One of the most intense experiences outside of childbirth is the migraine headache. One who has had a true migraine will tell you that nothing is as bad. To find out if a patient is having a true migraine, I often ask, “Would you rather break your arm or have a migraine?” Migraine suffers always would rather break their arm, and there is no hesitation in their answer.
Migraines result from the constriction of arteries and reduction of blood flow to the surface of the brain. Depending on where the constricted arteries are, the patient may feel numbness of the hands, feet or face. In the case of a classic migraine, blood flow is restricted in the visual area of the brain, resulting in temporary disturbance of sight or flashing lights called a scotoma or an aura. This may last from a few minutes to as long as two hours. If there is no aura, the headache is called a common migraine.
The arteries which are constricted eventually relax, causing a rush of blood which leads to a pounding headache. This often lasts for a full day. Some suffer debilitating migraines every day. During the headache, sufferers become acutely sensitive to sound, light and smells, and will often stay in a quiet, dark room and avoid socializing. If the headache is more severe, the person will experience vomiting with some relief after.
Numerous causes have been attached to migraines, such as hormones, stress, weather changes and migraine triggers. Over 25 years, I have noticed a pattern to migraines. For ladies, the week prior to their period is the most common time to experience them. Generally though, I have noted the migraine triggers are a major concern. A brief list: cheese, chocolate, wine, beer, nuts, MSG, tyramines and nitrates. If a person has just one of these, usually nothing happens; two and the patient might get a headache. If the patient consumes three, they will have a full-blown attack. I call this the “Three Strikes Rule.”
The majority of migraine headaches can be managed by addressing the triggers. The most notorious is the monosodium glutamate group. MSG is commonly found in Chinese food, especially in the noodles and soy sauce. MSG is also found in most canned or packaged soups, sauces such as barbecue sauce. MSG may be listed as autolyzed yeast, flavour enhancer or natural flavour.
Nitrates are traditionally found in prepared or deli meats such as cold cuts, sausages, bacon, bologna, wieners and jerky. Tyramines are vasoactive compounds found in old cheese, dark chocolate, red wine and commercial beer.
You should always pay close attention to the ingredients of store-bought items, and ask your waiter or chef about the ingredients of your dish to avoid being sick the next day. Most restaurants will tell you what is in their food, as it is not in their interest to make you sick.
If you suffer migraines, it would serve you well to be tested for food allergies and sensitivities. Many food sensitivities turn out to be things you crave, such as chocolate. In general fresh air, exercise, and a good diet of fruit, veggies, whole grains and fresh-cooked meats help lessen migraines. Carbonated water and ginger ale help to settle the system, as well as green tea. Therapy such as massage and spinal adjusting in the right areas are helpful.
There are many medications for migraines, some that prevent and some that relieve. Ask your MD what is right for you, but remember too much medication is hard on the liver and kidneys. It is better to learn to avoid things which cause the migraine. If at any time you feel your headache is substantially different or “the worst headache ever,” you should head straight to emergency, as you may have a more serious problem. If in doubt always consult a health professional.
If you have any questions or think chiropractic care would help alleviate your symptoms, contact Tina to schedule an appointment with Dr. Shannon.