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Even though migraine affects 1 out of 7 Americans annually and is a leading cause of outpatient and emergency department visits, many people still think of migraine as “just a headache.”  When people call migraine “a headache,” they minimize migraine and its symptoms. First, migraine is a genetic neurologic disease. Second, migraine has an array of disabling symptoms, with headache as just one of the symptoms. Finally, because migraine is a disease that we live with every day, it needs to be managed daily. This article will focus on natural migraine prevention method, such as S.E.E.D.S., to successfully manage migraine disease.
Why Is Migraine “More Than Just A Headache”?
Migraine is a genetic neurologic disease that is triggered by environmental factors. It is important to remember that triggers do not cause migraine, but they can exacerbate it.
Headaches are a very common condition that most people will experience during their lives. The main symptom of a headache is simply pain in your head or face. Migraine, however, is moderate to severe head pain, often worse on one side, with light and/or sound sensitivity and nausea.
Migraine can also include any of the following symptoms:
- Blurry vision;
- Brain fog;
- Difficulty speaking;
- Neck stiffness;
- Pain (throbbing, stabbing, drilling);
- Sensitivity to light, movement, scents and sounds.
Based on these symptoms, it is clear that migraine is so much more than a headache. Head pain is only one of many disabling symptoms of migraine. In fact, people with Vestibular Migraine rarely experience head pain and suffer from dizziness instead.
Stigma Associated With Migraine
Migraine is a disease that disproportionately affects women. The prevalence of migraine is highest among women aged 18 to 44. Migraine remains an important public health problem particularly among women during their reproductive years.
Although I was diagnosed with episodic migraine (less than 15 headache days a month) when I was 13 years old, it was when I became pregnant and had my children that my migraine attacks increased in frequency and severity. The fluctuations in my hormones, stress, lack of sleep as a new mother, and rebound headaches led me to my chronic migraine diagnosis (15 or more headache days a month). In fact, with two babies under two, I was suffering from daily migraine attacks.
Many people who meant well referred to my suffering as “headaches.” However, on a daily basis I was experiencing symptoms of severe head pain, nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, neck pain, anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, etc. I did not realize it then, but I do now, that the language we use surrounding migraine is important in eliminating stigma associated with this disease. Calling migraine disease as “headaches” minimizes the pain and disability that comes with migraine. Calling our disease “migraines” perpetuates the stigma that migraine is just like a headache. By using the phrases “migraine attack” and “migraine disease” we can educate the public about what migraine actually is and reduce the stigma.
How To Add Natural Migraine Prevention To Your Routine?
Migraine disease is something we live with everyday even when we are not experiencing migraine attacks. We must still manage our disease daily through lifestyle changes and/or daily preventive medications.
Consider developing a natural migraine prevention plan by adding the acronym S.E.E.D.S. to your daily routine!
What Is S.E.E.D.S.?
S.E.E.D.S. is an acronym that stands for lifestyle changes that can help calm our overly sensitive brain. 
- S – sleep hygiene;
- E – eat regularly;
- E – exercise regularly;
- D – diary, keep a headache diary;
- S – stress management;
1. Migraine and Sleep
The S of the S.E.E.D.S. acronym stands for sleep. According to The American Migraine Foundation people living with migraine are up to eight times more likely to have sleep problems than the general population. This is why getting regular and adequate sleep is so important for people with migraine.
Here are some suggestions how to improve your sleep hygiene and incorporate it into your natural migraine prevention plan:
- Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet;
- Use white noise machine;
- Do not use screens in the bedroom like TV, phone, or tablets;
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends;
- Avoid napping because it disrupts your sleep pattern;
- If you are not sleeping, get out of bed and try bedtime relaxation techniques; 
Poor sleep is one of my main migraine triggers. I have struggled with insomnia for a decade. Having children has further negatively affected my sleep quality. I use a guided meditation app as part of my bedtime routine every night. Recently, American Migraine Foundation partnered with Headspace, which is a guided meditation app. They are offering a free subscription of Headspace for 1 year. I have not tried it yet, but I am looking forward to using it!
If you have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep through the night, here are some additional strategies to help with your sleep.
