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The Best migraine headache treatments

Updated on May 5, 2011

Best Migraine Headache Treatments

I am firmly convinced that much of the pain we suffer is caused my mental imbalances in the body. When the mind latches on to a weak belief, negative memory or destructive value system the entire body suffers. If you want to fix the pain rather than mask it, you must address the core beliefs or mindset that is causing the problem.

This applies to treating migraine headaches too.

In “Heal Your Body” by Louise Hay, the author teaches that Migraine headaches arise from a dislike of being driven. She suggests that people who experience migraines often are guilty of resisting the flow of life. They harbor sexual fears. 

Louise Hay also suggests that when it comes to migraine headaches, the new thought pattern to engage in is one that affirms “I relax into the flow of life and let life provide all that I need easily and comfortably. Life is for me.”

Additionally Hay writes that “Invalidating the self, self-criticism and fear” are the mental cause of common headaches. She offers the following shift in thought: “I love and approve of myself. I see myself and what I do with eyes of love. I am safe.”

If we take her suggestions as the starting point for this discussion of the best migraine headache treatments then it’s clear that we should begin to let go of things beyond our control. See yourself as healthy, vital and strong. Affirm that “My present takes precedent over my past” and that “I am getting through this, whatever comes my way.”

What is a migraine headache?

Simply put, when the blood vessels get enlarged the nerve pathways (extending from the brain stem to head and face and then spread to the membrane covering of the brain) that coil around the blood vessels stretch. The nerve stretching makes the nerve release protein based chemicals called peptides. It’s these chemicals that likely cause inflammation and pain associated with Migraines.

To make matters worse, this pain can set off migraine attacks (lasting between 4 and 72 hours) which can cause a chain of less than desirable body responses such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. You can thank the activation of the primitive sympathetic (fight or flight) response for that!

An estimated 40%-60% of migraine attacks are preceded by premonitory (warning) symptoms lasting hours to days. The symptoms may include: irritability, yawning, sleepiness, cravings for sweet or salty foods, fatigue, depression or euphoria.

About 20% of migraine sufferers report auras (bright flashing zigzag patterned lights) before or during the migraine. Auras may also include hearing hallucinations and experiencing abnormal tastes and smells. Other responses to migraine headaches may be a lack of energy and a heightened sensitivity to light and sound.

What are best ways to treat migraine headaches?

In addition to the treatment mentioned at the beginning of this article, migraine sufferers might want to see if other non-drug approaches help stopping the migraines. These non-medication therapies for migraine include applying ice compresses and turning to relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, and meditation.

Of all the techniques, sleeping off the migraine is likely the most effective treatment available for immediate relief. If you begin to feel the onset of a migraine headache, lay down. Find a quiet, dark room. Make yourself comfortable and close your eyes. It might make sense to invest in ear plugs and an eye mask to block out noise and light quickly.

If sleep isn’t an option, you should still attempt to lie down and center yourself through deep, slow breathing. Apply a cold pack to your head. If you on an oral prescription medication that you are supposed to take when your migraines flair up, by all means take it!

Forgiveness & Letting Go

Holding on to past memories of trauma, guilt, failure, and abuse are the starting point of many of the pains we experience. This applies to migraines too. So, making the effort to let go of these memories is paramount to getting rid of migraine headaches and keeping them from coming back. If you want a simple way to treat yourself begin with the words “I forgive you.”

Eating & Drinking Habits

You should also consider your diet and health habits. Research into the causes of Migraines points to the following as having a negative impact on your body’s ability to defend itself against the assault of Migraines:

1) Foods high in tyramine. An excellent free resource is available here:

2) Foods and beverages containing sulfites such as dried apricots, cocktail onions, grape juice, molasses, bottled lemon juice, and most commercially made wines

Dr. David Buchholz of Johns Hopkins, and author of “Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain” offers a comprehensive list of Migraine triggers. Avoiding these can significantly lower your incidences of migraine headaches.

ALCOHOL AND VINEGAR - Tap beer. Be especially moderate in your consumption of red wine, champagne and dark or heavy drinks. Vodka is best tolerated. Clear (ideally, distilled) vinegar is allowable. Don't overdo condiments (ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise) made with vinegar.

ASPARTAME (NutraSweet) - Saccharin (Sweet 'n Low) may also be a trigger for some. Sucralose (Splenda) has also been implicated in causing headaches in some users as well.

