Are You Missing Two Key Nutrients in Your Diet to Manage Migraines?

July 03, 2018 - by enrica - in Conditions, Diet Therapy, Lifestyle

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Migraines are a debilitatingly painful condition that affects up to 3 million Australians each year [1]. Usually it’s experienced as a one-sided throbbing or pulsating that is at least moderately intense. It is sometimes accompanied by light-sensitivity and nausea and vomiting, and for many people, doesn’t go away even with medication until they have slept it off in a dark room.

Very commonly, in Chinese Medicine, it is caused by a Liver and Gallbladder imbalance. This imbalance may have come about due to not managing your emotions or stress well, having a familial tendency towards this imbalance, lifestyle factors such as overwork or inadequate sleep, which have depleted other systems in your body which are then unable to support the Liver and Gallbladder, or an inadequate diet. A couple of key nutrients to be aware of which may be lacking in your diet are magnesium and fatty acids.

Magnesium provides the body with a smooth, flowing nature and is therefore useful in many conditions where there are stagnancies or erratic changes. In Chinese Medicine, it is the Liver and Gallbladder imbalance which often results in erratic changes in the body, emotions or mind. Among its many functions, magnesium calms nerve function, harmonises various mental and emotional imbalances including irritability, depression, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders and PMS; relaxes the functioning of the muscles, calms erratic changes such as migraines, cramps and spasms in the body; and relieves constipation by creating better digestive flow. Sources of natural magnesium include green leafy vegetables (especially spinach), pulses (black beans, lentils, soybeans, chickpeas), nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts), seeds (especially sesame seed), quinoa, whole wheat and potatoes [2].

Fatty acids can aid in improving your vascular system. Signs of a poorly functioning network of blood vessels can include strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, stress and migraines. The following fatty acids are beneficial:

  • alphalinolenic acid, which can be obtained from seeds or fresh seeds oils of flax, chia and pumpkin; soy foods; dark-green plants and cold-climate crops
  • gammalinolenic acid, which can be obtained from spirulina, oils of borage seed, blackcurrant seed and evening primrose seed; though it is made in the body from linolenic acid, which can be obtained from the foods above
  • DHA and EPA, which can be obtained from fish, particularly tuna, sardine, salmon and anchovy

So, do make sure that you have plenty of the magnesium and fatty acids in your diet to rule those out as contributors to your migraines. A few pieces of lifestyle advice I’d recommend for migraine sufferers are:

  • to drink plenty of filtered water, which for most adults is approximately 8 glasses
  • to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, organic where possible
  • to eliminate processed foods such as refined sugar and carbohydrates as they are quite inflammatory
  • to keep a migraine diary to determine if you have any migraine-triggering foods such as chocolate, coffee and alcohol and then to avoid those foods
  • to do yoga, meditation, tai chi or other mindful exercises to help you reduce your stress levels

Of course, a good course of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, may help you to get where you want to be faster with your migraines!



Pitchford, P. (2002) Healing with whole foods: asian traditions and modern nutrition, 3rd ed, North Atlantic Books, USA.

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