5 Steps To Solve Your Migraines

DECEMBER 27, 2013 | VOL 16

5 Steps To Solve Your Migraines

Migraines are a big problem. They affect millions of people and are responsible for billions of dollars in healthcare costs. In fact, they’re one of the most common reasons people end up in the emergency room.

The question we really need to ask isn’t, “how do you treat a migraine?” but rather, “what’s causing the migraines?”

This is where Functional Medicine comes in. Functional Medicine is medicine by cause; not by symptom. It helps us discover the underlying triggers of disease. And you know what? The root cause of your migraine may not be in your head at all. In fact, it may be caused by many other factors. Let’s go through some of the things that can cause migraines, because 10 people with the exact same symptoms might have very different underlying causes.

Migraines can be caused by:

  1. Sensitivity to foods like peanuts or dairy or eggs. I had a patient who had migraines for 40 years, and we discovered that they were caused by the eggs she was eating. When she stopped eating eggs, the migraines went away; when she started eating them again, the migraines came back.
  2. Gluten allergy. This is a special kind of food allergy that creates a lot of inflammation. Many people are sensitive to gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt.
  3. Hormonal imbalances. For example, many women get premenstrual migraines, which is often caused by imbalances in estrogen and progesterone—too much estrogen, not enough progesterone. This can be caused by stress; by consuming too much alcohol, sugar, flour, and starches; and by not getting enough exercise or sleep.
  4. Vitamin B deficiency. Some people who don’t get enough riboflavin get migraines.
  5. Imbalances in melatonin. Newer studies have shown that this may be related to sleep cycles, which can be improved with melatonin.
  6. Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is the relaxation mineral. If you’re deficient in it, you can often get headaches and migraines. I once had a patient with chronic migraines who tried everything to cure them, but nothing helped. It turned out that she had a massive magnesium deficiency. I gave her a very high dose of magnesium, and her migraines went away.

So, remember: migraines are not all the same. You have to find the underlying cause. Here are some simple things you can do to identify and eliminate what might be causing your migraines:

  1. Do an elimination diet. Get rid of the common food allergens. Use my book The UltraSimple Diet as a guide.
  2. Try magnesium. Take 300 to 600 milligrams twice a day in the form of magnesium glycinate or citrate.
  3. Try riboflavin or vitamin B2, 400 milligrams a day. It will turn your urine a dark yellow, but don’t worry about it.
  4. Balance your hormones to stop premenstrual migraines by exercising; eliminating caffeine, alcohol, and sugar; and eating a diet rich in plant foods, especially the broccoli family, flax seeds and tofu as well as other vegetables, and fruits.
  5. Try melatonin, which has been shown to help relieve migraines. Take 1 or 2 milligrams at night.

These are just a few simple things you can do at home to fix your migraines, and I have many more suggestions. So, I encourage you to read my blogs on migraines and take advantage of the information on my website by clicking the links in the “Learn More” section at right.

And if you like this House Call, I encourage you to share it with your friends and family on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for the newsletter, and submit your questions, so that, next week, I may make a House Call to you.

Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD

14 Responses to 5 Steps To Solve Your Migraines

  1. Diane December 31, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    Thank you for your House Call on Migraines. I used to get terrible migraines until I found out it was being caused by Splenda (Sucralose). This artificial sweetner is being incorporated into many products – it is very sad. I bought a Turkey Hill Light ice cream the other day – then had to return it because I found it had sucralose in the ingredients. Everyone should be aware that this sweetner can cause migraines. I have never had a migraine again after I stopped using it. I was also sensitive to chocolate – if I ate too much chocolate I would also get a migraine. Many people don’t realize migraines are food related.

  2. Susan Linke December 31, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Thank you for the very practical article. I use LEAP/MRT in my practice and have found it to be very effective at identifying food triggers. In 9 years of using it, I’ve only had 2 migraine patients who have not seen improvement or resolution with migraine.

    To add to what the article mentioned, CoQ10 deficiency can also be a cause for migraines.


  3. Nicole December 31, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    This is great information but I think it is also important to even look a little bit deeper as well. Lyme disease and other viruses can contribute to all of these imbalances and deficiencies in the body.

  4. Halli Magg December 31, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    I would also look into B12 deficiency as a source of migraines. I have had success advising the methyl version of B12 to my patients for migraines. I especially like Ultra-B12 Liquid B12 supplement from NOW as it is very absorbable. I have had several patients which are low in B12 getting normal levels with using this version.

  5. lori averick December 31, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    I am a 45 year old woman who is an holistic health coach and well versed in the ideas the Dry Hyman discuss in his work. I have suffered with migraines for 15 years and over the years, I have tried every methodology Dr Hyman suggests. I have completely been evaluated both traditionally and by alternative practitioners. I eat no processed food, sugar or grains.. only grass fed meats and vegetables, fish, nuts and some fruit. I take all the appropriate supplements, and more, Yet despite this careful attention to the essentials, I have had no relief. I am currently working with Drs. to improve the bacteria in my gut and am aggressively pursuing a protocol dealing with optimizing my methylation cycle which seems to not be working very well and causing a host of problems. I would be interested in knowing if you have any experience with people who have not responded to all the typical treatments for “route causes” for migraine, and if so, any advise you could offer would be welcome. I would look forward to a reply.
    Lori Averick

  6. Joyce December 31, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    What makes a person burp ? I burp on an empty stomach, or after onions,cucumbers, brocoli. Is there a good probiotic or preboitc that would help? I burp alot. I wonder other than certain foods why this is so.

  7. Dr Nandlal Sharda December 31, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    iwant your guide lines on treating Epilepsy &
    Speech disorder wiyh my grandson8years old diagnosed to be Autostic having good health,no violance responses to comand of his parents .

  8. Stefan January 1, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    Oats does not naturally contain Gluten, correct? I know that it is possible that oats get contaminated with Gluten from other products which gets processed by the same machines…

  9. Walter B January 1, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    I used to get frequent migraines. Through trial and error I’ve narrowed it down to one thing – digestion. Now I try to have my last meal of the day before sunset, if possible, and about 4 to 5 hours before bedtime. Also, I need to eat very light when I’m going through intense stress, as I’ve discovered that heavy stress weakens my digestion. By adhering to these self-imposed rules I now experience migraines very rarely and with less intensity.

  10. Cheryl January 1, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    Dr. Hyman: I cannot thank you enough for the House Call on Migraines. I have written in on this very subject as I have suffered with moderate to severe migraines for the past 30 years, many times with over 15 or more a month. Needless to say I have missed out on many precious life events over the years.

    I was just planning on trying an elimination diet and thought I might as well see if you had anything on it. What I found was so much for than that.

    Yes, I knew some of this information but was not aware of the food sensitivities. I am planning my elimination diet ASAP and can’t wait for the results.

    Thank you for sharing your expertise with everyone. Bless you.

  11. kathy January 2, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    I live in Dayton oh….would like to be a pt?? Is this possible? Do you work with people via phone consults?? Thank you

  12. Janine January 2, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    I will try magnesium & a B complex, but I’m very certain that in my case, barometric pressure is the one thing that sets my head going into a migraine. Never happened until menopause, but now at 65 it still occurs just as this long lasting snow storm front that is keeping my head with a low grade headache….my relief is usually two Excedrin though I need to find something less irritating to my stomach…….

  13. Lori Burton January 3, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    Trigger points in the neck and shoulders also refer pain and cause migraine-like symptoms.

  14. JoJo Gutwald January 5, 2014 at 4:25 am #

    I need something to help me sleep. What foods do you recommend And I need iron and B12. I have hemorrhoids and digestive problems. Please help. Soon to be 72

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