Dr Bernadette Carr answers your questions on migraines and anaemia

Dr Bernadette Carr advices on what to do if you suffer from migrains and how to avoid iron deficiency anaemia.

Q. My teenage daughter suffers from migraines. What she can do to relieve the pain?

A. Migraines are types of headaches that can cause severe attacks of throbbing pain which is sometimes associated with nausea or vomiting or disturbed vision with flashing lights. 

They can last from a number of hours to up to three days at a time.

There are many different triggers which may include stress or foods such as chocolate or cheese or caffeine and alcohol.

Dehydration and tiredness as well as bright lights and missing meals can also be triggers and in some women migraine may be brought on at the time of their period.

Sometimes migraines run in families.

There are a number of things which can be done to help migraine. 

Keeping a headache diary can be useful in identifying any possible triggers for the migraines. 

In this diary you record the times and events surrounding migraine attacks and try to identify a pattern over time.

Once a suspected trigger has been identified it can then be avoided. Medication can be tried to deal with acute attacks and many people find their symptoms are relieved by lying down in a dark, quiet room. 

If over-the-counter medications are not sufficient your GP may prescribe stronger medications to help with the attacks.

If attacks are very severe or recurring frequently or if symptoms of migraine are changing or worsening it is a good idea to visit your GP to see what can be done to help with the issue.

Q. I am not a huge lover of red meat but wonder how I can avoid iron deficiency anaemia. I had recent blood tests which revealed that my iron levels were low. 

Are there any particular foods that will provide more iron than others? Alternatively, should I consider taking an iron supplement?

A. Iron is an important nutrient in the body. It’s needed to transport oxygen around the body and in the building of healthy blood cells. 

Iron deficiency anaemia can occur commonly in women and teenage girls who may lose haemoglobin through monthly menstruation. 

Vegetarians or vegans or people who do not get enough dietary sources of iron may also be at risk of the condition.

The recommended daily allowance of iron for men is currently 8.7 mg /day and for women it is 14.8 mg/day. 

Lack of iron is called anaemia. It may lead to tiredness, fatigue, breathlessness, pale skin and palpitations.

Red meat is a good source of protein and iron. However, there are many other ways you may incorporate iron into your diet. 

Many vegetables, pulses and other foods are rich in iron such as spinach, chickpeas, tofu, quinoa and egg yolks. Many cereals are fortified with iron and choosing milk with added iron can also boost your daily intake.

Vitamin C is important in helping iron absorption body and so it is a good idea to incorporate sources of this into your diet as well. 

Sources include citrus fruits, oranges, kiwi, raspberries, pineapple to name but a few. It is also important to moderate your consumption of teas and coffees as these may inhibit the absorption of iron.

Taking calcium along with iron-rich foods can also inhibit its absorption, so it can be a good idea to avoid consuming these foods together.

Depending on your level of iron deficiency, your doctor may recommend iron supplements to further boost your iron levels. 

These will vary in their strength and concentration — many come combined with added vitamin C or folic acid to help with the building of iron in the blood.

After a course of three months, your doctor may advise rechecking your iron levels to make sure they have returned to normal.

Iron stores may accumulate in the body, so it is important never to exceed the recommended daily dose of the supplement.

Side effects may occur when using these including stomach upset and constipation.


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