My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankful for my migraine?!

© Sergey Galushko -
That's correct, believe it or not.  This week of Thanksgiving I am truly thankful for the migraine I have right now.  But rest assured, I have a good reason.

I am thankful because this migraine was my choice this time.

In August my dad sent me yet another link to an article about migraines.  This one was about common food and beverage triggers.  Quite honestly I was not so sweet in my response at first.  Ah, yes, here is is...
"Thanks, Dad. Most of those I had heard about.  It's so discouraging to me.  Basically I should only eat vegetables and water since a lot of people I know also cut out anything with gluten.  I just don't know if I'm willing to completely change my diet.  Tough. But it's good to be reminded of all this so thank you."
Hmmm, that actually doesn't sound so bad but I assure you that what was going on in my heart was not quite so tame.  I believe my exact feelings were, "You've got to be kidding!  I'm miserable as it is - I am not going to start thinking about every little thing I put into my mouth.  No way!"

My strong reaction lasted until the next time I was struck with an intense migraine.  It was then that I decided that perhaps it was time to give the migraine trigger diet an honest go.

I am thankful that I decided to take the plunge and that my family was so supportive.

Using lists such as this one, which is actually based around knowing the levels in tyramine in foods, I stripped my diet of everything that could be a trigger.  (If you want to learn more about tyramine in connection with migraines, here is one article.)  It didn't take long for my migraines to disappear almost entirely.  I still had some thanks to hormones, but it was an incredible relief to be virtually migraine free and to realize that food could indeed have been a factor this entire time.  And yes, at this point my eye-rolling at my dad stopped.  Feeling 100% more energetic, excited, and motivated I now use one day out of the weekend to add one potential trigger back into my diet to test it.  If I end up with a migraine within about 24 hours (triggers can take up to 48 hours to cause a migraine), I cross that particular item off my list of safe foods.  Some of my discoveries have been pretty sad - any sort of aged cheese, anything with MSG, wine, bananas (it's those stringy things in between the peel and the fruit - incredibly high in tyramine!), and the most devastating of all - PEANUT BUTTER!  This process of discovery is slow since I am only willing to have a migraine once a week so I can only test one item a week, but wow, it's mind-blowing to me.  It's no wonder that I was constantly battling migraines!

Yes, my diet right now is very limited.  And yes, it's not very exciting.  Eating out at restaurants?  Hah!  Not really possible right now.  But isn't that such a first-world problem that isn't worth crying about?

To think of all the trips to migraine clinics hours away, the repeated dilemma of whether or not I needed an MRI, the many attempts to find a doctor that would listen and medicine that would work, the battles against debilitating side effects of medication, the dollars we shelled out to pay for prescriptions when I had reached our insurance company's approved amount, the days and nights wasted with me buried under the covers, the opportunities to build even more wonderful memories with my family while I was being tormented by my head, the performances I spent trying to break through migraine fog and pain...and not one of my doctors insisted that I try a diet like this to identify triggers!  I understand that it's difficult for them to think of everything especially when they only see me every so often but oh my heavens!  If only someone had demanded I do that if I wanted to continue getting their help.

But better late than never and ultimately it is my own responsibility.  My journey is not done but my life is definitely changing.  I am remembering who I am again and discovering all that I am capable of doing with a clear mind.  When I do get a migraine now it is much easier to get rid of it, sometimes not even requiring drugs.  If just one migraine sufferer reads this post and decides to try this approach I will be so glad.  And if it works for him or her, oh my, that would be the best.

In closing, why am I thankful for today's migraine?  Because I chose to take this one on last night when I was eating at a friend's house.  I sat down to the meal knowing that I had a free day today and that I haven't had to take my medication for a week - there would be no risk of having a rebound migraine because of taking too much medicine in a short period of time.  I wanted to enjoy last night without being careful about everything I put into my mouth.  So I did and it was an enjoyable evening.  As I consequence, yes, I got a migraine this morning but this time I greeted it with a nod of acceptance, a dose of medicine, and a "good-bye."  It completely disappeared in the two hours it took to write this post.

Today I shall eat carefully and thoughtfully because I choose not to get a migraine tomorrow.
Who knows what I'll do on Thanksgiving.  What I do know is that it will be my choice.

Choice.  What a change of pace - a welcome change of pace for which I am thankful.



  1. This is so wonderful to read about -- congratulations!

    I don't think doctors are good at managing anything chronic that's lifestyle oriented. They are at their best when things need to be done NOW, and when the problem is obvious. They're awesome at times like that, but the day-to-day stuff they really fall down on, especially anything diet-related.

    1. Thank you, Janis. I am obviously very excited about all this. :-)


  2. I'm so thankful that you've gone the natural route Erica. I know myself that migraines can be completely debilitating.

    I don't think we can blame the doctors - they're only reacting according to their training and just imagine the pressure they must get from big pharmaceutical companies!

    Yes, a virtually gluten free diet is restricting but the benefits long term far outweigh the inconvenience.

    Shunning processed foods was one of the best decisions I ever made. I admit I spend longer in the kitchen these days but the upside is I'm not only giving my body the quality fuel that it needs but cooking is actually fantastic therapy especially when accompanied by classical music!

    BTW: I've found a recipe for churros which doesn't need a machine :D Good quality oil, wholemeal flour and raw cane sugar makes in an *almost" healthy treat.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Marion. I agree that we can't blame the doctor's - I didn't really intend to imply that I do. I just wish I had figured this out sooner. I am learning how important it is to take our health into our own hands and my eyes have been so opened in regards to how much we can do ourselves through more natural routes. Very empowering, not to mention cheaper and in the end, healthier.

      In regards to the churros recipe, please feel free to send that along...or you could just fly out here and make them with me - that would be fine with me!

      Great to hear from you, Marion.


  3. What a heart-warming story, Erica - even though it is at the expense of your migraine. I can't begin to tell you how much I feel for you... good for you for taking these steps - mostly, I heartily applaud your attitude :)

    And yes - restaurants - definitely a first-world problem. Not worth stressing about that one...

    1. Thank you for the cheer of encouragement, LaDona. So excited to be in the driver's seat, more of less.