CAFFEINE - Coffee, tea, iced tea and cola. Even decaf coffee and tea (which contain additional chemical triggers) may be a problem. Also, beware of coffee substitutes. Caffeine in high doses can cause insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and headaches. The over-use of caffeine-containing analgesics causes rebound headaches. Furthermore, individuals who consume high levels of caffeine regularly are more prone to develop withdrawal headaches when caffeine is stopped abruptly. Bucholz suggests trying caffeine-free herb tea (without citrus and other trigger flavors).

CERTAIN FRUITS AND JUICES - Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, tangerines, clementines and pineapples) and their juices—as well as bananas. Also avoid raisins (and other dried fruits if preserved with sulfites), raspberries, red plums, papayas, passion fruit, figs, dates and avocados.

CERTAIN VEGETABLES, ESPECIALLY ONIONS - This applies to sauerkraut, pea pods and certain beans (broad Italian, lima, fava, and navy, and lentils) as well. Leeks, scallions, shallots, spring onions and garlic are allowed.

CHEESE AND OTHER DAIRY PRODUCTS - The more aged, the worse (Canadian & New York Cheddar are especially high. (Permissible cheeses include cottage cheese, ricotta, cream cheese and good-quality American cheese.) Beware of cheese-containing foods, including pizza. Yogurt (including frozen yogurt), sour cream and buttermilk are also triggers.

CHOCOLATE - White chocolate (no cocoa) is okay. Carob, however, is questionable.

FRESH YEAST-RISEN BAKED GOODS - Less than one day old: homemade (or restaurant-baked) breads, especially sourdough, as well as bagels, doughnuts, pizza dough, soft pretzels and coffee cake.

MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE - Chinese (and other) restaurant food; soups and bouillons; Accent and seasoned salt; flavored, salty snacks; croutons and bread crumbs; gravies; ready-to-eat meals; cheap buffets; processed meats; veggie burgers; protein concentrates; and low-fat, low-calorie foods. Watch out for hidden MSG such at that found in soy sauce.

NUTS – There is various conclusions over which nuts might trigger attacks. If you are sensitive then it is best to avoid all kinds, as well as nut butters. Seeds are okay (except for pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds).

PROCESSED MEATS AND FISH – Avoid foods that are aged, canned, cured, fermented, marinated, smoked, tenderized—or preserved with nitrites or nitrates. This includes hot dogs, sausage, salami, pepperoni, bologna (and other lunchmeats with nitrites), liverwurst, beef jerky, certain hams, bacon, pâtés, smoked or pickled fish, caviar and anchovies.

If you do tend to ingest lots of nitrates, experts suggest eating those meals with a glass of orange juice since Vitamin C is known to inhibit the conversion to nitrosamines in your stomach. Migraine sufferers should also avoid fresh beef liver and chicken livers, and wild game (which contain tyramine).

MISCELLANEOUS - Perhaps soy products, especially if cultured (miso), fermented (tempeh) or otherwise highly processed (e.g., soy protein isolate/concentrate). Watch out for soy sauce containing MSG. Less risky are items such as unflavored tofu, soy milk and flour. Soy oil is safe. You should keep a food diary to see if tomatoes (and tomato-based sauces), eggplant and mushrooms affect you.

It is also imperative to drink adequate fluids since dehydration can cause major headaches and lead to stroke.


In addition to getting sufficient sleep as mentioned above, it is important to exercise regularly.

The American Headache Society writes that moderate exercise three to five times each week will help reduce stress and keep you physically fit. They also warm that too much exercise or inconsistent patterns of exercise may trigger headache. You want to avoid exercises that overstress your neck and shoulder muscles. Experts say that the best exercises for migraines are jogging (for its stress relieving abilities), aerobics, Pilates and yoga.

While you’re at it, a regular regimen of massage and acupuncture can also be useful therapies for treating migraine headaches. In our next article, I will show you the special spot on the hand that can instantly fix your migraine headache.

Relaxation techniques for migraines and headaches

A controlled breath is your best friend. Practice taking deep, measured breathes. Close your eyes and imagine your personal paradise. Breathe in through your nose and out though the mouth, counting to five on the uptake and the release.

Every breath should center you, ground you and release the stress that might be contributing to your simple headache or advanced migraine.

