I’ve discussed my journey with vestibular migraine under “My Story”, but I haven’t really talked about the natural treatments I’m using to prevent migraines on a daily basis This is where having a blog gets a little uncomfortable for me. I talk openly in my closed migraine groups about these things, but it’s much different to share it with everyone and their dog (or cat). However, the best part of sharing something so personal is the potential for it to help one reader. I also want people to know that recovering from migraine disorders is sometimes possible without medication. Sometimes it’s not possible. Either way is ok and completely dependent on the individual. It’s often rooted in the goals you’re trying to accomplish in your migraine journey.
Why I Use Natural Treatments
I am currently 32 and feeling the urge to start a family. Of course being from the south, I feel like I’m the last person in the world to not have children. Perhaps this is because younger people I went to high school with are on their 2nd or 3rd child! Unlike a lot of my friends, I met my husband in my late twenties. It was completely worth the wait. My best friend and I used to joke we should write a book called “Will Date for Food” with all of our horrible dating stories. Perhaps I’ll share them on here one day if anyone needs a good laugh. Anyway even though we met a little bit later, we wanted to enjoy the time we had with just the two of us. We love to travel and made that a priority.
I can’t even say I’m 100% ready to have children because I do love our freedom to travel so much. I also like my sleep. But alas I figure if this is something we want in life, we need to get going before I’m considered “geriatric”…which is just crazy they consider anyone over 35 a high-risk patient. I realize people have children over this age all the time, but considering I don’t have the best luck with my health, I do worry something could go wrong.
This presented a big question when it came to my vestibular migraine. I would now consider myself more episodic than chronic, with a good handle on my illness. Considering I went from never driving or leaving the house to being able to work out 6 days a week, I’m pretty proud of my progress. While I know it may never go away, I have found some great tools to manage it. But throwing pregnancy into the mix is like setting fire to all your progress, and waiting around to see if it all burns to the ground. I had lengthy conversations with my neuro-otologist and my OB-GYN in preparation for what may lie ahead. I kept being told it’s the rule of 3’s – 1/3 feel better, 1/3 feel worse, and 1/3 of people stay the same. It’s a risk.
Vestibular Migraine and Pregnancy
At the same time it’s a great reward, but there are some steps you need to take to prepare. Depending on the severity of your migraines, you should discuss with your OB-GYN the risks of medicating while pregnant. Mine was very open about the risk of medicating while pregnant, but for some of her patients that experience life-threatening conditions like seizures, it’s important for their own health to continue medication. For me, the best option was to quit anything I was on and use natural treatments for my migraines. Here is more information on trying to conceive and pregnancy with migraines.
I’ve been incredibly lucky that I’ve done well without medication for the majority of my vestibular migraine journey (I added in timolol malate eye drops as a migraine preventative and then now only use as a rescue mediation). Even the weaning process wasn’t horrible, although I did experience some pretty significant side effects from getting off birth control. A few of them were a constant low level of dizziness when I previously had breaks, extreme fatigue, HORRIBLE cramps, and an increase in headaches (yes, headaches are not migraines). It was tough for a month or two, but eventually evened out back to a good baseline. I really buckled down on the supplements below and the HYH diet during that time.
Here’s what I’ve now been doing daily to keep my vestibular migraine episodes under control.
Please consult with your doctor before you begin taking any new supplements. These were specifically approved for me by my OB-GYN and neurologist before I began taking them.
Natural Migraine Treatments
The Heal Your Headache Diet – Obviously I wouldn’t have a page devoted to recipes if it didn’t work for me, but during my time weaning off my medications it definitely helped me keep my vestibular symptoms more stable. I was trying to re-introduce avocado during my first month off birth control, and was finding random results so I decided to table re-introducing trigger foods for a while until everything stabilized.
Magnesium for Migraine Relief
Magnesium – I take about 640mg of magnesium glycinate a day. I used to take Migrelief (found here), which was a combination of magnesium oxide and citrate, CoQ10, and B2, the most highly recommended migraine cocktail. For some reason (probably the expense of CoQ10), they quit carrying that version and only carry the kind with Feverfew. I tried it and I don’t have as great of results, so I switched to taking everything separately.
Some people say this is better as combination supplements can have more fillers and less expensive ingredients. I personally liked having all 3 in one pill since it was easier to remember to take, but in the words of the great Rolling Stones – you can’t always get what you want. Another positive to separate pills is that they are typically filled with better ingredients/more pure, and are more highly effective. The naturopathic doctor I most recently visited said it’s significantly more effective to take individual supplements over combined pills.
