Living with Migraines

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Migraines are something that affects many people in the U.S., and women suffer from migraines significantly more than men. For me in school besides finances, migraines were the next big obstacle because you can’t practice when you’re in debilitating pain, and you can’t graduate if you don’t practice.

This is why I started practicing three times a day, so as if I had a migraine by night, I still would have practiced twice. If you do practice once, make sure it is in the morning. By night time, you may be too tired or too sore, and you will skip the practice for the whole day. For me, school practice was not practice; it was just necessary. Everyone did it, and no one passes 225 without practicing outside of school. School will not get you to graduation speeds; it will just show you the way. I never practiced very long in the mornings (only 15-20 minutes) because I’m not a morning person and need my sleep to do well on tests. So I recommend spreading out your practices to 2-3 times a day. Just 15-45 minutes each.

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I used to get migraines once every two days. I thought it was my lot in life. Then I injured myself while practicing for a high speed test, and I started reading on stretches to get over the injury quickly. I got over it quickly. So I thought, surely there must be a book on migraines, and I bought the top-rated one on Amazon.

Now, I say living with migraines, because migraines is not something that can ever be solved like insomnia. Unless you eat a perfect diet and do almost nothing that is strenuous, you will have migraines. However, my migraines are twice a month at most now, which is a lot easier to live around. Again, it is hard for me to cut out the foods I know are my triggers and the activities that cause them (dental visits, traveling), so I have to live with some of them.

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The first thing you need to do when trying to get rid of your migraines is to keep a food diary. Food is often a migraine trigger, and so you should start from the top triggers that causes migraines in most people and weed out one at a time for a period of two weeks to see if there is any difference. Do NOT weed out more than one at once, or else you don’t know what caused it.

UPDATE: For simplicity’s sake, I just eat a very simple diet avoiding almost all of these, so as to avoid the experimentation altogether (unless I really liked the possible trigger). So my advice is to only experiment with those you would be sad to not have and weed out the ones you won’t miss much anyway without experimentation. This will greatly simplify the process.

The top triggers when it comes to food are:
alcohol – especially red wine and champagne
smoking
drugs – including prescription medication and birth control
soda
caffeine – teas, even without caffeine (be careful with teas and coffee), dark chocolate
MSG – CHECK everything – ramen noodle, bouillon cubes, chips
processed meats and meats with nitrates – deli meats, bacon, pepperoni, pork, hot dogs, sausages, bologna
dairy, especially milk – switch to almond or coconut milk in the dairy sections – dairy also includes cheese (cheddar and fermented cheeses esp!), heavy cream, ice cream, shakes, milk chocolate
fermented foods like sauerkraut
red and balsamic vinegars – white vinegar okay
olives
citrus – lemon, oranges, tomatoes, tomato juice, apple juice
bananas – especially over-ripe bananas
soy foods – tofu, soy beans, soy milk, soy sauce!
all nuts – including peanut butter!
all seeds
artificial sweeteners – only use honey and sugar
bread! – especially sourdough, wheat, yeast of any kind, gluten
dried fruits – raisins, dates, apricots
beans – lima, fava, string, garbanzos, lentils, snow peas

Keep seasoning as light as possible.
Target especially pickles, chili, peppers, seasoned salt, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise.

Others not mentioned in an individual column: carob, pickled herring, chicken liver, pate, papayas, avocados, red plums, meat tenderizers. Fish, smoked fish, eggs, onions.

Note: Because I also have IBS, if I eat foods that exacerbate IBS, I am more likely to get a migraine because my body is not well. So I also avoid high-fiber foods like brown versions of rice or bread, broccoli, cabbage, avocado, soy beans, kidney beans, and artichoke. This is to say, if you have other ailments besides migraines, pay attention to what exacerbates them – it can affect your migraines.

Examine everything that you consume frequently. That is what you need to weed out first. You need to start off with what you consume the most. Take it out for two weeks. Then pick another thing.

For me, I knew I consumed dairy, MSG, chocolate, and tomatoes the most. So I started there. Just please don’t let it be chocolate! Right?

