Migraine headaches are caused by excessive dilation of the cerebral blood vessels, though scientists do not fully understand what causes the dilation in the first place. Blood vessels don’t just dilate spontaneously—they are presumably responding to chemical changes that are occurring in the body.

A naturopathic physician or holistic medical doctor will want to take a complete medical, family, menstrual, and diet history before considering the cause of migraine. Some of the illnesses to be ruled out are bowel problems, mold allergies, vitamin deficiencies, hypertension, TMJ misalignment, food allergies or intolerances, dehydration, spinal subluxations, coffee/caffeine intoxication, and aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) toxicity among others. All of these problems can cause migraine symptoms and usually can be treated without the use of drugs.

Paradoxical as it may seem, a surprising percentage of migraine headaches may be caused by migraine medication. The “rebound effect” of analgesic and ergotomine compounds has been implicated as a contributing factor for sufferers of daily headaches. Discuss this phenomenon with your prescribing doctor if you are taking more than 30 analgesic tablets a month or if you regularly use ergotamine derivatives.