Migraines are common to 10% of the population, with women being affected three times more frequently than men are. The peak age falls between 20 and 35. There is a strong genetic element in the likelihood of experiencing migraines.
Vague mood changes, food or sugar cravings and uncontrollable yawning are symptoms that may precede a migraine. In a Classic migraine, 30 minutes prior, an aura manifests with flashes of whirling lights and /or black spots or blind spots that distort normal vision. A ‘common migraine’ starts with pulsating, severe pain located on one side of the head, often in the forehead or temple area. Nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise may accompany this phase. Then follows a phase of tiredness, feeling washed out and ill possibly for hours after the pain has ended. The pain of a migraine is very severe, more so in the common migraine than in the classical migraine with aura.
Each phase of the migraine is triggered when combined factors exceed the individual’s threshold. Some of these include:
- Blood sugar irregularities and fluctuations — low blood sugar caused by eating sugars or high GI carbs, or missing meals
- Hormone imbalance — in women there may be Oestrogen dominance or hormonal fluctuations especially prior to periods.
- Food sensitivities — this is a main factor in 80 –90% of sufferers.
- Weather — storms, dry winds, or changes to the barometric pressure
- Stress causing emotional upheaval or fatigue.
- Sinus infection.
- Irregular sleep pattern.
- Dehydration — a common trigger. If you consume about one litre of water at the onset of symptoms, you may be able to avoid the headache.
- Constipation – linked to bile being recycled triggering the headache.
- Liver function – is a very important factor. If hormones and allergens are being properly metabolised, headaches are less likely.
Recent research in a new area of immune response called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome suggests that for some migraine sufferers this may be their underlying cause. This may be worth exploring for those who do not respond to other treatments and have the unique pattern of symptoms of this particular syndrome.