How to address chronic headaches and get your life back.
My story: Dealing with chronic headaches and migraines for over 7 months.
If you are reading this because you’ve been dealing with headaches and/or migraines on an ongoing basis – and you think you might go crazy– you are in the right place. I can’t say that I can 100% solve all your headache problems, but I’ve been through hell and back and the past 7 months and I am currently- as of writing this blog post, on week #7 of feeling NORMAL again. In fact, I have not had a visit by The Dirty Bastard (what I call migraines now) in these past 7 weeks. That’s HUGE.
Be encouraged. Get hopeful, because I’m certain that some of the learnings I will share with you here will help you find relief from the chronic pain that headaches and migraines deliver. You’ll be able to proceed down a path that hopefully for you as well, will give you back a normal life, free of never ending headaches and migraines.
If you haven’t done so yet- please listen to my 2-part podcast on my experience with chronic headaches and migraines. I go into great detail on when I had my first migraine, when they became more common, when the headaches became a daily thing, and the steps I took to start ruling out causes. CLICK HERE to listen.
MY HEADACHE AND MIGRAINE HISTORY.
In case you don’t have time to listen to the podcast, I’ll share some big picture highlights of my history with headaches and migraines.
My first ever migraine was after my OB/GYN put me on LoLoEstrinFe Birth Control— after I was experiencing massive bleeding on a seemingly nonstop basis. I urge you ladies, if you are on LoLoEstrinFe and experiencing horrible side effects like I did (I gained 20lbs fast and my skin worsened and I had migraines for the firs time ever. Go to some user review sites like THIS and THIS and read. I was horrified when I saw all the tales of weight gain and acne and depression and suicidal thoughts. Don’t let your OB/GYN slap a prescription for birth control on you for every single symptom. Birth control is truly one of the worst things for our hormones!)
I didn’t experience migraines again with any noticeable regularity until I moved from Chicago to Austin. That’s when I brought it up to my doctor — he suggested I start taking Migranol and that I cut out all artificial sweeteners (y’all know how much I love me some diet soda, I can’t help it).
When I moved from Austin to San Antonio in March 2019, that’s when I recall the headache situation getting pretty intense. I was taking Excedrin — truthfully- like every day. I’d wake up with a headache and have it all day. When we went on vacation, I actually made an appointment with an opthamologist in San Jose so I could get prescription reading/computer glasses with blue blocking. I thought for sure this was the answer. It wasn’t.
The glasses seemed to work for about 3 weeks then the headaches came back.
I started to think it was my STRESS level and tried to focus on stress reduction techniques. I’m sure you can imagine, that didn’t do much.
My doctor told me he felt that if I just went strict Paleo, my headaches would go away. I strongly disagreed and still do- but I did give it a try. Didn’t work.
By July- I was not only having headaches all the time, I was getting migraines and somewhat regularly. We were back in Chicago for the July 4th holiday and I had to spend the day in the hotel in bed – missing a family cookout, because I had a migraine. Steve went to pick up a prescription for Sumatriptan – it didn’t do anything.
When I get a migraine– it’s a 3-day ordeal. I get severely nauseated and feel like I can only eat plain bread or oatmeal or rice. I can’t begin to stomach eating protein or veggies….and yet, when I do eat carbs to ease the nausea — it doesn’t. It’s a vicious cycle. The pain from my migraines is 90% of the time on the left side of my head and feels like someone has put a 25lb kettlebell on my head– and I can’t get it off. The pain is nonstop and it’s a dull continuous pain. NOTHING makes it go away. It’s crippling because– you can’t read, you can’t really watch TV and focus on it, you can’t work- because looking at the computer hurts your eyes so you have to literally just LAY THERE– and I mean the pain will last 12 hours at a time. Then I may be able to sleep but I wake up- feel ok for an hour or two then it comes back. 3 days of hell.
By Fall of 2019– the headaches and migraines were getting more common. I never knew when the migraines would happen– and I was trying to get my new businesses off the ground — and more often that not, I could not work. I’d have to tell Steve that I was home lying on the couch again. The guilt I felt was SMOTHERING. I’ve never been a financial burden to someone- I’ve always taken care of myself and usually others– not the other way around. I am so thankful for Steve’s love and understanding and support and care– I plan to make it up to him the rest of my life for how loving he’s been with me through this horrifying time. Neither of us had any idea what the hell was going on– it was so bizarre.
Of course one of the things I started to do was to see a chiropractor. I firmly believe in the power of chiropractic treatment, so this was a no brainer. When I got x-rays done, it showed that my neck was in very bad condition. I started getting an adjustment 3x a week for a couple months. The first three weeks- no migraines– I was so excited!! Then, over Thanksgiving– I got another migraine and was so upset because I was back at square zero!
