Migraine is an ancient and formidable malady. It bothered such distinguished persons as Ceasar, Darwin and Freud. It has assumed alarming proportions under modern conditions of living and is now believed to afflict about 10 per cent of the world’s population.
Migraine can be defined as a paroxysmal affliction, accompanied by severe headache, generally on one side of the head and associated with disorders of the digestion, the liver and the vision. It usually occurs when the person is under great mental tension or has suddenly got over that state.
Persons who suffer from this disease have a migrainous personality. They are intelligent, sensitive, rigid, methodical and tend to be perfectionists. For them, everything has to be done right away and when they finish , they come down suddenly from a state of utmost mental tension to a feeling of great relief. Then all of a sudden, comes the migraine which is a purely psychological process. The head and neck muscles, reacting from continuous stress become overworked. The tight muscles squeeze the arteries and reduce blood flow. Then, when the person relaxes suddenly, the constricted muscles expand, stretching the blood-vessel wall. With each heartbeat, the blood pushes through these vessels and expands them further, causing intense pain.
Migraine headaches are believed to be related to the daily cycle of adrenal hormone secretion. Adrenal hormone levels are at their peak during the morning and taper off during the evening, reaching a low level around 3 a.m. An important function of these hormones is to regulate vascular muscle tone and to prevent vasocodilation. When adrenal hormones production is low, blood vessels are more prone to dilation. Thus migraine headaches are generally triggered in the evening and rarely in the morning.
There is a definite pattern for migraine. The pain rages on only one side of the head and often radiates from the eye. The right side of the head may be affected in one attack and in the next it may be the left side. Migraine attacks are usually preceded by a short period of depression , irritability and loss of appetite. Some persons get attacks daily, others every month or every two or three months and still others only once or twice in several years.
Migraine is also known as sick headache. The main symptoms are a pounding pain, nausea and vomiting. The blood vessels on the affected side of the head will be prominent and pulsating. Migraine gives fair warning before striking. The patient sees flashes of light or black spots or only parts of the objects in front of him. He may also feel numbness or weakness in an arm or leg, or on one side of the face. Sometimes the numbness may affect both sides of the face and tongue and whole mouth, making speech slurred and difficult. As the headache develops, disturbed digestion becomes a marked feature.
A severe attack of migraine is very tiring and the patient may have to rest in bed so as to exclude light and noise as far as possible, because both cause painful irritations. The whole of the head becomes hypersensitive and even the slightest movement adds to the intense pain.
The duration of the attack varies with each individual. Some may get over the acute symptoms in a matter of hours. Others may require a day’s rest to come to a normal state. Still others, who are less fortunate, may drag on for two, three, or even four days.
Migraine may result from a of causes such as low blood sugar, allergy, infection, excessive intake of certain drugs like vitamin A, weak constitution, low energy, nutritional deficiency, overwork, improper sleep and rest, excessive smoking, drinking and sex. Menstruation in women may also be one of the important causes of migraine due to the effect of chemical hormone changes occurring during this period. This form of migraine is usually eliminated with menopause.
There are various factors which trigger off migraine. The most important is consuming food which the patient may be allergic to. Such foods include certain chocolates, cheese and other dairy products, fried foods in general, onions, tomatoes, citrus fruits as well as coffee, tea, nicotine and alcoholic drinks which stimulate or depress the nerves and alter the size of blood vessels. Other triggers include excessive bright light, eye-strain, excitement, fright, hurry, anger, resentment and depression after hard work.
Painkilling drugs may give temporary relief but they do not remove the cause. The patient soon gets addicted to strong drugs which also lose their effectiveness in course of time. The best treatment for migraine is to prevent it.
A lowered energy level, however, is the chief factor which contributes towards migraine. Any successful treatment for this ailment should, therefore, aim at a complete toning up and revitalisation of the whole organism. To achieve this, it will be essential to under-take a thorough cleansing of the system and adopt vitality-building measures.
To begin with, the patient should resort to fasting on orange juice and water for two or three days. The procedure is to take the juice of an orange in a glass of a warm water every two hours from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Alternatively, juices of vegetables such as carrot, cucumber and celery may be taken. A warm water enema may be taken each day while fasting to cleanse the bowels. After the short juice fast, the patient may adopt an all-fruit diet for about five days, taking three meals a day of fresh juicy fruits such as apples, pears, grapes, grapefruits , oranges, pineapples, peaches and melons. NO other food stuff should be taken during this period, otherwise the value of the whole treatment will be lost.
After the all-fruit diet, the sufferer should follow a well-balanced diet of three basic food groups, namely seeds, nuts and grains, vegetables and fruits. This diet should be supplemented with milk, yogurt, butter-milk, vegetable oils and honey. Further short fasts or periods on the all-fruit diet may be necessary at intervals of a month or two, according to the needs of the case. If constipation is habitual, all steps should be taken towards its eradication.
The foods which should be avoided in future are white flour products, sugar, confectionary, rich cakes, pastries, sweets, refined cereals, flesh foods, rich heavy and greasy foods, tinned or preserved foods, pickles, condiments and sauces. Too much cereals should also be avoided. The patient should eat six small meals rather than a few large ones. Overeating should be avoided.
Niacin especially, has proved helpful in the treatment of migraine. It is, however, necessary that when taking any of the separate B vitamin factors, the entire B-complex should be taken in some form as too much of one factor can throw the other factors into imbalance. This may result in other undesirable problems. IN fact, the entire B-complex range is beneficial in the prevention of migraine.
Drinking lots of water, hot foot baths, fomentations over the stomach and spine, cold compress ( 40oF to 60oF) to the head and towels wrung out of very hot water and frequently applied to the neck will go a long way in relieving migraine headaches. The patient should also undertake plenty of exercise and walking in fresh air.