Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
December 03 2007

Migraine News and Tips

By Mark Sisson
62 Comments

Did you know migraine sufferers have different brains from other people?

It?s true. The latest neuroscience reveals that those who experience migraines have marked differences in their brain structures. Migraine-prone individuals experience sensory input ? including pain ? differently from those who never get migraines. Their brain matter in the area that counts, the somatosensory cortex, is thicker. What scientists don?t know is if migraines cause brain matter changes, or if some folks are simply born with different brains and are therefore susceptible to migraines later in life. Folks with Alzheimer?s and multiple sclerosis have similar brain differences.

Unlike chronic tension headaches or reactive headaches (such as those brought on by consuming too much alcohol or caffeine withdrawal), migraine headaches are dangerous because they alter the brain permanently. That?s why it is essential for migraine sufferers to treat their migraines through both natural and medical avenues. Experts explain that it is imperative for migraine-prone individuals to limit the severity and frequency of their migraines; that is, it is actually safer for a migraine sufferer to take a limited amount of migraine medication in order to reduce the aggregate damage of ongoing migraines left untreated. This is a case where I don?t come down on the use of a pharmaceutical therapy (yes, you heard it from me). While migraine treatments can have side effects, the alternative ? downing huge piles of pills in desperation when a migraine hits ? is demonstrably worse for your health. Of course, there are often triggers for migraine, and it’s crucial to examine your lifestyle and eliminate any triggers – especially now that we know such violent headaches may alter your brain structure.

Common Triggers

– Refined carbohydrates

– Chocolate

– Overripe fruit

– Alcohol

– Sweets

– Caffeine

– Sleep deprivation

– Menstrual cycles

– Stress

– Smoke (cigarette/cigar smoke)

– Excess sun (or too little sun)

– Anxiety

Seeing a pattern here? Migraine rates have increased in recent years. While better diagnosis probably plays a significant role in this, I believe our standard American lifestyle is clearly implicated as well. Few folks eat fresh, chemical-free, sugar-free, unprocessed foods as a matter of course. Going further, our modern pace of living is incredibly stressful, both emotionally and hormonally. If you suffer from migraines, give my Primal Health lifestyle a try and see if that helps clear things up (link 1, link 2). If you?re a regular reader you know we focus on fresh, clean, wholesome foods, coupled with stress management (both physical and mental).

Migraine Myths

Curious about migraines? I?m lucky; I don?t get them. But I?ve got friends and family members and staff who have experienced these terrible, gut-wrenching, blinding headaches. For the record, a migraine is not simply a really bad headache. They are a true health condition, like inflammation or bipolar disorder. You can?t will them away and the pain is not an exaggeration.

– Migraines can?t be cured.

While this is generally true, they can often be controlled and even eliminated (if that?s not ?cured??). A staff member suffered migraines for years; after cutting out all carbohydrates from grain sources, the migraines cleared up permanently. Diet, lifestyle, and medical therapy can all help to keep migraines under control for good.

– Migraines are caused by allergies/toxins.

Conspiracy theorists wish it were true. Migraines are not caused by allergies or contaminants. While lifestyle plays a dramatic part in migraine treatment, it is unclear if lifestyle causes migraines, or if some folks are simply more susceptible to migraines due to brain differences. This recent study we discussed above seems to suggest the latter. While we all have a single genetic ?blueprint? finished some 10,000 years ago, there are bound to be plenty of variations. Some of us are lactose-intolerant; others cannot metabolize alcohol; and others experience migraines. I believe migraines are likely due to a combination of slight genetic variation combined with modern lifestyle factors.

Auntie P Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Americans Popping Pills in Record Numbers

7 Tips to Beat Stress Right Now

Subscribe to Mark?s Daily Apple feeds

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

62 thoughts on “Migraine News and Tips”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. It’s funny. I’ve never had migraines. I always assumed migraines were headaches for people who whine a lot. Looks like I’ve got some apologizing to do.

  2. My mother suffers from migraine headaches, so I know that migraines can be a very debilitating ailment. I am glad to see an article focus on not only medicinal cures but also the natural cures that are available. I also appreciate the comment on lifestyle possibly being a factor and the fact that some people are simply more susceptible this disease.

  3. I’ve never even had a headache. But two ladies in my office suffer from migraines. I feel for them when I see how much pain their in. I will show them this post. Thank you.
    T.

  4. Thanks for the article. (Hey, I’m the Migraineur, of course I’d appreciate an article on migraine.)

    I’m curious – do you know of any research into migraines and low-carb diets? I know many doctors recommend gluten-free diets, but I fear that these are insufficient because I’m not sure that gluten is the problem. One of the first things people on gluten-free diets turn to is corn, which can’t be better.

    I know that there is a great deal of research into ketogenic diets for epilepsy, and that some migraine sufferers are successfully treated with anti-seizure drugs. This leads me to wonder if ketogenic diets are good for migraine. I think it has something to do with the brain’s conversion of glutamate (bad for migraineurs, by the way) to the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the presence of ketones.

    My neurologist dismissed a ketogenic diet as “extreme,” so I didn’t tell him that I’m usually spilling ketones at a +2 or +3 level. How much more drastic could it be for me to aim for +4?

    I take Inderal as a migraine prophylactic, but it has a bad effect on insulin metabolism – I believe it increases insulin resistance, but it could increase insulin production, not quite sure. In any case, I’ve been trying to work up the courage to dump the Inderal. My migraines come with aura, the truly debilitating visual disturbances that make it impossible to drive or do any work; the pain was somewhat bearable, but the aura was not.

