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Natural Migraine Treatment FAQ


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Archive-name: medicine/migraine/natural-cures
Posting-Frequency: Every 27 days
Last-modified: 2001/08/26
Version: 2.3

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Natural Migraine Treatment FAQ


 (1) Introduction
 (2) For Immediate Relief 
 (3) Definition of Migraines
 (4) Chiropractic treatment
 (5) Biofeedback
     (5.1) Theory of biofeedback
     (5.2) Handwarming biofeedback
     (5.3) Other biofeedback
 (6) Acupuncture, Aromatherapy and Myotherapy
     (6.1) Acupuncture
     (6.2) Aromatherapy
     (6.3) Myotherapy
 (7) Nutritional Treatments
     (7.1) Food Sensitivity
     (7.2) Blood Sugar
     (7.3) Not Overusing Salt
     (7.4) Nutritional Supplements
     (7.5) Herbs
 (8) Psychology
 (9) Nociceptive Appliance
 (10) Sex hormones
 (11) Books/articles
 (12) Links
 (13) About the author of this FAQ
 (14) Contact info
 (15) Disclaimer
 (16) Copyright


(1) Introduction

This Natural Migraine Treatment FAQ, posted to 
alt.support.headaches.migraine, attempts to summarize all
non-medical treatments that help prevent or cure migraine
headaches.  Most treatments mentioned here have worked for many
people, and usually have a theoretical basis as well.  
This FAQ doesn't discuss drugs.

Natural treatments are usually harmless, as opposed to drugs,
which usually have side effects (though note that natural 
treatments are not always harmless).  Therefore, depending on cost
and convenience, it can make sense to continue a natural
treatment even if you're not sure whether it's doing any good. 
It often makes sense to apply several natural treatments at the
same time.  If one treatment reduces the number of headaches or
the amount of pain, then several treatments used at once may
completely or almost completely eliminate them. 
 
Different things work for different people.  Some of the
treatments mentioned here may actually increase headache pain for
some people.  In fact, many treatments which help in the aura
phase make the headache worse if used in the pain phase, and
vice versa.  (Many drugs, including caffeine, work like this.)
Some treatments may have no effect on some people.  You may
decide to try several things and choose the ones that help you. 

This FAQ can be found on the Web at 
ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet-by-hierarchy/misc/health/
alternative/Natural_Migraine_Treatment_FAQ    (all one line)

 
Note the disclaimer at the end of this FAQ. 
 
 
(2) For Immediate Relief
 
 
Most of the treatments in this FAQ are used to prevent migraines
from happening.  This section describes things you can do when
you're in pain, to reduce the pain. 
 
 -- Have a bath or shower.
 -- Lie down to rest in a dark room.
 -- Avoid bright or flashing light.
 -- Put something cold on the back of your neck, such as
     a cold, wet cloth; or alternate hot and cold cloths
     where the pain is.
 -- Put a cold compress on your forehead and your feet in a
     container of warm water.
 -- Have a drink of water or natural juice, especially tomato juice.
 -- Have some food, or a nutritious drink, if you
     haven't eaten for a while. 
 -- Massage your own face, head, neck and shoulders, or get someone
     else to do those and your back.  Relax your muscles. 
 -- Press on two pressure points at the back of the neck.  These
     points are about two inches apart, just below the base of
     the skull.  Press for a minute or two.  This releases
     endorphins that help against pain. 
 -- Massage or press on the fleshy area between thumb and
     forefinger.
 -- Gently lean the head to left or right to stretch the neck muscles.
     Massage and relax any tense muscles.
 -- Avoid sources of stress.  Cancel activities so there's less
     to worry about. 
 -- Avoid exercise during a headache if it makes throbbing pain
     in the head and neck worse.  On
     the other hand, generally exercise improves health, and
     it may help you relax during a headache. 
 -- Take some niacin (a form of vitamin B3).  Taking enough 
     niacin to cause a flush (blood rushing to the skin) can
     provide relief from headache pain, but this much niacin
     can also have side effects (flush, nausea, heartburn,
     liver damage, etc.) Niacinamide doesn't have such bad
     side effects, but isn't as much use against migraines, either. 
     Smaller, safer amounts of niacin are also helpful. 
     Niacin can trigger a migraine, though.
 -- Take some vitamin C, vitamin B6, choline, tryptophan and niacin
     and/or magnesium.
 
(3) Definition of Migraines
 
The word "migraine" comes from words meaning "half the head",
and sounds like "demi-cranium", because migraine headaches often
hurt on only the left or right side of the head.  However, many
people with migraines always have pain on the whole head. 
 
