Migraine headaches in teenagers

Belinda, age 16, came into see me for the treatment of her migraine headaches.

She was also experiencing hair loss, fatigue and PMS. She wanted to have a fun summer and a healthier school year heading into the fall, so had decided that she would take more responsibility for her health over the summer.  She was taking birth control pills as well as propranolol. Propranolol had been prescribed for her for the preventive treatment of her migraines. The side effect she was mostly concerned about was the hair loss, but she was also tired all of the time.

Many times migraines can be easily treated by taking care of the underlying causes. Often times the birth control pill if it contains estrogen can contribute to the migraines.

In Belinda’s case I suggested that she consider trying a different birth control pill as well as ruling out other underlying contributing factors:

1. Food sensitivity: through various types of testing either IgG blood spot testing or EDS (electrodermal food sensitivity testing) culprit foods can be identified and removed from the diet.

2. Rule out blood sugar irregularities: if headaches are brought on by not eating regularly there may be a low blood sugar or hypoglycemia reaction that can then trigger migraine headaches. In my routine dietary counseling I ensure adequate protein is consumed throughout the day to help maintain blood sugars, and review healthier carbohydrates to consume.

3. Nutrient deficiency: magnesium is the mineral that is often found deficient, however there are other nutrients to also consider such as riboflavin, B12 and melatonin. The birth control pills can cause deficiencies in B vitamins and folic acid as well as contribute to fatigue. The blood test for homocysteine can identify some of these deficiencies.

4. Structural issues: sometimes stubborn migraines will only improve if the alignment and the soft tissue of the neck is corrected. I encourage the NUCCA and other non force chiropractic, acupuncture and massage techniques.

5. Inadequate hydration: this is often over looked because soft drinks and flavoured waters are not the healthiest ways to rehydrate due to the artificial sweeteners that may contribute to the underlying cause of the migraines. This includes sweeteners in chewing gum too! I encourage teenagers to make up their own iced teas and green drinks using stevia, to better their hydration including good old fashioned purified water.

6. Oher herbs and homeopathy: there are other herbs and  homeopathic medicines specific for migraine headaches that can also be used in stubborn cases.

As Belinda made some of these changes she began to feel better and we were able to wean her off the propranolol. Propranolol is a beta blocker acting on the heart to lower blood pressure which contributed to her fatigue and the hair loss. Her hair loss was substantial so I also gave her nutritional support for this also.

Within six months Belinda was feeling a lot better. She was happy with her hair re-growth.

She had only been taking the birth control pill to help her with her PMS and her heavy periods. With her naturopathic program these symptoms improved so she was able to get off the birth control pill too. We spoke about birth control options for the future but she was happy to avoid them for the moment.

Dr. Ingrid Pincott, Naturopathic Physician, has been practicing since 1985 and can be reached at 250-286-3655 or

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