I found that it was dairy causing my headaches because I drank organic milk every day either with dessert or breakfast. It was the hardest thing for me to stop buying cow’s milk, but it was way better for my health and wallet. I was able to lose weight easier, and my headaches went down drastically.
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Here are other things that cause headaches:
smoke inhalation, pollution
poor posture (never look down at screens – whether phone or computer – should be eye level)
bags that are not crossbody, high heels (anything that puts stress on one area of the body)
certain makeup that irritates eyes
any clothes that are tight (leaving elastic marks, for instance)
poor screen resolution (flashing lights, sunshine on your screens leaving glare)
travel! – jet lag, altitude changes, poor oxygen at high levels, sleep changes
allergies, hormones, weather changes – can’t be controlled, for the most part
loud noises – I always have Hearos ultra soft earbuds nearby
heavy scents – perfumes, gasoline, candles
trigger point aggravation – tight body, no massages
misfitting furniture – again, poor posture
strenuous exercise, fatigue
physical trauma – like an injury, pain, infection
trauma to the face – eating hard food, dental treatment, yawning widely, chewing gum
emotional stress, bumping your head
insomnia
insufficient food, water, sleep, exercise
depression, anxiety – take Vitamin D in winter months
constipation
clenching of jaw, grinding teeth while asleep, pressing tongue against your teeth/roof of your mouth – try a bite guard if you grind your teeth

OTHER:
try calcium, magnesium, and folic acid – BUT do not try a multivitamin as one of the things may trigger headaches. Add supplements in, like anything else, one at a time.

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WHEN MIGRAINES COME:
Here’s what works for me when I do have a migraine to get rid of it as soon as possible.
1. 2 Aleve
2. shutting out all light
3. air conditioning
4. resting in bed
5. putting in earbuds (Hearos Ultra Soft) if there’s any noise

Also, peppermint on the temples or just used as aromatherapy in a diffuser helps alleviate headache pain.
Massage on the face (cheeks, temples, nose, eyes) relieves pain as well.

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IN CLOSING:
For me, the things that trigger the most headaches turned out to be:
1. dairy, including milk chocolate (but I can eat dark chocolate)
2. travel out of state
3. poor posture
4. alcohol, smoke – neither of which I do, but I know from experience
5. dental visits and other loud noises
6. too many errands jammed into one day (leaving the house for too long causes migraines)
7. too much strenuous exercise (I stick to walking and ellipticals, for instance – marathons would be a big no-no)
8. heavy scents – I buy unscented whenever possible and travel as little as possible
9. too much screen time (in movies especially – I don’t go to the theater)
10. too little sleep or water (water is a big one!)
11. caffeine (which is also not good for supple skin)
12. bread

By just changing the things in the top 3, I eliminated the majority of my migraines. It may seem drastic to avoid so many things, but I know for a fact these things cause a lot of pain. For me, eliminating the food parts were the most difficult, but it’s a lot easier when you keep your diet simple like old times and when you cook at home. I only use a cross-body bag now.

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Your triggers and solutions will be different, but I encourage you to not waste another minute in discovering more about yourself by starting a food diary and by being cognizant of your current posture. It is so hard to be aware of our thoughts, our posture, and of the present moment, but by breaking down your diet, you can begin to examine other parts of your life that may be causing unnecessary stress – like examining patters in your schedule or patterns in thought.

Things you can also try: stretching, chiropractic therapy, massage therapy, yoga/pilates, biofeedback, counseling, trigger point injections, heat/ice, finding/alleviating trigger points.

Creating an environment of peace is the best way for all things, I’ve found.

6 thoughts on “Living with Migraines

  1. Two other thoughts come to mind:

    1) A good probiotic can help out a lot with IBS. It’s possible you (or those who suffer from migraines) also have leaky gut syndrome.

    2) Is it possible that the weight of your hair may be impacting on your migraines? Don’t get me wrong – your hair is gorgeous! But it may be throwing off your alignment and be a contributing factor. Thanks for this resource page!

    • Hey Alison, thank you for your helpful comment. I found out my migraines were caused by my napping! Who would have thought? I now rarely get migraines, so I don’t know how I’ll get through my bulk pack of Aleve now.

  2. About 1/2 teaspoon of Celtic sea salt in a little water, followed by a glass of water, has gotten rid of a lot of my migraines. Since I started 11 months ago, I have gotten a lot less headaches, too.

    • Hey Alex, I was practicing stenography (high speed dictation) when I was a student! A little update though is that my migraines stopped after I stopped napping! Who knew napping could cause migraines. It’s always things that I never suspect! Citrus and broth also give me migraines, and I would have never guessed without a food diary. I rarely get migraines now. Thanks for commenting 😀

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