About Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your Own, Own Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression.

Have you ever had a migraine headache?

If so, you’re not alone; a staggering 1 in 7 people suffers from migraines, making migraine the third most common diagnosis in the world.1 Almost 25% of young women report at least one migraine in the past 3 months.2

Anyone who’s had a migraine knows how debilitating they are. These headaches can entail throbbing pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and the inability to think clearly. An intense migraine can derail your work and social life, making even the friendliest interactions unbearable. As such, severe headaches are the fourth-highest reason for Emergency Room visits.3 And scarily, a 2010 study showed that 35% of migraineurs who went to the ER were given potentially addictive opioids.4

Because the mind, body, and spirit co-experience health and illness, it is no surprise that those who suffer from migraines (called ‘migraineurs’) are more likely to be diagnosed with depression.5 Further, migraineurs have higher rates of diabetes, myocardial infarction, and even stroke.6

What causes migraines?

According to WebMD, the causes of migraines remain elusive, but they are often attributed to faulty genetics. WebMD goes on to list migraine triggers that include stress, food additives like MSG,7 weather changes, caffeine, and having your period. Indeed, elimination diets, in which people avoid common food triggers, can be effective treatments for migraines.

In one study, 87% of migraineurs became headache-free after completing a 5-day elimination diet, removing oral contraceptives, wheat, tea and coffee, chocolate, milk, and corn.8 Studies have also shown that artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame9 and sucralose (Splenda),10 trigger migraines.

Similarly, nutrient deficiencies11 and high levels of heavy metals12 are linked to migraines. Notably, people who are deficient in magnesium13 and Vitamin D 14 are more likely to suffer from migraines.

Is there anything you can do to prevent or treat migraines?

Migraines are most commonly treated with drugs. Usually, people suffering from migraines take pain relievers, including over-the-counter drugs Tylenol and ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin). Triptans, which are available as pills, patches, sprays, or injections, are another popular intervention strategy. Triptans bind to the serotonin receptor to constrict blood vessels in your brain.15 Some of the more extreme migraine drugs include opioids like codeine, steroids like prednisone, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and beta blockers.16 All of these drugs come with a formidable portfolio of side effects, ranging from addiction to - paradoxically - migraines.

Beyond drugs, other medical interventions for migraines include injecting Botox (Onabotulinumtoxin A) into 31 places on your head and neck17 and surgical removal brain tissue.18 Additionally, some migraineurs opt for deep brain stimulation, in which parts of your brain and vagus nerve are stimulated by electrical pulses, either by an external machine or by implanted electrodes.19

Do the treatments sound worse than the disease?

If so, I’m glad to tell you that there are interventions with side effects that are actually side benefits!

Research shows that lifestyle changes can alleviate migraines. Specifically, people who remove headache triggers like gluten20 and dairy,21 detox from heavy metals,22 incorporate mindfulness practices23, and add in specific supplements can be freed from migraines. Several studies show that supplementing with magnesium decreases migraine frequency and severity,24 25 even better than strong NSAIDs.26 Similarly, research shows that addressing B-vitamin deficiencies can cure migraines.27 28 29

Dietary and lifestyle practices like this are the bedrock of a holistic clinical practice. As we now understand that depression is a symptom of chronic inflammation, not a chemical imbalance, it follows that lifestyle interventions are the highest yield treatments. To help more people than I could accommodate in my office, I digitized my comprehensive diet and meditation prescription, creating the Vital Mind Reset. No longer relying on prescription drugs, people instead take control of their health by changing the way they live. I continue to be amazed by the strength and recovery stories of people who have committed to this program. Listen to your body, respond to the call, and heal yourself today.


  • 1 https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/migraine-what-is-it/facts-figures/
  • 2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2560071
  • 3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25600719
  • 4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25600719
  • 5 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28467957
  • 6 http://www.neurology.org/content/74/8/628.short
  • 7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3606962/
  • 8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/87628
  • 9 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18627677
  • 10 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16942478
  • 11 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10767394
  • 12 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
  • 13 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21983373
  • 14 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28470754
  • 15 http://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/triptans-serotonin-receptor-agonists-for-migraine-headaches
  • 16 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/diagnosis-treatment/dxc-20202471
  • 17 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5404453/
  • 18 http://journals.lww.com/plasreconsurg/Abstract/2009/08000/A_Placebo_Controlled_Surgical_Trial_of_the.15.aspx
  • 19 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1474442206705750
  • 20 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12650798
  • 21 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27714637
  • 22 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19515125
  • 23 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25041058
  • 24 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12786918
  • 25 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12786918
  • 26 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28286809
  • 27 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12934790
  • 28 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9484373
  • 29 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19384265