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Migrane

Migraine Treatment: Ayurvedic Approach Towards Headache

A migraine is a primary headache disorder characterized by recurrent headaches that are moderate to severe. Typically, the headaches affect one half of the head, are pulsating in nature, and last from two to 72 hours. Associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. The pain is generally made worse by physical activity. Up to one-third of people have an aura: typically a short period of visual disturbance that signals that the headache will soon occur. Occasionally, an aura can occur with little or no headache following it.

Migraines are believed to be due to a mixture of environmental and genetic factors. About two-thirds of cases run in families. Changing hormone levels may also play a role, as migraines affect slightly more boys than girls before puberty and two to three times more women than men. The risk of migraines usually decreases during pregnancy. The underlying mechanisms are not fully known. They are, however, believed to involve the nerves and blood vessels of the brain.

Symptoms

Migraines typically present with self-limited, recurrent severe headache associated with autonomic symptoms. About 15–30% of people with migraines experience migraines with an aura and those who have migraines with aura also frequently have migraines without aura. The severity of the pain, duration of the headache, and frequency of attacks are variable. A migraine lasting longer than 72 hours is termed status migrainosus. There are four possible phases to a migraine, although not all the phases are necessarily experienced.

  • The prodrome, which occurs hours or days before the headache
  • The aura, which immediately precedes the headache
  • The pain phase, also known as headache phase
  • The postdrome, the effects experienced following the end of a migraine attac
    Migraines are associated with major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder. These psychiatric disorders are approximately 2-5 times more common in people without aura, and 3-10 times more common in people with aura.

Causes

Genetics
Studies of twins indicate a 34% to 51% genetic influence of likelihood to develop migraine headaches. This genetic relationship is stronger for migraines with aura than for migraines without aura. A number of specific variants of genes increase the risk by a small to moderate amount. Single gene disorders that result in migraines are rare. One of these is known as familial hemiplegic migraine, a type of migraine with aura, which is inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion. Four genes have been shown to be involved in familial hemiplegic migraine. Three of these genes are involved in ion transport. The fourth is an axonal protein associated with the exocytosis complex. Another genetic disorder associated with migraine is CADASIL syndrome or cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy. One meta analysis found a protective effect from an angiotensin converting enzyme polymorphisms on migraine. The TRPM8 gene, which encodes for a cation channel, has been linked to migraines.

Triggers
Migraines may be induced by triggers, with some reporting it as an influence in a minority of cases and others the majority. Many things such as fatigue, certain foods, and weather have been labeled as triggers; however, the strength and significance of these relationships are uncertain. Most people with migraines report to experience triggers. Symptoms may start up to 24 hours after a trigger.

Physiological aspects
Common triggers quoted are stress, hunger, and fatigue (these equally contribute to tension headaches). Psychological stress has been reported as a factor by 50 to 80% of people. Migraines have also been associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and abuse. Migraines are more likely to occur around menstruation. Other hormonal influences, such as menarche, oral contraceptive use, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause, also play a role. These hormonal influences seem to play a greater role in migraine without aura. Migraines typically do not occur during the second and third trimesters or following menopause.

Dietary aspects
Between 12 and 60% of people report foods as triggers. Evidence for such triggers, however, mostly relies on self-reports and is not rigorous enough to prove or disprove any particular triggers. A clear explanation for why food might trigger migraines is also lacking. There does not appear to be evidence for an effect of tyramine on migraine. Likewise, while monosodium glutamate (MSG) is frequently reported, evidence does not consistently support that it is a dietary trigger.

Environmental aspects
A review on potential triggers in the indoor and outdoor environment concluded that there is insufficient evidence to confirm environmental factors as causing migraines. They nevertheless suggested that people with migraines take some preventive measures related to indoor air quality and lighting

Treatment

The traditional science of Ayurveda considers headache to be caused because of two primary reasons – a sensitive nervous system and impaired digestion. Improper diet and lifestyle causes aggravation of Pitta (Ayurvedic humor representing Fire) in the body. In an aggravated state, Pitta impairs digestion, leading to production of digestive impurities (known as ama). This ama gets stored in the manovahi strotas (mind channels), thereby becoming the cause for headaches.

A sensitive nervous system lowers the ojas (energy) in the body. Ojas is the essence of all body tissues and provides strength to the nervous system and body. If you have a strong nervous system, you are able to fight against problems and carry on with your work with a healthy mind. Lowering of ojas causes migraine-like problems.

Ayurvedic treatment of a headache does not focus on simply alleviating the pain but aims at treating the root cause. Herbal preparations are administered to balance aggravated body energies and restore the digestive function.

Diet & Lifestyle Advice

  • Have warm and easily digestible foods, boiled and steamed vegetables, soups, vegetable juices, porridge, brown rice and whole-wheat flour.
  • Eat fruits like apples, papayas, mangoes, grapes and pears.
  • Buttermilk, salads, and boiled rice sautéed with cinnamon, cumin seeds and garlic or asafetida are good in the daytime.
  • Also, 5-6 almonds or walnuts and some raisins can be eaten each day.
  • Avoid refined, oily, spicy, cold and stale food.
  • Avoid yogurt, especially at night.
  • Avoid working for long hours continuously; take short breaks. Have a good night’s sleep in a dark room.
  • Avoid overexposure to cold or hot weather. Cover your head with an umbrella, or wear a hat or cap when you go out.

Prevention

Preventive treatments of migraines include medications, nutritional supplements, lifestyle alterations, and surgery. Prevention is recommended in those who have headaches more than two days a week, cannot tolerate the medications used to treat acute attacks, or those with severe attacks that are not easily controlled.

The goal is to reduce the frequency, painfulness, and/or duration of migraines, and to increase the effectiveness of abortive therapy. Another reason for prevention is to avoid medication overuse headache. This is a common problem and can result in chronic daily headache.