Avoiding migraines

How to Maintain Your Brain

“Your brain is like a Ferrari — high-performance, high-class, stylish. It’s also high maintenance,” says Jessie Mueller, MD, Scott & White Headache Center.

Your brain can compute, calculate, figure and process. And to do these high-end activities, it needs high-end maintenance to keep it in proper working order and prevent migraine headaches.

“You must maintain your brain yourself. Your doctor can’t do it alone,” Dr. Mueller says.

Dr. Mueller recommends three levels of maintenance to avoid migraines and keep your brain sharp.

Manage Stress & Avoid Change

“Because change happens every day — and because change can upset your highly sensitive or hyperactive nervous system that is your high-maintenance brain — you’ll want to minimize the opportunity for change to occur in your life as much as possible,” suggests Dr. Mueller.

“Learn what contributes to your headaches so you know best how to avoid them.”

  • Schedule your life as much as possible and stick to that schedule
  • Get enough sleep — don’t stay up late
  • Eat well — don’t skip breakfast, which lowers your blood sugar (change that perpetuates headaches)
  • Perform thermal biofeedback — using sensors to monitor skin temperature, employing relaxation techniques
  • Exercise at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week — exercise produces serotonin (same hormone as simulated in many antidepressants)

“In other words, to keep your migraines at bay, you need plenty of sleep, you need to eat healthfully, participate in a relaxing activity, and get regular exercise — good advice for anyone,” says Dr. Mueller.

Educational Maintenance

“The more you know about your medical condition,” says Dr. Mueller, “the more you can do to avoid the triggers that set off migraines. The healthier and happier you will be.”

  • Increased knowledge of your medical condition helps you conquer it.
  • Knowledge is freedom.
  • Read information on migraines from these valuable sources:
  • Selected books
    • Heal Your Headache by David Buchholz, MD
    • They Can’t Find Anything Wrong by David D. Clarke, MD
    • 10 Simple Solutions to Migraines by Dawn Marcus, MD

“There are even books for kids,” says Dr. Mueller, “because migraines do extend down to the pediatric level. Ask your child’s physician for recommended books for children.”

Dr. Mueller: “Read, investigate and learn. It’s not as if you are missing a molecule in your brain; you’re just more sensitive than other people. Learn what contributes to your headaches so you know best how to avoid them.”

Vitamin Maintenance

“Have your physician review your medications to be certain that the interaction of drugs you’re taking isn’t causing your headaches,” advises Dr. Mueller. “If you’re cleared there, then we advise that you take certain nutraceuticals to nourish your brain and help it ward off headaches.” Nutraceuticals are dietary supplements that may have certain health benefits.

The American Headache Society and the Scott & White Headache Center recommend the following nutraceuticals:

  • Magnesium
    • Research suggests many migraine sufferers have magnesium deficiency
    • Low magnesium may affect brain synapses
    • Study participants reported a 40 percent decrease in the number of migraines
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
    • Studies suggest that some migraine sufferers may have a Vitamin B2 deficiency
    • Low B2 may affect cell respiration in the brain
    • Study participants reported a decrease in the number of migraines
  • CoQ10
    • Research suggests coenzyme CoQ10 helps cells utilize oxygen
    • Study participants reported a decrease in the number of migraines
  • Petasites (Butterbur root)
    • Research suggests this natural herb may reduce inflammation
    • Study participants reported a decrease in the number of migraines in children ages 6-17

“After taking these neutraceuticals for six to eight weeks — especially the magnesium — you should see a reduction in the number of migraines you experience. These serve as preventives. You may not have to take them the rest of your life, just until you master your hyperactive nervous system,” says Dr. Mueller.

“Taking medications your doctor prescribed is not enough. You’re going to have to make a huge behavioral sacrifice if you want to minimize your headaches,” says Dr. Mueller.

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Avoiding migraines