Preservatives Strike Again!

For a while now, I have been using personal products that have been developed for people with allergies. For instance, my shampoo and conditioner are free of dyes, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, protein, parabens, formaldehyde, and other preservatives.  I began using these after I started experiencing skin burns over my upper body while using other products. As soon as I made this change, those problems went away.  When I switched my toothpaste from Crest to Xyliwhite, the swelling in my tongue and rash around my mouth went away.  I didn’t realize that I was experiencing a benefit neurologically as well….until now.

As treatment for a sensitive tooth, my dentist recently recommended a product called MI Paste.  I was hesitant to try it due to the long list of ingredients with long names.  However, the pain in my tooth was pretty intense, and there were no other treatment options beyond what we had already tried.  At first, I tried just a touch of the paste to see if I would have a reaction.  Since I didn’t, I used the prescribed amount the following day.  Within 8 hours, I was in full-blown vertigo like I haven’t experienced in 2 years.  I didn’t have a migraine, but my vertigo, migraine, and skin allergy triggers seem to overlap.  Therefore, I want to share this information on this migraine-focused blog with the hope of benefitting you.

Apparently, the hydroxybenzoate preservatives in the MI Paste are in the paraben family and can have an estrogen-like effect on the body.  In addition, the National Center for Biotechnology Information has recommended that these preservatives be re-evaluated for human safety.  All of this serves to reinforce my commitment to be careful with what I eat and products I use.

Chlorine and Vitamin C – Who Knew?

Earlier this summer, I returned home from an only-one-hour-away-migraine-trigger-controlled vacation desperate for a relaxing shower.  When I turned on the water, it smelled like a pool.  The same was the case at the clothes washer when I started washing the family’s laundry.  Within a couple of hours, I had a blasting migraine that wouldn’t go away.  The only thing that had changed was this chlorine smell that was permeating our house.  I felt so awful that I couldn’t process thoughts regarding what I should do until this had gone on for most of a week.

Our city water department’s website indicated that the city periodically runs different forms of chlorine through the water system, and the one it was running at the time was particularly strong.  And – they were planning to run it for the months of June and August!  My migraine-induced fog brain had to function long enough to do some thinking and praying, because this was a little overwhelming to consider.

My research revealed something that I want to share with you not just because it might work but because it did work for me.  Evidently, vitamin C neutralizes chlorine.  Some people put it in bath water for this purpose.  I decided to put it straight into me for maximum benefit!  Once I started taking 3000mg of this in a glass of cold water 3 times a day, the migraines stopped even with the continuing chlorine smell during my showers and while doing laundry.  Note that I have been drinking Ice Mountain bottled water for a long time.  So, I was not (and am still not) actually drinking the city’s chlorinated water, but the chlorine in the air was enough to cause problems.  I know that 9000mg of vitamin C may sound like a lot, but I had a doctor at one point in my life who had me on 13000 to 20000mg for a long time.  At the time, she said that if it was too much, I would get diarrhea.

Please do your own research, but vitamin C is definitely my friend, and I want to share this info with you.

Are Your Migraines Under Control?

What a strange question to ask.  Whenever a doctor or friend asks, “Are your migraines under control?”, I really never know how to respond.  To me, a “yes” answer to this question means that I don’t have migraines anymore, because I feel out of control when I do have them.  Therefore, to be able to answer “yes” would mean the following:

  • I never leave my house.
  • I never breathe air coming from my neighbors dryer that is venting perfumes from dryer sheets.
  • No one enters my house unless they talk quietly, avoid wearing fluorescent yellow/pink/green clothes or clothes with patterns that my brain can’t figure out, and remove all scents from clothes/hair/skin/armpits/etc.
  • I never consume anything outside my diet.
  • No city water treated with chlorine (see an upcoming post) runs through my faucets, showers, or clothes washer/dryer.
  • I never open the window shades to let in sunlight or light reflecting off of snow.
  • I never look at a computer screen, swipe across my phone, or watch the news with all of the banners moving different directions and cameras zooming in and out.  Watching the news is not really desirable anymore anyway, but that’s another story.
  • Never travel more than 60 mph so that my brain can keep up with all of the movement around me.
  • Never travel more than 1 hour from my home so that I can return easily if a migraine starts coming on.
  • Drink enough water.
  • Eat and take supplements on a precise schedule regardless of other commitments in my life.
  • Eliminate insomnia completely.

Since this is obviously not possible to achieve completely, I have decided that I have to look at the question “Are your migraines under control?” differently.  To me it means:

  • Am I doing what I can to minimize them as much as possible?
  • When I do get one, am I able to keep it from progressing into a multi-day ordeal?

