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  • Health,
  • Wellness

How to Combat Headaches: The Integrative Medicine Way

“An integrative approach to headaches involves considering nutrition, lifestyle factors, exercise and the use of supplements.”

2020 has been stressful, to say the least. For many, headaches can be a common manifestation of stress, and for others, even before this crazy year, headaches are a familiar condition. An integrative approach to headaches involves considering nutrition, lifestyle factors, exercise and the use of supplements. Here is a basic approach to help alleviate headaches. As always, talk to your health care provider before adding any new medications to your routine and if your headaches become extremely severe, have associated vision loss or uncontrollable vomiting, seek medical attention right away.

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    • Explore food triggers, such as chocolate, caffeine, wine, aged cheese and processed meat. Eliminate triggers.[1]
    • IgG allergens may cause inflammation that can cause migraines. Consider trying an Elimination Diet [3] to further investigate specific food triggers. Make sure to keep a food journal to explore food triggers and their symptoms. Check out our guide on an elimination diet here.


    • Focus on exercise that makes you feel good! Whether that’s going on a nice jog or doing some gentle yoga, find what works for you and try to be consistent making movement a part of your routine.


    • Focus on proper sleep hygiene:
      • Set a regular bedtime
      • Limit screen time before bed. Aim for 2 hours without screens before bed. 
      • Get natural sunlight upon waking to regulate circadian rhythm
      • Limit alcohol and caffeine. Try having your last cup of coffee before noon. 
      • Blood sugar control. Make sure to have balanced meals that include fiber, protein, and healthy fats to avoid spikes and crashes of blood sugar.
    • Adequate hydration throughout the day: Approximately half of your body weight (in pounds) in fluid ounces.
    • Mindfulness: Try meditating every morning or when convenient to help manage stress and tension which can be a trigger for headaches. Apps like Calm and Headspace are great for beginners or those who would like some guidance and structure with their practice. 
    • Try a hot bath or a massage to ease muscle tension, which can be a common cause of headaches.


    • Magnesium supplementation: 600 mg a day[2] 
    • Vitamin B2: 200mg twice daily with meals [1]
    • Coenzyme Q10: 150-200 mg/day [1]
    • Omega-3 [2]
    • Alpha-Lipoic Acid: 200mg three times a day[1]
    • Feverfew: 125mg/day [1]
    • Butterbur: 50mg three times a day for a month, then 50mg twice a day [1] 
    • For Migraines: 400mg of riboflavin + 300mg Magnesium + 100mg feverfew daily [1]

*Please talk to your healthcare provider before adding any supplements or medications to your routine. Supplements can interact with other medications and could be potentially harmful.

  1. Rakel, D. (2018). Integrative medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.
  2. Kuruvilla, D., & Wells, R. E. (2019). Evidence‐Based Integrative Treatments for Headache. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 59(6), 971-972. doi:10.1111/head.13555
  3. Portera-Perry, L. (n.d.). Decreasing Migraine Frequency With Nutrition: IFM. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from
  4. Portera-Perry, L. (n.d.). Mitochondrial Dysfunction & Chronic Pain Patients: IFM. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from
  5. Skonieczna-Żydecka, K., Marlicz, W., Misera, A., Koulaouzidis, A., & Łoniewski, I. (2018). Microbiome—The Missing Link in the Gut-Brain Axis: Focus on Its Role in Gastrointestinal and Mental Health. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 7(12), 521. doi:10.3390/jcm7120521
  6. Walsh, W. (2014). Nutrient power: Heal your biochemistry and heal your brain. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.
  7. Stuller, E. (2020, June). The Importance of Neurotransmitter Balance. Lecture.