    Finally, there are a number of researchers who think that migraine is not one disease, but a cluster of related diseases. This makes sense to me, because the things that work for some people fail for others.

    1. I had migraines with aura that usually lasted 2-4days. I started keto 4 months ago and stayed I a moderate (40ish on ketostix) reading. I had a huge failure recently and pretty much ate whatever. During keto, I didn’t have a single migraine. I got off of all my meds (sumatriptan and topomax…inderal didn’t work for me). It was heaven. I lived lile a normal person. Now 2 weeks out of keto, I am on day 3 of a migraine. I don’t know if it was keto. I can’t prove it. But, I’m sedinitely getting back on it.

  5. By the way, the artwork you used to illustrate this post is not a bad example of what migraine aura is like. Not perfect, but pretty darn good.

  6. And all this time I thought I just got really bad headaches. At least a couple times a year I would get these killer headaches and pop upwards of 5 pain killers. Looking back I was probably having migraines. Good to know there are other options.

  7. Migraineur,

    1) Sorry you have to deal with migraines.
    2) Not aware of the keto factor in migraines. I am of the opinion that cutting all grain is more on the right track (corn is a grain, so those who cut gluten and not corn may short-change themselves.
    3) Jack Challem thinks some people might benefit from extra B2 and magnesium. He thinks in those people that a certain gene is expressing itself due to whatever mechanism and that it can be sometimes “turned off” with those supplements.
    4) As you know, I’m not the biggest fan of anything that increases insulin resistance.

  8. Another trigger can be cervical-spinal problems — in my case, caused by a bad phone posture. Over a decade ago, I had one migraine headache, which had been preceded by two “precursor” events a few weeks/months before. After the headache (to which, I thought at the time, death would have been preferable) I went to a reputable chiropractor. He took neck x-rays and asked me if I spent a lot of time of the phone with the handset propped between my shoulder and my ear. When I responded in the affirmative, he said he thought that was the cause of the migraine and he believed he could remedy the problem with a few weeks of treatment (and a promise from me that I wouldn’t hold the phone that way anymore). He did (remedy the problem), I haven’t (held the phone that way anymore), and I haven’t had another migraine since.

  9. As a long time migraine sufferer, I finally met a neurologist who told me about the magnesium and B2-I have fewer migraines now than I ever did. I felt like those 2 simple pills were really a miracle!
    My Dr. said it’s not worth it for me to take the preventative medicine since I only get them 3-4 times a year. I didn’t know about damaging the brain-I’m going to show him this post! Thanks Mark!

  10. A friend I met recently has had migraines and we got on the subject of food allergies/sensitivities, specifically wheat and gluten, and she did more research and then went to her neurologist with her findings (she also suffers seizures and has a lesion on her brain) and he is testing her for celiac. She’s cut out all gluten and says she already feels tons better. I think she should get her results back this week, and I’m curious to see if she is on the right track!

    My sister suffers migraines as well, hers seem to be triggered by caffeine, preservatives, and I’m not sure what else. SHe usually throws up and has to lay in a totally dark, totally quiet room.

  11. I suffered from migraines associated with my menstrual cycle. I have found that reducing my processed carb intake (no sweets or pasta but plenty of beans, fruits and veggies), exercising and trying to include more anti-inflammatory food in my premenstrual diet has helped quite a bit.

  12. In Larry McCleary’s book The Brain Trust Program he has a section on migraines. He recommends ketosis for migraines and some supplements.

  13. Just stumbled across the page…

    I’ve been getting severe migraines since I was seven years old. I am now 20. For five years now I’ve been strictly on holistic and herbal supplements/remedies, and have paid close attention to staying away from foods in which trigger my migraines. It helps, but I still get them, and when I do I’m out for days… which is difficult since I’m in college now and professors don’t like hearing sob stories about why my attendance is so low.

    I’ve tried to deny now for years to myself and those around me how bad my migraines are. It’s hard to always be explaining to people who don’t and will never understand the pain I’ve had to live through… the pain I still go through. How hard it is to sometimes get through the simple matters in life.

    Anyway. I wanted to applaud you on the post. I’ve really needed to stay informed… and I find myself not as informed as I thought I should be anymore. Although there was one thing I wanted to say…

    I highly discourage pharmaceutical therapy… from the time I was ten years old to the time I was 15, I had neurologist after neurologist put me on medications to help “prevent” my migraines… except every drug they put me on never did anything… and in the end they simply started guessing at what may work for me, putting me on medications that had nothing to do with migraines… leaving me to deal with the horrific side effects. You say that the side effects are better to deal with in the end… and while I agree with you on the fact that “downing piles of pills in desperation” isn’t healthy at all (believe me… I know)… the medications I was on with their side effects only made the situation worse. Far worse. Migraines and the side effects from the medications I took for those five years nearly obliterated my life…

    Anyway… after refusing to take medications after turning 15 my family and I heard of a holistic medical center, and it was then I learned of my food allergies, mainly wheat/gluten, corn and sugar. Cutting these out of my diet helps a lot, but as you can imagine can sometimes be hard to get around. Other triggers can be bright lights (mainly the bright sun… its not always a blessing to live in SoCal…), stress/anxiety and certain chemicals…

  14. Hello,

    My husband has severe migranes. He has an almost permanent headache everyday and then on top of these daily headaches approximately once a week he has a migraine of horrendous proportions. Several times he has had to be rushed to hospital for them, he vomits, collapses and has gone unconcious at times during them.

