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AYURVEDIC APPROACH TO THE MANAGEMENT OF MIGRAINES

A migraine is a neurological disorder and is usually experienced as a pulsing or throbbing headache, usually unilateral, and is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light, sound or some types of smell, and can be aggravated by physical activity.

Migraines are different to tension headaches, which are usually felt on both sides of the head, and which are accompanied by a pressing or tightening sensation. Tension headaches are also not made worse by activity, or accompanied by nausea.

Migraines can progress through four stages. Note that not everyone goes through all stages.

  • Prodrome: One or two days before a migraine, one might notice such things as constipation, mood changes from depression to euphoria, food cravings, neck stiffness, increased urination, fluid retention, frequent yawning.
  • Aura: Reversible symptoms of the nervous system, which are usually visual but can also include other disturbances, such as: visual phenomena, vision loss, pins and needles sensations in an arm/leg, weakness or numbness in the face or one side of body, difficulty speaking.
  • Attack: usually lasts from 4 to 72 hours if untreated.
  • Post drone: A feeling of being drained, confused and washed out.

Migraines are considered an idiopathic condition of no known specific cause. However, triggers can include:  hormonal changes in women, hormonal medications, alcohol, wine, too much caffeine, certain foods, stress, depression, tiredness, sensory stimuli (flashing lights, strong smells, second-hand smoke), sleep changes, intense physical exertion, weather changes, medications, food, skipping meals, and food additives.


Conventional Treatments:
There are two forms of treatment lines/approaches for migraines. The first is acute treatment target for when an attack hits, and the second is preventative.

Acute treatment approach: medications that are used at the onset of a migraine attack to reduce the symptoms associated with migraine. Each individual, working with their GP, will need to work out which medication or combination thereof, works best for them - also dependent on the severity of the attack(s). Medications include, NSAIDs, paracetamol, anti-nausea drugs, ergotamine compounds, opioids, as well as nerve stimulations devices.

Preventative approaches include: Lifestyle approaches include looking at the precipitating factors, adopting a healthier and more balanced lifestyle, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices, as well as preventative medication, and migraine prevention devices.


Ayurvedic Approach to Migraine (Ardhavbhedaka):
According to classical Ayurvedic literature, a variety of conditions concerned with conditions of the head are covered - this includes what is today known as migraines. According to Ayurveda, migraines are not a condition, but a symptom of doshic imbalances within the body. Vitiated Vata and Pitta (bodily homors) are predominant factors with respect to migraines. Migraines can also be dominated by Kapha.

Ayurveda considers that Vata controls the nervous system, as well as the activities within the brain. Therefore, an imbalance in Vata can thus trigger the condition. 

Causative factors for a Vata dominant migraine include:

  • Excess intake of dry, cold, rough foods
  • Exposure to heavy breeze
  • Increase in cold, dry and rainy season
  • Stress
  • Over-fasting
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Excessive talking
  • Excess sexual activity
  • Travel
  • Loud noises/music
  • Emotions such as worry, sadness or fear

Vata type symptoms can include: throbbing pain, inability to move the head without worsening the pain, a tingling sensation in some parts of the body, sensitivity to sound, anxiety, depression, dry skin, and constipation.

Pitta is also considered as one of the causes. Therefore, Pitta can also be come aggravated thorough spicy food, junk food, beverages, stress is also the important causes of a Migraine.

Causative factors for a Pitta dominant migraine include:

  • Suppression natural urges
  • Indigestion
  • Intake polluted food
  • Exposure to long periods sunlight
  • Oily and spicy foods
  •  Anger, jealousy, stress, grief
  • Intake of dry, pungent and salty foods
  • Fasting
  • As well as triggers that are listed under conventional perspective.

Pitta type symptoms may include: pain that is burning, piercing, shooting, or penetrating, redness or burning of the eyes, nausea, and dizziness. Symptoms may be exacerbated through exposure to bright light, hot sun, high temperatures and the consumption of spicy/sour foods.

