10 Big Mistakes I Made in Trying to Treat My Migraineby Mark Canadic Patient Advocate
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraine is the third most prevalent illness in the world and yet one of the most misunderstood and undiagnosed. I was a typical lost case with all kinds of different illnesses and migraine pain. Years later and thousands of dollars spent, I returned to good health. Along the way, I made ten big mistakes. I list them here in the hopes that you don’t make them.
Doing it alone
I tried to do it all myself, instead of having the well-trained eye of a holistic health practitioner see where I was out of balance. Working with a practitioner skilled in symptomology and its connection to diet and lifestyle led me to discoveries that would help me for years to come. Depending on your comorbidities, it’s important to get opinions from different kinds of practitioners.
Relying on quick fixes
At the time I just wanted relief and was willing to do anything to get it. I relied on over-the-counter medications like Tylenol and aspirin, but my brain and liver did not tolerate them. In his book Heal Your Headache, David Buccholz, M.D. uses a three-step program. Number one is removing quick fixes. He argues that rebound headaches due to quick fixes are the source of many migraines becoming chronic.
Avoiding the basics
I didn’t pay much attention to the big picture – my general physical and emotional health. I thought I needed to fix my illness through drugs or some kind of outside intervention. It turns out that there was little wrong with me that my body couldn’t handle. Our bodies’ natural systems give us the energy, resources, detox capacity, and stress regulation we need. We just have to know how to access them. I’ve learned to slow down and breathe, to eat well and hydrate, and to move and sleep.
Not dealing with my emotional stress
As a male, I wasn’t encouraged to express my emotions. Like most other guys, I buried my feelings deep inside me, only to have them bubble up and surface in other ways, like tension, acne, and a disconnect with my body. Shutting down emotionally prevented me from recognizing when a food disagreed with me, when I exercised too hard, when I need to spend time rehydrating, and when I needed to rest and tune my body.
It began with just having a smoothie every day. Then I removed dairy and cheap oils, and my skin cleared up, my sleep improved, and I simply felt better. Everything changed once I took a nutrition course. The idea that many diseases like migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune diseases could be rooted in my diet never crossed my mind. Once I eliminated inflammatory foods, I could never go back to feeling the way I felt before.
I burned myself out with weightlifting sessions that lasted up to two hours at maximum intensity. I became tired; my hormones were unbalanced; inflammation ran rampant; and brain fog and nagging headaches morphed into migraines with the smallest triggers. Breaking down my workouts into small, more efficient chunks gave me my energy back and raised my trigger threshold.
Not having a strong enough reason worth being migraine free
I wasn’t focused. I just wandered. I did what everyone else told me to do: go to school, get a job and make money to save for a family. But it didn’t feed me. I felt unfulfilled. My lack of purpose created stress that lowered my trigger levels and gave me little reason to direct myself to things that would be good for me (eating well, reducing stress) and avoid many things I knew would take me down the wrong path.
Spending too much time on social media
The endless scroll of social media is mentally and emotionally toxic. Today I limit my interaction with social media to three times a day and use my twilight app, which changes my screens resolution as it gets darker outside and helps regulate my body's circadian rhythms. I also cut off all electronics an hour before bed to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Living off carbohydrates
I love carbs. But my body doesn’t. The blood-sugar spike and crash caused by carbohydrates gives me a constant yoyoing of my mood, energy, immune system and cortisol which increases inflammation. Carbohydrates also contribute to my fatigue. When I switched to a lower carb lifestyle, my body became “fat adapted” and my brain began using fats as a source of slow, sustainable fuel instead.
Avoiding proper fuel for the day
The combination of avoiding breakfast and ingesting coffee first thing in the morning, instead of water, confused my circadian rhythms. I became wired and tired all day, only to binge for dinner and end up in a blood-sugar battle throughout the night, getting terrible sleep. My body reprogrammed itself once I started drinking 12 ounces of water immediately upon waking, followed by a breakfast full of healthy fats and proteins. Now I can go all day without stimulants.
Learn from my mistakes
By recognizing these mistakes and making the necessary adjustments in my life, I was able to raise my threshold for migraine triggers enough that most of my old sensitivities like light and fragrance disappeared. Hopefully my list will help you to avoid the same mistakes and give you some ideas to pursue in your treatment for migraine.