THE MADNESS OF MIGRAINES
A million years ago when I was in middle school, I began getting searing headaches that had me getting sent home and missing school. My parents took me to the pediatrician who diagnosed me with migraines. It was right around the same time that my hormones started changing, which is what he chalked it up to. They gave me medication, and eventually they started going away. After that brief episode, I only dealt with the occasional killer headache in my adult life – until recently.
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with epilepsy after suffering a major seizure followed by a few smaller ones. Just before this happened, I had been dealing with some pretty serious migraine headaches and had been seeing a neurologist about them. After the seizures, my neurologist and I had to work to find a balance of medications and homeopathic remedies to keep both at bay. Up until recently, we had done that, but the migraines are back with a vengeance, and I’m on a quest to find a more natural remedy to fight back.
So the first thing I wanted to know is, what exactly IS a migraine? I think we all know in general broad terms it is a whopper of a headache, but I wanted to dig a little deeper than that. Here’s how the Mayo Clinic defines a migraine headache with more in-depth information:
Migraines may be caused by changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway. Imbalances in brain chemicals — including serotonin, which helps regulate pain in your nervous system — also may be involved. Researchers continue to study the role of serotonin in migraines. Serotonin(*) levels drop during migraine attacks. This may cause your trigeminal system to release substances called neuropeptides, which travel to your brain’s outer covering (meninges). The result is headache pain.
There’s also hormonal changes in women. Fluctuations in estrogen seem to trigger headaches in many women with known migraines. Women with a history of migraines often report headaches immediately before or during their periods, when they have a major drop in estrogen.Others have an increased tendency to develop migraines during pregnancy or menopause.
There were other triggers indicated as well: foods, drinks, stress, sensory stimuli, physical factors, changes in the environment, and medications.
(*)As a gastric bypass post-op, there’s always a malabsorption concern, particularly with seratonin, and in my case I happen to also be an insomniac, so that makes things even trickier. Add to that I am 44 and in perimenopause, and I’m like a walking petri-dish for a migraine, the perfect storm just waiting to be unleashed – and in fact, it has!
The past two weeks have been almost unbearable, keeping me from rehearsals and needing to stay in my room with the door closed, lights off, and battling tears. I went to Facebook and the internet to ask for suggestions. I got many suggestions for medications, but also some more homeopathic and – interesting – ones that I thought I would share:
I know in this day and age it’s silly to be weirded out by the thought of the little needles, but I am. Still, this was by far one of the MOST suggested relief tactics. Even a quick search on Google shows the NY Times and Huffington Post listing it as a tried and true migraine relief answer.
Some people believe that migraine pain originates in the spine, and that getting a proper alignment can help. There are days that I will try ANYTHING that will help. If you tell me lining up my spine will do the trick, fine, let’s do it.
This one was new to me. I’ll be honest: I’m not so sure about this one, but I heard about it, so I’m putting it out there for you to decide on your own. The folks who told me about it SWEAR BY IT, and there were quite a few of them. Essentially it works a bit like acupuncture: it’s a small ear piercing in the innermost cartilage fold of the ear. Apparently it helps with migraines by targeting pressure points on the body’s surface to ease discomfort. And if it doesn’t? You can just take the piercing out and let the hole close up, just like any other ear piercing. Still, I checked snopes.com and found it’s not confirmed either way, so I’d suggest doing some reading first.
This is a supplement that’s a medicinal herb that’s used to treat migraines and digestive problems (but it should not be taken by pregnant women). Some people take it as a preventative treatment as well.
The first thing my neurologist recommended and the go-to on the internet. Most people who suffer from migraines and constant headaches are magnesium deficient and it’s generally recommended to boost your intake by 200 mg per day.
Many people wrote in and talked about the benefits of peppermint tea, peppermint essential oils, and peppermint candies. I haven’t personally tried this, but it was suggested so often that it definitely needed to make the list.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2):
Another one my neurologist suggested. I saw no difference once adding this, but it’s often suggested as some people are deficient.
The older I get, the less medication I want to put in my body and the more “real” alternative I want. If you’re like me and you’re also dealing with migraines, hopefully you’ve found something in this list that you can talk to your doctor about and work with. Here’s to a pain-free head for us both!
Taunia Soderquist is a professional musician, music educator, and radio host located in the Greater Los Angeles area. She’s also a seven and a half year gastric bypass post-op living a healthy lifestyle after losing and maintaining 150 lbs. Now a passionate cook, but not-so-passionate about exercise (eh, she’s trying). Check her website for live shows and more info: www.divataunia.com.
Graphic from www.dailyiron.net, a fantastic resource for iron information
Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia after bariatric surgery and can be found in 20-49% of patients.
