There are a number of reasons that may cause migraine headaches. There are also a number of ways to prevent and cure migraine headache crisis.
What are migraine headaches?
There are a few people who never experienced a headache. For most people, the headache occurs occasionally and it can be cured relatively quickly with a painkiller or a little rest. The migraine headaches, however, are much more than a headache. This is the most common neurological disease that are suffering 10-15% of the population and affects the quality of life. In serious cases may even lead to abstention from the everyday activities for up to 3 days.
The main symptom of migraine headaches is the headache. In the 2 / 3 of the cases the headache is detected in half of the head, usually behind one eye, while in the remaining 1 / 3 of the cases the pain lies across the head. In terms of intensity the pain is very intense and overwhelming. Most people suffering from migraine headaches have the feeling that a hammer is striking their heads from the inside in the same frequency as their pulse.
The migraine headaches, if left without treatment or if the action taken by the patient has proved ineffective, can take from 4 hours to 3 days. Apart from the headache other symptoms associated with migraine crisis are nausea, vomiting and intolerance to light or different sounds. Some people prior to the migraine headaches experience vision disorder e.g. they see bright lines, bright or dark regions in the visual field, etc.
The way in which migraine headaches crises occur differs from person to person so each patient describes their «own» version of a migraine headache. The frequency of migraine headaches crisis also varies from patient to patient, from a very rare until very frequent. Average, each patient presents crises every 2-3 months.
Some facts about migraine headaches
- The pain is very intense and usually occurs in a hemisphere of the brain.
- The major cause of migraine headaches is the diet; other causes are stress, various nerve or endocrine disorders, allergies, the cold, an infection, high blood pressure, vision problems, poor posture.
- Migraine headaches are sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting and intolerance to light (common migraine).
- The two-thirds of sufferers are women (probably due to hormones).
- It may affect all ages, but appears for the first time between childhood and adulthood, possibly in pregnancy, and rarely over 50.
- The women are most frequently affected by migraine headaches before menopause.
Types of Migraine headaches
Practically there are two types of migraine headaches: Headaches accompanied by warning signs (aura) and the one in which there is no aura.
The term aura meant a series of neurological symptoms, such as shimmer or vision, numbness on one side of the person or body, weakness, hallucinations, speech disorders, etc. The migraine with aura is more rare than that without aura.
Phases of Migraine headaches
A typical migraine crisis usually develops in 3 phases, which are as follows:
1st stage: The early symptoms
During this phase, which comes several hours or even 1-2 days prior to the migraine headache crisis, the person is either feeling very tired and yawns continuously or is very energetic and ends its activities in half the time than normally required. Some patients feel an irresistible desire for some food, especially for sweets.
These are warning signs that many patients have noted and they are aware that after a few hours the headache migraine crisis will occur.
2nd stage: The headache
If no proper treatment is given it can last from 4 hours to 3 days. The headache is usually accompanied by anorexia, nausea and vomiting, and exacerbated by light, sounds, walking, cough, etc. At this stage the patient prefers to remain lying in a quiet dark room and stopping any activity.
3rd stage: After the crisis
After the migraine headache crisis the patient is feeling exhausted and drowsiness can be as high as lethargy. This phase lasts from several hours to days.
Migraine Headaches cause #1: Food
Research about migraine headaches has found that the patient’s diet is the major cause (20-40%). This is due to the foods the patient eats or because of eating habits. In some cases, the headache can start as a result of allergic reactions to food (food sensitivities).
The foods that may cause migraines in one person, does not necessarily mean that they would cause migraines in another. The limits of intolerance differ from time to time, even in the same person. Moreover, the sensitivity of everyone in food can vary by many factors, e.g. stress, sleep etc. Since for everyone the «suspicious» food may be different, it should not be taken for granted that certain types of food cause migraine headaches.
How can we identify if food is a cause of migraine headaches?
If you have noticed some sensitivity to certain types of food, start a diet that will not include those “suspicious food”. If you get rid of the migraine headache add those foods back to your diet. If migraines occur again, then you will be able to identify which foods cause you headaches and you should avoid these foods.
If this is the case, the dietician should give you alternative foods, nutritionally similar to those that you removed from your diet in order to ensure an adequate nutritional intake.
Food that can cause migraine headaches
The alcohol, particularly red wine, some meals containing nitric and nitrous esters or salts such as processed meats and sausages, can lead to migraine headache crisis. The tyramine contained in old cheese is present in certain types of dishes such as Chinese, which can also be a factor for beginning a migraine crisis.
Migraine Headaches cause #2: Stress
Another popular cause of migraine headaches is the stress. When the patient is under stress a series of changes are taking place in the body. Among other things, during stress chemical compounds are affected in the brain and there is diversification of blood flow and oxygen.
The changes created by stress on the physiology of the body and especially the brain does not directly cause migraines, but this happens after a few days of such a situation. It is for this reason that the headache migraine occurs after some difficult and stressful days.
Migraine Headaches cause #3: Change in weather conditions
Another factor that is a cause of a migraine headache is the weather. According to data from recent surveys, more than 50% of patients with headache migraine say that they are affected by certain weather conditions. These patients indicate that periods of prolonged cold and dry weather are the most common factor that causes them a headache.
How can we prevent migraine headaches crisis
- Avoid foods that you have sensitivity
- Receive regular meals and cut back the sugar snacks (sugar, sweets, honey, chocolate) and choose foods with complex carbohydrates (such as cereals, bread, potatoes, pulses, rice, pasta)
- Avoid any exhaustive weight loss diets
- Drink plenty of water (2 litres a day)
- Control the consumption (not total deprivation) of beverages containing caffeine (coffee, tea, cola type soft drinks) and alcohol.
- Check carefully the labels of food for some «E» (nitrites and nitrates).
- Take additional preventive doses of vitamin B2 and magnesium in the form of food supplements, after talking with your doctor.
- Include fish in your diet. Research has found that fatty fish helps preventing migraine headaches. Also, other research showed that fish oil supplements reduce by half the headache migraine crises and also reduce their intensity.
- Try to improve your working conditions
- Manage stress better by applying techniques such as relaxation.