Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Technology Figures Out Migraine Food Triggers?

An interesting article in Reader's Digest (Jan. 2008 issue) announced the University of California, Berkeley has developed an at home test that will help identify which foods will cause nausea, light sensitivity, and pain (our favorite friends of the migraine). Apparently with this technology you'll be able to drop food in a "special device" and find out momentarily if the food is a pain causing culprit. Here is the complete article.

Now, I for one, would love if I could use a "special device" instead of a restrictive diet to figure out my food triggers for my migraines. Woo-hoo! To instantly know if I could drink red wine and eat chocolate (ok, I know I can't...chocolate is definitely one of my triggers, but maybe technology one day will reverse that and I'll be able to divulge in dessert heaven again *drool*). I have to admit I'm a little confused by this technology the article talks about, though. While peanuts may contain something that could potentially cause a migraine, that doesn't mean that everyone who is prone to migraines gets migraines from eating peanuts. Everyones triggers are different. This technology seems to just be "reading" the food, and not incorporating the individual user. Wouldn't technology only be useful to migraineurs if it not only tells you if the food can cause migraines, but also if that particular food is going to cause migraines for you?

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Migraine Meds Giving You Headaches?

Very few migraine sufferers know this (and sadly, and very scary, a lot of doctors don’t seem to know this…) but both otc and presciption migraine pain killers can relieve pain short term but actually cause more headaches/migraines in the long run. The additional headaches/migraines caused by the pain killers are called “rebound headaches.”

I have very personal experience with these bad boys. When I was first diagnosed with migraines (many, many years ago) my primary care doctor prescribed Imitrex as a pain killer for my migraines. At that time I didn’t know to do my own research on the medication I’m prescribed, I simply took what was given to me. There weren’t any words of warning. Simply directions to take when I started to feel a migraine coming on. Got it! I could do that. And I did. As my migraines became more frequent, I took Imitrex more frequently. My doctor knew how often I was taking it, because she was writing refills like they were going out of style. And since I thought Imitrex was a glorified Advil, I was taking them like they were little candy-coated drops of heaven (which, when you’re getting a migraine, and you find something that stops the pain “little bits of heaven” really does fit the bill). Here is the problem…that went on for 4 years. After a while Imitrex didn’t work, and I had to move on to something else and still no one told me about rebound headaches. It wasn’t until my significant other started to do research on his own that he found out about rebound headaches. When I went to general neurologists they assured me that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t until I was referred to a neurologist specializing in migraines that I got the hard truth: hell yes, I had been giving myself rebound headaches. And Imitrex isn’t the only thing that can do it to you (who knew?!). So let me share what I learned so you don’t have to go through (literally) years of rebound headaches to find what some doctor could have told you a long time ago.

I was on Yahoo! Answers and discovered many migraine sufferers routinely reach for Excedrin Migraine to get rid of migraine pain. Excedrin Migraine, Excedrin for tension headaches, many tylenol products, and most otc cold/sinus products will give you rebound headaches. Take these out of your pain killing routine ASAP! If you need otc (over the counter) pain relief, take advil/ibuprofen…these don’t cause rebound headaches. Excedrin migraine (and for tension headaches) are particularly “iffy” because they contain caffeine. Caffeine is kind of on the fence, in migraine-ville. Caffeine is a very common migraine trigger. If you are unaware of your migraine triggers, and you are taking excedrin products not only can you be causing rebound headaches if caffeine is one of your triggers and you don’t know it then you’re also consistently aggravating your current migraine with the caffeine everytime you down one of those pills. My advice is to stay away. Both for the rebound headaches and the caffeine trigger (by the way, caffeine in the excedrin is not what is responsible for rebound headaches…that is just a fun side note).

As far as prescription pain killers, the key is how often you’re using them. It isn’t using them that gives you rebound headaches, it is overuse that will cause rebound headaches. Imitrex, Zomig, Relpax, and other prescription drugs in this drug class are medications you want to make sure you don’t overuse. Just ask your doctor how often it is ok to use your painkillers, and that you’re concerned about rebound headaches. It is that easy! Hopefully with this info you can use your pain killers, and go forth and be pain free without worry *grin*.

If you liked this, please Digg it, or Stumble it to share with others. I would appreciate it!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Energy Saving Bulbs Cause Migraines

I posted this article on a forum for people with migraines a while ago:

Short article with important information! http://www.switched.com/2008/01/02/compact-fluorescent-bulbs-causing-migrainheadaches/?ncid=NWS00010000000001e-

Take the time to read it! One woman on the forum said she had moved into a new place where these light bulbs were already in place in the fixtures in her bedroom, and her headaches had been horrible. After reading the article she went to the store, bought regular lightbulbs, and in her words:
"Upon switching out the bulbs, I went from having migraines 5 to 7 days out of the week, to .. I need to knock on some wood real quick, but about 2 or 3 days out of a month tops. They will never be 100% eradicated, but the fewer headaches the better. I highly recommend giving this a try if you suspect at all that the new bulbs might be exasperating your migraine situation."

