Managing My Migraines By Making Healthy Choices
My daughter is a fabulous pastry chef. She drops by our home often with delectable treats for my husband, Tom, and me. Tom thoroughly enjoys them, but I have to carefully watch what and how much I eat, as I’m extremely sensitive to certain foods. I’ve found, through the years, that if I indulge even a little too much, I will inevitably wake up with a migraine the next day. Since I began experiencing migraines about 15 years ago, I’ve discovered my biggest triggers are highly processed carbs and red dye #40. This red food coloring is added to red, purple or orange candy, cakes, gum, cereals, snacks and even some store-bought brownies. I have to be hyperaware of what I’m eating, because once I have a migraine, I often have to take a prescription medication to make it go away.
My severe migraines develop when I feel an intense, constant pain in the back of my neck and base of my head, making it difficult to concentrate. I’ll try to see if it will go away on its own, but often have to resort to taking prescription medication, along with acetaminophen (Tylenol). Lying down makes it worse, and if I don’t take my medication when I get a migraine at bedtime, I will wake up with excruciating pain. Without taking the prescription, my migraines may severely intensify and can last for three days.
To avoid getting migraines, I have tools to prevent them. Now that I’ve identified my triggers and avoid them, I experience migraines a lot less often. Making healthy lifestyle choices, like staying very hydrated, exercising regularly, and paying very close attention to my diet, is the best preventative medicine. I try stick to clean, fresh foods and eat small amounts of processed carbs or none at all. I have more energy and clarity when I follow a fresh, healthy diet like this, and I feel lethargic if I eat too many processed carbs, even if they don’t lead to a migraine.
I’m fairly successful at preventing migraines now, but when I do get them, I know how to treat them. I’ve also found that my migraines are often related to my muscles tightening in my neck and shoulders, so I’ll put a hot or cold pack on the area, and do lots of stretches. I have a massage chair at home that I sit in almost every day to keep my muscles from getting tight. The massage chair also helps when I have a migraine—the neck massage feature sometimes calms the pain. If these strategies don’t work, I turn to my medication, which is completely effective, eliminating the pain, usually within 30 minutes.
In my 15 years suffering from migraines, I’ve found that the best way to prevent them is to simply lead a healthy lifestyle. When that doesn’t do the trick, I resort to my prescription medication.
Nancy Miller is a REALTOR® and lives with her husband in Atlanta, Georgia.
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