A migraine headache is caused by hormonal fluctuations which
cause blood vessels in the head and neck to contract and then
dilate.  The first phase, or contraction phase, may last minutes,
hours, or days.  During this phase, symptoms can be spots in
front of the eyes, difficulty concentrating, and cold fingertips
and hands.  This is called an "aura".  Many people recognize this
phase of their headaches; many others don't notice any symptoms
at this time.  Some people who think they don't have an "aura"
can learn to recognize it. 
 
When the blood vessels dilate, the headache pain starts. 
Apparently the hormones over-react.  Instead of just going from a
contracted state back to normal, the blood vessels dilate much
wider than normal, causing pain.  Other things also happen about
the same time: swelling of the brain, release of certain
chemicals, and perhaps muscle tension.  These things add to the
pain. 
 
There are a number of different processes that can cause the
interplay of hormones leading to contracted and then over-dilated
blood vessels.  It's not always the same hormones that are
involved.  Some of the natural treatments listed here focus on a
single process.  Different things work for different people. 
Some people may need to use several treatments at the same time. 
Some people who think they have "tension headaches" are actually
helped by migraine treatments.  Many headaches are probably a
combination of muscle tension and migraine. 

Because migraines occur in a two-phase process, with levels
of certain hormones high in one phase and low in the other
phase, a lot of treatments can either help or make the headache
worse, depending on timing.  For the same reason, treatments that 
help one person can make a headache worse for another person.

 
(4) Chiropractic treatment
 
Sometimes the bones in the neck are in the wrong place, and the
little muscles near the bones are tense.  This is called
"subluxation".  It's like having a crick in your neck.  The
nerves that lead out from the spine can be irritated when there
is a subluxation, and this can cause migraines.  The bones are very
close to being in the right place, so a medical doctor might say
they are in the right place.  A chiropractor treats people by
gently pushing the bones back into place. 
 
Stress on any part of the spine, as from lifting heavy objects
or sitting in a twisted position, can cause subluxations in the
neck, leading to migraine. 
 
Some relief from migraine can be obtained by doing slow, gentle
stretching exercises of the neck.  (Rolling motions or sudden
motions are not recommended.) Avoid sitting for a long time with
the head leaning forward, straining the neck.  Avoid lying on
your back with your head raised on a pillow.  Lying on your back
is OK with no pillow, or with a pillow that supports the neck but
doesn't raise the head much.  When lying on your side, a pillow
should support the head and neck.  When sitting, for example at
the computer, change position frequently and check for things
like tension in the shoulders from supporting the arms. 
 
Chiropractors usually ask their patients to be x-rayed on the
first visit, but you can ask your chiropractor to treat you 
without the x-ray -- they can do this and normally do for
pregnant women.

The body of literature supporting a cervical spine (neck) origin of
headache is substantial.

Vernon [16] found that 90% of patients were satisfied with chiropractic
treatment of headache. (Note: numbers in square brackets refer to
the list of books and articles near the end of this FAQ.)

In a study involving 200 patients, Jirout [9] reported that...manipulation
directed to the areas of fixation resulted in complete relief in
approximately 80% of patients...

A landmark descriptive survey of a chiroparctor's experience in the
treatment of migraine headache was reported by Wight [17]. Eighty seven
patients were included, 34 with common migraine and 53 with classical
migraine. In the common migraine group, 85%  of the females and 50% of the
males were greatly improved.  In the classical migraine group, 78%  of the
females and 75% of the males were greatly improved.

Frykholm [5] describes the confusion associated in the diagnosis of
cervical ( neck) headache by stating:
"In my experience, cervical migraine is the type of headache most
frequently misinterpreted.  Such patients have usually received an
inadequate treatment and have often become neurotic and drug-dependent."

 
(5) Biofeedback
 
(5.1) Theory of biofeedback
 
With biofeedback, a person learns to control a body function
which was not under direct conscious control, but was indirectly
under conscious control. 
 
Here is an example to explain what is meant by a body function
under indirect conscious control.  Generally speaking, a person
can't decide to do the following: "I'll flip a coin, and if it
comes up heads, I'll immediately make my heart beat faster, even
though I'll still be sitting down." However, a person can decide,
"If the coin comes up heads, then I'll put up my hand to ask a
question in front of this roomful of people, which I'm nervous
about doing." As soon as the person sees the coin come up heads,
their heart starts to pound because of their nervousness.  Yet
all that happened was that they made a decision and then flipped
a coin.  Thus, their conscious thoughts affected the heart rate. 
In this way, heart rate is indirectly under conscious control. 
 
