Migraines, they’re a pain in the head!

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The first week of September heralds Migraine Awareness Week. Nutritionist Simon Bandy from Seaford-based supplements company Health Plus gives his advice on how to minimise migraines and headaches.

Migraines can be debilitating for many people and affect over eight million of us in the UK alone. Awareness and understanding of this issue is low, with many factors said to contribute to the cause of migraines, from hormones to chocolate.

t is thought that levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter which helps to regulate mood, sleep and constriction of blood vessels) decrease during a migraine which can cause blood vessels in the brain to spasm. However, it’s not yet clear why serotonin levels drop, but common triggers such as hormones, emotional imbalances, physical imbalances, dietary or environmental factors and some medicines can all be causes, hence why it is so difficult to pinpoint the true cause.

Migraine Awareness Week, which takes place from 1st to 7th September, aims to draw attention to the condition, which is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined in the UK.

Here are some of my top tips on helping to minimise migraines and headaches and reduce their intensity:

Drink a mildly caffeinated drink and stay hydrated: It is thought that a small amount of caffeine can help to constrict the blood vessels, which may help to decrease migraine pain. Staying hydrated can help to reduce the severity of headaches and migraines.

Try temperature therapy: Hot or cold compresses on your forehead or the back of your neck can help to ease pain. It may be useful to experiment with both, as you may find one temperature works more effectively than the other. To make a hot compress at home, place a small towel in a pot of hot (but not boiling) water and place on your forehead or the back of your neck. To make a cold compress, fill a plastic bag with ice cubes, squeeze the air from the bag and seal shut.

Massage painful areas: Gently rubbing your temples, neck and around the eye area can aid relaxation.

Sleep well: Getting a good eight hours of sleep can help to reduce headaches. If you’re trying to sleep off a migraine, turn the lights off, close the curtains and use a little lavender oil on your pillow to aid a restful slumber.

Eat wisely: Avoid possible triggers such as cheese or high sugar snacks. Bananas in particular are a fabulous source of good carbohydrates, natural sugar and potassium – all of which can help stabilise sugar levels and stave off symptoms of a headache.

Stretch, relax and breathe: Overworked minds and bodies can often lead to knotted muscles in the neck and head. When you start to feel tense, try to get some fresh air and go for a five minute walk to help circulate oxygen to the brain and relax your body and mind. Alternatively, invest in a head and shoulder massage to help relieve tension.

Try herbs, minerals and vitamins: Feverfew, Magnesium and Vitamin B2 are thought to help decrease the quantity and severity of headaches and migraines. Feverfew was used by the Ancient Greeks to treat inflammation and pains and there have been many studies into its use, whilst some foods, alcohol, stress and menstruation can all lead to depletion of magnesium and B vitamins (especially B2) in your body, which can exacerbate headaches and migraines. The supplements are all available from www.healthplus.co.uk

Migraine Awareness Week takes place from 1st to 7th September. Visit The Migraine Trust at www.migrainetrust.org for further details.

Simon Bandy is a natural supplements expert for Health Plus; a Seaford based business established over 20 years ago with a mission to promote optimum nutrition across the world. Family-owned and run since November 1991, the company supplies a wide range of British made, high quality nutritional supplements at www.healthplus.co.uk


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