Migraine headaches are debilitating and a trigger for a depressed state of mind and body. Millions of people suffer from migraines. Today, Sandra and I would like to offer an Ayurvedic “take” on this incapacitating disorder.
The three doshas, vata, pitta and kapha exist in every one of us and in all aspects of our physiology. The doshas are master homeostatic mechanisms. They maintain our internal equilibrium in the face of external changes. There is survival value in this. For instance, even on a cold winter day, we maintain a constant internal temperature, which is required for the proper functioning of our physiology.
We are, however, constantly being affected by the environment and if our internal balance is not maintained the proper functioning of the physiology is compromised. Over time, left uncorrected, imbalances disrupt proper functioning and eventually cause disease. The particular disease incurred is based on our physiological vulnerabilities. In Chapter 3 of Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way, the Ayurvedic system of the doshas is explained. This system corresponds to quantum physics, but the principles are easy to understand. Once we grasp the concepts of the doshas maintaining health becomes easier.
OK! Enough of physics, let’s go back to our topic of the day—-migraine headaches. An individual suffering from migraine headaches is frequently someone of a pitta constitution. Being of a pitta constitution predisposes one to this type of disorder. However, initially in order to cure the migraine headaches we focus on balancing vata dosha. Why balance vata first? Because the first step in recovery from migraine headaches is to improve digestion—-the aspects of digestion under the purview of vata.
For instance, women sometimes suffer from migraine headaches after childbirth. Basically pregnancy and childbirth deplete vata dosha. Taking care of infants and young children doesn’t provide much time for rest and recovery. Overtime vata can become increasingly depleted. The first step in correcting migraine headaches is to help the individual increase the power of their digestive fire. These headaches are triggered by a weak digestive fire.
Most of us focus on what we are ingesting. The process of digestion includes not only eating, but breaking down, assimilating and eliminating. We are not getting the benefits of what we ingest if we cannot assimilate the nutrients in our food. Therefore, improving digestion is the Ayurvedic intervention to cure migraine headaches.
For example, a woman with a pitta constitution who is taking care of young children (and perhaps working as well) can deplete her vata dosha and adversely affect her digestion. As her digestive fire decreases her body loses the energy to break down the nutrients in the food she eats. She begins to complain of not really feeling hungry and of being tired after she eats. Instead of energizing her; food makes her more tired. The tiredness exists because her metabolism is off. We recommend eating dates and using coriander and fennel as spices. These foods heat and clean the kidneys and stoke the digestive fire.
If our depleted Mom who is chronically suffering from migraine headaches eats food which heats her physiology she will get a headache. On the other hand, eating small quantities of nutritious dense food such as a thick lentil soup will help to increase digestive power. Beef broth containing a mashed crown of broccoli is also therapeutic. Increasing her digestive power will solve the problem of the migraines. As her digestive power increases she will be able to metabolize herbal formulas which can bring balance and directly address the headaches.
Readers beware: If after reading this blog post, you have an inkling that your migraines may be related to a low digestive fire then we suggest the following chutney recipe. Our cautions are that you not take this chutney if you have ulcers or an upset stomach and do not take it when you are in the midst of a migraine. Everyone: start slowly with this chutney, have only a quarter of a teaspoon daily and take it with food. It will stay good in your refrigerator for at least a week.
On p. 232 in Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way we give recipes for dosha specific chutneys which further balance the physiology. For migraine sufferers we recommend the following chutney:
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/3 cup orange juice
¾ chopped peeled ginger root
½ cup raisins.
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to the desired texture.
Ayurveda teaches that our bodies contain the wisdom to move toward balance. The digestive system relies on the parasympathetic nervous system to function properly. A smoothly functioning nervous system can aid in the efficient digestion of food. In order to dismiss migraine headaches from your life we suggest focusing on digestion. In addition, making meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga postures part of your regular daily routine is exceedingly beneficial for the reduction of anxiety and stress in the body. Consequently, these interventions also help to optimize digestion.
Good-bye headaches. Hello to Vitality and Good Health!