Although I am very fortunate to have never experienced a migraine headache, I treat a significant number of people who are debilitated by them regularly. In fact, almost 20% of American women suffer from migraines. Clarification: Many use the word ‘migraine’ to describe any incredibly intense headache but a true migraine has very unique characteristics. Migraine headaches tend to cause pain on one side of the head only, many times accompanied by significant nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, light or smell sensitivity, dizziness and/or fainting. Once a migraine ‘kicks off’, most migraine sufferers quickly retreat to a dark room for the remainder of the day, cold pack and pain relievers in hand, praying that the pain resolves before morning.
The American Headache Society, the professional association for physicians who care for headache and migraine patients, are clamoring for additional funding for migraine research. Considering the wide-spread prevalence of migraines and also considering the impact it has on a person’s life, researchers believe they desperately need funds to better understand this condition. While I agree that additional funding and research would be wonderful, it seems that research spending is more likely to be trimmed now more than ever. So, how does this affect you or your loved ones who must still endure these headaches? Well, it’s your call to action. You must take matters into your own hands and work toward your own education and improving your own lifestyles to make a difference in your health. You might have figured out the same caution and call to action is not just happening in the migraine world, but across all medicine.
So here’s my take….’cause you know I have one! And it’s the sequel to my previous post.
In two words…THINK FOOD. In my practice, we routinely work with patients who experience migraine headaches – the real, hardcore migraines! For many of them, it boils down to a few ‘ingredients’. Let me explain with a story.
Shannon is a 46 year old fitness instructor that was debilitated by migraine headaches almost her whole life. In a typical month, she experienced an average of 9 textbook migraines and each one lasted up to 2 days. That’s upwards of 18 days per month of intense pain and loss of productive life hours!! Imagine having to keep up a schedule of teaching 10 fitness classes per week in that condition. In the beginning, she would take prescription migraine medication and had a decent response; however, the medication was no longer working as well as it did earlier. Following the standards of routine care, her doctor prescribed the next type of medication for patients suffering like her, which actually is more often used to treat high blood pressure. If given to someone without high blood pressure, it could cause severe low blood pressure. Now consider her job as a fitness instructor performing intense exercise with severe low blood pressure!! In a nutshell, VERY BAD!
When I met Shannon, she had just learned to deal with her migraines and push through the pain because she wasn’t a fan of taking the blood pressure medication. Like so many people walking around out there, she just assumed that this was how her life would be. As we’ve discussed before, if the liver or colon has difficulty eliminating your ‘biological garbage’, neurological symptoms like migraines may develop. (Catch the Garbage In, Garbage Out lecture at LWU to get more details on this functional medicine perspective on the underlying causes of migraines.) Back to Shannon’s story.
We placed Shannon on a detoxification plan that included an elimination of key foods that may be triggering her migraines for one month. If you know me, you know that I’m not one to exaggerate, but within a month, Shannon was migraine-free!!! At the end of of her elimination month, she slowly and methodically reintroduced the inflammatory foods we had her eliminate. Guess what???? Gluten, peanuts and soy all triggered her migraines! She actually found the underlying cause of her migraines and was not at the mercy of meds anymore! In functional medicine speak, we optimized Shannon’s ability to detoxify, allowed her immune system to recover from the constant attack of her trigger foods, thereby reducing her neurological inflammation and voila she is migraine-free and off any prescription medications. That’s what I call real ‘medicine’.
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, visit our Education Beyond Medication online medical community, LivingWellnessUniversity.com to watch the following Dr. Saxena Speaks! educational videos:
- Garbage In/Garbage Out: The Story of Liver Detoxification
- Food Allergies: How Food Can Make You Sick
- Allergies: It’s Not Just Snot
- Testing Yourself for Food Allergies
- How Gluten Makes 1:7 People Sick
- The Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid