You know that eating regular meals, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, and getting a good night’s sleep are all part of living a healthy lifestyle. But you may not know that these healthy choices are also an important part of preventing migraines. Experts know that medications alone don’t work as well as total prevention programs that keep your body in balance and stress levels down.
Eat regular meals and avoid “trigger foods”
How much, how often, and what you eat is critical. Skipping meals or eating later than usual can trigger a migraine in some people. Eat at regular times and have smaller meals more often rather than waiting many hours between meals. Also, make healthy food choices and avoid or limit foods that you think might be triggering your migraine. Foods with additives and preservatives, such as packaged meats, should be avoided. Learn more about common dietary triggers here.
Drink plenty of water
Adult women need about 68 ounces of fluids per day, and adult men need about 100 ounces. Drinking less than this can lead to dehydration, a common cause of headaches, including migraine. Be sure to drink extra water in warm weather, when you exercise, and if you are vomiting or have diarrhea.
Also watch out for energy drinks, which can contain a lot of caffeine, and sports drinks, juice drinks, and sodas, which can have a lot of sugar or salt. Drinks with artificial sweeteners should be avoided as well.
Talk to your doctor about supplementsMany people try natural supplements for migraine. Below is a list of supplements that may help prevent migraines, although you might need to take them for 2 or 3 months to get the full benefit. Talk to your doctor to see if any of the following could help you:
- Magnesium—People with migraines can be low in this mineral, which occurs naturally in the body
- Coenzyme Q10—It may be helpful in adults and children, and side effects are rare
- Riboflavin—Research shows it may help prevent migraine in adults, but so far it has not been shown to help children
Manage your caffeine intake
Caffeine can trigger migraines for some people, but others can tolerate a small amount. The table below has suggestions for managing your caffeine intake.
|If you have...||Doing this might help...|
|Daily headaches||Avoid all caffeine, including in foods such as chocolate|
|Migraine now and then (episodic migraine)||Limit caffeine to 200 milligrams (mg) per day|
|Withdrawal symptoms from stopping caffeine||Slowly lower your intake by about one-quarter each week|
Writing down how much caffeine you consume is the best way to learn how it may be affecting you. Most people know that caffeine is in coffee, but it is also in tea, soda, energy drinks, foods, and candy as well. Check labels for caffeine content or search online.
Some headache medications (for example, Excedrin) contain caffeine. Talk to your doctor about how often to take these medications.
Exercise to maintain weight and relieve stress
Regular exercise may help prevent migraines by helping you maintain a healthy weight. (Being very overweight can put you at risk for more frequent migraine attacks.) One study found that regular exercise helped prevent migraines and lower the need for medication.
Yoga, as well as other types of exercise, can help prevent migraines by relieving stress and muscle tightness. It can also help improve your posture and body alignment and relieve physical strains that can cause headaches. Talk to your doctor about trying yoga or another type of exercise.
Get enough sleep
Good sleep is essential for preventing migraines. Doctors recommend 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night for adults. Sleeping less than 6 hours a night or more than 8½ hours can trigger a migraine. Sudden schedule changes can, too, so try to sleep at regular hours.
If you snore, talk to your doctor about sleep apnea, a condition that makes you stop breathing temporarily in your sleep. Treating sleep apnea can help headaches or even get rid of them.
Between 50% and 70% of people with migraine can connect their symptoms to daily stress. Migraine may occur with either the build-up or let-down from a significant stressor. So planning your day to avoid unexpected events, allowing enough time for activities, and scheduling breaks in the work day may help prevent migraines.
To manage your stress, try mindfulness-based stress reduction, which includes meditating, or cognitive-behavioral therapy in addition to exercise. This approach to mental health teaches you to change negative thought patterns, which can further reduce stress and help prevent migraines.