    He has tried many medications both to prevent and to minimize the effects of these migraines, none of which have helped and some of those medications have had seriously adverse affects, including rage and uncontrolable irratibility. For which my husband had steadfastly refused to use or take any of them ever again. Other medications leave him loopy and feeling unfocused, which is just as bad.

    These migranes are so dibiliatating and painful for him and there seems that there is nothing that anyone can do. We have tried chirporactic, accupuncture, reflexology, essential oils, B supplements and many other things, all of which have not helped in the slightest.

    I have a serious concern due to the frequency, duration and severity of his migraines (coupled with the almost permanent running headache) that we will not be able to find some type of mitigator or ease for him.

    Please can anyone tell me if there has been good sucess with the glueten free lifestyle. I have read and heard reports that this is a viable option, but it is a substantial change to a family (yes if we did this it would be for the whole family, as I wouldn’t want my husband to have to go through this alone and in all honesty having to cook two different styles is not realistic everyday).

    Is there anyone that can give me more information or give me directions to books or websites that might provide this?

    Thank you.

    1. I feel so sad for your husband. I never post but wanted to share what might be very helpful for him. I have had severe, chronic (20 plus) migraines a month since I was 6. Specialists, neurologists say I’m the worst case they’ve ever seen. I’ve tried EVERYTHING (gluten free, accupuncturr, chiropractic care, massage, medication, allergy shots, allergy meds, vitamin D, B, magnessium, cq10) to no avail. Preventative meds gave me horrific life long side effects (cysts, insulin resistance). I read Heal Your Headache: The 1,2,3 Plan and started the migraine diet it lays out 18 months ago. It has completely changed my life. As long as I follow the diet I’m pain free. Please read the book and have your husband try it for a few months to see if it helps. It’s worked with everyone I know so far. I hope he feels better!

  15. WifeofSufferer,

    We have a nice community of people many with their own health challenges. One loyal reader comes to mind that may be able to offer advice – either personally (she may have contact info on her site) or via her blog: http://migraineur.wordpress.com/

    I hope this helps and that you and your husband are able to get to the root of this serious problem.

  16. I have suffered with Migraines since I was 5 years old, I am now 39. Until lately, I just “dealt” with them…dark room, cold/ice compress, absolute silence, combinations of pills (ibuprofen, aspirin, sinus meds, etc.) and rest.

    I loved that this post refers to the fact that this is a condition, one which employers, teachers, family and friends should have a better understanding of.

    I recently started on the path of finding “the answer” for my migraines. My menstraul cylcle sets them off and they last for days; eating certain trigger foods, sunlight, etc – all triggers. BUT what I had found was that most of the foods I eat (I am very picky) were triggers and I was completely unaware of it.

    I have since reduced my diet to baby carrots, apple slices, and grilled boneless skinless chicken. I have not had a migraine in 5 days! That is along time considering I would go weeks before I would go a day without one. Even during my cycle this month, my headache was reduced to one occurance and I was able to stop it with the Imitrex.

    I have only started this change in food that I eat; but admittedly I am TERRIFIED to reintroduce any foods for the fear of another migraine.

    There has to be a better way, a “migraine diet”…does anyone know?

    1. Yes! I have had severe, chronic (20 plus) migraines a month since I was 6. Specialists, neurologists say I’m the worst case they’ve ever seen. I’ve tried EVERYTHING (gluten free, accupuncturr, chiropractic care, massage, medication, allergy shots, allergy meds, vitamin D, B, magnessium, cq10) to no avail. Preventative meds gave me horrific life long side effects (cysts, insulin resistance). I read Heal Your Headache: The 1,2,3 Plan and started the migraine diet it lays out 18 months ago. It has completely changed my life. The book explains for many things we do to treat migraines make them worse. It also explains how many foods release chemicals in the brain that trigger migraines. I had no idea food was making me sick. It tells you exactly which foods will and will not trigger a migraine. It is much more detailed than other lists. I hope you try it and it works for you! Best wishes.

  17. Devastated to learn that the Inderal I was on for two years may have pushed me over the edge into the high risk category for type 2 diabetes.

    I was walking a fine line with my first two children, barely passing the glucose tests for gestational diabetes, and then inbetween my second chiold and my third (last) was on the inderal… had full blown gestational diabetes with him and even now 18 months later seem to have irregular blood sugar.

    Glad I saw this post – I was considering going back on the Inderal for the devastating migraines but now am reconsidering….

  18. Oh, and I forgot -I am one of those mavericks whose migraines are caused neither by food, my period or any of the other more common triggers – but I can tell you when a change in the barometric pressure is occuring a day in advance.

    Finally found a doctor who didn’t laugh at me for saying the weather causes my headaches!!

