12 Natural Ways to Ease Migraines With A Holistic Approach
Migraines are just awful.
If you’re unlucky enough to have ever experienced one, you know how debilitating they are.
You may find yourself reaching for a cold washcloth and the Advil when you feel one coming on.
But often this isn’t enough, and you just have to suffer through the attack until it passes.
What if I told you there is a more natural approach to reducing the frequency and intensity of your migraines?
A holistic approach, that doesn’t involve expensive treatments or pharmaceutical medications.
But first, let’s understand why we get migraines.
What causes a migraine?
Unfortunately, migraines and painful headaches are common. It’s thought about 20% of the adult population have suffered at least one.
Many migraine sufferers find their work and personal lives are frequently disrupted by intense and painful attacks.
There are a lot of theories floating around about what specifically causes a migraine. Including the belief that migraine pain occurs due to waves of activity by groups of excitable brain cells. It’s also thought that chemical compounds and hormones, such as serotonin and estrogen, also play a role.
Your go-to migraine treatment might be taking painkillers, but this is not a long-term solution.
Frequent use of painkiller medication can cause dangerous side effects. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can disrupt your gut’s bacteria as much as a course of antibiotics. Even using these drugs over the short term can be dangerous, because of the risk of overdosing.
As well as not being good for you, relying on medication for treatment only addresses your symptoms. Painkillers don’t fix what causes your migraines.
This is where taking a holistic approach to migraine management can help.
How can I ease my migraines naturally and holistically?
Do you ever wonder what brings on your migraines?
Have you noticed a pattern when you feel an attack coming on?
A holistic approach looks at lifestyle changes to target the cause of your migraines and natural remedies to treat them when they occur.
My 12 Natural Ways to Ease Migraines with a Holistic Approach can help the frequency of your migraines and with your migraine pain.
These remedies won’t leave you with gut issues or other side effects of painkiller medications.
Are you ready for some relief?
12 Natural Ways to Ease Migraine Pain with a Holistic Approach
1. Relax your eyes regularly
One of the most common side-effects of a migraine is sensitivity to light.
Why is this?
Many people who suffer from migraines experience symptoms before a migraine known as auras. These include wavy lines, flashing dots, and temporary blindness, and are a sign that a migraine is coming on.
I first notice migraines when my eyes become strained.
So, whenever I feel my eyes are tired, I try this eye yoga exercise on YouTube.
My tip: Standing up and moving around can also help reduce your risk of getting a migraine. If you sit at a desk all day, try to set a timer for every 50-60 minutes, to get up and move around. And then rest your eyes for 5-10 minutes.
2. Stretch your upper body
How often do you stretch?
Easing upper body pain and stiffness isn’t just good for your muscles. A 2018 Migraine in America survey found that 69% of people living with migraines surveyed had neck pain when they had a migraine.
I notice when my neck and shoulders are strained, a migraine usually follows.
To keep my upper body comfortable, I usually stretch 5-8 minutes a few times a day using this mobility app. On days I feel tight or sore, I stretch a little longer.
Strengthening your upper body can also help keep your muscles strong and prevent strains that contribute to stiffness and migraines. I like to incorporate back and shoulder exercises into my workouts a couple of times a week.
My tip: if you need some guidance on upper body stretches and exercise, try these videos:
- 15-minute upper body yoga
- 30-minute Vinyasa yoga for upper body release
- 20-minute upper body Pilates
- 10-minute upper body dumbbell workout
3. Sleep well
Do you ever notice your migraines are more frequent when you sleep poorly?
There’s a reason for this.
Evidence now shows that poor sleep habits can trigger a migraine. Not only do you need enough sleep, but you consistently have a good sleep routine. Sleeping late or taking naps to catch up on lost sleep is disruptive and can lead to more migraines.
My tip: Pay attention to your sleep patterns and try to get good quality sleep each night.
If you’re struggling to get good sleep, try my guide to creating better sleep habits.
4. Pay attention to what you eat
If you follow my blog, you know that I’m a big advocate of eating whole foods.
Eating natural, unprocessed whole foods isn’t just good for your gut you’re also reducing your risk of getting a migraine.
What foods should you avoid?
Additives are a big no-no if you’re a migraine sufferer. You’ll find them in a lot of packaged foods because they enhance flavor and act as a preservative. But some additives are well known for having nasty side-effects, including migraines.
Additives that can trigger migraines include:
- MSG (monosodium glutamate), found in soy sauce and meat tenderizer.
- Nitrates and nitrites, found in deli meats.
- Aspartame, an artificial sweetener.
My tip: Check out your pantry and fridge. What’s written on the food labels? If the package has too many ingredients you can’t pronounce, look them up on an app that checks additives, like this one.
If you want to improve your diet, but you’re not sure where to start, I always find Healthy Eating Plate by the Harvard School of Public Health really useful.
If you’re interested in finding out what type of food suits you, you might like to explore your body-mind type, known as a dosha. Doshas are part of the ancient Indian Ayurveda (which means knowledge of life) natural system of medicine.
5. Limit coffee and alcohol
Do you enjoy cappuccinos and red wine?
If you get regular migraines, you might want to rethink how much coffee and alcohol you consume.
The American Migraine Association says that alcohol can trigger an attack in migraine sufferers within a few hours of consumption. Red wine seems to be the worst offender, even in small amounts.
If you find that alcohol triggers your migraines, I recommend avoiding red wine altogether and opting for beer, cider or spirit mixers instead. Just make sure you drink in moderation. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration and cause hangover headaches. Ouch!
Like alcohol, caffeine can also trigger an attack in some migraine sufferers. If you notice one coming on after drinking coffee, you can investigate how sensitive to caffeine you are.