The severity and type of nutritional deficiencies experienced by post-op patients varies based upon the type of procedure performed. As can be expected, malabsorptive procedures cause the most impact to vitamin and mineral absorption and result in deficiencies much faster, while restrictive procedures limit food (and therefore nutritional) intake, but do not bypass any part of the intestine.
Supplementation is recommended for all procedures at the levels and frequencies specific to each patient’s surgery type, loss rate, sex, age and medical history. The inherent malabsorptive qualities of RYGBP, BPD and BPD/DS bring about a strong requirement for daily iron supplementation. Iron deficiency has been reported in many studies to be present in up to 50% of RYGBP patients, and most frequently in women.1
Amino Acid Chelate
The form of iron can make a huge difference in both absorbability and stomach irritation. Iron as Amino Acid Chelate, is a water soluble, highly absorbable form of iron, equally as soluble as ferrous ascorbate and as absorbable as ferrous sulfate. This form of oral iron, by virtue of how it is absorbed, with iron dissociating from the chelate as it enters the nonheme pool in the same manner as other nonheme iron compounds, benefits patients with enhanced absorption and fewer side effects.1
Iron is an essential component of proteins involved in oxygen transport.
A deficiency of iron limits oxygen delivery to cells, resulting in fatigue, poor work performance and decreased immune system function.2,3 Bariatric patients post surgery, especially in the first few weeks as healing is still occurring, will need full immune function, and as much energy as possible to recover from surgery and successfully transition to daily home maintenance.
Gentle Supplementation – Ferrous sulfate is inexpensive, but many patients experience unpleasant side effects from its use, particularly gastrointestinal intolerance, which for a bariatric patient can be detrimental to supplement compliance. Symptoms such as constipation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, are all common, especially when ferrous sulfate is taken on an empty stomach. Comparatively, Iron bisglycinate chelate has a much lower incidence of gastrointestinal issues, and in a double-blind crossover study comparing side effects of ferrous sulfate with iron bisglycinate chelate, 61% of study participants preferred the use of the chelate for that reason.1
It is imperative that you have your blood levels checked at each follow-up visit after weight loss surgery to check for possible anemia. If Iron supplementation is needed, a liquid iron from amino acid chelate is a great option due to high absorbability and ease of taking. Dosage can be easily adjusted according to recommendation from your health professional.
1. Coplin, M.; Leichtmann, G.; Lashner, B. 1991 Clinical Therapeutics 13:5.
2. Miret S, Simpson RJ, McKie AT. Physiology and molecular biology of dietary iron absorption. Annu Rev Nutr 2003; 23:283-301.
3. Haas JD, Brownlie T 4th. Iron deficiency and reduced work capacity: a critical review of the research to determine a causal relationship.
J Nutr 2001; 131:691S-6S.
Vitamins have several important functions, including helping the body produce energy, transporting oxygen throughout the body, supporting bone health, synthesizing and repairing muscle tissue. If you have a deficiency in any vitamin your body won’t function as well.
There are two main categories of vitamins:
Fat-soluble vitamins – stored in the body’s fat tissue
Water-soluble vitamins – excreted in urine (with the exception of one – vitamin B12 – which does stay in your body longer)
Because our bodies must use water-soluble vitamins right away and we excrete any that are not used, it is important to consume them every day.
How can you make sure you are getting enough? Focus on eating a diet that includes the foods below:
Vegetables (including beans and lentils) & Fruits
Vegetables contain fiber, minerals (minerals help build your body including your bones, teeth, hair and more), and they are important sources of folate (folic acid), vitamins A and C. Fruits are also an important source of fiber, minerals, vitamin C and folate (folic acid). Folic acid helps the body form new cells including red blood cells. Vitamin A supports eye and skin health while also protecting against infections. Vitamin C is necessary for tissue growth and repair, would healing and keeping gums and teeth healthy. Plus it helps the body absorb iron from plant foods.
Grains are not only a source of fiber and minerals but they contain the water-soluble B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate. The B vitamins are necessary for metabolism – they help your body use the energy in food. And the B vitamins are also essential for a healthy nervous system.
Fortified Dairy Foods
Milk is the top source of calcium in the diets of Americans over the age of 2. Yogurt and cheese are also calcium-rich. In addition, fortified milk and fortified yogurt also contain vitamin D, which supports bone health, the nervous system, and muscle functioning. More than 90% of Americans do not consume enough vitamin D from foods alone. So, take a look at your diet and add dairy or other foods fortified in calcium and vitamin D. Or, consider a supplement.
People who cut down on their calorie intake, follow restrictive diets (such as a very low carbohydrate diet), eliminate one or more food groups, or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet are more likely to fall short on their vitamin and mineral needs. The best thing you can do is eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of foods (more different, healthy foods means you are more likely to consume more nutrients) and, consider dietary supplements and fortified foods to help fill any nutrient gaps.
Fulgoni VL. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr 2011;141(10):1847-54.