Have you ever had a migraine headache? If you have, you know how painful one can be, and if you haven’t, chances are someone you know has. Given how debilitating migraine symptoms can be, anyone affected wants to know how to get rid of them.
Estimates show that 6 percent to 18 percent of the adult population suffers from recurrent migraines (about 6 percent of men and up to 18 percent of all women).
There are many options for how to get rid of a migraine, and different things work for different people. Try the following ways for how to get rid of a migraine to see what works best for you.
1. Foods that Help Migraines
Foods that can help prevent or treat migraines include the following:
Nuts, seeds and wild-caught fish, such as salmon or sardines, help control blood flow and lower inflammation.
Organic, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
These provide antioxidants that help decrease inflammation, counteract effects of toxin exposure and balance hormones.
Foods are high in magnesium are especially important for controlling blood flow and muscular function, along with preventing an electrolyte imbalance. Some of the best sources include spinach, swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, kefir, almonds, black beans, avocado, figs, dates, bananas, and sweet potatoes.
Clean, Lean Protein Foods
These include grass-fed beef and poultry, wild-caught fish, beans and legumes.
Foods with B vitamins
Some research suggests that people with migraines could benefit from consuming more B vitamins, especially vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Sources of riboflavin include organ meats and other meat, certain dairy products, vegetables like green leafy veggies, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds.
2. Foods to Avoid that Make Migraines Worse
Some researchers believe that up to 40 percent of migraines could be avoided if people improved their diets and avoided triggers.
Foods that can make migraine headache pain worse include:
- Added sugar
- Refined grain products
- Conventional dairy products
- Aged cheeses
- Pickled or cured fish
- Breads or pastries made with gluten and yeast
- Red wine and other types of alcohol (especially when consumed in large amounts)
- Chocolate (contains a chemical called phenylethylamine that sometimes causes blood flow changes that trigger headaches)
- Caffeinated drinks (for some people, about one cup of coffee or tea daily can help headaches, but withdrawal or drinking more are usually problematic)
- Eggs (especially if someone has an unknown allergy)
- Artificial food additives and artificial sweeteners, including aspartame
- Flavor enhancers and preservatives in packaged foods, including MSG
- High amounts of sodium, especially when coupled with low intake of other electrolytes
- Very cold foods
- Nitrates found in processed meats like hot dogs, cold cuts, salami, bacon and ham
- Fried foods and fast foods, especially those made with MSG (such as Chinese food)
- For some people, certain types of beans and legumes (including lima beans and snow peas, which contain natural amine chemicals)
3. Supplements for Migraines and Headaches
If you suffer from migraines or other types of headaches often, you can likely benefit from taking the following supplements:
- Omega-3 fish oils: Some studies have found that omega-3 supplements can help decrease severity and frequency and migraines.
- Vitamin B2
- 5-HTP: An amino acid that can help improve serotonin levels and lower frequency and severity of pain.
- Feverfew: An herb that helps reduce the frequency of migraine headaches and headache symptoms, including pain, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and noise.
- Kudzu extract: An herbal treatment with over 70 phytochemicals or phytonutrients.
- Melatonin: Can help improve sleep quality when used in moderation.
- Capsaicin cream: Apply a small amount of capsaicin cream to the inside of your nostril, or use a nose spray containing capsaicin, which works by blocking nerve pain signals.
4. Essential Oils for Treating Headache Pain
Essential oils can be applied to the painful side of the head, neck and elsewhere to soothe muscular tension and stress. You can also numb any pain directly by applying several drops of an oil to a heated towel (or simply use a heating pad or ice pack applied to the head and neck for about 15 minutes at a time).
Essential oils for headaches include:
Peppermint: Reduces pain and inflammation.
Lavender: Soothes stress and anxiety.
Eucalyptus: Improves blood flow, is uplifting.
Frankincense: Lowers inflammation and has numerous benefits for improving overall immune function, anxiety and hormonal balance.
Rosemary: Reduces pain through regulating blood flow.
5. Other Options for How to Get Rid of a Migraine
Research shows that several things that can trigger migraines or make headache pains even worse include physical stress placed on the body (such as overtraining or suddenly increasing physical activity too much), getting poor sleep and being under a lot of emotional stress.
Try Mind-Body Practices
Biofeedback therapy, meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery, massage therapy and other relaxation techniques that link the body and mind are beneficial for any sort of headache pains.
Get Enough Sleep
A lack of sleep and anxiety are capable of triggering migraines by raising inflammation and affecting hormone levels. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
Surveys show that young women often have their first migraines once they start having their menstrual cycles. Migraines are also common during the first trimester of pregnancy and when a woman is dealing with PMS.
Aim to keep up with a regular exercise schedule that includes a combination of at least 30–60 minutes of aerobic and resistance training five days a week. Keep in mind, however, that it’s best not to try and exercise during a migraine or beforehand if you feel an attack coming.
Final Thoughts on How to Get Rid of a Migraine
- Migraines are severely painful headaches caused from a series of neurological events that trigger head pains, sensitivity to light and sound, vision changes, and sometimes digestive upset.
- Causes of migraines include inflammation, high amounts of stress, nutrient deficiencies, nerve damage, hormonal changes and genetic susceptibility.
- If you’re wondering how to get rid of a migraine naturally, try managing stress, altering your diet, getting enough sleep and rest, avoiding triggers, and dulling pain with essential oils and/or heat and ice.
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He recently authored “Eat Dirt” and “Gut Repair Cookbook,” and he operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites at DrAxe.com