Body functions such as muscle tension, finger temperature, and
levels of some hormones in the blood (such as adrenalin in the
above example) are under indirect conscious control.  Some of
these functions are involved in headaches. 
 
Biofeedback means making information about one's body available
to the conscious mind.  Devices which measure muscle tension,
finger temperature etc.  and which supply that information to the
person are biofeedback devices. 
 
Gradually, a person learns the semi-conscious thought patterns
that make the device show the desired result, such as warm
fingers.  It's like learning to ride a bicycle.  Once the skill
has been learned, the person can use it at any time, without
needing the biofeedback device.  For example, a person who has
gone through many learning sessions with a thermometer and has
learned to warm their fingers can then warm their fingers after
that without using a thermometer. 
 
(5.2) Handwarming biofeedback
 
Phase I of a migraine is similar to what the body does in
response to fear, though the reaction may have been caused by a
food the person ate rather than by actual fear.  In phase I,
blood is reallocated out of the hands and head and into the large
muscles that would be used for running from danger.  The hands,
especially the fingertips, become cold when the blood is
withdrawn.  The feeling of confusion, or inability to think
clearly, that can accompany phase I is similar to fainting from
fear. 
 
The pain occurs in phase II, when the blood vessels of the head
and neck over-react and re-expand to larger than the normal size. 
The headache can be prevented by reducing the severity of phase
I, thus preventing phase II. 
 
The level of the hormones in the blood that contract the blood
vessels, such as serotonin and adrenalin, can be brought under
semi-conscious control.  By thinking relaxed thoughts, the
hormone level can be lowered.  The serotonin level is monitored
by checking the temperature of the fingertips and hands.  During
phase I, first the fingertips and then the hands become cold. 
The finger temperature can be checked either with a thermometer,
or by touching the fingertips to your cheeks.  If they feel warm
or hot, that's good.  They should be at body temperature.  If
they're cool or cold, it could be either from being in a cold
room, from poor blood circulation due to diabetes or some other
condition, or from a phase I reaction. 
 
After many attempts of trying to think relaxed thoughts and
checking the finger temperature, a person gradually learns how to
get into the right frame of mind to affect the serotonin levels. 
Eventually, a person can decide to warm up the fingers, meditate
for a while, and the fingers become warm.  Under a lot of stress,
for example if you're about to speak in front of an audience, it
may be impossible to warm the fingers at that time, though
attempting it may reduce the severity of a migraine later.  For
learning, it's best to use a low-stress situation such as sitting
at home. 
 
It normally requires trying several times a day for several
weeks before much progress is made.  It helps to keep records of
the finger temperature before and after attempting biofeedback. 
 
A person who has learned biofeedback can become aware of their
finger temperature so that they notice when their hands suddenly
become cold.  They can then take a break from stressful
activities, relax until their hands warm up, and prevent a
headache from happening.  The feeling of confusion and stress
that usually accompanies phase I can mean that you tend not to
notice things like finger temperature at that time -- you're too
busy thinking about whatever is causing the stress -- but
eventually you can learn to notice it. 
 
Kohlenberg's book [11], which comes with a thermometer, explains
how to do handwarming biofeedback;  unfortunately this book seems
to be out of print.  It's easier to do biofeedback when combining
it with cognitive therapy (see the psychology section of this FAQ).
 
(5.3) Other Biofeedback
 
Biofeedback devices can be used to monitor the tenseness of
muscles in the forehead, the amount of sweat on the fingers, and
other things.  The person spends time learning to make the
muscles relaxed, the fingers dry, etc.  These forms of
biofeedback can help with headaches.  A migraine usually involves
some muscle tension in the head which adds to the pain. 
 

(6) Acupuncture, Aromatherapy and Myotherapy
 (6.1) Acupuncture

One woman had been suffering from headaches for seven years.  
Her condition was so severe, that the neurologist she had been seeing
recommended she have an operation to sever the nerve over one eye.
Instead, she tried acupuncture.  After her first treatment the headache 
started to subside.  After two more, it was gone completely.

On alt.support.headaches.migraine, some posters said acupuncture
helped their headaches.  Some said it helped somewhat, and
others were enthusiastic about it helping a lot.  Other posters
said it didn't help them at all.  A few said it made their
headaches worse.

