A couple of weeks ago I posted something on instagram (here) about struggling with migraines. I was so surprised at how many of you messaged me back sharing your experience, tips and remedies so I wanted to compile all of them into a post along with my story. If you’re lucky enough to never deal with migraines, forward this to your friend who does.
Right around my early to mid 20’s I started getting migraines out of the blue. I was at my first job working at a magazine and literally had to leave, go home and put myself to bed in a dark room they were so debilitating. It got so out of control—once or twice a week—that I decided to see a neurologist. He immediately took me off caffeine, birth control and handed me a book called Heal Your Headache. At that time I learned all about migraine triggers—weird things like perfume, light, fresh baked bread (yeast) chocolate and wine/alcohol—and started paying more attention to my diet. At the same time I started seeing an acupuncturist named Claudia Ward, who also practices Ayurveda Medicine—I still see her 8 plus years later. Along with acupuncture and cupping she educated me on eating foods that support your body type and healing from within with healthy and warm foods.
The first thing I changed was breakfast. Normally I’d make a pit stop for a coffee and muffin on my way to work and sure enough I’d be battling a migraine by lunchtime. So instead of my usual routine I started making a bowl of hot quinoa loaded with dried fruit, cinnamon and raisons. I’ll be honest for someone who loves carbs and sugar this was rough. After taking caffeine away completely, going off birth control, avoiding certain triggers, getting acupuncture every 2 weeks and popping 4 Ibaprofen the second I felt one coming on, I was able to get them under control. I would still get headaches but they were much less often and not as debilitating. I should also mention that when I was 16 I had spinal surgery for scoliosis and as a result have hardware in my back. If I sleep or sit at the computer funny for too long I can get pretty tight through my back and neck, which can trigger a headache. My acupuncturist does cupping all over my back and it works wonders for me. Cupping is a small glass cup that lifts the muscle and tissue by heat suction and increases blood flow. Pictured below.Fast forward to my thirties when I got pregnant. I always feared they would come back full force, quite the opposite. I’ve never been headache free for so long! It was the strangest thing, not a single one. However, 1+ years post partum and they’re bad again just like that. The past 6 months they’ve been especially annoying, lingering for two days at a time, hence my recent instagram post.
My self-diagnosis hit me when I picked up a book on nutrition called Body Love by Kelly Leveque. She touches on blood sugar and hormones and as I was reading it a million red flags went up. My love for sugar and carbs started to run ramped since a.) I got comfortable being headache-free and b.) physically I’m naturally thin, so I have never felt the need to restrict myself from calories, sugar or anything for that matter. Not to mention I’m convinced that either having a baby or hitting my 30’s changed my body. One thing that stuck out to me was how sugary carbs create inflammation in your body. Ever had one of those headaches that feels like your brain is too big for your head? I think they’re called pressure headaches, well I got those a lot and I’m not doctor, but I’m thinking there’s a connection.
So now I’m taking big strides in changing my diet and learning about the alternatives to curbing my cravings. I went cold turkey with sugar for about 2 weeks and noticed a significant change in how I felt and surprise surprise, no headaches. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to enjoy a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie (my kryptonite) and bread from time to time, just not everyday (my former reality). One major takeaway I got from Heal Your Headaches was that it’s all about managing your triggers. If you’re on a free-for-all and not paying attention, your threshold will rise making you that much more likely to get a migraine and then everything starts feeling like a “trigger”. When I do fall off my healthy track—which seems to inevitably occur while traveling or celebrating—I know how to clean the slate once I get home. Everyone responds differently to triggers, so one persons remedy might exaterbate things for another. However, when you’re struggling only you can really take control and pay attention to your body, so I’ve learned. Commit to changing things up for the better, that’s sometimes my biggest struggle.
Aside from keeping my diet in check, here are the remedies I rely on when s*#@ hits the fan and I’m laid up feeling horrible.
Acupuncture—this has been the most effective treatment I have tried.
Peppermint Oil all over my forehead, behind my ears and neck.
Ibuprofen when I know one is coming on
Cold compress on my forehead
Hot compress on my neck/spine
Sleeping and a dark room
Magnesium spray (recommended by my acupuncturist)
Trying not to sleep on my stomach or ditch my pillow if I do, I usually wake up with a stiff neck.
So many of you wrote to me sharing your struggle and remedies for migraines, some I’d never heard of, so thank you! I’ve compiled them all here. So nice to know I’m not alone, migraines are truly the worst! Hope these help some of you out.
Drinking plenty of water—try this app, Waterlogged to keep you on track.
Vicks Vapor Rub on your forehead with a cold wet washcloth on top.
A meeting with Hormone Master Dr. Jess MD for hormonal headaches.
Cutting out caffeine, refined sugar, bleu cheese, processed meat, artificial sweetners and red wine.
Wrapping your feet in a heating pad.
Peppermint oil under your nose for a sinus headache.
Prescription migraine medication—Imitrex, Maxallt or Topomax
Doterra’s Deep Blue essential oils
Nasal allergy spray for sinus migraines like Sinoplex.
Vitamins and a healthy diet post partum will help balance hormones.
Limited time in the sun and heat, which are both triggers.
Fascia Blaster for tight muscles.
A better pillow, or no pillow at all. If you’re sleeping wrong tension in the neck and back will lead to a migraine.
Linament Cream with mint and camphor on the back of your neck.
A cooling food diet (google TCM)
Thai deep tissue massage
Make your own hot compress by filling a sock with with rice and microwave it for 2 minutes.
Always have good protein and healthy snacks on hand when you’re busy and hungry—hard-boiled egg, sugar-free smoothies or almond butter.
Taking magnesium every night before bed.
Stretching your neck once a day.
Avoid transitions between really hot and really cold temperatures (i.e. being in 100 degree weather and going into a super cold air conditioned room).
Avoid sweet alcohol especially in the heat.
Limit stress as best you can.
Take up yoga or stretch every day.
Riboflavin or CoQ10.
Botox—more information on that here.
Advil Liquid gels
Cold pack over your eyes
Stop wearing perfume or avoid it for a while.
DoTerra Pasttense essential oil blend.
Meet with a nutritionist and ask for a full work up on your blood to check hormone levels.
If you have any remedies to add to this or your story, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear!
Photography by Arna Bee