Somewhere around the time the holidays came around I started to do some research around histamine intolerance and allergies. I stumbled on a lot of forums about people who had moved to TX from other parts of the country and experienced major ALLERGY issues and SINUS INFECTIONS– which can PRESENT AS SIMILAR TO MIGRAINES!! HA! I thought I was on to something. Most of the people in these forums said they got relief by taking an OTC anti-histamine and a TBS of LOCAL TEXAS HONEY WITH BEE POLLEN in it daily. I ran to the store. I have been taking a TBS of this honey every day and started taking D-HIST again every day (my man also does this- the honey and the D-HIST as we he was experiencing allergy symptoms)
I stumbled on this book by Dr. Becky Campbell on Histamine Intolerance: I highly recommend it and she’s going to be on our podcast later this year.
I found a new local primary care doctor and went to see her- as I still was having headaches and migraines even after doing the allergy prevention stuff. I knew I would need a referral to a neurologist. She referred me to Dr. Hanah Homafar.
Dr. Homafar is my life-saving neurologist. Oh how I love this woman!! Read on below for what she taught me and what treatment I’m now on that’s working.
How I am treating my chronic migraine and headache situation- what's working.
What’s funny is this photo was taken at The London House Hotel in Chicago— (review on that hotel coming up in a future post on Chicago- travel focused– be sure you are subscribed) a day before I ended up getting ANOTHER MIGRAINE. Yes- while we were home for Christmas break, I had 2 migraine incidences. Good times. We had to cancel our 2-year anniversary dinner so we could stay home and eat in. God Bless My Man. I’m telling ya.
So- here is what I have incorporate into my life that is working– and please note– what sucks about chronic headaches and migraines- is that there are soooooo many possible causes and triggers, it’s quite often hard to identify what the sole cause is, if any. Truth be told, I have zero idea what it is that caused this storm of headaches/migraines– all I care about is that I have MY LIFE BACK. I can work. I can work out. I can make an appointment (let’s pretend we aren’t in Coronavirus-World for the sake of this blog post LOL) and not worry that I will have to cancel it the day before. I am SO GRATEFUL.
Dr. Homafar explained to me that there are TONS of possible causes for migraines (and headaches)- we went through a printed out handout from the American Council For Headache Education.
Hello- if you click over there you’ll see some startling statistics. 1 Billion Migraine Sufferers globally. 25% of households- and 20% of women are dealing with migraines. That’s no joke.
What are some dietary triggers for migraines and headaches?
One of the first things Dr. Homafar told me was that HYDRATION is of utmost importance with headache and migraine prevention. I recognized immediately how bad I’d been at hydration. She said to focus on drinking 64oz of water every day. I bought these BPA-Free water bottles for my man and me and we drink so much more water now.
For all of my friends who practice intermittent fasting, it’s important to listen to your body. If you are doing fasting of any kind and find yourself prone to getting headaches– it’s time to let go- and just focus on caloric deficit (trust me, that’s the MOST IMPORTANT THING ANYWAY in losing weight– watch this to learn more.) If you get to the point I was with headaches ruining your life- you’ll do it.
So get this– possible triggers for headaches and migraines are: chocolate and cocoa, alcoholic beverages, caffeine, figs, raisins, papayas, avocados, plums, very ripe bananas, beans, most commercial breads, cultured dairy products (buttermilk, sour cream), chocolate milk, cheese (blue, brick, gouda, gruyere, mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, romano, roquefort, cheddar, Swiss, Stilton, Brie), Aged/canned/cured/processed meat– anything with nitrates or nitrites, canned soup, soup or bouillon cubes, chocolate ice cream, pudding, cakes or pies, any yeast-containing doughs and pastries, nutrasweet, MSG, yeast, yeast extract, seasoned salts, processed frozen foods.
Basically- the entire world of food and drink COULD be a trigger.
NOTE: this is NOT to say that all these foods are collectively all a trigger– it could be ONE of these foods that is highly reactive for YOUR body. This is why I am so glad Dr. Sebring had me take this MRT Food Reactivity Test. (Please note: I am going to have their top dietitian on the podcast to talk about what this test is, what it tests for and how they work with people after identifying the foods that are reactive to them- to first eliminate them and then later- after they have healed their gut and autoimmune issues- to reintroduce some foods– see my results below. If you are interested in getting this test done it does have to be ordered by a doctor- feel free to fill out the Contact Me form here and I can help you.). Because if I hadn’t taken that test, the thought of doing an elimination diet for all of these things might drive me batty.
For the record– my LEAP results came back showing that I was HIGHLY REACTIVE to CORN and moderately reactive to: Turkey, Flax Seeds, Soy, Yeast, Brewer’s Yeast, Wheat, Bananas (and my beloved plantain chips which I was eating every day) Mangoes, Brussel Sprouts, Pumpkin, Sesame Seeds, Zucchini, Onions, Peppers, Cauliflower and Tea.