 (6.2) Aromatherapy

Sniffing certain essential oils when 
you have a headache may help treat migraines.  The olfactory 
(smelling) organ in the nose is connected to parts of the brain that 
control emotions and hormone release.
Peppermint, lavender, and marjoram have been recommended.

The essential oils can be mixed with the edible kind of
alcohol and rubbed on the neck and forehead, also an opportunity
to massage these areas.

 (6.3) Myotherapy

"Myotherapy...a method for relaxing muscle spasm, improving 
circulation and alleviating pain.  To defuse 'trigger points,' 
pressure is applied to the muscle for several seconds by means 
of fingers, knuckles and elbows.  The success of this method 
depends on the use of specific corrective exercise for the freed 
muscles.  The method was developed by Bonnie Prudden in 1976."
  -- Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary


(7) Nutritional Treatments
 (7.1) Food Sensitivity
 
Many books agree that chocolate is the most likely food to
cause migraines.  Other foods which can cause migraines include
avocados, pineapples, beans, peas, lentils, MSG, pork, shrimp,
pickled herring, alcohol, caffeine, cheese, nitrites as preservatives
in hot dogs and other processed meats, and coconut. 
One person reports that chamomile or valerian herbal tea 
can cause headaches.
 
The caffeine in chocolate is not the main reason chocolate
causes migraines.  There's a group of substances called amines,
common in food, which are the main food trigger of migraines. 
There are different amines in different foods.  The one in
chocolate is the worst.  The one in cheese is called tyramine and
is next worst.  Hanington's book [8] describes an experiment in
which it was shown that tyramine can cause migraines.  Migraine
people have less monoamine oxidase (MAO), the enzyme in platelets
that breaks down amines. 
 
The amount of tyramine in cheese varies tremendously by type and
even batch of cheese.  Milk is OK, since the tyramine is produced
in the cheese-making process by microorganisms.  Other amines are
found in other types of food.  The reaction to amines is not an
allergy.  The amines cause certain hormones to be released in the
body.  Different amines may cause migraines in different people. 
 
Nitrites in foods can also cause migraines.  Nitrites are
present in some processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages and
lunch meat;  the nitrites are added as a preservative.
MSG (monosodium glutamate) may also cause migraines in some people.

A web page [21] describes one person's discovery that it's essential
that food be quite fresh;  older foods can cause migraines, apparently.
The bacterial action in the making of cheese is what creates
the tyramine in cheese -- perhaps similar bacterial action
can create migraine-producing chemicals in a variety of foods
such as milk which has been sitting in the refrigerator a few days.

Each person needs to experiment to figure out which foods give
them migraines.  This is not always easy to do.  A food might not
cause a migraine every time it is eaten; perhaps only when
another cause of migraines happens at the same time. 
 
It's better to go on a very restricted diet for a while, a week
or a month, say, than to experiment by eliminating just one
suspicious food at a time.  To illustrate this, suppose you have
a list of 20 suspicious foods, and that by eliminating 5 of them
you can cut your headaches in half, from 10 a month down to 5 ... 
but you don't know that, and you don't know which 5 foods are the
bad ones.  If you spend 20 months, eating everything except one
food each month, you will learn nothing.  You will still have
about 10 headaches a month.  Some months you'll have about 9
instead of 10, but that's not enough to notice a difference: you
probably vary from 8 to 12 headaches a month anyway.  However, if
you stop eating all 20 foods for a month, you'll notice something
interesting: you'll have only 5 headaches instead of 10.  You can
then gradually re-introduce the suspicious foods.  Now that you
have fewer headaches, you'll notice it if you have a headache a
few hours after eating a suspicious food.  Make sure your
restricted diet contains all the vitamins and other essential
nutrients. 
 
If you combine advice from several books, there will be nothing
left to eat! I recommend the restricted diet suggested by
Brainard [1] as a starting point for experimentation.  When I
followed this diet, my migraines diminished significantly, and
over the following weeks, months, and years I gradually tested
and re-introduced to my diet most of the disallowed foods.  Some
I went on and off several times to test for subtle effects. 
I subjected myself to several bad headaches to be completely
sure I needed to avoid chocolate!
 
(7.2) Blood Sugar
 
Studies show that when a migraine person eats refined sugar, 
their blood sugar level goes up very high, then quickly 
comes down again. [Low, 12].  Any kind of refined sugar causes this
effect: sucrose, glucose, etc.  The blood sugar level goes up and
down so fast that a standard glucose tolerance test with blood
samples taken less often than every 15 minutes can completely
miss the effect.  Many migraine people have been told they're
very normal after a glucose tolerance test, but in fact they have
a condition similar to hypoglycemia. 
 
