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!

Migraine Control: Magnesium

I’ve had some pretty bad migraines over the past 15 years.  No treatments (medication, physical therapy, etc.) have been successful at treating the pain, so I have really not had a choice but to “learn to live with it” (though I don’t relish hearing others tell me to do this).  However, the frequency and severity of the pain has definitely increased in the past 6 months to the point that I have returned to my search for what to do.

One night last fall, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t get up the stairs to my bed, because my head pounded harder as my heart beat faster.  It usually isn’t that much of a strain to climb stairs, but it seems that any increase in heart rate causes an existing migraine to intensify.  I stopped mid-climb, laid across the stair I was on, and cried.  Coaxing from my husband encouraged me to continue stair-by-stair the rest of the way.

I made it to the recliner in our bedroom, and my husband asked if there was anything he could get me.  Knowing that no pain medication, heat, ice, massage, or hair brushing was going to put a dent in this one, I declined all of them.  The only thing that I could think of was to distract myself with something pleasurable.  I remembered a friend relating how much she enjoyed Epsom salt baths, so I asked for a foot bath with Epsom salts, which my husband gladly brought to me.

At first, I just focused on my feet to get my thoughts off of my head.  However, after about 20 minutes, I noticed that the pain in my head had gone down significantly.  I definitely wasn’t expecting this to happen, but I surely wasn’t going to complain about it!  Even if a migraine doesn’t completely go away, I bet most migraineurs welcome a reduction in pain.  Needless to say, I did more Epsom salt baths (foot and bathtub) over the next couple of days:)

Once my brain fog cleared a few days later, I was eager to learn why the baths helped so much.  Evidently, the magnesium in the Epsom salts is absorbed through skin, and magnesium can be helpful for people with migraines.  I had never heard of this and wondered why none of the medical professionals I had visited had ever revealed it to me.  However, I was glad to be on a track that might help.  An added blessing came via my daughter who was doing research for a paper.  She came across the book “Drug Muggers” by Suzy Cohen in which an entire chapter is dedicated to magnesium, including its impact on pain.  The author also points out that different forms of magnesium can have different side effects.

The magnesium supplement I have decided to use is this one.  Sometimes, I still do an Epsom salt bath in the tub, because this helps my muscles relax.  This is particularly helpful if my neck muscles are getting sore from a migraine.  Rubbing magnesium lotion into my neck and upper back also helps somewhat.  I have even rubbed it into my scalp right through my hair on occasion.  The muscle relaxation from this is worth the horrendous hairdo that results:)

I have found that magnesium is definitely not the whole story of how to control my migraines, but it is partially helpful.  Added to changes in diet and use of other supplements, I am feeling much better and have hope for a much more functional life.


Please note that I am not a doctor, pharmacist, or dietician.  My intent is to post my personal experiences with the hope of suggesting a migraine control option for your to pursue with your doctor.