There are two kinds of migraines in my world. The kind I can control and the kind I can't. I know, for many, if not most, folks, there is an idea that the onset of a migraine is completely out of your hands. But, is it? Really? There was a time I believed that as well. That all changed when I was in my late 20's and began walking the path of holistic healing by hiring local iridologist Brenda Starr determine the source of my chronic health problems which included constipation (since childhood), migraines, and various aches and pains.
For three months, Brenda prescribed a regime of supplements and a diet which eliminated wheat, gluten, dairy and pork. By the end of the time I had lost weight, cured my constipation and virtually eliminated my migraines. As soon as it was over I quickly went back to my old ways and my issues soon returned. I knew that the changes I had made were the "cures" to what ailed me but remained in denial for several more years.
Fast forward to about 2005 and I was still in a nasty cycle of digestive upset, migraines, sleep issues and more. I went away for 7 days for feng shui training and at the end of the week I asked for my health issues to be relieved and to be free from the things that caused me continued discomfort (note to self: ask for GENTLE release in the future). Boy, did I get what I asked for. Within 30 days I had severe abdominal pain and found myself in bed for approximately 3 days followed by several visits to my doctor which included a surgical scope to rule out anything serious. NOTHING. NADA. Following these procedures was an extreme yeast infection that cause temporary loss of taste and smell. Things were getting serious.
I knew my former spiritual teacher had opened a health and wellness center and was doing cleanses, colon therapy, foot baths, Reiki, you name it and I called her. Similar to what my iridologist had prescribed years prior, she put me on a cleansing regime. In addition, I went on an elimination diet. Not because she suggested it but because I could NOT TOLERATE most foods. I became vegetarian and gluten-free pretty much overnight - and it changed my life for good.
My migraines virtually disappeared, my gastro upsets and pains were eliminated. I've talked about this before when I have discussed being gluten-free. But, I have not told you the extent to which my migraines were alleviated by taking this road.
In 1999 my migraines were at their worst to the point that I became essentially paralyzed by one especially bad episode and my doctor ran scans to ensure that I had not suffered a stroke. Things continued this way on and off for years - until about 10 years ago in fact - and until I had the release that sent me into vegetarianism and the gluten-free world. This is when I realized that my migraines were largely a product of how I was living my life. Not completely. I want you to know that there are some types of migraines out of my control. But those daily, out of the blue, keeping me down migraines pretty much disappeared.
Now, let's get down to the details. I'm not going to be that person that says that EVERYTHING that works or does not work for me will work for you. But, I do want to say that for people with chronic health issues, sometimes getting extreme and sticking to it can work. So, for the two kinds of migraines:
1. Migraines I can control. These are the migraines that are food, stress or environmentally induced. Last Thanksgiving I made the conscious choice to eat Sister Shubert's yeast rolls at my hubby's family feast. In addition, I had cured pork and who the hell knows what else. I tried to limit my bad choices to those two things but as I decided to not bring my own food for once, I was at the mercy of those good Southern cooks. Based on the migraine that began the next day and lasted for three days, I would not be surprised to find out they had used chicken broth with MSG as well. (Migraine sufferers take note: MSG bad.)
KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS. I cannot state this enough. If you don't know where to start, do a Google search for common migraine triggers. I love onions. For years I thought it was odd that I would get a migraine after eating raw onions on a sandwich. Then, I finally found a list of common migraine triggers. Guess what? Raw onions is high on the list for most migraine sufferers.
Dehydration. DRINK WATER. This cannot be emphasized enough. I cannot tell you how many people I talk to about this and they insist they are hydrated, yet I NEVER see them with water. Sodas, teas, coffees, never water. They believe that drinking fluids hydrates them. Nope. I love my coffee and my decaf sweet tea, but the health benefits only go so far. Like all good things, too much coffee and tea actually dehydrates you and sodas are never a good choice (except when being bad and having pizza which means a migraine cycle).
Environmental triggers include perfumes or really fumes of any kind, cigarette smoke, diesel fumes. There are other environmental triggers as well. If you suffer from migraines, take note of your surroundings when they happen. Not everyone can control these things (for example, if you are a waitress in a bar), but if you can, eliminate these triggers from your life. On scents, I can use pure essential oils, but not all of them. Some well meaning essential oils trigger my migraines as well.
Lack of sleep and exercise. Burning the midnight oil? Guess what? If you are a migraine sufferer you are really doing yourself a disservice. Get 7-8 hours of sleep. Sleep goes both ways. Too much sleep can put you in a slingshot cycle and wreak havoc as well. Take a walk. I am a big believer in movement and vitamin D for good health and to keep chronic conditions at bay or at least manageable.
Stress. This one is tricky and is both controllable and uncontrollable. What makes stress controllable? Alleviating stressful situations (relationships, etc.) but more importantly, finding ways to MANAGE your stress (rest, reading a book, meditation, yoga, etc.) There is no one size fits all in stress management. Find what works for you and use it regularly.
2. Migraines I cannot control. There are essentially two kinds of migraines in my life that I cannot control plus an occasional third which I'll touch on briefly. I am loathe to say that there is something in my life out of my control. These uncontrollable migraines are weather induced (keep reading) and hormonally induced migraines that I get once a month when beginning my period. What do you do? I do what I can and just get through it. Water, good foods, rest, walking.....I usually have two bad days a month which is a big change from 15 to 20 bad days.
Pressure systems. What? Yes, pressure systems as in weather pressure. I live in a bowl in Nashville, Tn. We have the one of the highest migraine prescription rates in the ENTIRE nation. We are sitting in a unique place topographically speaking and regularly have two pressure systems lock horns directly over our fair city. About 4 times per year when we see EXTREME weather situations (like this week's 8-inches of snow), I get the migraine to end all migraines. In fact, that is why I sat down to write this post. I have suffered from a migraine on and off since Friday when the snow began. It took me about 2 days to realize what was causing this as everything else is great. Snow falling on Nashville.
And, here we are back to stress. It is an unavoidable aspect of life and can be out of our control. For example, last February my father had surgery which caused me severe stress. I am quite sure a migraine followed. Now, was the migraine stress induced? Or, was it the combination of things that accompanied that stress? Personally, I find that stress induced migraines go hand in hand with lack of sleep, poor diet choices due to things like running back and forth to the hospital, drinking caffeine to keep me going while making those long drives....see what I mean?
No one can promise full elimination of migraines. For those of us who suffer, it is often a tight-rope walking situation. But, what I can promise is that for those willing to go that extra mile and make some serious changes to your life, you can expect SOME relief. Find what works and make the change. You'll thank yourself later.
(This article is not intended to be a replacement for medical advice.)
I’m Dana Croy and I am a modern day mama. Balancing family and work is not always easy (not to mention a little self-care). Though being Mama to two fantastic kiddos is a huge part of my life, that was not always the case. I wear many other hats and invite to sit down and find harmony with me.