Yay! What an amazing difference! I realize this may not be the reason for everyone's headaches/migraines, but if the change was this drastic for just one I wanted to post in case it could help another. If it helps you, let me know! I love knowing information I've shared has helped eased someone's migraine pain!

Wishing everyone a healthy, peaceful Monday.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Great Chicken/Egg Debate: Which Came First? Migraines, Insomnia, or Depression??

Many times I’ve noticed people with migraines also having problems with depression and insomnia. It is the great chicken/egg dilemma: Which came first? The depression and insomnia or the migraines? Once you are at the point where you’re affected by all three of these, most don’t care which came first they just want relief!

I see guilt often come heavily into this stage as well. If only you were handling your migraines better you wouldn’t be depressed. If you didn’t have the depression, you wouldn’t have the insomnia. News for you…you’re not Superman/woman. . . you can’t control everything. The same thing that is causing your migraines is also a culprit in the depression and insomnia.

Serotonin, a brain chemical, is responsible for controlling moods, sleep, and more. Positive moods are associated with serotonin. If you’re feeling happy, upbeat, etc. those feelings can be attributed to serotonin. Researchers have long known migraine patients had low levels of serotonin. Low serotonin levels are biological (sometimes thought to be genetic), but not something you control or “caused.”

Depression can be situational, or caused by specific situations (i.e. loss of a job, loss of a loved one, etc.). Depression can also be chemical or biological. While migraine sufferers may find themselves in a depressed situation (having migraines impact the quality of life is certainly a depressing situation) the majority of migraine sufferers with depression suffer from depression caused at the body’s chemical level. The same low serotonin levels leading to migraines also lead to depression. Insomnia can be caused by the same low serotonin levels. So give yourself a break! You’re not the cause for the things going on with your body.

Finding out what was part of the cause was very empowering for me, because there are things you can do to naturally raise serotonin levels a little. They are the things that make you feel good (I’m not kidding)! Laughter! Laughter provides a wonderful surge of serotonin in the brain. Relaxation activities such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing all provide an increase in serotonin. Gentle exercise: taking a walk (even just 15 minutes a day) helps your serotonin levels. Having an orgasm is a big serotonin booster!

This article http://web.winltd.com/Article.aspx?PageURL=/Pages/English/healthnews/migranes.htm does an excellent job of explaining the migraine/depression/insomnia connection. At the end of the article, they offer some suggestions for vitamins and amino acids to help as well. If you are taking birth control, consult your doctor (or gyn) before taking St. John’s Wort because it can render many birth control pills less effective. Also, consult your doctor (and psychiatrist if applicable) BEFORE taking 5-HTP. If you are taking an anti-depressant, or any other drugs to help increase your serotonin levels adding 5-HTP can cause serotonin levels to become too high. The result could be a potentially lethal condition known as “serotonin storm.”

Feel free to pass this article on to others you know who suffer from migraines, and even take it with you on your next doctor’s visit to see if you can incorporate any of the natural remedies into your existing treatment plan.

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! Wishing you a peaceful, healthy day!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Migraine Free with Magnesium?

As you know, I do a lot of research on migraines and everyone seems to have an opinion on different herbs and supplements to help ease or cure migraines. Popular ones include butterbur, feverfew, B2, B12, and magnesium just to name a few. Some of these recommendations are made from doctors, but often articles are written by people (just like me) recommending what has helped them with their migraines.

An article I recently read discusses a study done in which patients with migraines were given magnesium, and a majority of them showed significant improvements in the reduction of their migraines (exciting words for anyone who suffers from migraines!). Here is the article for you to check out: http://www.essense-of-life.com/info/tmigraines.htm

One thing I really liked about this article is that it not only discusses the results of the study, but why magnesium works. So often, a doctor hands me a medication or treatment plan insisting I try it, but doesn't explain why it should work. I knew a lack of serotonin (a chemical in the brain) was a cause of migraines, but this article explains having a surplus of serotonin can also be a cause of migraines! I definitely learned some things from this article, and hope you do too.

P.S. If you don't already take magnesium, check with your doctor to see if it is ok for you to start!

Wishing everyone a peaceful, healthy day!

Monday, February 25, 2008

No MSG = No Migraines?

I receive many emails asking about my diet: what exactly I avoid, what I eat, how long it took before I saw positive results, etc. So let me see if I can answer some of those questions.

