My journey from migraine sufferer to migraine survivor!

Could supplements be the cure to your migraines? 

We speak to Nutritionist, Shona Wilkinson, on finding a migraine treatment regime that works for you. 

"I have always suffered from headaches from my teenage years onwards. It then turned from headaches to migraines probably in my 40s.

I could see no reason for this. I hadn’t changed my diet or exercise levels, water intake or anything else that I could think of – I had just got older! The migraines were originally fairly mild - lasting a few hours or so. They then increased in length of episode and frequency. About two years ago I was having approximately one migraine a month but they would last about five days.

I had that sinking feeling when I felt one coming on as I knew that the next five days would be horrendous. I couldn’t take time off work every month so just struggled through. I took pain killers such as Nurofen, but they didn’t make any difference at all, other than making me sleepy and lethargic. It became a week of just struggling through work and then going to sleep as early as possible each night dosed up on pain killers. I know how important it is to find any patterns or triggers, so kept a food and activity diary. Sometimes I thought I found a trigger, but then it wouldn’t happen again. It was all a bit of a mystery and very frustrating. I’m a nutritionist so admitting to having migraines was difficult – people expect you to be healthy all the time! I specialise in supplements, so started my journey of finding the right supplement protocol to help prevent them rather than just constantly taking pain killers.

I’m lucky enough to know about supplements and the best ones to take but even then it was a journey of experimentation; a journey of trial and error.

My startingMigraine Action offer free magnesium supplement to all members point was magnesium. Research shows that migraine sufferers are usually magnesium deficient and that their magnesium levels drop even further during an attack. I researched how magnesium has a role in brain structures and chemicals that are important in migraines- especially its effect on nitric oxide synthesis and NMDA (N-methyl- D-aspartate) receptors. NMDA receptors are vital for neuron communication.

Magnesium is also known as “Natures tranquiliser” which can’t be a bad thing! It works as a relaxant which was appealing.

I also knew that the form of magnesium is important. Some forms aren’t absorbed very well. I didn’t want to waste my money, so followed the research and opted for magnesium citrate. Research states that 400mg per day is the best starting point. I started off taking this amount but it just didn’t seem to work. I have increased my dosage and am now on 750mg per day. This is the best dosage for me. I also have magnesium bath salts which I add to my bath – this is a lovely way to increase my magnesium levels! I also snack on pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts which are good source of magnesium. In formulating my supplement protocol, I also decided to add some other nutrients. I have been a nutritionist for long enough to know that very rarely does one thing help – it has to be a full and all-encompassing approach.

Again I did some research and experimenting, this time with the different forms and dosages of CoQ10 which migraine sufferers can also be deficient in. CoQ10 comes in either the ubiquinol form or the ubiquinone form. The body converts ubiquinone into ubiquinol before it can be used so although the more expensive option, it seemed ubiquinol was the best form to take. I started off with 200mg per day and after about six months I reduced this to 100mg. I tried to reduce it to 30mg but felt the migraines coming back on so quickly increased it again. When I had a migraine, I had nausea and an upset stomach. I therefore decided to take ginger. Ginger is thought to block prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins stimulate muscle contraction and are involved with inflammation. Ginger is well known for its ability to help with nausea. I take a supplement which is 120mg extract. This supplement contains 24mg of the active compound gingerol. This is therefore much stronger than a supplement made from just dried powdered ginger. I also add ginger to most of my food – effective and tasty! The last supplement I added to help prevent migraines is a B complex. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) is often recommended for the prevention of migraines. I do feel however that B vitamins work synergistically. I therefore prefer to take a Vitamin B complex - plus it means I can get the benefit of all the other B vitamins! Again, after experimenting, I now take a 50mg B complex. I also increased my intake of dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and cabbage. These foods are the foundation of my smoothie every day. I was already taking a fish oil for all the health benefits of Omega 3. I think this is great to take for migraine prevention as it acts as an anti-inflammatory. Again, I make sure I’m taking a good quality one. Check the amounts of EPA and DHA in a fish oil before you buy it. The one I take has 715mg of EPA and 286mg of DHA. I also try to include oily fish in my diet every week as these fish are a natural source of omega 3.

My supplement protocol has been a journey of research and experimenting to see what is right for me. I know that every single person is different and what works for one person may not work for another. I therefore look at the research, try the advice and work out what is the right approach for me. Even though I am a nutritionist who specialises in supplements, it has taken me approximately a year to find out the right preventative supplement protocol through experiments with different supplements and forms of nutrients. Most supplements need to be taken for at least 3 months to give them time to be effective. It is also very important to go for a good quality supplement. I believe that if you’re going to the trouble and expense of taking a supplement, you should make sure you take one that is more likely to have the desired impact if it is what your body needs. I still have the occasional migraine but it is much less severe and goes almost as quickly as it comes. I know that this may seem a lot of supplements to some people, but it is a much better approach than just taking pain killers. It also works as a preventative approach rather than just masking the pain. Although I’m still not altogether sure of the cause of them, I’m happy that I can now prevent them. Life is much better!

As a member of Migraine Action, supplement company Natures Best, is offering you a FREE magnesium supplement. Natures Best are serious about nutrition and have 35 years’ experience of supplying top quality UK-made supplements. To find more details on how to claim your free sample, click here. To join as a member and take advantage of this offer please click here.

Migraine Action does not endorse Natures Best products. Migraine Action receives no financial support from Natures Best.

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