When I was 19, I experienced my first overwhelming, terrible headache.
It felt like something was pounding on the insides of my head and no matter what I did, it wouldn’t subside. The reason for this painful ache, I learned shortly thereafter, was a mix of sleep deprivation, dehydration, and long hours in the scorching sun.
A year later, this unwelcome guest had returned, and I turned to questioning my diet. I was in so much pain, the only thing I could think to do was throw up—thinking perhaps what I’d eaten had reacted poorly with my system.
I felt relief for the first time, and my headache had substantially subsided.
With time my headaches became a regular occurrence, with their frequency slowly and steadily increasing. By the time I turned 25, my migraines had become a monthly companion.
I was working in a metropolitan city, and at this point attributed my headaches to stressful working hours, long commute, and irregular eating habits.
Each time my headache occurred, I popped a Disprin or two, and, within an hour, would feel better.
Finally, I realized that I had to treat my now chronic migraines, and I couldn’t simply continue taking pills every time I felt smacked by a headache. I consulted a physician, and he said that my best bet would be to undergo lifestyle changes.
I discovered that my body was producing too much acid, and that led to my headaches. In the language of Ayurveda, my body was producing Pitta (fire) and my dosha was Pitta dosha. To counter this excessive Pitta in the body, I had to let my body cool.
Here are the actions I now take to help stop migraines before they hit:
1. Drinking more water.
I had to work hard to at least double my water intake. Previously, I had not been good at religiously staying hydrated—there were days when I would drink only one or two glasses, and that would consistently trigger a headache. Now, I start my day with a glass of water every morning.
2. Drinking apple cider vinegar in the morning.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) aids in digestion and in reducing stomach acid; it’s also helpful in neutralizing the stomach acid, thus balancing the pH of the stomach. I mix one spoonful of ACV in a glass of filtered water and drink it on an empty stomach. Within a month of regularly drinking ACV with warm water, I noticed that my headaches have reduced in frequency.
3. Eating and drinking before going out into the sun.
No matter what the temperature, the sun can often zap energy from my body. I carry a water bottle with me everywhere I go, and always have a snack on hand so that I don’t get low blood sugar when I’m out in the sun.
4. Neck exercises.
I also found that my headaches were worse on days when I had a stiff neck, usually from sleeping in a funny position, or simply from stress I was feeling that day. The pain in my neck always seemed to aggravate the triggers for my migraines.
I came up with two exercises to help any neck stiffness: First, I rotate my neck seven times clockwise, and seven times counter-clockwise. Then, I move my head forward and backward seven times each way. Secondly, I join my hands together and place them behind my head, pushing my head forward a bit with my hands, I resist with my neck for 30 seconds. Then, I put my hands on my forehead and push back the other way for 30 seconds. I repeat this twice.
It has been a year since I have been using these four methods religiously, and they have changed my life for the better. My water intake has increased greatly, and I regularly drink ACV with water, which has improved my overall digestion. I have also deliberately reduced my outdoor hours in the sun, especially during the peak summer season.
My headaches now occur rarely—about once every six months. And, not only have I been able to treat my migraines without using medication, but those four methods have also improved my health overall, as well. Try them out! I hope they work for you, too.
Author: Surabhi Surendra
Image: Benjamin Combs/Unsplash
Editor: Taia Butler