Two weeks ago I decided I’d had enough of my life being controlled by migraines. I’d reached a point where I was spending most weekends either dopey from drugs or in pain. I’ve tried keeping a food diary, vitamins and natural remedies like chewing raw ginger (not recommended but it will distract you from the pain), and even acupuncture. But the migraines keep getting more frequent.
I’ve had David Buchholz’ book on my shelf for years, Heal Your Headache. I’ve taken some of his advice, avoiding nuts and cheese and processed meats. But I’ve never had the nerve to follow his plan completely, because it involves giving up most of the foods I love, plus wine. The idea is you have to give up all possible triggers to see if your migraines go away. If they do, you know that some kind of food is a trigger, and you can start re-introducing things slowly to see how they affect you.
In addition to giving up nuts, chocolate, avocado, balsamic vinegar, dried fruits, fresh bread, cheese, alcohol, yogurt, sour cream, processed meats, aspartame, and caffeine, you also have to avoid MSG. I had no idea how hard it would be to avoid MSG, but I’m learning. Basically anything with added flavor has MSG. If it has an ingredient list, it probably has MSG.
It turns out I have to give up nearly all the products I use to help me keep my weight down – if it’s lowfat or high-fiber, even if it’s “natural”, it’s got MSG. Giving up my oatmeal squares, my Popcorners, and my protein bars has not been easy. It turns out plain chips, popcorn and pretzels are okay, but they aren’t what I would choose. And for dessert the only thing I’ve found I can eat are ginger snaps.
But two weeks in, I feel like it’s helping. At least, I feel like I’m taking some control back. It’s hard, and I’ve stumbled quite a bit. I was traveling in Phoenix for four days, and that was really hard because restaurant menus were impossible. At least at home I can cook for myself and I know what’s in my food. Fortunately, this isn’t an all or nothing approach – Dr. Buchholz says do what you can.
In two weeks I’ve had one migraine and a lot of smaller headaches. Buchholz says to expect the smaller headaches – giving up caffeine does that – but the good thing is they haven’t turned into migraines.
Here’s the really scary part of this plan though. You have to kick the drugs, which cause rebound headaches and lose their effectiveness over time. I’ve experienced that firsthand, as I’ve cycled through three different prescriptions which gradually stop working. But giving up the pain meds altogether? I’ve tried toughing out a migraine without drugs, and I’m basically a junkie. The thing about a migraine is when it’s really bad, you can’t think about anything else.
Buchholz says tough it out. I couldn’t do it in Phoenix but I can do it from home. It means I won’t be able to function for a while, but in the long run it feels like the right thing to do. My last migraine pill was taken a week ago (November 9). Can I get through a month without a migraine pill? I hope so but I’m not looking forward to it.
Maybe this is a lot to share, but like diets and fitness plans, I feel like I’ll stick to it better if I talk about it. Do you get migraines, and if so, what works for you?