  19. After years of “healthy” vegetarian eating where I felt ok, but gained weight and had ‘occasional’ migraines, I tried to go vegan. After 2 years of migraines that lasted days on end, increasing to 10 times a month, and then adding in severe pms, weight gain, and mood swings, and getting to the point that narcotic shots were barely working, I tried a high-carb diet and really fell apart- every cycle was cumlinating in a 5 day pain fest, ending with vomiting, blindness and narcotis and 3 days of laying down. No way to live.
    I decided to try another approach. My sister had done well on a commercial “liquid diet” sold on the internet. Sure it couldn’t be worse, I tried it..knowing i wanted to “try” to get off gluten, and eat a bit more protein. That was 3 months ago. I tried it vegetarian, but in the end, decided to add poultry back, as well as dairy and eggs. Not a migraine since.
    I have tweaked it a bit, not all liquid anymore, and a bit more fat (due to reading about ketogenic diets). But wow! I have lost almost 40 lbs, my energy levels are AMAZING! My depression has lifted, and not a single migraine since I went on it.
    Now, obviously, my b-vitamins and magnesium has gone up from not being vegan anymore, but before this, I attempted large doses of those in supplement form that never worked. I’ve seen theories that these are vitamins that are particularly not absorbed by persons with undigested gluten in their system.
    People think I’m nuts, can’t understand why I won’t get tested to be sure I have celiacs or some other gluten issue. No way! I would give up every grain in the world to never experience one of those excruciating migraines again! The mood swings I experience now anytime I get “glutened” are memory enough!

  20. Oh, and Grace- I can say with joy that I no longer know a storm is coming and am caught without an umbrella often! Never happened before! I laugh when it snows and rains now..
    I used to be in bed for 3 days before any change.. My husband called me “the human barometer!”

  21. I never had a migraine until I was sick with cancer, then I would get them so bad I was paralyzed to the bed and physically could not get up to even go the emergency room. Now I take meds to keep them under control but they are definitely not made up. And if your not sure if you ever had one, you haven’t. Its not something your ever going to forget you had. Thanks for the info, I did not know some of that.

  22. I too have migraines but without the headaches. I get the aura and blind spot and nausea and an unsettled feeling but only a couple of times in my life have I had the headache. Melatonin supplements and some other medicines give them to me, but I haven’t found out what the other triggers are. I am grain and sugar free already. It scares me when I am driving, but I have no warning of onset.

  23. I am 27. I have suffered migraines for years. Untreated, i get approximately 2 a week. I went on Sandomigrin as a preventative and Imigrain for when one came along. Although i hate the idea of taking drugs everyday, I now have a higher quality of life. I am still unable to work full time but I can do things now I couldn’t before. I have looked at all the different causes and one of the causes for mine are flavor enhancers especially MSG. Another is fatty foods (ie, cheesy food, deep fried food, etc).
    I have found over time that migraines have made me sugar sensitive. I don’t know if that is the right word for it. I am very careful of what I eat now, no packaged meals (full of flavor enhancers), no refined sugar sweets. I am now pregnant and almost due. I have found that during this pregnancy, my migraines have stopped which is just wonderful. I am hoping that I stay migraine free once my body recovers from pregnancy. I have heard of this happening.

  24. I wasn’t aware of the insuline thing with inderal. I probably need to stop it since my blood sugar was high on my last blood test. Be very careful with over the counter pain killers. Doctors told me to take ibuprofen, they said that I could take up to 4 pills at once, which I never did. I never took more than 2 at a time. Sudently my blood pressure was extremelly high, and the doctors started and kept me in blood pressure meds for more than a year. All a sudden my blood pressure dropped to the point that I could not get out of bed without fainting. The doctors did not know what was going on, so they decided to take me off all medications. The answer was simple and came to me from a physician from a different country: ibuprofen decreses kidney function, because of that, I was retaining fluids and my blood pressure was so high. The sudden drop in blood pressure obeyed to the fact that I switched from ibuprofen to acetaminophen, on an attempt to find pain relief. All the physicians involved in my case knew all about the medications I was taking, including the over the counter, however, none of them mentioned the fact that ibuprofen affects the kidneys that way, even though I wasn’t taking as many as I was advised to. The link between ibuprofen and high BP remained silent, I my body got more than a year worth of unnecessary medications.
    Please read carefully all the side effects of all you take, even for over the counter and other supplements; you never know.
    Peace,
    Miriam

  25. I suffered years of devastating migraines…they got worse and worse, til I had daily migraines and didn’t even remember what it was like not to live on painkillers. It affected my life so much, and my career (I’m military). I have seen so many doctors, specialists etc….just more pills. A friend suggested the gluten-free diet…I laughed at it…but gave it a whirl. In 3 days I no longer had pain! I couldn’t believe it. I know it’s true because I can eat something with wheat in it and immediately I will be in agony.
    The pain kept creeping back,daily again, til I discovered that almonds also caused it, then milk. And just lately I suspect corn, so I am also eliminating that. The gluten-caused migraines are the worst… there is absolutely no temptation for me because I know what will happen. The other foods are to a lesser degree, but still need painkillers. I would just rather not eat those foods than have to deal with the pain and pills.
    If you suffer from migraines…please, please look to a food source FIRST before going through buckets of pills. I wish someone had told me this 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it is different with everyone, and can be as obscure as an additive. Good luck to all!
    Mark, I really appreciate this useful blog and the time you put into it to get the word out. We don’t need all that other “stuff” in our diet!

    1. I’ve been gluten-free/corn free (well… for the most part) since I was 15… I’ve found that gluten and corn both, but corn slightly more, has accounted for most of the migraines I’ve suffered since I was 7 years old… corn, however, is nearly impossible to stay away from, even in a lot of gluten-free foods/breads/and the like, but I do try my very best (my boyfriend and I go out of our way to eat organic and healthy, and he is very supportive in helping me weed out corn from my diet).

