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MIGRANE

Suffering from migraine is not a joke. It is one of the most excruciating and disabling type of headache that seems to affect the other parts of your body, making you feel useless.   Migraine is a severe form of headache that comes in stages, almost similar to epilepsy.  According to UK’s National Health Services, the stages are prodromal, aura, headache, resolution and postdromal.

  • The prodromal, or pre-headache stage, is when a person experiences changes in behavior, mood, and appetite and they sometimes feel some aches hours before the actual attack.
  • The aural stage is when the person sees flashes of light or smells something terrible even if others cannot.  Sometimes they have difficulty focusing that would last about 15 to 60 minutes.
  • The headache stage is when the person already feels terrible, pulsating pain that is accompanied with nausea and vomiting.  The person at this stage wants to stay in a darkened room because bright lights or noise is unbearable.  Headache stage usually lasts four to 72 hours.
  • The resolution stage is usually sudden for some sufferers, especially when they were able to sleep well.

But what causes migraine?  Of the 36 million Americans suffering from migraine, the cause of each is varied.  Although studies have shown that the disease process of migraine includes enlargement of blood vessels, chemical fluctuations and neuronal excitability, the initiating factor is still to be identified. However, there are factors that seem to trigger the exacerbation of migraine, and these are what migraineurs need to avoid.

  1. Stress

There are debates on stress being the cause of migraine because studies have shown that it has never, by itself, caused migraine.  In 2004, the International Headache Society, in fact, removed stress as the initiating factor, and transferred it on triggers that exacerbate the headache. What does it mean? When we are stressed, our sympathetic nervous system is activated, which causes us to lose our appetite, to not drink water, to lose sleep.  These effects of stress are what triggers migraine.  Stress will always be part of our system as human.  However, these causes a large increase in the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline and other chemicals that causes changes in bodily function causing those who have the condition to get higher chances of having an attack.

  1. Extreme Temperatures

Some people are sensitive to weather changes, particularly those with extreme temperature.  According to a study made by Dr. Marcel Bigal entitled Migraines Often Triggered by Change in the Weather, changes in the weather could actually trigger a migraine attack.  Change or fluctuation in temperature, humidity, or barometric pressure produces migraine to many of the sufferers.  For Dr. Bigal, the brains of migraineurs are tremendously perceptive to any variations.  If some stimulation is ordinary to other people and does not affect them, those who are especially sensitive get migraine. Since changes in weather is seen to be the reason why people gets migraine, it is best for them to take prophylactic medications at the first sign of a headache to prevent the debilitating effect of the disease.

  1. Fragrances and Odors

Some people are naturally sensitive to some chemicals, especially those that emit strong odor. And these fragrances and perfumes, as well as those off-smelling odors, trigger migraineurs to have an attack.  According to a research, fragrances contain synthetic chemical modeled after nature.  In spite of it being artificial, it allows the olfactory system to get very demanding that it alters the blood vessels and the blood flowing from it towards the brain.  Some studies also showed that the effects of these chemicals to the olfactory system greatly affect the neuronal excitability of the central nervous system, therefore, triggering migraines.  There are hundreds of products containing troublesome odor, from deodorants to candles to cigarette smoke.  Identifying which product and odor makes you sensitive will avoid worst attacks.

  1. Sleep Concerns

What is the connection between sleep and migraine? This is the question often asked by the patients of Dr. John Claude Krusz. Of the 1,207 migraine sufferers studied, 47.7 percent have sleep disturbances as the trigger for migraines.  Although sleep shortens the duration of migraines, some people stillwake up with migraines.  This is particularly dampening because it disables a person from being productive for that day.  According to Dr. Krusz, one has to have a sound sleep pattern to prevent migraine attacks.  Sleep issues, such as oversleeping, incomplete stages of sleep, disrupted sleep or poor sleep quality, will usually trigger migraine attacks.

  1. Bright Lights

A strong stimulus such as a sudden stream of bright lights causes many migraineurs an attack.  On the study published in 2007 by Cephalagia, 38.3 percent of the subjects have migraines triggered by bright or flickering lights, such as the ones experienced inside disco houses or the old computers or the common fluorescent lighting used in homes.  Interestingly, a study of blind people published by Nature Neuroscience have shown that despite the absence of vision, those who still have functioning retinal ganglion cells, a photoreceptor sensitive to light that are not necessarily responsible for vision, has a pathway towards the area of the brain that is involved in migraine pain. Many blind people, when exposed to bright lights, experience migraine attacks.  This study therefore showed that bright and flickering lights are triggers that should be avoided by migranieurs.

  1. Foods (those with aspartame, MSG, tyramine, chocolates, cheese)

A lot of foods written in the diaries of migraineurs have shown to cause migraine.  However, a thorough study is yet to be done in order to confirm these suspected triggers. Tyramine is a result of the breakdown of protein of aged foods.  This can be found in aged meat products, cheese, chocolate, processed and preserved protein-rich foods.  This chemical has shown to increase blood pressure levels as well as initiate the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.  These neurotransmitters have been shown to exacerbate the spasm of cerebral blood vessels.

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a food additive usually found in large doses at Chinese restaurants.  Naturally occurring in nature, our body needs 0.3-1 gram of it daily.  But in Chinese restaurants, as well as some packaged foods, some may contain up to 5 grams of MSG.  At large doses, some people are highly sensitive to MSG that it would result to migraine.  Aspartame, a substitute to sugar, is an excitotoxin.  Increased ingestion of this chemical will cause neuronal excitability, therefore, triggering migraine sufferers to have an attack.

  1. Beverages (sodas, coffee, alcohol, caffeinated beverages)

Sodas and coffee are rich in caffeine.  Increased consumption of these beverages has been shown to cause migraine attacks.  For some people, especially coffee addicts, caffeine withdrawal could actually serve as a triggering factor. Alcohol, on the other hand, contains tannin, a chemical that triggers migraine.  Alcohol which is darker in color contains more tannin than alcohol drinks that are light, such as vodka.

  1. Smoking

First and second-hand smoking causes migraine because of nicotine.  Nicotine is the primary component present in tobacco and cigarettes.  The effect of nicotine in the body is vasoconstriction, or the narrowing of blood vessels.  In a study made in Spain by the University Hospital in Santander, it showed that there is a direct correlation of the number of cigarettes consumed to the number of migraine attacks.  It has revealed that migraine attacks usually appear after smoking five cigarettes.  Interestingly, this caused the migraine sufferer to stop smoking.  Therefore, for migraine sufferers, the pain is the limiting factor of smoking. So essentially, smoking is seen to be more of a precipitating factor than a triggering factor of migraine.

  1. Depression

Depression and migraine are linked genetically, according to one research in Netherlands.  Those who suffer from migraine are said to suffer from depression more than those who don’t. In the study, there is a high percentage for those with inherited form of depression to be also suffering from migraine attacks.

  1. Loud Noise

Migraines attack those who are sensitive to loud noises.  It has been shown that loud noises deplete magnesium in the body.  A decrease in magnesium levels would result to sensitivity to noise, which in turn, results to migraine attacks.  Another logic found is that sensitivity to loud noises is considered an aura for those who are suffering from magnesium migraine, or migraines caused by decreasing amount of magnesium.  Dietary sources of magnesium include broccoli, banana, nuts and avocados.

 

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