The Non-Drug Migraine Cure
(first of a series)
When I was 21, I had been a coffee addict since I was 16. I drank it black by the pot full. I had terrible migraines, and one day I went to see a chiropractor to see if he could help me. He looked at the dark circles under my eyes and said, “Something is poisoning you, and I’ll bet it’s caffeine.”
That really surprised me, since I’d never heard that caffeine could hurt you. He told me to stay off the caffeine for a week and come back to see him.
It was really hard to give up my beloved coffee, but anything would be better than those crippling, nausea inducing, vision blurring headaches. After three days, the headaches were gone. I forgot about caffeine the day I went back to see him, and bought a Diet Coke, which I drank on the way to his office.
He shook his head, and nodded at the Coke can in my hand. “That’s got as much caffeine as two cups of coffee.”
“Well, it hasn’t given me a headache,” I said, feeling defensive.
“Oh, it will. Probably take two days for it to hit. Caffeine makes the arteries in your brain contract, which lasts for a day or two. You get the migraine when they expand back to normal size and start pressing on the lining of your skull.”
“Oh.” So, that was the last time I drank coffee or any soda with caffeine in it, and I avoided migraines for years.
If you get migraines on the weekend, it’s probably not because you hate being away from work or being with your family, it’s the delayed withdrawal from caffeine. Either get up and have coffee at the same time and in the same amount you would have on a work day, or give it up entirely to get control of those sick headaches if caffeine’s your trigger.
There are other things that give us migraines, though none of them bothered me until the last ten years or so. The best known causes are: chocolate (which has caffeine and other chemicals), cheddar cheese, other hard cheeses like parmesan, MSG (monosodium glutamate) which is added to food to make it tastier, especially soups, powdered soups (like Lipton Onion soup mix that everyone used to use to make onion dip) and prepared foods like bean or cheese dip. These things are fairly easy to avoid.
Sorry, you’ve got to read menus and labels to avoid these trigger foods. Unfortunately, lots of restaurants are currently on a “cheddar cheese with everything” kick, so you may have problems avoiding it when you eat out.
There is a non-prescription cure for migraine that works very well for me. It’s called Feverfew and it’s an herb, available online as a living plant or in capsules from GNC and most health food stores. At the first sign of a migraine, usually a change in your vision or nausea, you can chew a bunch of leaves or take three or more capsules of it, and the symptoms should go away within ten to twenty minutes. If they don’t, take some more. It won’t make you high or sleepy, and it’s probably not possible to OD on it. You probably shouldn’t take more than 12 capsules a day.
I always have a bottle of Feverfew in my bedside table and take it with me when I travel. It works for most people, so if you screw up and have dark chocolate or cheddar cheese or thought you were getting decaf, but someone poured regular coffee for you instead, you have a remedy.
Photo credit: from a painting by Spring Bright