It might start with just feeling 'off'. Then the vision starts to go. Then the blinky lights set in. Then it's a frantic search for the meds of any type to try and get it before the pain starts. Sound familiar?
I'm down to maaaaybe one migraine per year (the last one was post-superbowl weekend if that's any idea). I used up all my sick days in a month at my previous-life cubicle job so this is a massive improvement, obviously. At the time, the neurologist just said it was genetic. Okee doke. This is actually how I found naturopathic medicine.
Diet, hormones, stress, genetics - all of these can cause an attack at any time. The good news is that there's a pretty good list of where to start and it's usually quite easy to determine where the culprit is based on a thorough history and seeing what else, beyond your migraines, is going on.
1. Check your food sensitivities. This goes beyond red wine and strong cheese (thankfully... not sure I could imagine a life without those). There's a simple finger-prick blood test to find food antibodies in the blood. Cut these foods out and there's likely to be a huge improvement. This is especially great if there's digestive symptoms such as IBS. Also, lots of studies link artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and now possibly sucralose to migraines. It's not a far leap to try cutting out other food additives (i.e. packaged foods) to see if you get some relief. Definitely no harm done there.
2. How's your blood sugar? Does the Incredible Hulk come out if you go to long without eating? Hint: ask your loved ones about that question. Fluctuations in blood sugar and subsequent insulin reactions can also be the cause. Generally there's also other symptoms of poor blood sugar regulation present such as fatigue, yeast infections, ovarian cysts, skin tags, or a family history of diabetes. You may be chronically stressed where elevated cortisol (our stress hormone) is causing these fluctuations.
3. Have your full menstrual cycle evaluated. From Day 1-Day__. Particularly if you're prone to migraines before your period, chances are there's other symptoms of PMS and heavier or more painful periods. Determining if it's estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone can help target where hormone regulation needs to happen. No matter which hormone's involved, supporting the liver and digestion is a must to help clear out the hormonal metabolites and remove them from the body.
4. Stress management. It's not what happens or how big or small the stress is, it's what we do with it that matters. Find a healthy outlet: exercise, talk, walk, knit, write, rock, pet a dog, etc. Cortisol influences just about every other hormone in our body, and not in a pleasant way, when it's chronically elevated. Acupuncture can help decrease cortisol as can many herbs. Magnesium is also great here as it's relaxing for muscles especially if you have charlie horses, cramps, or twitches, but it also stabilizes blood vessel spasms which can trigger migraines.
It might not be just one of these factors that are affecting you; it might be a combination of them. It might be genetics but there are common genetic mutations that are implicated in migraines, particularly surrounding vitamin B12 activation and metabolism. In my practice, the majority of migraines, if not all, have been helped by assessing each one of these factors and treating there.
Just because we all have migraines, doesn't mean they're the same migraine and that one study can apply to everyone. Gosh, this philosophy is how I fell in love with naturopathic medicine in the first place. Aw.
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