Natural sugars, such as fruit, completely unprocessed sugar cane
juice, etc.  do not cause this effect.  Eating natural sugar
causes the blood sugar level to go up, but not as high, and it
doesn't come down so fast.  There's something in natural sugar
that helps the body absorb it.  Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF), a
molecule containing chromium, may be responsible.  Chromium is
usually present with natural sugars, and is missing in refined
sugar.  It works with insulin to help the body process sugar. 
There may be other factors present in natural sugars, such as 
vitamins, enzymes, etc., that are also important. 
 
When refined sugar is eaten, the pancreas releases a lot of
insulin.  For some reason, people who get migraines release more
than the normal amount of insulin.  Insulin stimulates the
release of adrenalin.  This starts phase I of a migraine. 
 
Going without eating for 3 to 4 or more hours causes low blood
sugar levels which can also trigger a migraine. 
 
In his book [12] Rodolfo Low recommends the following for all
migraine people.  He claims that every person who has followed
these recommendations, including himself, has completely
eliminated migraines:
 
 -- Do not eat any refined sugar.  Not even small amounts.  Fruit
   should be fresh, not dried or cooked.  Eat a wholesome balanced
   diet of natural foods including fruit.
 -- Eat every three hours.  Have six small meals a day instead of
   three.  Have snacks of healthy foods at midmorning, midafter-
   noon, and bedtime.
 -- Avoid drinking alcohol.
 -- Avoid drugs that stimulate the pancreas.  Many drugs taken for 
   other purposes also stimulate the pancreas, e.g. aspirin.  See 
   the book [12] for a list of drugs to avoid.
 
[Above recommendations paraphrased by C.W.]

Strenuous exercise may cause low blood sugar which may lead
to migraines.  (On the other hand, exercise generally improves
health in the long term and therefore may reduce headaches.)
 
Many people are deficient in chromium.  Eating refined sugars
leads to chromium deficiency.  A supplement of GTF chromium or
chromium picolinate is helpful to hypoglycemic people and can
allow them to maintain good blood sugar levels when going several
hours without eating.  Low has shown that migraines are closely
related to hypoglycemia, so perhaps chromium supplements would
help migraine people too.  I used to get a headache if I went 4
or 5 hours without eating; with a chromium supplement (200
mcg/day, not a megadose) this is no longer the case. 
Someone says she gets headaches when she takes chromium, though.
 
(7.3) Salt
 
A normal person who eats a very large amount of salt will get a
headache.  Brainard [1] claims that for people who get migraines,
a smaller amount of salt can have the same effect.  He describes
the hormonal processes that occur when salt is eaten.  [See his
book for details.]
 
Everyone needs some salt (sodium chloride) in order to live. 
Natural foods generally contain some salt.  Processed foods often
have too much added salt. 
 
Brainard recommends:
 
 -- Moderate amounts of salt with meals are OK.
 -- No large amounts of salt with meals.
 -- No salt at all between meals;  not even a salted cracker or a
   cookie cooked with the usual large amount of salt.
 -- Avoid soups;  these often contain large amounts of added salt.
 
[Above recommendations paraphrased by C.W.]

During a migraine, a person makes more urine than usual.  One
has to drink more in order to make up for the missing water and
avoid getting dehydrated.  Drink if you're thirsty. It has been
recommended to drink 15 mls of water every 15 minutess to assist 
hydration.
 
(7.4) Nutritional Supplements
 
There are many vitamins and other essential nutrients which can
have an effect on the complex hormonal processes that cause
migraines. 
 
The following supplements, taken regularly, can help:
 
 -- vitamin C  (is needed to convert tryptophan to serotonin)
 -- vitamin B6 (also needed to convert tryptophan to serotonin)
 -- niacin (see side effect warning under section 2)
      (is a form of vitamin B3;  dilates blood vessels)
 -- choline 
 -- tryptophan  (is converted to serotonin in the body, when needed)
 -- omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA's), e.g. unrefined, cold-pressed,
    uncooked flax seed oil, nuts, seeds, wheat germ, some fish
    (EFA's are used by the body to make prostaglandins)
 -- chromium?  (See section 6.2.)
 -- magnesium;  as much magnesium as you take calcium
    (magnesium deficiency can also cause a craving for chocolate.)
 -- someone says melatonin and B6 at bedtime treats a headache.
    (melatonin affects the daily sleep rhythm and should only
    be taken at bedtime;  it may cause the body to make less
    of its own melatonin, leading to a dependency effect.
    Melatonin aids sleep and causes drowsiness.)
 -- someone says sublingual vitamin B12 helps.
 
