Learnings: What I Need To Do To Keep My Migraine Rate Low
Jim's Migraine Trigger Foods
Jim's Migraine Safe Foods
Untested Foods (I haven't formally checked these. I may never check the ones that have a wide reputation of being a headache trigger.)
Project Start: Feb 9, 2017
Overall the effort to get a better understanding of what causes my migraines is going well. Before getting into some details I'll pass along an objective observation regarding the improvements that have been seen.
I typically use 6-8 pills monthly of Sumatriptan (generic Imitrex). I last had the prescription filled on Jan 12. I'd used 7 pills between Jan 12 and Feb 8. Since the start of this project (Feb 9) I have used 1 pill. That's 1 pill in 35 days. I don't recall the last time I've used such a small amount of the prescription. (And....the reason for using it was not particularly painful. I could feel a headache coming on one evening so I took the pill before bed. The next morning I felt perfect.)
Other commentary on my experiences so far:
What are your migraine triggers? What do you do to reduce your headaches?
Project Start: Feb 9, 2017
Days Since Last Headache: 0
Normally a status update wouldn't be done just 3 days following my last update. But things got interesting right after my last post.
In the previous report I'd gone 12 days without a headache. The next day I woke up with a pretty significant headache - probably 5/10. I took Excedrin as well as had a full cup of caffeinated coffee. The good news is that with the greatly reduced caffeine consumption I'd been doing there was "room" for the caffeine to work. I felt virtually 100% of normal in a few hours.
The other significant outcome was that, with the strict diet restrictions as well as detailed logging being done, I could pinpoint a small handful of things I'd done differently that day as compared to other days:
So I "pulled back" and spent that day eating things I knew I'd had before and were safe. The day after that (yesterday) I ate the rotisserie chicken again. (I still had some and didn't want to throw it out - in addition to wanting to see what would happen.)
This morning: BAM! 5-6/10 headache.
Food #1 for my "Banned Food" list: Rotisserie Chicken!
Project Start: Feb 9, 2016
Days Since Last Headache: 12
"Migraine" is a pretty broad and open-for-interpretation term. It's clear that migraine sufferers suffer in different ways. And we each have different things we do to try and minimize the pain and deal with the overall disruption of life. This is a quick summary of my typical experience.
Onset / Frequency
My migraines typically show up in the morning when I wake up. About 20% of the time they can be felt coming on in the evening - a few hours before bed. Rarely does one start sometime in the middle of the day. Very rarely my vision will be impaired. This presents itself as not being able to see entire words.
I get some sort of headache approximately every other day. But ones that rise to the "migraine" category occur less frequently....about once a week over a long period of time. They come in waves. Multiple weeks can go by with no issues and then....BAM....there's a string of them.
What It Feels Like
Typically the entire head hurts, not just one side or the other. Accurately describing the overall "my body is messed up." feeling to others has been and remains one of my larger frustrations. Most people associate "migraine" with "head pain". Obviously head pain is a part of it, but it goes beyond that. It's very difficult to put into words. For me migraine results in:
The clinical term is "postdrome". That is REALLY clinical. And it's totally inadequate to describe what it feels like. "Headache Hangover" is the term I use. There is a washed out feeling, "mentally tired" if you will. It feels somewhat similar to how one feels after a fever breaks: You know you've been through a significant ordeal and you need to rest and recover. One article said "Your brain has been through a traumatic event. It needs to heal and repair and recover." It's analogous to the day after intense exercise: You can move. You can walk around and physically do things. You look normal. But with every move your muscles ache, and you're reminded that the previous day you put your body through a lot. Now apply that to the brain. That's postdrome.
While my migraines are not easy to deal with by any stretch, there are many others who have it way worse. Some get throbbing behind the eyes. Some can't tolerate any light or sound. Some become very nauseous. Fortunately those are not issues for me.
What are your migraine experiences like? What things do you do to help yourself feel better and deal with them?
For about as long as I can remember I've gotten headaches. Up until my late-30s I thought of them only as headaches. But about 15+ years ago I was talking with my doctor and he put the "migraine" label on them. He handed me a prescription for Zomig and said "This should probably help." It did...most of the time. But as time has passed they've gotten worse. I figured this was genetic "luck". My sisters got headaches. (One sister has fortunately seen them virtually go away. But my other sister and I continue to deal with them.) My dad got headaches. And from what I have been told my grandmother got them as well. In my family it seemed that headaches were inevitable and one needed to just deal with it.
But...I've had it. I'm fed up. I'm sick and tired of 1/ what the headaches do to totally interrupt standard life (work, vacations, activities, etc.) and 2/ not knowing what my migraine "triggers" are. So, after doing some research, I've decided to launch a very deliberate effort to get to the root of what causes my migraines. My hope is not only that I'll be able to improve my own situation, but also that others might benefit from my experiences.
I want to create an environment that is as controlled and monitored as is practical to see if I can isolate foods and/or behaviors that result in pain. This quest is being launched with two primary activities:
Due to some upcoming social commitments (weekends away with friends, etc.) I'm not able to go full-on with only migraine-safe foods for two consecutive weeks. It'll likely be early March before I can do that. But for the time being I have drastically restricted my diet. Right now eating consists primarily of brown rice, ground beef, steamed broccoli, dates, prunes, blueberries, and yogurt. (Meat and dairy are on the "dangerous" list. But with how things are going it seems I can tolerate them well.) I've also significantly reduced my caffeine consumption - from roughly 3-4 cups/day to 1 cup/day. I hope to be eliminating that completely in the next 10-14 days.
I also may have realized (thanks to my data logging) that a change of pillows may have had a positive impact. About two weeks ago we got new pillows - much thicker than our previous ones. It seems that was the starting point of a bad string of headaches I've had. I thought of the correlation and switched back to a thinner pillow. The next morning I felt the best I've felt in weeks. Was it the pillow....or did I happen to be at the end of a caffeine withdrawal? I'm not sure. Maybe it was just a coincidence. But in any event, it's something to consider.
I'll keep reporting back on how it's going, as well as providing other info I find.
Please share your experiences (in the comments below) dealing with and avoiding migraine pain. What worked? What didn't work?