      Hope the migraines have lessoned a bit since discovering these… I still get some from stress and light sensitivity… but at least those are a LITTLE more easy to control…

  26. So nice to read all the good posts about mirgraines! Very helpful info. I went on a low dose of Propanolol 4 years ago for a heart issue. My migraines left. Though lately I’ve had a couple, but seem to cycle faster. Because of these posts I am going to try B2 and magnesium (which I did stop taking several months ago!) and see if they help. If not enough, I’ll try elim. some foods. Also, I had a very dramatic insight in a dream the night of the my first migraine in a long while 2 weeks ago. This may sound weird, and maybe it’s just utter coincidence, but the dream was about shame, being abused, and finally reacting to the abuser and actually killing him. Lover comes over, sees scene, and vomits (I had vomited earlier that night). I have also read elsewhere that many migraine/IBS sufferers were sexually abused. I hope you will print this Mark. I feel there is almost always some degree of a psychological component to illness. Thanks again.

  27. I find myself astonished after reading these posts. I am affected by Barometric Pressure Migraines, I can tell you when we will be getting rain, because if the pressure reaches over 29 I am toast! I currently take Relpax 40mg, when one strikes and it is a miracle pill. However, sometimes it doesn’t work, and those are the migraines that last for days and I wish I could die. I have tried so many things, cutting foods from my diet, watching the menstrual cycle, and changes in the weather, and so far my worst triggers are the weather, which there isn’t a lot I can do, tho Beta Blockers did seem to help with those, which I can’t explain, but I found them to not help enough and I quit taking them. I was abused as a child,sexually as a another poster on here said she thought there was a psych issue to every illness, I would say I have suffered from that, but I am also genetically inclined, my mother has had migraines for over 30 years. My sister had them as well and found her one trigger was chocolate and she is migraine free, not so lucky for mom and I. Mom has been on Feranol with Codeine for as long as I can remember for hers for the pain, she also suffers from right side paralysis during her migraines, nausea and aura. I have only had one episode like that, and had the slurred speech, thought I was having a stroke it really scared me. My migraines, start at the base of my neck and move up, once they are full blown there is no help for them, and the only med to help me in all the plethora of crap I have taken is the Relpax 40mg. I appreciate the insights and articles here, I tried the south beach diet and it seemed to make my symptoms worse. Anyone else out there like me?

  28. That’s what scares me, too, Tisha. I have a friend with severe epilepsy and seizures of various kinds. She keeps telling me I need a neuro consult!

    My face goes numb in patches, my speech slurs, my vision splits so if I am driving, for instance, the right side of the road looks six inches higher than the left, etc. My hands tingle and go numb, my balance is off, and I look like I am having some sort of an episode between the slurred speech and holding my head cocked to one side squinting to be able to see.

    They have gotten so bad that even throwing Vicodin at them doesn’t help once they take hold.

    I have three children as mentioned above, and trying to care for them during a migraine is one of the hardest things in the world – I feel like such a bad mother ineffectually blundering around trying to fix them dinner or help with homework.

  29. Thank you for this article. Very informative. My diagnosis of Chronic Daily Migraine came almost 2 decades ago. I’ve seen more neurologists than I care to count and it’s sad how many discount the pain as “mental”, especially since migraineurs are typically women. I finally found a headache specialist that is local and it’s changed my life. I still get very frequent migraines (about 20 per month) but they are much more in control thanks to daily prophylactic prescription meds.
    When you have migraines, it’s severely debilitating. People, unless they also suffer, don’t understand all the time. It also leads to other mental issues like anxiety and depression… social withdrawal too. Being a full time employee in my former career as a Physical Therapist became impossible. Yet, migraines, as an invisible disease, is not a diagnosis that qualifies easily for disability insurance. Working through a severe migraine is horrid, not to mention dangerous in some cases. With greater awareness, my hope is that this will change.

  30. “downing huge piles of pills in desperation when a migraine hits – is demonstrably worse for your health.”

    Well, its a bit of a double edged sword. On the one hand you don’t want to take too many pain killers increasing the risk of rebound headaches. On the other hand, not treating the migraines aggressively can lead to them turning into a much harder to treat chronic condition which is what happened to me.

    I think it’s misleading to link to an article which is talking about drugs that don’t contribute to the potential for rebound headaches like pain killers can and, missing from that article is the fact studies have shown that people who are suffering from rebound headaches don’t respond to prophylactic treatment like those mentioned in the article.

  31. You’ve left off fragrances from the list of triggers. Fragrances are one of the primary environmental migraine triggers, and not mentioning them prominently is misrepresenting the situation.

  32. Hi folks,

    I have had migraines for several years now. At first I did not even knew they were migraine attacks. Just passed them as severe headaches occuring now & then.

    My doctor prescribed me some medicines. I took it for 3 months. It did not work at all.

    Another doctor prescribed me some different medicines which did not work too.

    A relative of mine told to try HOMEOPATHY. I was reluctant at first because I had not got any effects for my acne problems. But still I decided to give it a shot.

    And there you are in 2 days, my migraines were gone. These homeopathic pills are not even harmful like allopathic ones.

    I suggest evryone to give HOMEOPATHY a shot to cure migraines.

  33. Lots of good info here. I have suffered from migraines since adolesence but not diagnosed as such until midway through my 2nd pregnancy, 5 years ago.