(7.5) Herbs
 
Feverfew helps many migraine sufferers.  It's claimed by some to
be best to eat fresh leaves, one small leaf per day.  It should 
be taken regularly;  benefit is seen after 6-8 weeks.
Side effects include sore mouth, mouth ulcers and upset
stomach (and vivid dreams?).  Damage to smooth muscle or
vasculature is indicated in some experiments:  see the
Medicinal HerbFAQ [19] or do your own medline search [20].
Take after eating.  Someone warns not to take it if pregnant 
as it is a natural abortifacient.  Others state three fresh 
leaves chewed and swallowed as soon as the migraine commences 
can dispose of the migraine.  It has a very bitter taste.
 
Jacquie Naughton (nw2@toronto.cbc.ca) uses a combination of
equal amounts of feverfew, lavender, sage, mint, lemon balm and
rosemary infused as a tea when she has a migraine.

Reishi mushroom is also said to help against migraines. 

Tiger Balm rubbed on the pain has been used, but only helps some people.

Someone recommended the book "Herbs for Headaches and
Migraine" [6].

See also the Medicinal HerbFAQ [19].
 
 
(8) Psychology
 
People often think thoughts that are just a little frightening. 
When normal people think these thoughts, nothing much happens. 
But migraine people have over-reactive hormone systems, and
adrenalin and other hormones are released along with just
slightly scary thoughts.  A migraine person may not feel scared
at all, may claim to be relaxed, but at the same time may be
showing the physical symptoms of fear.  These symptoms may be
partly resulting from various chemical processes such as the
foods the person ate.  However, they are also the result of
thoughts. 
 
The scary thoughts that bring on phase I of a migraine are
usually semi-conscious ...  just outside the range of conscious
thinking.  For instance, a migraine person may look at a gift
they're wrapping and consciously think, "Maybe I should have
bought something better."  But at the same time, in a semi-conscious
way, the following thoughts flit rapidly through the mind: "I'm no
good at buying presents.  People will look down on me for being cheap.
I might lose a friendship."  These thoughts go by so fast it's hard
to pin them down.  But they're real, and are accompanied by cold
fingers and other symptoms of phase I of a migraine.  The person
might not notice the symptoms.  Later, when they have a headache,
they might not realize they had been under stress.  "I was just
having fun quietly wrapping presents."
 
It helps to write down such thoughts.  Kohlenberg [11] recommends
writing the thoughts down in the form of a proof that either
there's a threat to one's life or health, or that a law of nature
has been broken, i.e.  that something "should" be happening and
isn't.  Writing the thoughts out slows them down so that they
come under conscious scrutiny and control.  Then, on another part
of the page, write down arguments against each point.  
"I may not be the best in the world, but I'm capable of buying
reasonably good presents.  I have no evidence that people will
look down on me, and if they do it won't hurt me.  If the friendship
is worth keeping it involves a lot more than just gifts."
 
It helps to avoid thoughts with words like "should" and "ought"
in them.  Instead of thinking, "I should wash the dishes now,"
think "I want to wash the dishes now." One good way to eliminate
a "should" thought is to start doing the thing.  If you don't
want to, there's probably a good reason not to.  Then, instead of
thinking, "I should ...", think, "I decided not to...  because
...".  Accept that every decision has both good and bad results. 
 
It's useful to combine this technique with biofeedback.  See
Kohlenberg's book for both.  Since that book is difficult to obtain,
other books which are excellent for dealing in a similar way with
emotions (but which don't specifically address headaches) are
Burns [2] and Ellis [4], Greenberger [7], and other books by the same authors.
 

(9) Nociceptive Appliances

The FDA has approved a device that prevents
migraine pain without drugs or surgery: the NTI-tss.
("Nociceptive Trigeminal Inhibition Tension Suppression System"). 

Everybody tenses their temporalis muscles while sleeping.  Some 
migraine sufferers do so with such intensity, that it causes
morning headache and allows the stage to be set for migraine
attacks.
 
The special appliance makes the teeth bite together only at the
front.  This stimulates a reflex to relax the jaw muscles.
The effect is similar to placing one's finger or other object
between the front teeth.  It is removed while eating.  

In clinical trials submitted to the FDA and soon to be
published in "CRANIO: The Journal of Craniomandibular
Practice", 82% of migraine suffers had a 77% average
reduction of migraine events.

For more information, see the web page listed in the links
section [18].  The device can be obtained by seeing your
dentist.