To keep a migraine from progressing beyond 1 hour, I do the following:

  • I maintain a rigid diet which is under my control (also see here).
  • Increase vitamin C intake when the city is increasing its chlorine use in the water (see an upcoming post).
  • Allow myself plenty of time to sleep and pray that I will be able to do so.
  • Stop taking synthetic hormones.
  • Avoid going to places that I know cause problems for me (lighting, air fresheners, loud noise etc.)
  • Choose where I sit in large gatherings so that there is maximum airflow and ease of leaving if necessary.
  • When I do leave the house, I wear my visor and clips, take plenty of snacks in case I get stuck somewhere for a while, take earplugs which I put in at the first sign of excessive noise, and pack magnesium and ginger in my purse.
  • Immediately, take 25 to 50 mg magnesium glycinate and 550 mg of ginger when I feel the twinges of a migraine beginning.  Put in my earplugs. Head home.  Eat chicken nuggets drowned in yellow mustard (try searching “yellow mustard for headaches”).  Put an ice pack on my head and rest.
  • 1 hour – DONE – move on

Obviously, this still means that I don’t go very far from my home.  I haven’t figured that one out yet, and I haven’t successfully travelled without getting migraines yet.  However, I do have something that I can do for my migraines to keep them from being multi-day events.  Therefore, I feel that they are “under control” by my definition, and that is progress from where I was just a year and a half ago.

Anti-Perspirant, but NOT Anti-Migraine

Besides the obvious huge benefit of painlessness, a side benefit of having my migraines under control is that I can isolate a trigger if I do get a migraine.  In the past few months, I have had very few, but I want to share what I have found with the hope that you might benefit.

Antiperspirants trigger migraines for me.  I had been using Milk of Magnesia (more on this later), but recently needed to have the more reliable stick on some days that required me to go longer without a shower than normal.  Not knowing that this would end up being a trigger, I didn’t really think about the pain impact; I just used it.  However, I started noticing a pattern.  Every day after I used it, I had a migraine. Once I noticed this pattern, I quit using it, and the migraines stopped.  I now use only Milk of Magnesia no matter what my shower schedule is.

When I originally started having debilitating migraines, I tried everything I could come up with to make them go away; I’m sure many of you can relate.  Included in “everything” was using Milk of Magnesia as an anti-perspirant based on a passing comment from a friend.  It worked for me, and I thought, “I could use extra magnesium to fight this pain anyway.” At that time, I really didn’t know how much (if any) of an impact this was having on reducing my migraine severity or frequency since I had so many other triggers actively affecting me.  However, now I know.

From a practical standpoint, I’m sure you’re thinking, “what a mess.”  Milk of Magnesia is a mess, but I have figured out how to make it less of a mess, and the lack of pain from it is worth it.  Here is what I do:

  1. I buy unflavored Milk of Magnesia (MOM).  Scents bother me anyway, but who really wants to smell like wild cherries, strawberries, or mint?
  2. I fill the little cup that comes attached to the bottle with MOM and place it uncovered in my medicine cabinet.  The water evaporates slowly which leaves thicker MOM in the cup.  I dip a couple of fingertips in and apply it like a lotion.  As the MOM gets thicker, it is even easier to apply and faster to dry.  Once it is dry, I just add more MOM and stir it gently with a finger to blend in the drier clumps.
  3. When I need to travel, I do step #2 in a container that can be covered with a lid or pour MOM into a small travel bottle with a pop-up lid.  This bottle eventually gets pretty messy and has to be replaced, but these are inexpensive, and I really don’t travel much anymore anyway.
  4. I budget “drying time” into my schedule.  This is really only a few minutes, but it is longer than a stick.  It is also dependent on how thick your MOM is.
  5. MOM does leave a white residue which may be disappointing to those of you who like to wear no-sleeve shirts.  I either am really careful about how I apply it on no-sleeve shirt days or just don’t care and do it anyway.  Once again, the lack of pain is worth it!

Note that Milk of Magnesia as a replacement for standard antiperspirants may not work for everyone.  My kids are at ages that involve a higher degree of perspiration and odor, and it is not effective for them. However, they don’t have migraines either.  Therefore, they aren’t as motivated to make it work for them. I’m interested to know if this is effective as an antiperspirant for any of you suffering from migraines.  You might not feel an immediate impact on your migraines if you have other active triggers, but it might be part of the solution.

It’s Chemistry!

It’s been a while since I posted, but I do have some updates that I hope are helpful to someone.

I am still on the diet that I have been following while posting here with the following exceptions:

  • I have successfully added almonds back into my diet as indicated by some of my later posts.
  • I have eliminated Craisins because I was finding that my migraines became more frequent when I ate them (see modification of this granola recipe).