    I have been on Imitrex (didn’t help), Relpax and Zomax which got me through (both helped greatly but left with a medicine-hangover the next day), prophylatic Propranalol and then Nadolol (neither helped), continuous birth control (Seasonale), didn’t help.

    Also tried acupuncture which didn’t really help either, though it was suggested I needed to eat warm foods and avoid shocking my system with cold foods.

    Anyway, just over a year ago I was diagnosed with a condition of mild insulin resistance and it was suggested I try a low-carb diet. After about a month of working on this diet (which took some effort because I’m also vegetarian – and i *love* baked goods), I felt nearly completely cured of migraines. It was amazing and has been amazing ever since.

    I am currently in the 2nd trimester of my 3rd pregnancy and migraines are returning – either because of the hormonal component or the increasing difficulty I’m having with sticking to low-carb in the face of needing more daily calories – my next avenue is craniosacral therapy which was recommended by my OB/Gyn. I was surprised to not see this therapy mentioned here – I have read many good things about it and believe and has some potential to work.

    Anyway, I highly recommend working on diet and trying a low-carb lifestyle to cure migraines.

  34. From high school to now (over 20 years), I’ve gotten migraines at least once a month. I was fairly certain that hormones were the cause, because the migraines always hit during my period, and they stopped completely while I was pregnant.

    But in the 7 weeks since I began eating at least 80% Primally, I have not had a single migraine, and I am beyond grateful. If I never have to scramble for a dose of Imitrex again, I will be a very happy woman.

  35. As an update to my previous post, I am now into my 3rd trimester of pregnancy, migraines have significantly improved (and are treatable with tylenol or the occasional excedrin, ok’d by my Ob), despite my eating many more carbs than I was pre-pregnancy. The hormone stability at this stage of pregnancy is definitely playing a positive role.

    I have also been training in biofeedback with a neurologist which is very intriguing and seems to be working as well.

    I know I will likely be in for a potential migraine onslaught post-delivery, and won’t be able to fully acclimate back to a low-carb lifestyle while nursing, but it’s so great to feel like I have some tricks up my sleeve and options now. It’s very empowering.

  36. I’ve suffered with migraines since I was 14 years old. I’m now 47. The last three years have seen a huge increase in the amount of migraines. Averageing 14 a month.

    I’ve been following a low carb diet for about 18 months, with 2 lapses. After the last lapse I went totally ketogenic. My migaines stopped. As in, stopped completley for two months.

    I got lazy, ate some fast food here and there, relaxed on the carbs, still low carb, probalby about 20 – 50 per day. The migraines came back.

    I’m back to ketogenic and migraine free.

    I can live without the carbs.

    Way better.

    1. You said that you ate fast food…
      I also experience severe migraine and mine are triggered by msg (didn’t know that until I started this diet). I live migraine free now but I know it isn’t due to carbs because I’ve cheated on occasion with no relapse BUT I’m now positive they are MSG induced. Not just “MSG” but all 16 names that it can be listed under. the way I found out is buy ordering Wendy’s chili thinking it was “carb-free”. It has MSG in it and damn near put me in the hospital! You should really watch and see what you eat. It is literally in everything…look for words like “modified, autolyzed, or hyddrolyzied” all of which mean MSG. I think you might be suprised what it is in. I have a migraine now b/c I got stupid and ate a jimmy dean sausage patty yesterday.

    2. Hi sounds like we are trying the same approach! How are you doing? I just started ketogenic diet for migraines only 2 days in so far,

  37. This is an older thread but I thought I’d comment because I don’t see anyone with a similar experience and it may prove helpful to someone.

    I have been getting migraines since I was 27. They started at a time when other seemingly unrelated things were going haywire in my body (reflux, sinuses, chronic fatigue, back pain, hair loss, joint pain, bowel trouble.)

    Several years I happened into a chiropractor’s office. He was the first doc to listen and theorize on how and why all those crazy things happened at once: it was the end of my second pregnancy and all of the relaxed joints led to my hip tilting backward on one side and a little shock wave up my spine. After two weeks of adjustments I was like a new person. Within a few months I was almost 100 percent better. The only lingering problem is the migraines, sinus and fatigue, and they seem to all come together. I think some of it is due to diet too, but when I do have a migraine, one or two adjustments in the same day completely fixes me.

    My chiro has offered some good advice that keeps me from having to come in as often: he thinks many migraines begin in the neck or upper back due to people looking down at books, computer keyboards, etc. He also thinks I worked the front of my neck muscles a lot with Pilates and crunches and neglected my back to create an imbalance that pulls my head forward and my vertebrae out of place.

    So, I am careful to take breaks and stretch my neck (with cobra type exercises.) But once I have one, I either take a pill, or see him and in a few seconds I feel so much better.

    I would suggest that anyone who feels the pain begin in their neck or at the base of the skull seek a chiropractor that they’ve heard lots of good things about. One who recognizes that it can address problems like reflux or allergies. I can only guess how many meds my family would be on right now if it weren’t for him. Btw, I don’t have to go in very often now either and he has shown my family many tricks we can do at home to help with migraines when they are just beginning.

  38. Chocolate
    Caffeine
    Insufficient sleep
    Hormone changes
    Barometric pressure changes
    Wine (sulfites – so even when used for cooking)
    Processed meats (sodium nitrite – so all of the tastiest meats)

    Migraines are tricky. I can get them sometime swith no pain at all, just the visual disturbances, nausea and stiffness. On the other hand, when I get one with pain it’s a pretty easy guarantee that I’ll have it for 3 days. Really awful.