(10) Sex hormones
 
Apparently sex hormones are among the hormones that can be
involved in migraines.  For both men and women, it's common for
migraines to begin around puberty.  [8].  Women often notice
headaches corresponding to certain times of the menstrual cycle. 
Menopause can mean fewer or no headaches for some lucky women
(or the onset of migraines for others).   Someone whose headaches
stopped at menopause got headaches when taking Premarin.
Sexual intercourse can make a headache go away ... but 
brings on headaches for other people.  Nutritional treatments 
can help reduce symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), 
including headaches.  ([13],[15]).

Birth-control pills contain artificial hormone-like chemicals
which are different molecules from the hormones normally present
in the body.  They have some of the same effects as real hormones,
and some different effects -- they have long lists of side effects
which vary from one brand to another and include migraines.  Women 
who get migraines are advised not to take these pills.

The modern processed diet tends to be deficient in omega-3
essential fatty acids.  These EFA's are used by the body to
make prostaglandins, which in turn are converted into some
hormones.  Supplementation of omega-3 and/or omega-6 EFA's
is helpful for some people.
 
It's normal during breast-feeding for a woman to have no
menstrual periods for a time which can be 3 months, 2 years or
more, averaging about 14 months. [10]  For some, this is a welcome
rest from a range of symptoms which can include PMS and
headaches.  Unfortunately, breast-feeding is often disrupted,
resulting in increased health risks to both mother and baby
and the inconvenience of early return of menstrual
cycles, along with the familiar accompanying symptoms.  The
return of menstruation is an individual thing;  a slight
reduction of nursing may bring it on in one woman, while another
may be nursing only a few times a day and still not 
menstruate.  Early return of menstruation can be caused by:
 
(Things to avoid, if you don't want to start menstruating soon:)
 -- early weaning
 -- use of bottles or pacifiers
 -- mother-baby separations, e.g. use of babysitters
 -- other foods given to baby before about 6 months of age
 -- encouraging baby to "sleep through the night"
 -- limiting breast-feeding, based on clocks and calendars
 
Speculation: It is known that pollutants such as pesticides,
PCB's and by-products of chlorine bleaching can act as hormone
mimics, disrupting the development of animals and humans. 
Chemicals which mimic estrogen have been most extensively
studied, but pollutants mimic other hormones as well.  [3]
Hormones are involved in migraines.  Are migraines more common
these days than they used to be? Could migraines sometimes be
partly caused by hormone-disrupting pollutants?
 

(11) Books/articles
 
[1] Brainard, John B., 1979.  Control of Migraine.  W.W.  Norton
& Co., New York -- London. 
 
[2] Burns, David.  Feeling Good: A New Mood Therapy

[3] Colborn, Theo, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers,
1996.  Our Stolen Future.  Penguin Books, New York, NY. 

[4] Ellis, Albert.  A New Guide to Rational Living
 
[5] Frykholm R. Cervical Migraine: the clinical pictures. In : Hirsch C,
Zotterman Y, eds.  Cervical pain. Oxford, Great Britain: Pergamon Press 
1972; 13-16.

[6] Gosling, Nalda.  Herbs for Headaches and Migraine.
ISBN 0-7225-0396-2  Thorsons Publishing Ltd. 1978.

[7] Greenberger, Dennis and C.A. Padeskey.  Mind Over Mood.
ISBN 0898621283  Guilford Press, 1995.
 
[8] Hanington, Edda, MD MRCP, 1980.  The Headache Book. 
Technomic, Westport CT. 
 
[9] Jirout J. Comments regarding the diagnosis and treatment of dysfunctions
in the C2-3 segment.  Manual Medizin 1985; 2:1617.

[10] Kippley, Sheila.  Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing. 
 
[11] Kohlenberg, R.J.  Migraine Relief: A Personal Treatment
Program
 
[12] Low, Rodolfo, 1987.  Migraine: The Breakthrough Study That
Explains What Causes It and How it Can Be Completely Prevented
Through Diet.  Henry Holt & Co.  Inc.  New York NY. 
 
[13] Nazzarro, Dr.  Ann, and Dr.  Donald Lombard, with Dr.  David
Horrobin, 1985.  The PMS Solution: Premenstrual Syndrome: The
Nutritional Approach.  Eden Press, Montreal -- London. 

[14] Sacks, Oliver.  Migraine.  ISBN 0-330-32988-X
Picador/Pan Books, 1993.

[15] Shannon, M.  Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition.

