Traditional headache  specialists have started recommending alternative therapies for migraine  sufferers, who often have to soldier through debilitating headaches without much  relief.

Pain Relief

“There’s clearly a need for better medications  to treat migraines,” said Dr. Roger Cady, director of the Headache Care Center  in Springfield, Mo.

Even the best medication we have doesn’t work for one-third of sufferers. And  pain medications can cause rebound headaches if taken too often. So some  frustrated migraine patients have turned to natural  remedies for help in preventing migraine attacks or minimizing their pain  once a headache hits.

The good news is that a handful of supplements  have proven to be effective in a number of small studies. Though supplement  makers don’t have the big bucks to do large scale studies, smaller studies have  convinced some specialists—and many patients—that some of these alt meds are  worth a try, especially since they come with a low risk of side effects. Caveat:  Always discuss your treatment with a doctor, and don’t take these supplements  without consulting a doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  

Feverfew and ginger: Feverfew, an herb with a long history  of use for migraines,  has been combined with ginger, a known anti-nausea therapy, in a sublingual  tablet called LipiGesic. A recent study, authored by Cady, found that 63 percent  of migraine sufferers using LipiGesic found some relief compared to 39 percent  of those taking a placebo. Of those taking LipGesic, 32 oercent were pain free  at two hours after the onset of a migraine, compared to 16 percent of those on  placebo.

“These are very respectable improvements and certainly worth a try,” Dr. Cady  said.

Butterbur: Butterbur, another anti-inflammatory herb, has  also been fairly well studied, but for preventing migraine attacks. It’s not  effective for treating an acute migraine once it starts, said Dr. Frederick  Taylor, adjunct professor of neurology at the University of Minnesota. You need  to take 75 milligrams twice a day.

Magnesium: When taken daily, magnesium  may help reduce the frequency of migraines. The mineral helps to calm nerves,  which tend to get overexcited during a migraine. Some studies have found that  migraine sufferers tend to be deficient in magnesium. You’ll likely need more  than the average multi-vitamin contains or about 400 to 600 milligrams a day.  Look for amino acid-chelated magnesium (many brands contain magnesium oxide,  which is not absorbed as well). You can also increase your magnesium by eating  dark green vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): “We recommend that all our  migraine patients take a B complex vitamin,” Cady said. Studies have shown that  having adequate vitamin B2 can reduce the frequency of migraines. One theory of  migraines is that too many demands are being made on nerve cells, and there’s  not enough energy being produced to support the demands. Vitamin B12 (as well as  magnesium) play important roles in boosting energy production inside nerve  cells, Cady explained. You need about 400 milligrams of riboflavin a day for  prevention, which is more than the average multivitamin contains.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more common, as  people spend more time indoors or avoiding the sun. Whether that is contributing  to migraines is unknown, but studies have shown that vitamin D may play a role  in the way you perceive pain. Most people can safely take about 2,000 milligrams  a day.




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