It may help to imagine yourself walking down a flight of stairs with every exhale. Connect each step to the release of tension in your neck and shoulders. If your scalp feels tight, massage your own scalp the way you do when you shampoo and condition your hair. If you have hair, slowly pull it away from the scalp, holding and releasing for 10 seconds at a time.

If you’re stressed because of a person imagine them and you parting ways on good terms. In your mind, say to them what’s bugging you and why. Imaging them saying “I’m sorry” and imagine yourself saying “I forgive you.” Then watch them turn around and walk away.

Do the isometric exercise I detail in this YouTube video. Shoulders up toward your ears. Hold and press upward for 10 seconds. Then, release. Now, rotate your shoulders forward and backward twice while you let all of your muscles go limp.

Use music to your advantage: Music soothes the savage beast, and your migraine headache. Your MP3 player or stereo is the ultimate therapeutic device. Use it. Personally, I enjoy listening to chakra bowls and music designed for Reiki sessions. But you should go with music that lifts your spirits and melts away your stress. Of course, complete silence can be beautiful too!

Herbs and supplements for migraines

Studies suggest a link between migraines and magnesium and calcium deficiency. You may benefit from taking a supplement or increasing the amount of magnesium (halibut, potatoes, wheat bran) and calcium (Fortified ready-to-eat cereals, collards, Ocean Perch) in your diet through the foods you ingest.

Feverfew is believed to inhibit the release of serotonin and prostaglandins, both of which are believed to aid the onset of migraines. Used long-term, studies suggest that feverfew limits the inflammation of blood vessels in the head. Be aware of any potential side effects or reactions. Consult your physician if you are pregnant, breast-feeding or taking anticoagulants because it thins the blood. If you stop taking it abruptly you may experience ‘feverfew rebound syndrome’ which is a return to the previous level of migraines, along with other symptoms insomnia and anxiety.

Best Medication for migraines

My wife is a doctor, so I trust her advice. Whenever I get severe headaches (and I am too lazy to wait for non-medicinal approaches to work) I take four, 200mg tablets of Ibuprofen. When used according to the instructions on their labels, over the counter (OTC) non-prescription pain relievers can help to reduce the effects of the migraines. Any drug -- be it prescription, OTC, natural or not -- can hurt your body if not taken in accordance with established guidelines. Many drugs also have addictive properties, so you need to manage your intake fiercely.

The two major classes of OTC analgesics are acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Examples of non-aspirin NSAIDs are Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen (Aleve). These drugs work by acting on pain centers in the brain.

Aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine also are available combined in OTC analgesics for the treatment of headaches including migraine. Examples of such combination analgesics are Pain-aid and Excedrin

Avoid Non Food Migraine Triggers

Non food migraine triggers are fairly common. While it is difficult to know which one of which combination of factors might increase your risk of getting migraines, it makes sense to pay attention to any external factor you have control over. The top triggers you can influence are:

Sleep habits - Sleep deprivation, over sleep, poor quality sleeping, and frequent awakening at night function as migraine and tension headache catalysts. Conversely, improving your sleep habits help to reduce the frequency and duration of migraine headaches. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.

Fasting – Don’t make a habit of skipping meals if you are a frequent migraine sufferer. You suffer from the lowered blood sugar and provoke the release of hormones that stimulate the Fight or Flight response.

Bright lights - Bright lights can cause migraine headaches so pay attention to the exposure to sunlight, television, and flashing lights. Buy a good pair of sunglasses

Female hormones – Estrogen fluctuations are believed to cause menstrual migraines. Abstain from being around annoying people directly before and during your period. You may want to speak with a medical professional about the link between using birth control pills, estrogen levels and migraine headaches.

As you can see, there are several approaches you can take to treat your migraines. Collectively, you can at least manage your pain so that you can function with a high degree of normalcy and not have to miss out on the daily pleasures that life brings. Each of these Migraine headache treatments can help you to win the battle against headaches and give you the relief you seek!

Brian Norris is the author of Escape Life Sucks Syndrome. For more information on effective pain relief strategies visit

Article Keywords: migraines, migraine symptoms, migraine treatments, migraine & cluster headaches, migraine trigger tips, headache questions, migraine attacks, depression & headaches, headaches & nausea, migraine & relaxation, migraines & sleep, cures for migraines

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