[16] Vernon H. Manipulative therapy in the chiropractic treatment of
headaches: a retrospective and prospective study.  J Manipulative Physiol
Ther 1982; 5:109-12

[17] Wight JS. Migraine: a statistical analysis of chiropractic treatment.
J Am Chiro Assoc 1978; 12: 363-67.


(12) Links

[18] Nociceptive Appliances
http://www.nti-tss.com

[19] Medicinal HerbFAQ
http://ibiblio.org/herbmed/faqs/medi-cont.html
or http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/usenet/medicinal-herbs

[20] Medline searches for titles/abstracts of medical experiments:
ttp://www4.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/

[21] This page says that food which is not fresh can cause migraines:
http://www.oases.com/Migraines.html    (page no longer accessible)

[22] Tips on starting an MSG-free diet
http://www.magicnet.net/~btnature/page11.html

[23] Migraine Association of Canada
http://www.migraine.ca/default.htm

[24] Migraine Action Association (UK)
http://www.migraine.org.uk/

[25] New Zealand Migraine Sufferers Support Group
http://www.migraine.co.nz/

[26] Migraine: Sites Francophones
http://www.chu-rouen.fr/ssf/pathol/migraine.html

[27] Rhonda's Migraine Page 
http://www.migrainepage.com/index.html
(includes a migrainepage chat room)

[28] Migraine and Magnesium Deficiency
http://www.execpc.com/~magnesum/migraine.html

[29] Light Therapy for PMS, Migraine, SAD...
http://www.lightmask.com/


(13) About the author of this FAQ
 
I've had migraines since about age 16.  Sometimes I had
daily mild headaches and often worse ones.  Using some of the
natural treatments listed here, I've mostly eliminated them. 
 
I'm interested in many things: nutrition, alternative medicine, 
evolution, societal cooperation, barter, mathematics, car-free living, 
psychology and psycholinguistics, midwifery, breast-feeding, 
and natural family planning.  My web page has information on a 
barter system I invented, on Natural Family Planning, and on 
Explorers, that is, people with a drive to think creatively.
I hope to put up sections on breastfeeding, teaching phonics,
and family discipline.
 
Parts of this FAQ were written/contributed by other people.
I've left off names for privacy reasons;  if you're one of
these people let me know if you want your name mentioned.
Thanks to all who contributed.
 
Comments are welcome but to be honest I rarely get around to 
updating the FAQ.  Polite criticism is welcome.  Messages 
containing emotionally-charged criticism or strongly pejorative 
language will be ignored.  Do not include a copy of this whole FAQ, 
or any other large files, in your email.  Please don't email 
me about products you're selling even if they're to help with 
migraines.  Word your message so I can see it's not spam.
I'm always happy to hear about it if you found this 
FAQ useful.  Very specific information about important
dangers of any treatment mentioned here is welcome.

Cathy Woodgold               an588@freenet.carleton.ca.  
http://www.ncf.carleton.ca/~an588

 
(14) Disclaimer
 
This information about natural migraine treatments, collected
from various sources, is provided for your convenience.  Though
effort has been made to make it accurate, it may contain errors,
omissions or inaccuracies.  It is hoped that readers will tell
me about any errors.  It is not to be considered
to be medical advice.  Different things work for different
people.  Some of the suggestions here may actually increase
headache pain for some people, or cause other problems.  If you
decide to use any of the treatments mentioned here, you are
responsible for that decision and for any effects that occur. 
You may wish to collect information from other sources
before beginning to use the treatments mentioned here.  Some
headaches are caused by other serious problems requiring other
treatment; this FAQ only discusses migraines.  If the author
knows of serious safety problems, they will probably be mentioned
here, but absence of specific warnings does not constitute a
statement or guarantee that the treatments are safe.  Any
nutritional supplement can be harmful in very large amounts. 
This FAQ is provided with no warranty of any kind.  Life is full
of unknowns. 


(16) Copyright

Copyright (c) 2001 Catherine Woodgold
Copies for personal use or to give to a friend are allowed and 
encouraged, but it is requested that instead of putting a copy
of the FAQ on your web site, you put a link to it, so that any
updates will show immediately.  When copying this FAQ do not
make any changes or deletions.

User Contributions:

Susan
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 26, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
This is very helpful. One question: drinking tomato juice is mentioned as a action to take in the beginning of a migraine. And yet, many websites list tomatoes as a possible migraine trigger. Please comment. Also, when it comes to dairy products, are non-aged cheeses ok (such as cottage, american, velveeta)? This is so complicated!

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