I’ve significantly reduced my coffee hits since finding out I was sensitive to caffeine. Now I only get a migraine from coffee if I haven’t slept well the night before.
My tip: If you notice a connection between your coffee intake and migraines, try sticking to one cup a day. Or try decaf.
I’m a massive coffee lover and was skeptical about decaf for a long time. That was until I found some that tastes exactly like regular coffee. I recently switched to this decaf coffee that I would swear is regular coffee if I didn’t know otherwise.
6. Pay attention to your screen time
How much time do you spend in front of a screen each day?
Your computer or laptop for work? Your tablet or TV to watch movies?
What about how much time you spend looking down at your phone while you scroll through TikTok or reply to texts?
We’re all guilty of excessive screen time throughout our day. There are a lot of reasons why this is an unhealthy habit, especially for migraine sufferers. A 2015 study found that people who had over 2 hours of screen time per day had an increased likelihood of a migraine attack.
Migraines can also be worsened by spending too long on a computer or mobile device.
Why is this?
One theory is that excessive screen time can cause what’s known as digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome.
I know if I spend too much time on my laptop and iPhone, I can easily get a migraine.
You might think staying away from your devices is a hard habit to kick. Screen addiction is a real thing.
But every little step you take helps.
I can get migraines after using video at night, so now I don’t schedule video calls after 6 pm. I’ve also discovered that my iPhone lets me set downtime and limits for certain apps.
My tips for reducing screen time:
- If you’re in front of a computer all day for work, remember my above tips on giving your eyes a regular break.
- If you spend too much time on your devices, you can set app limits. This is really helpful to cut down on social media use.
- Both iPhones and Androids have digital wellbeing settings where you can look at the apps you’re spending the most time on and set daily limits.
7. Avoid wearing tight stuff on your head
This might seem like a no-brainer (pun intended) but wearing tight hair accessories or headphones around your skull is likely to cause you pain and discomfort.
So, if you get migraines, it might be because you’re putting too much pressure on your temples and triggering an attack. Hats, goggles, or anything else you wear across your forehead or scalp can also cause tightness.
You don’t have to forgo headwear altogether. Paying attention to what goes on your head, and how tight it is, can help.
My tips for reducing scalp and temple pressure:
- If you tie your hair up regularly, try looser styles that won’t pull your hair back tightly. If you go to the gym, you might try braiding your hair to keep it out of your face, rather than pulling it back into a tight ponytail.
- Check how tight your hats, beanies and headbands are. If they feel too snug, try adjusting them or go for a larger size.
- Make sure you adjust your headphones to fit over your ears securely, but not tightly.
8. Manage your stress levels
Do you feel a migraine coming on when you’re worried or anxious?
You’re not alone. Stress can easily trigger a migraine in sufferers.
There are a couple of reasons for this.
When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to frown between your eyebrows, which can cause those nasty tension headaches that lead to a migraine.
It’s also to do with your brain chemistry. When your body is in stress mode, you release a hormone called cortisol. You’re more likely to make poor eating choices or look to comfort yourself with migraine-triggering junk food or alcohol.
This might make you feel better for a while because you’re giving your body a hit of the feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine. But research has found that an immediate surge in serotonin in your body after stress can trigger a migraine.
So how do you manage stress without reaching for those naughty comfort foods?
- Rather than looking for a quick fix, learn how to cope with difficult situations.? ?
- When you’re feeling down, practice self-care.
- Try meditation to cultivate self-awareness. This way you’ll notice when you’re getting too stressed and you need rest.? ?
9. Weather changes and migraines
Have you ever noticed a migraine coming on when the weather changes?
You’re not imagining things.
Some people experience an imbalance in brain chemicals when the weather changes and this can trigger a migraine in sufferers.
I frequently got terrible migraines during Japan’s rainy seasons. At first, I thought the cause was air pressure. And while this is one known trigger, studies have found that humidity, bright sunlight, extreme heat or cold, or windy/stormy weather can also trigger migraines.
My tips on reducing your risk of getting a migraine when the weather changes:
- Monitor when your migraines occur so you understand what kind of weather change can trigger your migraine.
- Wear sunglasses outside to avoid bright glare.
- If you’re sensitive to humid weather, consider purchasing a dehumidifier for your home.
10. Try craniosacral therapy
Even when you do your best to avoid migraines, you can’t always stop them from occurring.
If you’re doing everything right, and you want some long-term relief, consider craniosacral therapy (CST). This method gently examines membranes and the movement of fluids in and around the central nervous system to relieve tension. It’s thought to improve your body’s efficiency by boosting self-regulation, self-correction, and self-healing.
My physiotherapist in Japan put me onto CST when I was frequently suffering from migraines, and this gave me a lot of relief.
My tip: Different therapists have different approaches to CST, so check out your local craniosacral therapy providers and see if you like it!
11. Use Aromatherapy
When I feel a migraine coming on, the first things I reach for are my aromatherapy treatments.
I use both an ointment and an oil.
Tiger balm ointment is powerful, and it really works quickly. However, I only apply this occasionally, as frequent use can leave my skin feeling a little burnt.
My favorite go-to aromatherapy oil is Safe Care. Made in Indonesia, Safe Care is an aromatherapy roll-on oil that gives me immediate relief without affecting my skin.
My tip: The best way to use Safe Care for a migraine is to apply it to your scalp and rub it in gently. The sensation immediately eases the tension of my migraine as the effects of the oil kick in.
12. Practice meditation
It may sound odd, but when nothing is working, I just meditate.
Meditation can also calm your nervous system and reduce stress.
Everyone’s migraines are different.
If you’re not sure what triggers your migraines, keep a diary. Take note next time you experience migraines to find out what the common themes are.
My tip: Check out my beginner’s guide to meditation for more information
How do you manage your migraines? Let us know in the comments below.