Kapha type migraines present with heaviness, congestion, low appetite, vomiting, and nausea and can be brought on by such aspects are as a cold weather, moist diet, exposure to a cold, lethargy and sluggishness.


BENEFICIAL AYURVEDIC HERBS FOR MIGRAINES:
Vata Pitta Balancing: licorice, triphala, cumin, sariva, aloe vera juice, turmeric, brahmi
Vata Kapha Balancing:
triphala, cumin, sariva, aloe vera juice, turmeric, chitraka, brahmi, ashwaganda
Pitta Vata Balancing:
licorice, triphala, cumin, sariva, aloe vera juice, turmeric, brahmi,
Pitta Kapha Balancing:
sandalwood, triphala, cumin, sariva, aloe vera juice, turmeric, neem, brahmi
Kapha Vata Balancing:
triphala, cumin, sariva, aloe vera juice, turmeric, chitraka, brahmi, ashwanganda
Kapha Pitta Balancing:
sandalwood, triphala, cumin, sariva, aloe vera juice, turmeric, neem, brahmi


Traditional Ayurvedic Treatment(s) for Migraines:
Ayurvedic treatment approach(es) for migraines are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual, the current imbalances, their age, strength, severity of the condition, and if other conditions are also present. Treatment approaches can include:


General Ayurvedic Nutritional Guidelines for Migraines:
Ayurvedic nutritional approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual. One should eat compatible foods, and in accordance to one's imbalances. Some additional general guidelines include:

  • One should eat the foods that one does not react to.
  • One should eat according to the digestive capacity. As a guide, eat to fill the stomach 1/3 with solid food, 1/3 with liquid and leaving 1/3 empty to allow room for digestive secretions in the stomach.
  • One should eat at regular times/intervals and avoid skipping meals.
  • One should eat whole grains and non-processed foods.
  • Foods to avoid: Cold foods, raw foods, dry foods, leftover foods (24 hours), frozen foods, cold water, processed and packaged foods, soft drinks, high fat foods, greasy foods. Minimise the intake of sour and hot chilli type foods.
  • One should avoid overeating. Allow 6 hours between meals and snack 3 hours after a meal, and eat only if hungry.
  • Breakfast should be easy to digest, lunch the main meal, and dinner should be lighter than lunch.
  • Eat home cooked meals, preferable made on the same day as being prepared.
  • Use all of the five senses at mealtimes. Savour the food that you are eating.
  • Eat in a pleasant environment. Eat seated and try to avoid TV and electronic devices whilst eating.
  • Eat slowly, eat with respect/reverence for what you are eating, chew thoroughly. 


General Ayurvedic Lifestyle Guidelines for Migraines:
Ayurvedic lifestyle approach(es) are individualised and are fully dependant on a full consultation with an individual. Some general guidelines include:

  • Avoid pain medication when having a migraine as they can cause rebound headaches.
  • Do not suppress bodily urges.
  • Avoid constipation
  • Listen to the messages from the body more, and learn to follow one’s instincts about what the body needs to get more time for self-nurturing.
  • Deep breathing for 10 minutes a day is very beneficial. Meditation, yoga and pranayama can also be highly beneficial.
  • Negative feelings such as stress, worry, fear and tension should be avoided. Look at counselling for self-care and working through any stress, anxiety, anger or any other mental health and/or emotional issues.
  • Do not undertake physical/mental work beyond one’s capacity.
  • Work towards a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day. However, avoid over exertion.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. Aim to be in bed by 10pm and wake at a regular time each day.
  • Wear sunglasses as needed outdoors.


If you have any concerns about your health please be sure to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner or your local health physician. See our Ayurvedic Practitioner Services and Consultation Page for more information.

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Disclaimer:
The above information is for information and educational purposes. As such we are not, diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before taking any form of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.

 

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