5 ways to beat migraines

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Put a stop to disabling headaches with these five simple solutions.

Migraine is the third most common disease in the world and the seventh most disabling.1 Apart from severe headaches, symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and increased sensitivity to light and sound.

While prescription drugs like methysergide, sumatriptan and ergotamine are available to treat the condition, they come with a long list of side-effects, from dizziness and drowsiness to chest pain and high blood pressure. Methysergide has even been associated with fibrosis, where scar tissue accumulates in the organs.2

Here are five natural ways to beat the condition instead.


1) Figure out food allergies

Certain chemicals in foods have been linked to migraines, especially in children and teens,3 so try to keep a food and migraine diary to pinpoint any potential triggers. A study of nearly 600 migraine sufferers found that sensitivity to cheese, chocolate, red wine and beer had the most clear-cut associations with attacks.4 Eliminating the key suspects from your diet may even lead to a full recovery, as it did for 93 percent of children in one trial,5 and 87 percent in another.6

2) Fix nutritional deficiencies

Not getting enough of certain nutrients could be a cause of migraines, so identifying and addressing any deficiencies could help to solve the problem. A lack of magnesium, for example, has been linked to migraine,7 and several trials suggest that supplementing with the mineral can reduce the frequency of attacks.8

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is also commonly low in migraine sufferers.9 Taking this vitamin-like antioxidant may cut migraine frequency by half.10

Suggested dosages: 200-600 mg/day magnesium; 150 mg/day CoQ10

3) Bank on butterbur

This popular herbal hay fever remedy also works against migraines, studies show. Pitted against a placebo, a standardized extract of butterbur (Petasites hybridus) significantly reduced the frequency of migraine attacks, with either no side-effects or just mild ones (like burping) being reported.11

Suggested dosage: 50-75 mg twice daily of a standardized extract of the herb, containing at least 15 percent petasins, the main active ingredients

4) Try 5-HTP

5-Hydroxytryptophan, better known as 5-HTP, is a naturally occurring amino acid that may help prevent chronic headaches of various types, including migraines, tension headaches and headaches in children.12 In one study, 5-HTP supplements were just as effective as the migraine prevention drug methysergide—and were especially good at reducing the intensity and duration
of attacks.13

Suggested dosage: 200-600 mg/day (20 mg for every 10 lb body weight for children)

5) Have a go at HIIT

Growing evidence suggests that exercise can be beneficial for treating migraine, but a particular type of exercise known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—where you alternate periods of intense exercise with less intense recovery periods—might be better than the rest. Scientists recently compared the effects of twice-weekly HIIT sessions with moderate continuous exercise and a control intervention and found that HIIT had the most beneficial results, significantly reducing the number of migraine days among sufferers.14 There are lots of easy HIIT workouts available online, but bear in mind that exercise can be a migraine trigger for some people.


1 J Headache Pain, 2013; 14: 1

2 N Engl J Med, 1966; 274: 359-68

3 Pediatr Neurol, 2003; 28: 9-15

4 Headache, 1995; 35: 355-7

5 Lancet, 1983; 2: 865-9

6 Nutr Health, 2017; 23: 47-50

7 Cephalalgia, 1993; 13: 94-81; Int Clin Psychopharmacol, 2016; 31: 287-92

8 Cephalalgia, 1996; 16: 257-63; Headache, 1991; 31: 298-301

9 Headache, 2007; 47: 73-80

10 Cephalalgia, 2002; 22: 137-41; Neurology, 2005; 64: 713-5

11 Neurology, 2004; 63: 2240-4; Altern Med Rev, 2001; 6: 303-10

12 Altern Med Rev, 1998; 3: 271-80

13 Eur Neurol, 1986; 25: 327-9

14 Scand J Med Sci Sports, 2018; 28: 1103-12

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