What is a migraine? Why migraine happens. Who gets migraines? Treating migraines.

How Your Lifestyle May Contribute to Migraines

Those who suffer from migraines may find it difficult, if not downright impossible, to explain to a doctor or a friend just how debilitating migraine attacks can be. Although most people who have frequent migraines are already on some sort of doctor-prescribed medication for the attacks, there are many lifestyle changes that can really help in the frequency and duration of migraines. By incorporating some general nutritional guidelines, you may be able to combat, or possibly even overcome completely the negative effects that migraines have on your lifestyle.

Low Blood Sugar Levels

One of the most common triggers of migraines may be low blood sugar levels, which is also called hypoglycemia. When your blood sugar levels drop below the normal range, it is neither safe nor comfortable for your body. Many people think that when their blood sugar levels drop they need to eat something sweet, however this is not the case, as this could cause a higher production of insulin which can cause the sugar level to fall once again. Symptoms of low blood sugar can range from weakness, shaking, irritability, nausea and fatigue, however eating a diet high in fiber and low in sugar and processed foods can be beneficial. Keeping your blood sugar levels at a normal level can substantially decrease the number of migraines you suffer from. Fresh foods are always best, if you have a choice, and whenever possible avoid monosodium glutamate (MSG) as it has been shown to trigger migraines in many people. MSG is typically found in Chinese restaurant food as well as many bottled sauces, and processed meats.

Avoid an Excess of Caffeine, Alcohol and Desserts

Indulging in what many Americans consider to be a "normal" meal-red wine, chocolate dessert and a final cup of coffee-can be responsible for triggering severe migraines. Some people find that cheese is also a trigger for their migraines. Keeping a food diary for several weeks can give you a good idea of what your food triggers are, then you can avoid those triggers whenever possible. Some people have noticed that a migraine will come on within twenty minutes of eating a trigger food. Small, well-balanced meals which avoid your specific food triggers are the best way to combat migraine attacks. Avoid a gap of more than three or four hours between snacks and meals, as regular meals can keep your blood sugar levels steady.

Get Rid of Excess Weight and Incorporate Exercise

Keeping your weight within the ideal range can help you avoid migraines, so if you are overweight, start making small changes, and incorporate just a bit of exercise into your routine each day. It gets easier and easier as you go along, and once you begin losing weight it is likely your blood pressure will go down, lessening the potential for migraines. Aerobic exercise for a minimum of thirty minutes three times per week can help reduce the frequency of migraines as well as the severity, so exercise on a regular basis whenever possible.

Sleep and Relax

If you consistently get less sleep than your body needs, this may contribute to your migraines. Some people attempt to "catch up" on the weekends for their lack of sleep during the week, which can actually work in reverse and induce migraines. If at all possible get regular amounts of sleep each night. Physical and emotional stress can be migraine-inducers. Even if it is only for fifteen minutes a day, find the time to go to a quiet place, center yourself, breathe deeply and relax. Many people fail to take this aspect of their health seriously enough, yet breathing deeply gets more oxygen to your brain and to your body, giving you a heightened sense of well-being, and reducing the severity of migraines.

Other Triggers

Finally, some people have found that lactose and artificial sweeteners can both trigger migraines. When your digestive system is deficient in an enzyme called lactase--which breaks down the lactose found in dairy products such as cream, butter, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and milk-migraines may be a frequent occurrence when you put lactose into your body. If you are one of the many people who are lactose sensitive, avoid it and see if your migraines lessen in frequency or severity. Artificial sweeteners are used in a variety of products and many people are very sensitive to them. If your migraines are triggered by artificial sweeteners, then avoid them whenever possible. When you do get a migraine, act quickly. Apply cold cloths on the back of your neck, or warm cloths to your forehead, and only take the medications your doctor prescribes.