Migraine headache is a subject I carry close to my heart (and head) since suffering from the mind-numbing malady since the young age of eight. For you lucky ones, never having to lock yourself in a dark cave avoiding the power tools required to decapitate the pain; a migraine headache can cause intense, throbbing, pulsing sensations in one area of the head. They are commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. (And by extreme, I mean the glow of the television in a darkened room.
While there are migraines that come on suddenly, some are preceded by a sensory warning system called Prodrome. For one or two days before onset, sufferers can experience visual disturbances such as flashes of light and/or speech disturbances. Personally, I experience a heightened sense of smell allowing me to empathize with my beagle, Pennington. In some people, these symptoms can simulate a stroke.
So, why does this happen? And why is it happening to me?
While much about the cause isn’t understood, genetics and environmental factors appear to play a factor. Others given credence are:
* Imbalances in brain chemicals – including serotonin, which regulate pain in your nervous system – also may be involved as well as hormonal changes in women. Estrogen can be a nasty combatant.
* Family History – up to 90% of people with migraines have family history of migraine attacks.
* Age – headaches can begin at any age but are most common during adolescence. Most have already had one by age 40.
* Sex – Women – 3 times more than men have migraines, but boys more than girls in childhood.
* Sensory Stimuli – If you come in contact with bright lights, sun glare, loud sounds, or smells such as perfumes, paint thinner, or second hand smoke.
* Changes in Sleep Patterns
* Physical Factors – Intense physical exertion.
* Changes in Environment – A change in barometric pressure, for example, when it drops before a hurricane or large storm.
* Medications – Oral contraceptives, or vasodilators such as nitroglycerin can aggravate.
* Food – I saved the best for last. For me and for many, this is the true culprit.
I was instructed by many a doctor, through the years, to keep a food journal as well as a headache diary. In short, the exercise was to determine the possibility food was the catalyst behind my just- kill-me-now headaches. We’ve known for years chocolate, aged cheese, pickled herring, liver, homemade yeast breads, and wine contain amines which can cause blood vessels to constrict, then dilate, triggering a migraine. Other suspect foods are bananas, coffee, and some nuts. I ate, I wrote, I suffered, but my dots never connected.
My epiphany came on Christmas Eve a few years back. No, not with a bright star in the east; but a refrigerator slice and bake cookie. Moments after ingesting a single cookie, I immediately wished I hadn’t. With intense pain radiating from my temple, I was able to read the first ingredient before my vision blurred – Thiamin Mononitrate. My migraine lasted three days – my research is ongoing.
What is Thiamin Mononitrate and why was it in my cookie?
Thiamine is B1. Mononitrate is a salt form of it, created in a lab to preserve it and added to our food. It’s a nitrate – a preservative – a preservative that triggers migraines; and one that tried to kill me. How? Since our bodies produce nitric oxide, which is a gas that expands blood vessels, nitrates increase the production of nitric oxide further and the result will trigger migraines.
In food, nitrates have long been used to cure and preserve meat and maintain color. So what is the harm? When exposed to high heats nitrates form nitrosamines which have been associated with various cancers.
So where can you go from here? Read on.
10 Lifestyle Remedies To Offset Migraine Headaches That Really Work!
1. Keep a headache diary – learn your own triggers to help find the treatment best for you.
2. Start a food journal – write down every morsel. You just never know!
3. Try yoga – muscle relaxation exercises have been known to help with frequency.
4. Sleep – get enough sleep but don’t oversleep – it’s been found to be a trigger.
5. Rest and Relax – when you feel the onset of a migraine, relax in a dark room. Place an icepack wrapped in a cloth on the back of your neck applying gentle pressure. Relax.
6. Minimize or eliminate your consumption of cured meat, products like hot dogs, sausage, and cold cuts; basically the deli counter at your supermarket.
7. Check Labels – nitrated compounds are everywhere, where you least expect them! Toothpaste – one of two ingredients in Sensodyne – boxed candy such as Good ‘n Plenty and(say it aint so) Twizzler’s! All your favorite cereals (unless you’re buying Kashi or shopping in Whole Foods) and don’t even step foot near the cookie aisle!
8. Eat Organic – Organic foods are not grown with synthetic nitrogen fertilizers that boost a crop’s nitrate content or added preservatives.
9. No Aspartame or MSG – known migraine irritants.
10. Eat Close to the Earth – In English, rid your life as best you can of processed foods. Fill your diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, some nuts, wild caught fish, organic poultry, and grass-fed lean meats.
Changing your diet requires commitment. Believe me, I understand. Cake is my favorite food group. If you suffer from migraines, learn to read labels. And if they shout back at you, “Danger Will Robinson!” put them back on the shelf – their preservatives will ensure they out live you.
Write a comment! Tell me your story.
From The Point – Always Lori Flynn