Migraine-15 steps to create an environment conducive to wellness
Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 8:34PM
Sharron E. Murray

"Things may happen around you, and things may happen to you, but the only things that really count are the things that happen in you." -Eric Butterworth   

Migraine is a complex neurological disease. As persons with migraine, we are thought to have an inherited (genetic) sensitivity of the nervous system that makes our brains (neurons) hyperexcitable. Because we have sensitive nervous systems, we are vulnerable to changes in our internal and external environments. Although research continues to explore the exact cause of migraine, a number of areas in our brains are thought to be directly or indirectly involved in the complex pathogenesis, including the hypothalamus, brainstem, cortex, limbic system, and the trigeminovascular pathway. 

There is no cure for migraine. However, an environment conducive to wellness can flourish when balance and harmony exist within ourselves (internal environment) and our surroundings (external environment); in other words, with homeostasis. Constructive steps I learned when my migraines were chronic and I had medication overuse headaches, and that help me thrive today, include:

  1. Identify, manage and, where possible, eliminate your personal triggers.  For example, chemicals and additives in foods and beverages, environmental factors, hormones, magnesium deficiency, and alterations in our physical and emotional states. Maintaining a daily diary can make the task easier, as well as provide a wealth of information for you to share with your doctor.
  2. If the task of identifying your individual food and beverage triggers seems overwhelming, it may help you to begin by eliminating the most popular like alcohol, caffeine (exposure to or withdrawal from), fast food, junk food, sodas, and anything with additives, preservatives, MSG, pesticides, and nitrites. Keep in mind that sweet (including chocolate), rich, salty, and fatty foods may be cravings we experience in a prodrome (premonitory symptoms) and may be mistaken for a trigger. In addition, many of these may contribute to development of comorbid disorders like hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and obesity. As well, some of them put us at risk for the development of type 2 diabetes.
  3. While avoiding your individual triggers, eat a healthy diet (organic, if possible) of fresh fruits and vegetables (lots of green, leafy), whole grains, fish, chicken and smaller amounts of dairy and red meat to help keep serotonin and magnesium levels in balance (low serotonin and magnesium levels are linked to migraine attacks).
  4. Establish regular meal times as highs (hyperglycemia) and lows (hypoglycemia) in blood sugar can trigger an attack.
  5. Avoid fasting as hypoglycemia can trigger an attack.
  6. Stay hydrated as dehydration can trigger an attack.
  7. Avoid environmental pollutants and toxins whenever you can.
  8. Use medications, herbs, and supplements under the guidance of your physician or other health care practitioner and follow directions to avoid toxic reactions and medication overuse headaches.
  9. Maintain a regular sleep schedule and avoid stimulants like caffeine (up to 6 hours), and alcohol and electronic devices at least 2 hours before bedtime. Altered sleep patterns (poor sleep quality) may trigger an attack.
  10. Correct bad posture and reduce the strain on muscles in your neck and shoulders.
  11. Check with your doctor and then begin a moderate exercise program to maintain serotonin levels.
  12. Learn to balance your emotions and control your physiological response to perceived stressors through techniques like self-awareness, cognitive behavioral therapy, daily meditation, biofeedback, guided imagery, and similar focused-breathing techniques.
  13. Incorporate other integrative therapies such as acupuncture, mind-body exercises like tai chi and yoga, reflexology, healing touch, massage, and/or Reiki into your wellness plan to promote relaxation.
  14. If you are an overachiever, learn to set priorities, delegate, say "no", and keep a balance in your daily schedule so one activity does not impose on another.
  15. As much as possible, maintain a positive attitude (on my rough days, it helped me to think of something that made me smile). Positive thoughts have been shown to boost our immune system and contribute to wellness.

Focusing on my good days gave me strength to make it through my bad days and as the good days began to outnumber the bad days, I gained the motivation I needed to succeed. Warm wishes for the best possible wellness for you.

Sharron Murray MS, RN is an author and coauthor CaMEO Study, "Life With Migraine". Currently, Sharron is active in the migraine community as a writer, advocate, American Migraine Foundation Partner, moderator for the American Migraine Foundation "Move Against Migraine" Facebook Group, and member of the National Headache Foundation Patient Leadership Council. 

Follow Sharron on twitter @murraysharron, her Facebook page: Sharron Murray, MS, RN

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you have specific concerns about your health or nutrition, please contact a qualified professional.

Updated February, 2019

Copyright 2014, Sharron E. Murray

 

 

 

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