Migraines and Cluster Headaches – Whatever the label, the pain and side effects can be intense! In addition to traditional treatments, including more of the following “superfoods” can help.
What are superfoods? Well, they’re not exactly supplements, although some supplement companies have started marketing “extracts” of various superfoods. By definition, superfoods are whole foods or oils that offer exceptionally high doses of nutrition. People call them “superfoods” partly because of their benefits and partly because of their origins. Most superfoods are not new; rather, they have been used by powerful ancient cultures and recently rediscovered by the West. Although some scientists and many raw foodists credit superfoods for their amazing regenerative and protective abilities for almost any health problem, this article discusses superfoods for those who suffer from migraines and/or cluster headaches to consider especially.
Cacao (kuh-COW) – Commonly marketed as raw cacao or raw chocolate, this “food of the gods” actually became monetary currency in the Aztec empire! Conventional wisdom tells people with migraines to avoid chocolate as a primary trigger food. While some people have a sensitivity to chocolate, most people actually react to the typical dairy and refined sugar in cooked chocolate bars. Raw cacao, on the other hand, offers seven times more antioxidants than its cooked version, without the dairy and sugar. More importantly for people with migraines, raw cacao contains one of the highest sources of magnesium in any food. Magnesium acts as the relaxing counterpart to calcium and helps balance brain chemistry. In fact, many migraine sufferers manage to stave off headaches by taking large amounts of magnesium supplements. Magnesium may also help with PMS, another known trigger for migraines. In addition to magnesium, raw cacao offers caffeine (which seems to affect the body less intensely in its raw form). Some people with migraines find that judicious use of caffeine can reduce the headache before it becomes a full-blown episode. Most prescription migraine pills contain some form of caffeine. From a nutritional standpoint, raw cacao certainly beats a Pepsi! If you’re sure chocolate causes a reaction, skip the raw cocoa, but otherwise it might be worth a try (delicious). Add cacao nibs or powder to morning smoothies, or make raw fudge by blending the powder with coconut butter, raw agave nectar or honey, and some of the other superfoods listed below. As with any new food, start small so you can control your reactions.
Maca (MAH-kuh): Also known as “Peruvian viagra,” maca is a root that grows 14,000 feet in the Andes mountains. Despite its fame of keeping Peruvian men virile into their 80s, maca actually works as an adaptogen, meaning it balances all hormones. If someone has too much estrogen, maca works to lower estrogen levels. If someone else has too little estrogen, maca helps the body bring those levels up to optimal levels. Maca also nourishes the adrenal glands, helping the body deal with some of the stress that so often triggers cluster headaches and migraines. Maca grows in some of the most inhospitable conditions on earth, but it has learned to flourish where other plants die. The natives believe that the root transfers this strength and adaptability to those who consume it: “You are what you eat!” Metaphysics aside, maca’s high content of minerals, B vitamins, proteins, fatty acids, and plant sterols allow it to rebuild the body where it needs help most—good news for people whose headaches stem from stress or anxiety. hormonal imbalance. Maca tastes a bit like radish, so don’t add too much to sweet smoothies. However, it pairs exceptionally well with cocoa, and I always enjoy a morning glass of freshly squeezed lemon juice in water with a teaspoon of maca. The lemon brings out the hidden sweetness of the maca, making for a surprisingly tasty lemonade.
Hemp: No, I am not referring to marijuana, although some people use cannabis for medicinal purposes. You can now find shelled hemp seeds, hemp butter, hemp protein powder, and hemp oil at alternative health food stores and many online stores. Despite having virtually no THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) content, the US government prohibits the sale of ready-to-sprout hemp seeds, so only shelled seeds or products can be legally purchased. of hemp, most of which appear to come from Canada. However, hemp has seen a huge resurgence in recent years as people have rediscovered what ancient Europeans knew so long ago. Hemp supports the immune system and contains edestin, the most easily assimilated protein by humans, good news for people who react to protein powders made from soy or dairy (whey). Hemp seeds, butter, and oil also contain the perfect ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, thought to help balance hormones and brain chemistry. Furthermore, the green color of hemp comes from chlorophyll, which differs by only one atom from hemoglobin. (Hemoglobin forms around an iron atom, while chlorophyll forms around that beneficial magnesium atom.) Purifying your blood with chlorophyll-rich foods like hemp, wheatgrass, and green leafy vegetables can alkalize your body, which, in turn, eases stress responses like migraines and cluster headaches. Hemp protein powder tastes a bit gritty, but the butter, oil, and seeds have a nice, slightly nutty feel that pairs especially well with raw cacao and maca. You can also replace bulgur wheat (gluten is a major migraine trigger) in foods like tabouli with hemp seeds, or use hemp butter as a nutritional replacement for another common trigger: peanut butter.
Yerba Mate (YUR-buh MAH-tay): For those people who know they need to kick the coffee habit but just can’t give up their cuppa Joe, Yerba Mate offers a good substitute. Another highly mineralized South American food, yerba mate tastes somewhat similar to coffee, but instead of depleting the adrenal glands, it nourishes them with B vitamins, 15 amino acids, 11 polyphenols (as in green tea and red wine), and, You guessed it: more magnesium and chlorophyll. While coffee provides a jolt of caffeine, mate’s energy comes from B vitamins, blood-purifying properties, and a compound called mateine. Unlike caffeine, mateine gives you a boost without a crash. Some independent coffee shops now serve “mate lattes” with soy milk, or you can make the tea at home. For best results, heat but do not boil the water, then steep for 5 minutes. You can then add hemp milk and essential oils like peppermint with a touch of raw cacao powder, creating your own minty mocha. Yerba Mate also brews well as a sun tea, blended with orange peel or traditional chai tea spices. A favorite of shamans, yerba mate offers a traditional nutritional alternative to coffee, along with minerals and nutrients thought to support hormonal balance and alkalinity.
In short, these superfoods provide trace elements, powerful nutrients and a bit of folklore. Like food rather than medicine, they gradually rebuild and support the body, rather than creating a “quick fix.” If you want a holistic approach to treating migraines or cluster headaches and haven’t responded to “novelty cures,” you may want to explore some ancient culinary delights.