2. Foods Good For Migraine
The first E of the S.E.E.D.S. acronym stands for “eat.” We can use food as part of our natural migraine prevention plan by using the following strategies:
- Eat regular healthy meals;
- Eat at least 3 times a day;
- Avoid skipping meals;
- Stay hydrated, aiming for 7-8 glasses of water per day;
- Stop or limit your caffeine intake; 
I tried a migraine diet a few years ago and found that it helped me identify some of my food triggers like chocolate, bananas and cinnamon. Yes, cinnamon – who would have thought? There is no single migraine diet. If it is something you are interested in pursuing, remember that a migraine diet is meant to be temporary to help you figure out your food triggers.
3. Exercise and Migraine
The second E of the S.E.E.D.S. acronym stands for “exercise.” Exercise or movement improves our overall health and helps us sleep better. Therefore, exercise should be an important part of our natural migraine prevention plan.
Although sometimes exercise can trigger migraine, here are some ways you can use it for migraine management:
- Your exercise goal should be about 30-60 minutes 3-5 times a week;
- Start slowly, even if it’s 5 minutes once a week!
- Slowly increase exercise duration and frequency to make it a habit;
- Choose an activity you enjoy – walking, yoga, pilates, cycling, light weight lifting, ballet, swimming, etc. 
Exercise is one area of migraine prevention that I am still working on. At some point any exercise I tried triggered a migraine attack. I started walking slowly for a short amount of time with my kids around the neighborhood. I am now able to walk longer loops with my kids and we practice yoga together regularly.
4. Use a Migraine Tracking App
The D of the S.E.E.D.S. acronym stands for “diary.” Keeping a diary or a migraine tracker is an important part of the natural migraine prevention plan. It allows us and our physicians to identify patterns, determine our triggers, and improve our treatments.
Here are some strategies to keep a successful diary/migraine tracker:
- Use a calendar, notepad or an App;
- Bring your migraine tracker to your doctor for review during your appointments;
- Use a simple paper “spotlight diary.” Grab some colorful markers and color the calendar as follows: Red days are when a patient is completely debilitated in bed. On yellow days, function at work, school, or daily activities are significantly limited by migraine. Green days are when the symptoms are present but function is not affected. Blank days mean you are 100% symptom free. You can place a check mark on the days when you needed a rescue medication. The reason for tracking the rescue medication intake is to avoid rebound headaches. 
I have been using a migraine tracker since I have been diagnosed with chronic migraine. It is what led me to figure out that I was experiencing menstrual migraine. I started out using a notepad app in my phone as a migraine tracker to note the days when I have migraine attacks. It was a very simple way to track my attacks with my phone which was usually on me. More recently, I have also tried using Migraine Buddy, the migraine tracking app. I also love the simplicity of the “spotlight diary” and will try using it next!
I recommend that you try different methods and find what works best for you. The goal is to select a migraine tracker method that you can use consistently and that will provide you and your physician with an overview of your attacks over a period of time. The migraine tracker should guide your discussion with your healthcare provider.
5. Stress and Migraine
The last “S” of the SEEDS acronym stands for “stress.” Although stress does not cause migraine disease, it is one of the migraine triggers which can exacerbate our symptoms. Therefore, stress management must be an important part of our natural migraine prevention plan.
To help manage and reduce stress, here are some strategies which are recommended:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy;
- Breathing techniques; 
Stress has always been one of my migraine triggers. However, once I became a mom, it became apparent that stress was here to stay along with joy. Ever since the coronavirus pandemic, my stress has intensified dramatically. Working from home with kids by my side (even as I write this) has become the new normal. Disrupted schedules and routines are not easy for anyone, but especially problematic for migraine brains which thrive on predictability and consistency. As the summer is coming to an end, the decisions over the school situation in the Fall have only made the stress levels increase even more. Relying on stress management techniques is now important more than ever.
I meditate every night using a guided meditation app to help me relax before sleep. I have been using the Calm app for a few years. I was very pleased to hear that American Migraine Foundation partnered with Headspace and is offering a free subscription to Headspace for one year, which is also a guided meditation app. I am looking forward to exploring this app as well.
Practicing gratitude, repeating positive mantras, and guided meditation is what helps me the most to keep stress under control. I am also excited and looking forward to the launch of a new biofeedback therapy app, JUVA, which will be providing biofeedback therapy for migraine. Dr. Dawn Buse, is the calming voice and creator of JUVA for Migraine’s biofeedback treatment therapies. I anticipate that it will be a great addition to my migraine toolbox.
Disclaimer: I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Allergan to write about the realities of migraine as a neurologic disease. All opinions are my own.
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