Many brands, like the Calm drink you see all over instagram, contain magnesium citrate. If you’ve ever taken magnesium and had an upset stomach after, chances are you’re taking the citrate or oxide version. It has a laxative effect on many people. Taking high amounts of it, like the levels needed for migraine treatment, can sometimes cause gastrointestinal distress. Brands like Calm and Migrelief like to use it not only because it’s fairly well absorbed, but also because it’s cheap and used in some of the initial studies on migraine and magnesium.
Different Types of Magnesium are Good for Migraine Relief
There are a few other versions that are good for those with magnesium deficiency and chronic illness. Malate is said to be good for people with fibromyalgia or CFS. For people taking high doses, magnesium glycinate is really great since it is bonded to the amino acid glycine as opposed to citrate which is bonded to citric acid. Glycine itself supports digestive and mental health, as well as having natural relaxing properties. This makes it an optimum form of magnesium for those with migraines or neurological issues.
Another good option is magnesium threonate, which studies have shown is good for mental clarity, memory, and overall brain health. This one can be a lot more expensive and difficult to find. Pure Encapsulations makes a clean kind called CogniMag. I have ordered the 3 below and found all have great results. CogniMag has been a staple for me for years now and it has helped SO much with brain fog. I find Metagenics makes me a little more sleepy, but more relaxed than Pure Encapsulations. Because of this, I like to take it at night before bed.
- Magnesium Threonate – CogniMag by Pure Encapsulations
- Magnesium Glycinate by Pure Encapsulations
- Metagenics Magnesium Glycinate
- UK ONLY Magnesium Glycinate by Pure Encapsulations
- Discounted Supplements for US residents
Because your body can only absorb so much magnesium orally, I like to supplement with topical treatments like Ancient Minerals magnesium chloride bath salts and spray or lotion. If you browse their products they have a few that are for sensitive skin, as sometimes magnesium applied topically can cause itching and redness.
Alas this is just what works best for me personally. More information on ALL types of magnesium for migraine and which one might be best for you, check out this post.
Riboflavin for Migraine Prevention
Vitamin B2 – My neuro-otologist told me this is one of the best vitamins you can take for migraine prevention and has been scientifically proven that it works, even for children. Like magnesium, chronic migraineurs may be B2 deficient. What’s really interesting to me is B2 deficiency has side effects of digestive problems. I had struggled with digestive problems before my migraines began, which I attributed to stress, but any issues I had have since cleared after starting the supplements and diet.
Studies have shown that B2 can cut the number of headache days, as well as reduce the length and severity of migraine. It’s also relatively low cost and has minimal risk of side effects, although it does interact with certain medications (like some tricyclic anti-depressents) so check with your doctor first. The only downside is it’s tough to find a capsule without gelatin in it, and some of the foods it’s found in are migraine triggers like soy, almonds, and yogurt.…what a cruel world this is, right? 400mg a day is recommended for migraine patients. I like Bluebonnet’s B2, which doesn’t have a lot of fillers or gelatin, and can be found at Whole Foods or Amazon. Here’s another good article.
- Bluebonnet B2
- Seeking Health B2 – 400mg – If you don’t want to take 4 pills, these capsules contain 400mg and are gelatin free. I recently switched from Bluebonnet to these.
- UK ONLY Solgar B2 Riboflavin
- Discounted Supplements for US residents
CoQ10 and Feverfew
CoQ10 & Feverfew – This helps the cells in your body produce energy, and is an antioxidant as well. You body produces it naturally, but it can also be depleted by certain medications or just be low in general. Studies have shown it can reduce the frequency of migraines. It’s great for those who struggle with the brain fog, memory problems, and mental clarity that comes from migraines. This has a few more side effects to worry about, like dizziness and rashes. Feverfew is another good one to add and is less expensive than CoQ10. Personally I got better results from CoQ10 than Feverfew, but I may have to let go of both supplements once pregnant as they’re not recommended.
- NOW CoQ10 Veggie Capsules
- CoQ10 from Pure Encapsulations
- UK ONLY Doctors Best Veggie Capsules
- Discounted Supplements for US residents
Maca and Vitamin E for Menstrual Migraine
Maca – While on the topic of brain fog and mental clarity, maca has been a huge help for me. It’s is a root vegetable from Peru that’s abundant in several vitamins and minerals which support the endocrine system. While it’s mainly known for it’s ability to help balance hormones and improve sexual dysfunction, it’s energizing properties can also help with memory. As I was transitioning off birth control and my hormones were trying to regulate, I put about 1/2 tsp of powder in my smoothie every morning. It really helped my hormonal migraines clear in about 2 weeks.