Friends, I was having zucchini ALL THE TIME. Brussel sprouts to some degree on a regular basis. Corn? OMG. Corn tortillas at a restaurant because “wheat tortillas” are gluten and we all avoid them right? Plus I’d always have some corn chips with salsa. Plus– people- in this country, CORN SYRUP IS IN EVERYTHING. Every candy at the movies has corn syrup as the first ingredient. Corn syrup is in ketchups and salad dressings — literally like everything. I clearly can’t have any cauliflower pizza dough stuff anymore! And peppers and onions?? Try making an omelet without that. Or eating at a Mexican restaurant without peppers, onions or corn! LOL. And turkey- hello- me and my turkey meatloaf were BFF. Interestingly enough I did NOT show reactive to DAIRY OR WHEY = go figure.
Here’s something fascinating: I cut out these foods and guess what disappeared? The bizarre-skin-bumps-situation that has plagued me for 7+ years and that no doctor has been able to figure out. I’ve been getting rock hard, painful, sometimes itchy bumps on my neck and sometimes chest and back and sometimes face- not acne, not a rash– no idea. And cutting out the foods– the bumps that were all over my neck — GONE. Then I accidentally had some candy with corn syrup in it and BAM: bumps back in my life.
Friends that’s about as real as it gets. Clearly when our bodies become reactive to foods, we need to break up. It is a wonderful thing to KNOW let me tell you.
What Else Can Cause Headaches and Migraines?
The other things that can cause chronic headaches and migraines– changes in sleep patterns: getting a lot MORE sleep or suddenly not getting sleep. Hormones: changes in estrogen can cause headaches. Being in perimenopause or menopause can cause migraines. Weather changes can cause migraines, as can changes in elevation. Stress is of course a major trigger– both bad stress and good stress. Physical exertion- overtraining or injury can cause headaches too. Eyestrain from being on your computer and/or exposure to blue lights from our computer and phones/tablets is a trigger. EMF exposure is a less known trigger but limiting exposure to EMF has shown to work for many.
What a neurologist recommends for migraines.
Please note– I’m planning to have my neurologist on the podcast– but for this blog post I’m sharing what she’s explained to me– and what she is doing for me — this may not reflect what a neurologist in your area would do for you but this woman has given me my LIFE back!
She said insurance companies need to see that you’ve tried three phases of treatment (these are my words)
“Atomic” or Holy Crap Make the Pain Go Away
So phase one are prescription drugs like imatrex or sumatriptan — your doc prescribes these pills that you take WHEN YOU GET A MIGRAINE. For me, the sumatriptan did literally NOTHING.
Phase two is preventative and there are three types- I’m going from memory here so bear with me: there are drugs used to lower blood pressure, anti-depressant drugs and beta blockers. I’m on NADOLOL 40mg. I started on NADOLOL 20mg but that didn’t do anything. Once we upped my dose to 40mg- it was magic.
Phase three is when the first two aren’t working- and that’s when you can get Botox injections (it’s not in the forehead like we get for our shallow needs) or there is another injection done monthly that performs well. Both these treatments are very expensive so your insurance company will expect you to try level one and level two before trying out level three– KNOW THIS BEFORE YOU WAIT AND WAIT TO SEE A NEUROLOGIST– I expected to be able to go in and demand Botox but it turned out I didn’t need it.
Supplements You Can Use to Dramatically Help Chronic Migraines and Headaches
There were 3 supplements that my neurologist told me to take and a couple extras I’m sharing, because they fit in here.
500 MG of Magnesium: We had already been taking the CALM supplement from Natural Vitality- now we just upped the dose. Buy on Amazon by CLICKING HERE.
CoEnzymeQ10: I was already taking these in my daily vitamin packs that I order via Isagenix. If you’d like to chat with me about getting on a solid vitamin pack routine with my other nutritional recommendations, I am a rep for the company – because the products have changed my life. Fill out the contact me form and we can chat– happy to answer any questions. If you are anti-social and prefer to just order from my Isa-website you can CLICK HERE I won’t be offended. 😉
Riboflavin or Vitamin B2: Just go read through the reviews on Amazon— you’ll be like how did I not know that this could help with headaches and migraines so much?
Licorice Root : I have LOW cortisol according to my bloodwork and I did not want to take Hydrocortisone as it can cause weight gain. I did some research and they said Licorice Root is a miracle worker. Again- read the hundreds of 5 star reviews from people on Amazon saying how this changed their lives. NOTE: Low Cortisol can also contribute to headaches.
I found this all natural headache balm-– thought I would share this here as well.