Are you looking to reduce the severity and frequency of your migraines, reduce or avoid pharmaceutical treatments or support overall health? Supplements may deserve a place in your migraine management strategy.
Many supplement ingredients researched have evidence that supports their use as a preventative treatment - although not so much for an active migraine. The exception to this is ginger, which can help settle nausea during a migraine, and perhaps even stop a developing migraine if taken early enough.
Diving into research papers and clinical trials, these supplements have proven to be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of migraines, when taken regularly:
- Butterbur herb (not readily available in Australia)
- Magnesium (particularly magnesium diglycinate)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- and possibly Feverfew herb*
With migraine, it is important to remember that what works for one person, will not work for another. For example, some forms of magnesium will actually trigger a migraine for me, but will work well for other people.
As a practitioner, I also take a personalised approach and look at the overall health picture and possible drivers of migraine in each individual. So, I might consider which herbs and nutrients would work together to address imbalances in the following areas:
Just like our fingerprints, the supplement regime prescribed is different for every single individual - I’m fairly certain I’ve never given the same prescription twice. (This is why after an initial consultation i spend at least an hour preparing just one client treatment plan as each case is complex, with many factors to consider.)
And, as I always say when talking about supplements, it is important to consult with a qualified practitioner who really knows their stuff - such as a naturopath (trained in both nutrition and herbal medicine), herbalist (trained in herbal medicine) or nutritionist (trained in nutrition). Please don’t take a supplement based on internet articles or because a friend “swears by it”. Supplements vary greatly in quality, potency, effectiveness and safety, and it is important to work with a qualified practitioner to get the best results and avoid possible side effects. Never buy supplements from overseas sites as they may bypass strict Australian quality controls.
Take care and feel free to reach out if you would like a consultation to consider which supplements may work for you.
*Feverfew herb is a traditional herbal medicine for migraine. Some studies show it is effective, while other studies have failed to show this. In clinical practice, I find it does tend to enhance the action of other supplements and herbs, and you will often find it in a combination remedy. (In fact, this is often the case for many herbal medicines - herbs seem to work best in synergy with other herbs, which is why herbal medicine formulas are highly prized in both Western and Eastern herbalist practices. Herbal medicine truly is both an art and a science!)
There is some debate in both the healthcare sector and community at large as to whether we really need supplements. Some argue that we get all the nutrients we need from food, where as others point out that maybe our food doesn't have the level of nutrients that it once had. In addition, there is some confusion around the difference between RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) - which is essentially the amount required so we are not deficient in that particular nutrient; and a therapeutic dose (where larger doses of a nutrient are used to treat a specific condition).
In Australia, an overwhelming majority of the Australian public are consumers of vitamins and supplements, an industry which is estimated to be worth about $1.5 billion.
In clinic, I often have clients come in with shopping bags of supplements that they are taking. These supplements are of varying quality, sometimes out of date, and have been prescribed by various practitioners or self-prescribed.
I couldn’t possibly tell you without seeing you in person whether you need to take supplements, or which supplements you should take.
I would need to look at your diet, lifestyle, current stage of health and possibly run appropriate blood tests to answer this question. Naturopathy is about tailored health care which looks at the needs of the individual.
What I can advise is to first look at the building blocks of good health – this is good nutrition, a healthier lifestyle, exercise, fresh air, sunshine and lots of water.
That being said, sometimes supplementation is required in addition to cleaning up your diet and lifestyle. Modern farming methods, genetically modified strains and food processing can impact on the levels of vitamins and minerals present in our foods.
Sure, some popular food brands may advertise that they have added nutrients, but really these are there to make up for the nutrients lost in processing, or are so full of sugar that they are best avoided anyway, regardless of the added vitamins and minerals.
The thing with supplements is…the supplement must be right for you. For example, we all know that magnesium is a vital nutrient for health. However, magnesium comes in many forms – some which are better absorbed than others. And depending on your specific health requirements, sometimes you are better taking magnesium with certain co-nutrients to enhance its action in that particular system of the body.
The other important factor is that when it comes to supplementation, you get what you pay for.
Cheap supplements are not as potent, have less nutrients and are often bulked up with fillers that provide nothing in the way of health. Or they may not be created in a form which is used efficiently by the body.
