Medicine

My Battle with Migraines

I have suffered from migraine headaches for several years now, but they have definitely gotten worse since John was born. I was attending a nurse practitioner continuing education seminar a little over a year ago and one of the presentations was given by the Chief of Neurology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (where I work). The topic was migraine management. This was an excellent lecture for me to attend because several of my patients complained of constant headaches and I did not have too in-depth of knowledge basis to manage it. I usually just sent them to neurology for management (since they had many other co-morbidities). Little did I know that this migraine lecture would change my life.

Not only did it give me the knowledge I needed to comfortably manage my patient’s migraine headaches, but it gave me the overview that I needed to figure out what to do about my constant migraine suffering.

After that lecture, I went up to the physician presenter and asked him if he was taking new patients. I made an appointment with him and had a comprehensive initial (and a few subsequent follow-ups) visit. He diagnosed me with chronic migraines with sensory auras (I get tingling in my 4th and 5th fingers before they start) as well as abdominal migraines (previously diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)). He started me on a non-selective beta blocker and some magnesium. After that, I noticed a pretty significant improvement in my day-to-day symptoms.

However, about a year into treatment, I started developing horrible, daily migraines. I wasn’t sure what had brought them on. We tried to add another medication but I found it overly sedating. I started to wonder if my diet could have a link to my migraine triggers. I already had previously been diagnosed with IBS/abdominal migraines, and a complete GI work-up told me I didn’t have celiac disease, but I wasn’t certain if there was a link between gluten and migraines. I did a search on PubMed to see if there was any science to back up my theory and found a few articles (here, here and here) that showed a link between celiac disease and migraines.

I read enough that I thought an experiment would be helpful. I cut out all gluten for 4 weeks in an effort to determine if a gluten-free lifestyle would improve my migraines. I purchased a bunch of paleo and grain-free cookbooks and found recipes online to supplement so I wasn’t stuck with “boring” meals. And wouldn’t you know it, a week in and there were no migraines! And my gut was way better too. No bouts of IBS/abdominal migraines either. I felt so good I tried to cut my migraine medicine dose in half to see if I really needed it (that was a bad idea and later day I had a real bad migraine). I went back to my prescribed dose and have stayed away from gluten and remain pretty much migraine-free.

So the moral of the story…if you’re a chronic migraine sufferer, you should probably see a specialist. However, if it’s a long wait to get in to said specialist, try an elimination diet to see if you notice a difference.

Have any questions about my experience? Leave a comment below and we can discuss.

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