The fact that it promotes fertility is a nice bonus! It can be tough to digest, especially if you’re not used to it. I suggest keeping doses low at less than 1 teaspoon, or trying gelatinized maca which is supposed to be more gentle on the stomach. Gelatinized refers to the process and does not mean that it contains the migraine trigger “gelatin” that’s derived from animals. If maca is interesting to you, you may also want to look into chasteberry as well.
Vitamin E – Recently Dr. Beh mentioned in his new book that 400mg of daily vitamin E can be helpful for preventing menstrual migraine attacks. I haven’t personally tried this, but it’s something to look into.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Migraine
Vitamin D3 – My neuro, Dr. Beh, explained to me that some who have migraine also have a vitamin D deficiency. It’s not only important for having strong bones, but can also help lower inflammation.
High doses of vitamin D can be harmful for some people, and I will need to dial back my dose if pregnant. I was taking 5,000 IU’s from Pure Encapsulations when I was deficient, but I recently switched to 2000 IU’s of Pure Encapsulations since my levels had normalized. UK friends, here is the same product.
Ginger for Pain Management
Ginger/Turmeric – I tried to take Gaia Ginger Supreme as a daily preventative, but my stomach just couldn’t handle it and I got acid reflux about 7 out of 10 times. It did help if I took it in the morning or at lunch with a meal, as opposed to in the evenings. I still like to keep the bottle handy if I’m in any pain as it’s a pretty good abortive. UK friends here is the link.
Ginger Turmeric Tea Recipe – My husband’s coworker is a pretty big health nut and got us into make our own ginger turmeric tea, which is much easier on the stomach. You use a turmeric root about the size of your pinky finger and ginger root half the size of what you used for the turmeric. Microplane both into a steeping container. Steep in hot water for 7-10 minutes. You can strain out the little bits and pieces if you’d like. Add a tiny bit of black pepper, which aids in the absorption of the anti-inflammatory curcumin in turmeric, and a little bit of honey to taste.
- Massage Therapy and Chiropractic – I did try out acupuncture for a few weeks, and I can’t say I had overwhelmingly noticeable results. For me, it wasn’t worth the cost to keep up. I noticed a much larger difference by scheduling a massage therapy session at least 1-2 times a month. While it’s expensive, I feel like it’s worth it in my cost/benefit analysis. It relaxes my neck muscles, promotes healing and mental clarity, allows me to fully relax, and is an all-natural treatment. I consider it my “preventative medication”. My biggest recommendation is to find a massage therapist that you connect with. When looking for one, ask if they see patients with migraines and if they perform reflexology. My therapist is a jack-of-all-trades and she performs acupressure, reflexology, deep-tissue, and occasionally cupping during my session. I’m planning to do a post with some pictures of my session, but I just get so relaxed I keep forgetting! I have the same recommendation for chiropractic care. Do your research. Call around and ask if the chiropractor is experienced with migraines. Some neurology clinics even have chiropractic care available as an affiliate or on-staff. My chiropractor had migraines that began after a car accident, so she devoted a lot of time to researching and learning about how to treat them naturally. You’ll want to be cautious of chiropractors that do neck adjustments. It can cause other health issues like stroke if they don’t know what they’re doing.
- Allay Lamp – This lamp emits a specific wavelength of green light that’s been studied to reduce the severity of migraine attacks and light sensitivity.
- Migraine glasses can help reduce symptoms. My favorites are MigraineShields, Axon, and TheraSpecs.
- For acute treatment of attacks, there are breathing techniques and affirmations you can use to get through.
- Prenatal Vitamins – My OB-GYN gave me a few multi-vitamins to test out so I can find one I like that works well with my migraines. Who knew it would be so difficult to find prenatal vitamins without additives? I’ve also recently started taking Pure Encapsulations Pre-Natal vitamins, which I’ve been a fan of so far. I swear they don’t pay me to to advertise for them. They just have really great products! You’ll see their supplements in many naturopathic clinics.
(Updated October 2019) – I switched from Pure Encapsulations PreNatal to MamaBird PreNatal because after going through recurring miscarriage and infertility, genetic testing showed I had the MTHFR gene. This means you cannot absorb folic acid properly, and need folate or methylfolate versions. So far I have LOVED it and the “orange flavor” doesn’t bother me one bit. I have also tried Ritual, but unless you take it before bed it can give you fishy burps which is kinda gross.
Let me know if you have other natural treatments that have worked well for you!
This post was updated on August 6, 2020 with new information on brands I currently love. Please note some of the links above are affiliate links, but they are also everything I actually use daily (except for some of the UK only brands).