I generally advise people to avoid supermarket and bargain supplements. Frankly, I find that they don't work nearly as well as a quality or practitioner-prescribed supplement.
Choose supplements either with advice from a Naturopath or qualified healthcare practitioner, or from a trusted health food shop or pharmacy with Naturopaths in store.
Be wary of what is advertised in the media, and definitely avoid Multi Level Marketing products where you buy supplements and diet products from well-meaning friends who don’t have any proper training or qualifications in healthcare.
Certainly never buy your supplements from the ‘specials’ bin outside the pharmacy. Fish oil is a fantastic and beneficial supplement when it is fresh and of superior quality, but it can actually go rancid sitting in the sun outside the local chemist.
My personal preference for everyday health is for naturally-derived vitamins and minerals, as I believe they are better absorbed by the body. A "greens" powder is a good example of this. However when looking for a specific action or therapeutic benefit, then sometimes a more formulated preparation is required.
So, when it comes to supplements:
1. Get professional advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner who actually has formal and clinical training in nutrition, herbs and vitamins/minerals – such as a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist or Herbalist.
2. Buy the best quality supplements you can afford.
PS – If you would like a consultation with a Naturopath who cares about your health and wellbeing, and not about selling you supplements, then get in touch! I'd love to hear from you.
Book a consultation or free no-obligation discovery call here.
I recently gave a workshop, and the most commonly asked questions revolved around fish oils.
Ever since researchers noted that native sub-actic populations were quite stout and yet didn’t have many of the chronic diseases of industrialised society, fish oil has been in the research pipeline. The results of 20+ years of publications, on balance, point to fish oil having big health benefits chiefly through its potent anti-inflammatory effect (helping with everything from cardiac disease and mental health, from skin conditions to arthritis).
However, for years I’ve told most of my clients that while they think they have this base covered, the junk they’re buying at the chemist or supermarket store isn’t helping. Now a recent study highlights that fact.
This study compared the effectiveness of 4 different types of fish oil, including concentrated (and more expensive) fish oil, cheaper concentrated fish oil, cheap krill oil and unconcentrated salmon oil.
The more expensive concentrated fish oil was found to be far, far more effective.
Furthermore, it is worthwhile remembering that fish oil can go rancid - even in capsules. So if you are buying a big bottle of fish oil that was sitting in the bargain bin outside the chemist for some time, and then that sits on your kitchen bench for even longer, then chances are it has gone off on the inside. Rancid fish oil actually CREATES inflammation in the body, the exact opposite of what you want.
You can check the freshness of your fish oil by biting into a capsule. If it tastes like fresh fish, then you are probably OK. If it tastes bitter, rancid or unpleasant, then it might not be that good for you. I often recommend fish oils that you take off the spoon as you can always taste whether it is OK, and you also get a good therapeutic dose that way.
There are many other factors to consider when buying fish oil - including the ratio of EPA/DHA (types of fatty acids) - differences here help us know whether your fish oil is best for mental health or cardiovascular health for example. If you are going to shell out on a supplement, then you might as well get the one which is formulated for the particular effect you are after.
Of course, it is always good to get your fish oil from fresh fish as well. Some varieties are better than others, but that is a whole other blog post (or kettle of fish, so to speak!).
Next time you are in for a consultation, feel free to ask me for a recommendation on the fish oil best for you. I am not aligned with any particular manufacturer or supplier, so happy to provide an unbiased recommendation.
Rhodiola Rosea also known as “golden root” is an adaptogen herb with tremendous fat burning, energy enhancing and brain boosting power.
Adaptogens are a group of plants that can help your body adapt to physical, chemical, and environmental stress and rhodiola is one of the most effective in this family.
This unique herb grows at high altitudes in the arctic areas of Asia and Eastern Europe.
Historically the Vikings used rhodiola to enhance physical strength and the Sherpa people used it to climb at high altitudes including Mt. Everest.
The Russians have used rhodiola benefits extensively over the past 70 years mostly for improving work performance, insomnia, fatigue, depression, and increasing athletic endurance.
It works really well with other herbs in mixes I prepare individually for clients (particularly busy working women and mums) when I need to help someone increase their energy, burn belly fat, improve mood, fight stress, and generally just feel better able to take on the day like a warrior queen.
Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist