Migraines are very common and thought to affect one in seven people worldwide – around 190,000 migraine attacks occur each day in the UK alone, according to data. Alongside a throbbing pain, additional symptoms include sensitivity to smell, sound and light, nausea, vomiting and gastrointestinal upset. But despite their high prevalence and debilitating nature, less than 50 per cent of migraine sufferers are satisfied with current treatment. Many resort to self-medication with over the counter pain-killers, increasing the risk of further headaches if over-used.
With this in mind, many people are now searching for more natural remedies to help keep migraines at bay.
Hannah Braye, nutritional therapist at Bio-Kult, recommended to Express.co.uk four natural supplements to try to treat your painful migraine symptoms.
Live bacteria supplements
Migraines are often accompanied by digestive symptoms and there is a clear association between the prevalence of migraines and many digestive disorders, explained Hannah.
She said: “Low levels of beneficial gut bacteria can contribute to gut hyper-permeability (“leaky gut”), which allows toxins originating from the gut to migrate into the circulation. From here they are thought to sensitise the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway in the brain, setting off a cascade of inflammation involved in migraine development.
“Newly emerging research indicates that live bacteria supplements may be of benefit for migraine prevention. A recent clinical trial found that the 14 strains of live bacteria in Bio-Kult Migréa, significantly reduced frequency and severity in both episodic and chronic migraine and reliance on medication in as little as 8-10 weeks.
“Bio-Kult Migréa is a unique multi-strain probiotic formulation with 14 strains of live bacteria plus magnesium citrate and vitamin B6, both of which contribute to the normal functioning of the nervous system and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. Vitamin B6 also contributes to the regulation of hormonal activity.”
Blood magnesium levels are often observed to be reduced in migraine sufferers compared to non-sufferers and research suggests magnesium deficiency may contribute to attacks.
Hannah explained: “Magnesium is easily depleted by exercise, stress, alcohol and other factors, and many people are getting less than optimal amounts through the diet. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, chard, kale and collard greens are a great source of magnesium so try and eat at least 1-2 portions a day.
“Studies indicate that magnesium supplementation may also have the ability to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of migraines, and contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, which often accompany attacks. Magnesium citrate has shown particular promise in studies.”
High homocysteine levels are often seen in migraine sufferers. This is a natural product created by the body.
But, Hannah added: “Elevated levels are associated with a number of negative health outcomes. Vitamins B6, B12, and B9 (folate) are required to regulate homocysteine levels, and supplementing these nutrients has been shown in studies to reduce homocysteine levels and diminish migraine severity and attack frequency.
“In addition vitamin B6 contributes to the regulation of hormonal activity (which may be beneficial in menstrual migraine) and higher B6 intakes are associated with protection against inflammation.”
Research suggests that damage to mitochondria (the energy factories of our cells) caused by free radicals may be relevant in migraine development due to effects on energy metabolism.
Therefore it is thought that antioxidants, which help to reduce free radical damage, may be of benefit in migraine.
Hannah advised: “Eating a wide variety of colourful fruit and vegetables is the easiest way to increase your antioxidant intake, as the different colour pigments in plants denote their different phytonutrients, many of which have antioxidant properties.
“Studies suggest the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10, which occurs naturally in the body, is present in many foods and can also be supplemented, may be particularly beneficial.”
Supplements are recommended to treat a variety of different health conditions – another being anxiety.