Migraine is a severe headache accompanied by nausea, vomiting and light sensitivity. It is an attack that can last for about 4 hours to 3 - 4 days. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, this disease affects 1 billion people, globally making it the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world mostly people in the age group 18-44.
These debilitating attacks cause a lot of suffering. Patients either opt for over-the-counter drugs or prescribed painkillers. However, these treatments don’t cure the problem. People who get migraines are often able to identify the causes and triggers. Over a period of time they can develop coping abilities and a few can prevent a full -blown attack at the first warning symptom.
Most migraine suffers have these attacks once or twice a month. However, more than 4 million people have chronic daily migraines that count at least 15 migraine days per month.
But does Ayurveda offer an effective treatment?
Causes and Symptoms
The exact cause of migraines is not known. A typical migraine attack may exhibit symptoms like visual disturbances (known as aura), nausea, vomiting, giddiness, intense sensitivity to light, sound, touch and smell, tingling or numbness in the extremities or face. Characterised by increasing level of pain over the eyebrow area that worsens in sunlight, it can be a throbbing pain that increases with every pulse, radiating to neck and shoulder.
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What Ayurveda Says
Migraine headaches are caused by tridoshic condition, due to pitta-vata imbalance or accumulation of Ama (toxins).
Supressing pain or the symptoms only provides short term relief and creates dependency on medicines. The cause of migraine is different in every individual therefore the diagnosis requires detailed case history and discussion involving the patient. It's always advisable to consult an Ayurvedic practitioner before starting a treatment as balancing of doshas through diet and lifestyle needs to be done according to the patient’s prakriti.
- Avoid exposure to mid-day sun and cold winds
- Follow a regular sleep schedule with 8 hours of sleep
- Schedule a 40-60 minutes of morning/evening walk everyday
- Follow relaxation techniques to deal with chronic stress
- Don't supress natural urges (sneezing, moving the bowels or urinating)
- Don't supress tears
- Avoid drinking and smoking
- Include freshly cooked organic food
- Consume a Pitta pacifying diet, that includes sweet ripe fruits, all vegetables coriander, mint, coconuts, pomegranates, light dairy products, pulses, nuts and seeds
- Avoid heavy, bitter, astringent, acidic, sour, salty and pungent foods
- Avoid tomatoes, garlic, radishes, chillies, aged cheeses, butter, yogurt, meat, stale, frozen, canned and processed foods
- Drink warm water throughout the day to stay hydrated
- Have a light breakfast and dinner
- Drink milk separately, don't combine it with other food
- Oil pulling or Kavala graha is beneficial in treating migraine. Take a tsp of coconut oil and swish in mouth on an empty stomach for 15-20 minutes and spit. This removes bacteria and toxins from the mouth. You can brush later.
- Drink warm milk with a pinch of saffron, cardamom and turmeric every day.
- Soak 4-5 almonds and raisins in water overnight. Eat them and dink the water every morning.
- Grind equal quantities of roasted, coriander, cumin and fennel seeds. Add 1 tsp of this powder to a cup of boiling water. Let it come to room temperature and drink it on an empty stomach
- Boil a piece of ginger in water and drink.
- Apply sandalwood or nutmeg paste on the forehead to calm down and relax during an attack
- Ayurvedic treatments like Shirolepa, Shirodhara, Shirovasti and Sneha nasya are beneficial.
Migraine, a systemic, neurological issue starts in the brain, but is also a result of imbalance in the body. A permanent cure is critical for leading a healthy life. Consult an Ayurvedic practitioner to create a treatment plan according to your requirements. By addressing the root cause through Ayurveda many patients are able to manage their migraine well.
Factors That Can Lead to Migraine
An irregular lifestyle resulting in any type of physical distress contributes towards this disease. Some common causes are low blood sugar, wrong posture, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, over exposure to intense lights, sounds, or smells, severe weather changes, frequent travelling and a jet lag.
Emotional stress is an important cause for migraines. People who are perfectionists and want things to be their way are susceptible to migraines. Stress, excitement, depression, inability to handle emotions, overwhelm and anxiety are some other factors.
A faulty or imbalanced diet is a major cause of migraine headaches.
Bad diet, skipping meals, alcohol and caffeine consumption, monosodium glutamate, soy products and artificial sweeteners are responsible create imbalance in the body. Foods that contain additive tyramine, cheese, citrus foods, too much caffeine or caffeine withdrawal and dehydration can be some triggers.
Migraine headaches are often associated with female hormone estrogen. Menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy that cause the hormonal levels to fluctuate can spark migraines.
Environmental factors like change in climate or weather, fluctuating temperature, humidity, exposure to cold winds and change in altitude can induce migraine. Similarly, overexposure to bright or flickering light, extensive screen time, extreme heat or cold and strong smells can start an attack.
Anti-depressants, nasal steroids and decongestants, birth control pills, sleeping pills are cited as probable causes. Certain medicines, both prescribed and over-the -counter can trigger rebound migraine headaches. According to Mayo Clinic overuse of pain medications can cause these headaches. Pain medication is a short-term solution. If consumed too frequently it can lead to rebound headaches.
(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer, and a life coach for mothers. She writes articles on environment, food, history, parenting and travel.)
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