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Stress, Sleep & Mood

Children with Migraines

by Jane Cronin, Aug 22 2013

A migraine is not just a bad headache. It is a neurological disease, with head pain and associated symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to touch, sound, light, and odors, abdominal pain, and mood changes. Childhood migraines can be just disabling, and it can seriously affect the child’s quality of life.

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Case Take – "Child with persistent Migraines"

By Jane Cronin - Clinicians Naturopath
I thought it might be interesting for a change to look at a clinical case I recently encountered as a way of sharing information.  I thought this was interesting as it is more unusual to see children with severe headaches than adults.

Kids with MigrainesThe patient was a 9 year old boy who was experiencing headaches and migraines several times a week.  This had been going on ever since he was a small child.   The family had not been able to establish a pattern of when they occurred other than their frequency several times a week; although they sometimes came on an hour or so after coming home from school.  Things that the mum thought might trigger attacks were getting too hot and stress and anxiety.

I asked about behaviour, in particular whether he got hyperactive.  His mum said he could get a bit like that early evening and possible a bit aggressive.  Of course being a naturopath I had to ask all about bowel movements and it seems he only had a movement every other day.  Everyone should be going every day.  I also asked about sleep and he seemed to have a problem with waking at night

His diet seemed fairly standard with Weetabix or other cereal for breakfast or toast and lunch being sandwiches.  Dinner was often meat and vegetables.

So looking at solutions

There were two areas that I thought were worth some consideration. 

  1. One was looking at the area of food intolerances, which I would consider for anyone having headaches since they were children.  There are many foods associated as triggers for migraines and headaches such as chocolate, cheese (and other foods containing tyramine), caffeine, artificial colours, sweeteners, preservative like nitrates/sulphites and MSG.  However I wondered in this case whether there may be a problem with wheat or gluten. The clues for me were to do with digestion as I often find clients who don’t get on well with gluten have trouble with constipation or generally don’t manage a daily bowel movement.   If you are not eliminating toxins processed by the liver and removed through the bowel on a daily basis the circulating toxins can cause headaches.   Also gluten intolerance can cause hyperactivity in children and can result in sleep issues.  His diet was high in gluten containing foods (cakes, muesli bars, bread, cereals) and it seems that after school he came home very hungry he had an afternoon snack of either bread or wheat cereals.   This is often when the aggressive hyperactive behaviour occurred and the headaches.
  2. The other area I looked at was low magnesium, since this can often lead to headaches due to muscular tension.  On looking at his tongue it was wobbling a bit on the tip, which can indicate low magnesium.  Also waking in the night can be a sign that stores are low and stress causes magnesium to be lost from the body.  This is why some many of us are deficient in it.

In conclusion I suggested trying a gluten free diet for a couple of weeks to see if symptoms improved.    Excluding a food completely for a couple of weeks can often give positive results.  I also recommended he should take magnesium at night before bed to see if sleep improves as well as the headaches.  Drinking water regularly is also very important.

 I also suggested that a doctor should be consulted if a child suffers from frequent or disabling headaches or migraine symptoms.

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My daughter of 11 suffered with severe migraines of around 2 a week for 3 years. I finally pulled her out of school and started homeschooling her as her body kind of just gave up and she ended up barely at school and barely functioning. She would always be either just getting one or recovering from one or somewhere in between. I finally solved it. I took her to a naturapath who recommended a totally dairy and wheat free diet to start as some years ago a hair test revealed these were not good for her. She also began a course of magnesium and medicines to heal the gut. 6 months on she has not had one migraine - she is 100% better and a different child. I think your article is spot on... I only wish I had seen it sooner.


Thanks for sharing your experience Tanya and great to hear another success story!

micheal holding

Hi Jane,
Great blog and like to say we must engage children in regular physical activities to cope with migraine and give them balanced and nutritive meal plan. It will help them to improve immunity system, increase confidence and help them in leading healthy and active lifestyle. Add fresh vegetables and fruits more in their daily meals, increase their water intake and make sure they are having proper sleep.


I had migraines as a child and suffered,it was not recognized.I have Aura migraines to this day.30 yrs of experience and with headaches every other day her is what I know.Dont narrow the food down most food has crap in it.Although I know two other foods that trigger me, and that is tin tomatoes and dill sunflower seeds.Now a days this list should expand and everybody is different.I am glad that they are recognizing this in kids it is common more than you think. If you have one relative who has migraines in the family it is most likely another member will pass it on it is absolutely hereditary and this is advice I am sure of. I hope this helps parents recognize how serious migraines are?
Dietary supplements are not a replacement for a balanced diet. Always read the label. Use as directed. Do not exceed the recommended daily dose. If symptoms persist, see your health professional.

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