    I think the scariest was one I had about 15 years ago, when I was in my early 30s. It was a pretty bad one, and when it was gone I decided to make a run to the grocery store. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen… and I couldn’t remember how to write. It took about 10 minutes for it to finally kick in, but it was very frightening. Adds credence to the idea that migraines do some real damage each time.

    I’ve cut out the food triggers, switched up my hormones (yea for menopause!) and get enough sleep, but there’s absolutely nothing I can do about that stinkin’ weather.

  39. Been Paleo/Primal (essentially Low Carb/High Fat with some dairy- cheese and Heavy Whipping Cream with berries and my coffee) for six to seven months. For 30 plus years I have suffered at least one to two debilitating migraines per month: blind spots/auras, etc. In fact, that picture on this post makes me want to have one.

    Although, I’m already suffering just my second migraine in those seven months. Don’t know what triggered it the first time, but guess what I ate yesterday? Pop Chips. What do they have in common with another known trigger of mine (Slim Fast shakes- used to eat them as a meal when on the road until about a year ago I know I got a migraine from drinking two real fast)? Maltodextrin.

    Nasty stuff. Horrible migraine today. Went to a party and for first 30 minutes I could barely remember the names of people I have known for 15 years. If this doesn’t (aside from the 25 lbs. I’ve lost) keep me High Fat/Low Carb Primal I don’t know what will.

    Believe me, I am never eating PopChips again. Cheers.

  40. This is what I was looking for. I started the Primal Blueprint about 2 1/2 months ago and noticed I haven’t had a migraine since. I was wondering if this was the cause of my happy news. So in addition to “curing” my arthritis, the Blueprint has “cured” my migraines. I don’t see how I can turn back. The 43 lbs I’ve lost so far don’t hurt either!

  41. I have to agree that I also used to have daily migraines which were stopped with a gluten free diet. I think your dismissal of food allergens is unproven by research. Do a quick search of gluten intolerance and migraine. There are quite a few studies backing this in reputable medical journals, though I don’t disagree with other things you said. Reduced insulin sensitivity is also a factor for me and I’m sure is related to success for others with eating gluten free. I now avoid anything that will spike my blood sugar levels and try to eat frequently and exercise. I have also found success with taking a magnesium pill nightly to reduce morning headaches but, diarrhea is a big side effect for me so I abandoned that. I think tension and migraine headaches are on more of a continuum at least for me, I get both (though very infrequent migraines with diet changes). With our modern lifestyle it’s hard to eliminate migraines but it’s possible for many people to lessen them if you change diet, exercise,drink plenty of fluids and learn to relax. Like others, I wish a doctor had suggested these things to me instead of doing research on my own. I hope others will be helped by your post.

  42. Any one else get sleep paralysis with there migraines? The scariest thing that has ever happened to me! And it happens every time I have a migraine pretty much. Your awake and conscious but your body is cometely paralyzed, which is freaky enough without the visual and auditory hallucinations, sometimes it’s so real. And if you struggle it just makes it worse! Hopefully my migraines will completely clear up when I fully go primal after coming back from Cambodia and Thailand in two weeks.. Only problem then, if I don’t take me preventative meds, which are actually a small dose of anti depressants, I get chronic hayfever, and I mean 2-3 times per day.. Which isn’t good since I wear contacts.. Hopefully going primal will clear up all my allergies which are being constantly added to since I turned 15?!

  43. I am also a chronic migraine sufferer–I get regular headaches about 2-3x/week and about 1-2 migraines/month if I medicate on time. I get 1-2 migraines/year that send me to hospital because after several hours of vomitting, I usually go into shock and suffer from convulsions. I usually deal with them by taking at least 3 advil and either a gravol or benadryl to make me stay very still and help me snooze while I wait for the next 8 hours to pass… I take magnesium and vitamin B. I knew that eating primal/paleo was helpful, and THOUGHT it was due to sugar stabilizing, but reading some of the posts on Robb Wolf’s blog, there is some suggestion that not just grain-free, but also nuts can trigger some blood-vessel-dilation-related migraines and fermented foods like cheese, yogurt and vinegar, can trigger other kinds. I will have to try to experiment with watching nut intake becuase I have definately gotten migraines after being hungry all day and wolfing down a few handfulls of nuts–I thought it was just becuase I made a poor protein choice but maybe there’s more to it. But I wonder–if I go ketogenic to control migraines, is a ketogenic diet really sustainable long-term?

  44. I suffered with migraines my whole life. Miserable, throwing up, bedridden, can’t move and inch, can’t stand light type of migraines.

    I drank Dr.Pepper out the wazoo, consumed mass amounts of sugar, breads,and pastas.
    I tried 3 different migraine prescriptions and had finally ended up just popping Excedrin when one came about.

    Then a year a go, I went primal and cut all of that out.

    My migraines stopped. Completely. I was getting them a minimum of twice a month and all of a sudden I wasn’t getting them anymore.
    It was a miracle, a relief, an act of God….but in reality, just a switch back to the natural ways of Grok.

  45. I’ve had migraines consistently since I was 12. That is 20 years of migraines. I always get them, without fail, during my period or if I have alcohol. I have a few other triggers as well. My menstrual migraines effect me for anywhere from 2 – 5 days in a row a month. I also usually get 1 other 2-day migraine a month.

