Saturday, November 7, 2009

Migraines: Prevention

I wrote several weeks ago rather vaguely about my migraines and encouraged people to ask questions. I was talking to Simon this weekend, and she said "I wanted to ask questions about your last post, but I didn't know enough to know what to ask about migraines." Of course, as we do, we got talking further and I was able to draw out of her more of her questions. My goal in writing that post, in part, was to draw out these questions, primarily because it's my experience that if you don't have migraines, you probably don't have a clue what it's like. Not to belittle you or anything, but the more you know what it's like, the more you can understand me and my suffering. And to be honest, I didn't understand it 6 years ago either, which is why I think I want more people to know about it now.

So, for this first migraine post, before we get to the nuts and bolts of the pain, let's talk prevention. What causes ME to get migraines? (Everyone's different.) My migraines are genetic, so that's a huge factor. I also have a big part of them that's hormonal and some part that's based on barometric pressure. So basically those are outside of my control, for the most part. The only thing I can do to not mess with that balance is not add external hormones, which means no birth control pills, which is ok, in part because most doctors will never prescribe estrogen pills to me anyways because of the type of migraines I get.

But the biggest thing I can control is my diet. For a while I went on a trigger-free diet. It was horrible. I eliminated almost everything awesome from my diet. Citrus, onions, fresh bread, cheese, cured meats, chocolate, etc. There was a list of over 30 things that I couldn't have. It made going out to eat super fun! And cooking was super fun too! But I've learned some things that I have adverse reactions to. Fake sugars are bad. I always forget which one causes migraines, so I avoid aspartame and sucralose like the plague. Caffeine causes migraines in the long range but can cure them in the short range, so it can go either way, but mostly I avoid it, except around deadlines or Important Things. Alcohol is a trigger that may seem difficult to avoid, but has become fairly easy. I've gotten used to drinking water or sprite when I go out and it's second nature now. Plus it's cheap. If I do decide to drink, I do so very knowingly and I've made a very conscious decision with my schedule in mind. Thought process: Do I have time to spend 4 hours in urgent care or the ER in two days? Yes? ok, I can have some drinks. No? ok. it's time for water.

There are other weird things that are triggers too. I can sleep the wrong way or sleep too long. I can smell the wrong thing or spend too much time around strobe lights. (Strobe lights are really, really bad for me.) There are smaller things too, like driving down the highway with the windows down for long periods of time. The throbbing starts to become throbbing in my head instead of just in the air in the car. Spending too much time at a computer (especially without my glasses) can cause me trouble as well.

Ben would also say that shopping on Saturdays around noon is also a trigger, but I'd disagree. But he's probably not that far off in that missing meals does throw my body for a loop.

If you're further interested in this subject and the idea of triggers, I'd encourage you to read Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain. The books is by David Buchholz and focuses on eliminating triggers (including medications) from your daily life. It was my first attempt at getting my migraines and other headaches under control. I know other people for whom this book has radically altered their life and has helped them eliminate all migraines. So it's definitely worth reading. Whether or not it can eliminate the pain altogether is a different issue.

That's it for the migraine stuff for this week. I'm trying to be informative but not bring you all down while I'm at it :) More pictures and fun tomorrow!

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