When I first started my diet (I use the word “diet,” but please don’t confuse it with a diet you would do to lose weight. This was a lifestyle change I made in the entire way I ate) my migraines were in full blown, crazy mode. I had literally been bedridden with what felt like one, long, never-ending migraine for about a year and a half. So, it took about 6 months for my body to get rid of all the toxins built up in my system, and for me to start to see some positive results from the change in my diet. My “diet” consisted of eliminating all major migraine triggers from the food I consumed. So I eliminated caffeine, alcohol, citrus, MSG, nuts, chocolate, and much more. I eat frequent, small meals throughout the day to help maintain consistent blood sugar levels. Every time I eat, I eat a carb and a protein together (ALWAYS!). My neurologist explained when you eat more carbs than proteins, a spike in blood sugar happens. If you wait too long between meals, then a “crash” follows the spike. Low blood sugar levels cause headaches (or migraines for those of us already prone to migraines). Eating a carb and protein together, and eating more often throughout the day (though much smaller meals) helps prevent headaches/migraines due to low blood sugar levels.

One of my biggest migraine triggers is MSG, and eliminating it from my diet has had amazingly positive results on reducing my migraines. It frustrates me how little information is out there about MSG as a trigger for migraines, because it is an extremely common trigger but very few migraineurs are aware of it. MSG is tricky to eleminate from your diet, because it “hides” under many different names. Here is a list of some of the most common names MSG “hides” under in ingredient lists, and on labels:

enzyme modified, anything fermented, anything protein fortified, anything ultra pasteurized, autolyzed yeast, barley malt, broth, bouillon, calcium caseinate, carrageen, flavoring, natural flavoring, gelatin, hydrolyzed oat flour, hydrolyzed vegetable, olyzed protein, malt extract maltodextrin, natural flavors, pectin, plant protein extract, potassium glutamate, sodium caseinate, soy protein, soy sauce, stock, textured protein, whey protein, yeast extract, yeast food

Here is a great article that explains what MSG does and how it causes migraines: http://ezinearticles.com/?id=888663

Simply eliminating MSG from your diet can drastically reduce the number of migraines many people have. MSG is a hard trigger to track with a headache journal because the average consumer is almost constantly consuming MSG without ever realizing it. And you don’t have to believe me… take the list above, and start reading the labels in your pantry. Notice any of the list above on the labels in your pantry? I was shocked the first time I went to the grocery store with this list in hand…I thought I would never be able to eat anything again! LOL…don’t worry! I’m still alive, and eating well (lol…too well, somedays). I did have to learn to cook a little bit more, and I shop more at health food stores now than I do at regular grocery stores (and I don’t miss the fluorescent lights there either J). I’ve amassed an intense collection of MSG-free recipes, and even have my family eating healthier (without realizing it…ssshhh!). It can be frustrating to go on a restrictive diet in the beginning. I’ve been there. I’ve also come out the light at the end of the tunnel, and would do it again in a nano-second! There are, of course, many things you can try to attempt to reduce or eliminate your migraines. What works for some doesn’t mean a cure for others. I’ve tried a LOT of things to ease my migraines, and this is one that has helped me. If you have any questions or comments, let me know! Other diet questions I’ll be happy to answer in future blogs, as they come up.

Wishing everyone a peaceful, healthy day!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Take Control, and Don't Give Up!!

I ran into a really interesting article on another forum, and wanted to share it here:

I think one of the most important messages for anyone ill or under a doctor's care is to remember you know your body best. This article illustrates that point so well. Nelson (patient in the article) keeps saying he feels like it is an ENT problem, and none of the ENT doctors look more closely because they state they don't have proof of his assertions. Migraines can be just as difficult to get help for, with patients often going to several doctors before finding one who will listen and is able to help. It is important to remember you don't have to bow to everything a doctor says out of the respect for authority you had driven into you when you were a child, or the feelings that because they are a doctor they automatically know more than you. It is your right to question, and make sure you fully understand why a specific treatment is being prescribed the way it is. If you are uncomfortable, or feel there is more going on then is being addressed you also have the right to express that. Word to the wise would be to question and express respectfully, and politely...you're wanting to build a team with your doctor to combat your illness not continually burn angry bridges. And one of the greatest messages from this article...DON'T GIVE UP! This man went through 60 doctors before finding a specialist who listened to him, understood, had the training and specialized in the field he needed, and cared enough to help. Those people are out there, sometimes it just takes a LOT of searching. But don't give up. He lived with constant headache pain for 6 years, and had he given up would have continued to live with that pain. Instead, he woke up one morning completely headache free. If you've lived in constant pain, you know both the desire to give up and the ultimate motivation of a pain free life. You deserve the pain free life. Wishing everyone reading this a peaceful day!