    Well, I’ve been primal now for about 60 days, and went off the birth control pill. Not only is my period much lighter with no cramping, but I haven’t had a migraine this period either.

    I’ve just started taking Mag-Tab SR (slow release and won’t cause diarrhea) as a prophylactic just in case. I’ve also ordered some Magonate tablets to keep on hand for an oncoming migraine. Regarding magnesium, I found http://barttersite.org/magnesium-supplementation/ to be very helpful. Scroll down to the bottom for migraine specific information.

  46. I have to disagree with toxins being a myth, because every time I use chlorine to clean, the fumes will give me a migraine (the really bad kind with vomiting and everything) later that day or even the next day, it happens every time.
    I stopped using it, but I tried it once in awhile and every time it triggered a migraine.
    On the plus side, that’s the only way I get a migraine ever since I’ve gone Primal.

  47. There is a diet that restricts amines and salicylates which has helped some. The girl above mentioned chicken & apples – check it out to add in more foods – Failsafe. You can tweak it to make it paleo.

  48. Also check out the low carb migraine site in German, use Google Chrome to translate it. miginfo.de. It recommends a paleo type HFLC ketogenic diet for migraines. The diet is laid out in Life Without Bread, by Allan and Lutz, with a slow transition to low carb.

  49. Love all the info.
    But I was hopeing to hear more about sugar and migraines?
    Also if I take an anahistime I avoid migraines? I would like to know why?
    I have a gluten intolerance as well.

  50. I love all the info.

    But would like to know more about sugar and migraines and what it’s doing to me to cause me to have one?

    Also antihistamines keeps me from having migraines, why??

    I am also intolerant of wheat and gluten.

  51. I have migraines my whole life but with varying frequency. there were times I had them once in 18 months, twice in 12 months and some times 3-4 times in 6 months. I haven’t gone completely paleo but I swithced my food to better in the last 2 years. I used to eat a lot of bread and now I don’t eat any but in the last year and a half ma migraines have become more frequent, like 1-2 a month. so I’m kind of disappionted that I’m eating “healthier” and my migraines got worse. can anybody suggest anything?

  52. I have suffered from migraines for several years. I don’t get them on a regular basis, more likely to be once a month sometimes more frequently. I found that learning my triggers was the best way to prevent or essentially treat them. I’ve always been fairly in tune with my body so I just had to figure out what it was trying to tell me. I started researching possible triggers so I had some ideas what to look out for, keeping a journal of what I was doing or ate shortly before the migraine came on also was a big help. Also, I evaluated what was going on in my life at the time, was I getting enough sleep or under too much stress?

    I’ve noticed a lot of posts complaining about the side effects of the medications, I had that problem with one of the medications I was taking several years ago. My throat was swelling making it hard to swallow and the medication was leaving me feeling doped out, so to speak. I realized the meds were just a bandaid and prevention was the key. So I don’t go out of my way to completely avoid potential triggers, but I take steps so I can still enjoy those things. Like taking a periodic break from a loud concert by finding a quiet spot or I make sure I can find shade, bring sunglasses, and avoid overheating at the beach. I avoid mixing my trigger foods, like putting 2 strong flavor foods such as salmon and sharp cheddar together, but learned I can eat them separately without a problem. A nagging migraine means I need to go in to see my chiropractor for an adjustment to my neck.

    I used trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn’t to prevent and/or treat. It took a long time to figure it all out, but as a result I get significantly less migraines maybe 1-2 per month and the ones I do get are usually hormone related. Unfortunately I have not found a way to prevent those. Finding ways to prevent and treat naturally may seem like a lot of work when you can just take a pill, but compared to suffering through a migraine or dealing with nasty side effects from the medications, to me it is well worth it.

  53. I also have had success with ketogenic diets (just 3 migraines per month on that diet), but as soon as I eat a certain number of carbs (including in health-promoting smoothies), they come back with a vengeance, so I don’t consider this diet a “cure”.

    I disagree with you that migraines are not because of toxins, at least for some people. I think there could be a direct connection, you just have to find your problem toxin. Mine might be either mercury or lead. Each detox I have tried has improved my health in many ways as well as changed my migraines (frequency, severity, how they start), but never “cured” the migraines.

    I have tried juicing for initial overall detox (it cleans your liver and helped me restore energy levels after a black mold infestation in my apartment), parasite detox (didn’t really do anything for me), iodine to detox bromide/flouride(resolved my 15-year hypothyroid condition), and I am now using DMSA and ALA to detox mercury and lead hoping to target migraine prevention). I am currently eating 100 gms carbs/day (as a test), but on chelation for just 1 month, my migraines are conspicuously absent. I should be having them every other day on this many carbs.

    It is too early to tell if this is “the cure”, but I am very excited about the early results, which is why I am sharing the thought for others to explore.

    I am just saying that maybe we all have different abilities to detox some of the more dangerous toxins, and maybe for some of us, mercury and/or lead could be a root cause of some neurological issues (migraine included). I hope I have found the “root cause” of my migraines – I guess I will know in the coming months.

  54. I have had migraines since i was about 18years old(27 now). I have been primal for about a month now and have suffered 2 migraines since, both i feel were triggered by some satsumas. I am going to try and eliminate the fruit for sure. My theory is i have low insulin levels and the sudden spike cause the migraines. Curious of anyone else has experienced this during the transition of going primal. any help will be nice.