These Are the Natural Remedies I Use to Treat My Migraines
Samantha Wennerstrom lives in Santa Barbara with her husband, Todd, and her daughter, Elin. Starting out with a career in publishing, Samantha created Could I Have That? as a creative outlet to house all the things she was coveting and loving. What started out as a hobby in 2009 has since organically grown into a business featured on The Wall Street Journal, C Magazine, Who What Wear, Lucky Magazine, The Zoe Report, Santa Barbara Magazine, and more. Could I Have That? is a destination for all who love upping the ante in their everyday lives.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted something on Instagram about struggling with migraines. I was so surprised by how many of you messaged me back sharing your experience, tips, and remedies, so I wanted to compile them here. Keep scrolling to read my story and for some of the best natural remedies to try.
Right around my early- to mid-20s, I started getting migraines out of the blue. I was at my first job working at a magazine and literally had to leave, go home and put myself to bed in a dark room because they were so debilitating. It got so out of control—once or twice a week—that I decided to see a neurologist. He immediately took me off caffeine and birth control and handed me a book called Heal Your Headache. At that time, I learned all about migraine triggers—weird things like perfume, light, freshly baked bread (yeast), chocolate, and wine/alcohol—and I started paying more attention to my diet. At the same time, I started seeing an acupuncturist named Claudia Ward, who also practices Ayurveda Medicine—I still see her now. Along with acupuncture and cupping, she educated me on eating foods that support your body type and healing from within with healthy and warm foods.
The first thing I changed was breakfast. Normally, I’d make a pit stop for a coffee and a muffin on my way to work, and sure enough, I’d be battling a migraine by lunchtime. So instead of my usual routine, I started making a bowl of hot quinoa loaded with dried fruit, cinnamon, and raisins. I’ll be honest, for someone who loves carbs and sugar, this was rough. After taking caffeine away, going off birth control, avoiding certain triggers, getting acupuncture every two weeks, and popping four Ibuprofen, the second I felt one coming on, I was able to get them under control. I would still get headaches, but they were much less often and not as debilitating. I should also mention that when I was 16, I had spinal surgery for scoliosis, and as a result, I have hardware in my back. If I sleep or sit at the computer for too long, I can get pretty tight through my back and neck, which can trigger a headache. My acupuncturist does cupping all over my back, and it works wonders for me.
Fast forward to my 30s when I got pregnant. I always feared they would come back full force, but it was quite the opposite. I’ve never been headache-free for so long. It was the strangest thing, not a single one. However, more than one year postpartum, and they’re bad again. The past six months they’ve been especially annoying, lingering for two days at a time, hence my recent Instagram post.
My self-diagnosis hit me when I picked up Body Love by Kelly LeVeque. She touches on blood sugar and hormones, and as I was reading it, a million red flags went up. My love for sugar and carbs started to run rampant since I got comfortable being headache-free, and due to my genetics, I’ve never felt the need to restrict myself from calories, sugar, or anything for that matter. I’m also convinced that either having a baby or hitting my 30s changed my body.
So now I’m taking big strides in changing my diet and learning about the alternatives to curbing my cravings. I went cold turkey with sugar for about two weeks and noticed a significant change in how I felt and surprise, surprise, no headaches. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to enjoy a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie (my kryptonite) and bread from time to time, just not everyday (my former reality). One major takeaway I got from Heal Your Headaches was that it’s all about managing your triggers. If you’re not paying attention, your threshold will rise, making you that much more likely to get a migraine, and then everything starts feeling like a “trigger.” When I do fall off my healthy track—which seems to inevitably occur while traveling or celebrating—I know how to clean the slate once I get home. Everyone responds differently to triggers, so one person’s remedy might exacerbate things for another. However, when you’re struggling, only you can take control and pay attention to your body.
Aside from keeping my diet in check, here are the remedies I rely on when I feel a migraine coming on:
So many of you shared your struggles and remedies for migraines with me—some of which I’d never heard of, so I’ve compiled them all here:
- Drinking plenty of water—try this app, Waterlogged to keep you on track
- Vicks Vapor Rub on your forehead with a cold wet washcloth on top
- Cutting out caffeine, refined sugar, blue cheese, processed meat, artificial sweeteners, and red wine
- Wrapping your feet in a heating pad
- Peppermint oil under your nose for a sinus headache
- Prescription migraine medication—Imitrex, Maxalt, or Topomax
- Nasal allergy spray for sinus migraines
- Vitamins and a healthy diet postpartum will help balance hormones
- Limited time in the sun and heat, which are both triggers
- Weekly massages
- A better pillow or no pillow at all
- A cooling food diet
- Thai deep-tissue massage
- Make your own hot compress by filling a sock with rice, and microwave it for two minutes.
- Regular exercise
- Always have good protein and healthy snacks on hand when you’re busy and hungry—hard-boiled eggs, sugar-free smoothies, or almond butter
- Taking magnesium every night before bed
- Stretching your neck once a day
- Avoid transitions between really hot and really cold temperatures (i.e., being in 100-degree weather and going into a super-cold air-conditioned room)
- Avoid sweet alcohol, especially in the heat
- Limit stress as best you can
- Take up yoga or stretch every day
- Cold pack over your eyes
- Stop wearing perfume, or avoid it for a while
- Check your hormone levels