thanksgiving and migraine how to prevent headaches at the holidays

Thanksgiving and Migraine Triggers: How to Prevent Headaches at the Holidays

When you think of Thanksgiving, you probably get excited about roast turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. But for many who suffer from migraines, there are potential migraine triggers lurking in all that goodness. Knowing your triggers can help you manage your migraines better. Instead of avoiding the holiday completely, think of ways to reduce the risk of getting a migraine at dinner time. Regardless of if you are hosting this year or a guest, here are some helpful tips for coping with this challenging time of year for those with frequent headaches.



Before the big feast

If you are hosting this year, the week before guests arrive, start preparing your home. This will reduce allergens and odors, which can increase the risk of a migraine. - Make sure your house is clean. - Wash your floors, carpets and upholstery. - Change your pillowcases and sheets. - Clean your dishes, pots and pans. - Dust your furniture and blinds. - Close off rooms with a lot of dust and allergens. - Use an air filter to clean the air. - Wear shoes inside to prevent dirt from spreading. - Turn off scented candles, scented oils and incense. - Use essential oils that are low in scent. - Have good airflow, keep CO2 down with at least 6 air exchanges per hour.


Plan your menu and have a gameplan 

Hopefully you have an idea what your migraine triggers are, if not, you should start a migraine diary to track and document what things trigger your episodes! Some common Thanksgiving food triggers are: aged cheese, caffeine, processed meats, artificial sweeteners, and red wine. Consider these, as well as any personal food triggers that you know about. Make sure to consider this when planning your menu! Simple exchanges might mean the difference between you enjoying a holiday feast and locking yourself in a dark room to avoid the light and noise of a family meal. Consider pre-cooking as much of your meal the day before, and have a game plan of what you will indulge in that are potential triggers, so you know what to steer clear of and what to have in moderation. Having a plan will help you to see the end goal -avoiding migraines- and keep on track through the party. - Avoid strong spices like cayenne, mustard and black pepper that can trigger headaches. - Wash your hands and clean your kitchen thoroughly before cooking. - Store food safely to avoid contamination. - Avoid strong smells while cooking. - Always use clean dishes and utensils when cooking.


Light scents might help you relax and feel better

Know your scent triggers. It is probably a safe bet to avoid wearing perfume and to try and spread the word to your prospective guests that you have a medical condition and to avoid wearing perfume. But just because strong scents are a trigger doesn't mean you have to avoid scents altogether!  For some people incense and scented oils can be very helpful with relaxation and avoidance from headaches. - Essential oils can be a great way to add fragrance to your home, but make sure to control the amount you diffuse to ensure they're low in scent. For some lavender and peppermint are helpful in calming the senses, consider experimenting with these scents prior to an event to see if they help or hinder your enjoyment. - Scented candles can be helpful too, but the scents should be low on the scale and not contain chemicals like phthalate and parabens. - Make your home smell better with a fresh-smelling cinnamon broom or a citrus-scented cleaning spray (again phthalate and paraben free if possible).


Try exercise to feel better fast

Physical activity is one of the best things you can do to prevent headaches, including migraines. - Find an activity that you enjoy, like swimming or yoga. - Exercise can help you sleep better, relieve stress and lift your mood. - Regular exercise can reduce your risk of getting frequent headaches by 50%. - Try to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day.


Take medications before Thanksgiving to prevent a migraine 

If your migraines happen regularly, taking your migraine prevention medication before the holiday meal can help reduce your risk of getting a migraine. - Be sure to take your daily preventive medication as prescribed by your doctor. - If you have frequent migraines, another natural avenue might be taking a migraine supplement like Preventa Migraine for the week/weeks prior to the holidays to set your brain up for success on the day of. - You can take migraine medication before a meal if you have a migraine or feel a migraine coming on. - Make sure to drink lots of water with these medications to avoid dehydration. - Avoid taking over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and naproxen if you're taking prescription medications for migraines and be aware of possible rebound headaches from medication overuse.


Don't forget to breathe

Take deep breaths when you feel stressed or anxious. This can calm you down and reduce your risk of getting a migraine. - Breathe in for 4 seconds, and then breathe out for 4 seconds. - Focus on your breathing and how it feels. - Practice this breathing technique anytime you need to calm down. The holidays can be the most stressful time of the year. Dealing with friends and family can be a trigger! Taking a moment to breathe and meditate, both on the holiday and before it, can help you stay in the right frame of mind.



The holidays can be a joyful time of year, but they can also be stressful. Having a plan in place to prevent headaches can help you stay calm and enjoy the season. Knowing your triggers can help you manage your migraines better. Instead of avoiding the holiday completely, think of ways to reduce the risk of getting a migraine at dinner time. Here are some helpful tips for coping with this challenging time of year for those with frequent headaches.

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