If you've ever had a migraine headache, then you know how debilitating they can be. Migraine sufferers typically experience a diminished quality of life along with impaired physical, social and occupational functioning. The pain can be severe.
The statistics may startle you. Migraine afflicts an estimated 10% of the world's population. In the United States, The Institute of Medicine recently reported that nearly 40 million Americans suffer from migraines. (1)
At a recent meeting of the American Pain Society (APS), David Dodick, M.D. and professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, noted that migraines have a genetic and biological basis.
"Today we know that migraine is a largely inherited disorder characterized by physiological changes in the brain, and, if attacks occur with high frequency, structural alterations in the brain," Dodick said. (1)
So... are you at risk for getting migraine headaches? It may not be a twist of fate if you are experiencing them right now. There could be something else going on that is a contributing factor.
Some of the triggers can be managed, such as stress, lifestyle choices including smoking and drinking, and high blood pressure. But equally important are the factors you have no control over that can predispose you to the condition.
Having one of more of the predetermined risk factors for migraine headaches doesn't mean you will inevitably develop migraines. However, being aware of the risks will help you arm yourself with the knowledge that you need to prevent and treat migraines should they occur.
Migraine Risk Factors You Need to Know:
The risk factors you have little control over include the following:
Family history — If your parents had migraines, your risk may be increased by up to 75%. If possible, it can be helpful to talk to them about their experience, so you can set into place a plan for prevention. Your family history of migraines will also make the diagnostic process simpler.
Gender — If you are female, you are at greater risk to develop migraines. During childhood, boys and girls have the same chance of developing migraine headaches. However, once hormones take center stage, the risks to a female jump significantly. In fact, adult women are three times more likely than men to get migraines. (2)
Hormonal changes — If you are a woman who gets migraines, hormones may be the culprit. During the menstrual cycle each month, hormone fluctuations can cause migraines. Any stress that causes hormones to spike can cause a migraine to occur if a person is susceptible.
Ethnicity — North American Caucasians appear to have a higher risk of developing migraines than either African Americans or Asian Americans. Migraines are less common in Europe or South America and much less common in Africa or Asia. Studies haven't connected this with any conditions in the environment, food supply, or medical knowledge, only genetics.(3)
If you have one or more of these risk factors, talk to your doctor about possible preventative measures. Discuss all your options to keep migraines from becoming a part of your life. In fact, according to Dr. Dodick, "Some studies have shown that migraine attacks can be cut in half or more with preventive treatments."
In addition, keep a bottle of Isoprex on hand. Isoprex is an all natural pain relief formula that can help minimize headache pains... without the side effects or dangers of NSAIDs.
1. Increase Fiber Intake
Dietary fiber plays an important role in the health of our digestive tract. Besides lowering cholesterol, fiber also feeds the healthy bacteria and helps them to flourish. The best sources of dietary fiber are actually whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, and whole oats, along with beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds, then fruits and vegetables. Shockingly, most people get only half of the daily recommended 20 to 35 grams fiber. But be careful to increase your fiber intake gradually, otherwise you’ll most likely experience some unpleasant and painful gas and bloating. Be sure to get plenty of fluids at the same time you eat fiber-rich foods in order to soften the fiber during transit. A hearty bowl of oatmeal and a cup of tea should move things along nicely.
2. Load up on Whole Fruits and Vegetables
Eating a variety of whole fruits and vegetables as opposed to fruit or veggie juice is a great way to get more fiber. Fruits like pears, blueberries, raspberries and apples all contain a minimum of 4 grams of fiber per serving. Vegetables such as red bell peppers, leafy greens, broccoli and sweet potatoes also have a hefty dose of fiber. The pulp of the fruit and veggies are what help scrub your digestive tract and allows better absorption of nutrients and antioxidants.
3. Try Yogurt for Lactose Intolerance
Research suggests that many people who are not able to properly digest lactose, the type of sugar in milk, can tolerate yogurt with live active cultures. Yogurt is relatively high in lactose, but the bacterial cultures used to make it produce some lactase, the enzyme needed to digest the sugar. Great news for those who are lactose-intolerant and looking for good sources of calcium!
4. Read Labels for Hidden (Lactose-Containing) Ingredients
Milk and foods made from milk are the only natural sources of lactose. But many prepared foods, including bread and other baked goods, processed breakfast cereals, instant potatoes and soups, margarine, lunch meats, salad dressing, candy, protein bars and powdered meal-replacement supplements contain milk derivatives. So be sure to read labels carefully if you are lactose intolerant.
5. Good Bacteria for Your Gut?
Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria found in the gut that help us digest foods and fight harmful bacteria. They also include live, active cultures used to ferment foods, such as yogurt. To get the potential benefits offered by probiotics, mix a cut-up banana into a cup of low-fat vanilla yogurt—with a “Live & Active Cultures” seal on it—for a midday snack or turn it into breakfast and add some granola. Try different kinds of yogurt to see which one works best for you. Mix fresh or frozen berries, peaches and banana with yogurt and a couple teaspoons of ground flax seeds for a delicious breakfast on the go or snack. For optimal levels of the good stuff, look for a high quality probiotic supplement that contains several different strains of yeasts and bacteria.