As I’ve noted previously, my migraines decreased in frequency and intensity with my diet changes, but they were still debilitating enough to make a major impact on my life.  So, I kept trying to figure out what else to do.  Some of my attempts are noted under the “Thoughts” portion of this blog.  None of these was a complete solution though.

My research indicated that more women have migraines than men, and that women on synthetic hormones (hrt and birth control) tend to have problems in this regard.  I have been on synthetic estrogen for 15 years and decided that it was time to stop.  Getting off of hrt is not an easy task, and the withdrawal can actually induce migraines if it is done too quickly.  While it was difficult, I noticed a gradual reduction in migraine episodes while I was decreasing.  In fact, even though I didn’t take my last dose until the first week of December, I hadn’t had a migraine since the first week of November.  And I still hadn’t had one until the last 3 days…….

Both of these last 2 migraines were caused by exposure to chemicals in the air.  The November one was due to a Glade air freshener, and this second one was due to a very strong cream someone near me was wearing.  By eliminating the food triggers and the hormones, at least I was able to tell that fragrances seem to be my remaining issue.  I have had no migraines associated with weather changes as I had previously considered.  I have also been able to tolerate more light than I had been, but I still do use my clip and visor at times.

My conclusion is that chemicals that get into my brain are the cause of my migraines.  The tyramine in foods, synthetic hormones, and fragrances (or associated tag-along chemicals) are the culprits. Eliminating exposure to these has been helpful for me, but it is not always possible.  In fact, my life is becoming lonelier as I am having to refrain from being around people with fragranced cream, laundry detergent, shampoo, hairspray, etc..  Unfortunately, this includes most people unless they make their own or use products that are TRULY fragrance free.

I have found magnesium supplementation to be helpful when I do start having head pain.  However, it works best if the exposure to the fragrance is limited to a short time.  Once a migraine is full blown, magnesium dulls the pain, but doesn’t completely halt the migraine with all of its other symptoms.  My main course of action in these cases is to clear my schedule for a couple of days, hunker down with ice packs and ear plugs, and trust God.

I have not found stimulating the daith region of my ears to be of much help, and I’m glad I was able to determine this before having the piercings.  I get temporary minor relief by massage of the area, but it is not significant and does not consistently work for me.

I don’t plan any diet changes as this point.  Someday, I may be able to add more foods back in, but I simply want to enjoy having more pain-free days for now.  My hope is that, over the next few months, my body will adjust to the lack of estrogen and the migraine days will be far between.  I’ll post updates as I find out!

Maple Granola

Quinoa Granola

 

Although Pumpkin Granola is the one we go through the fastest, here is another great one that doesn’t have migraine triggers.  We used to add Cranraisins to this recipe, but discovered that these are major migraine triggers for us; the granola is a great snack without them though.

Maple Granola

Quinoa Granola
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla

  1. Optional step:  The quinoa can be rinsed and toasted in a skillet to give it a “nuttier” flavor.  However, this is time consuming and not necessary in my opinion.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  4. Place granola on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees in 10 minute increments until dry (approximately 30 minutes depending on your oven).  After each 10 minute increment, stir the granola to keep the edges from burning.  Once the granola is almost dry, turn the oven off, prop the door slightly open, and allow the warmth to complete the drying process.
  5. Although we have never added hemp hearts to this recipe, we are experimenting with them and plan to try this at some point.

Roasted Vegetables with Quinoa Rice

Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Rice pic

This is one that my kids ask for every week!  I had a hard time getting a picture that does this dish justice, but it is definitely a “go-to” recipe for migraine avoidance in our family.  We love it served by itself or as a side to steak.

Note: I freeze zucchini and yellow squash cubes during the summer when it is plentiful to use through the winter for this dish.  Squash will be soft after freezing, but it works well in this dish.  Our favorite is the yellow squash, but the zucchini just keeps on coming all summer long, so we end up using it more often.

Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Rice

Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Rice pic

2 sweet potatoes
3 small gold or white potatoes
4 large carrots
1 small to medium zucchini or yellow squash
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed
olive oil
garlic cloves or powder
basil
sea salt
1/2 cup wild rice
1/2 cup quinoa
2 cups broth

  1. Cut all vegetables into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  2. Drizzle olive oil lightly over the vegetables and toss.
  3. Sprinkle with garlic powder, basil, and sea salt.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until tender.  Sometimes, we remove the aluminum foil halfway through the baking cycle if we desire the vegetables to brown.  Check for tenderness with a fork.
  5. Once the vegetables are in the oven, cook the rice and quinoa in the broth in a medium saucepan.  Leave the lid on after it finishes cooking until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Serve vegetables on top of the quinoa rice.