even with white wine, limit consumption.

7. Our other good friend chocolate is linked to migraines, although the jury is still out on this. It may be that a drop in our mood and blood sugar preceding a migraine triggers a craving for chocolate.  When the migraine comes on, we remember the last thing we ate was the chocolate.  But potentially, the craving was a symptom of early migraine, and the chocolate isn’t to blame.  To be on the safe side, swap chocolate for carob when the craving strikes.

8. Swap high glycaemic index foods for low glycaemic foods.

High glycaemic foods cause big swings in your blood sugar, which can lead to a migraine.  To move to a lower glycaemic load diet:

  • Eat more whole foods, and fewer processed foods.
  • Eat some fat and protein whenever you have carbs.
  • If you eat potatoes, rice or pasta, cook them the day before, let them cook, and then eat them. This dramatically lowers their glycaemic index.
  • Eat sourdough instead of other breads.
  • Eat beans and lentils instead of refined carbs.

9. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, take 5 minutes for some mindfulness practice. There are lots of great apps to help with this, such as Headspace. Forcing your body to relax, and de-stress will reduce migraines. It also helps you learn techniques to help deal with pain when you are suffering from a migraine

10. When you’re having a salad, choose some bitter vegetables such as rocket or radicchio. These stimulate the liver, which reduces toxins in your body, which will reduce the frequency and severity of your migraines.