More Precious Than Gold

I assume that many of you who follow this page are struggling with migraines, since that is the focus of this blog. As you know the struggle is physical, emotional, and difficult for others to understand. It is frustrating in its persistence and severity, leaving many wondering, “Why is this happening to me?” The impact on relationships, work responsibilities, and ability to go places raises questions about purpose in life.

Some have wondered how I have been able to have joy in the midst of this kind of suffering. There is only one answer to that question: my faith. I used to wonder how a person’s faith could provide strength to bear afflictions. Now I know, and I want others to know. In my new book, “More Precious Than Gold,” I have written specifically about the thought process I have gone through the past several years during my worst period of migraines and vertigo. You may wonder how I felt like writing a book, given that it is so difficult to even come up with words during the pain and brain fog of a migraine. I have been feeling better, but not migraine-free, and worked to get my thoughts down while I could.

I am aware that many of you may not be Christians and therefore not interested. However, I ask you to consider the following questions:

  • Do you have hope for the future?
  • Do you have peace with your circumstances?
  • Do you have joy even when you’re not enjoying?

I answer yes to all of these questions because of my adoption into God’s family, the care He gives while I am in this life, and the promise of the life to come with Him in Heaven, where there will be no more tears or pain. This is only possible by accepting Christ as my Savior.

“More Precious Than Gold” is not all about me. Rather, it is an explanation about how the Christian faith works to strengthen a believer going through a trial. I do use “clips” from my migraine experience as illustrations, but the points made apply to any type of trial. If you are a believer, please be encouraged by this book. If you are not a Christian, please consider my testimony as a taste of what is possible.

Available now on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle

Follow me at: www.facebook.com/KimDunkelbergerAuthor/

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Masks

While I am blessed to finally be at a point that my migraine frequency and severity has been greatly reduced, there has been a price to pay.  It has been relatively easy to accept the food limitations, shields from bright lights, and frequent earplug use.  However, it has not been easy to accept everything I must do to avoid airborne chemical triggers.  This requires that I stay at my home with the air and water filters that we have installed, a lonely proposition.

Many of the triggers for my migraines and vertigo are chemicals included in air fresheners and cleaners commonly used in most buildings, such as grocery stores, doctors’ offices, restaurants, libraries, and churches.  The perfumes, scented lotions, and laundry detergents used by people who go to these places also fill the air with chemicals that quickly reduce me to an immobilized lump.  Until now, my only option to feel well enough to function in my roles at home was to stay there.  I have finally found an option that allows me to venture out of my house for short periods of time: a respiratory mask.

The first one I tried was the “I Can Breathe” mask which I found to be comfortable.  Elastic bands fit around the ears rather than the neck which I like.  I had a good seal around my chin but could not get a good fit across the bridge of my nose.  Therefore, air leaked in without being filtered, and air leaked out, steaming up my glasses.  I ended up getting a migraine the first time I used this in a room with a lot of perfumes.  I also felt like I was struggling to breathe, perhaps because I had to breathe in and out through the filter medium.

The second mask I tried was the “Respro Allergy Mask” with the chemical and particle filter.  This mask includes one-way valves that allow exhaled air to be easily expelled, an improvement over the “I Can Breathe Mask”. However, this mask is strapped around the neck which was initially uncomfortable for me.  It presses on areas in my neck that tend to hurt during migraines, and I initially thought this would trigger a migraine.  This has not been a problem as I have adjusted to the mask though.  Other adjustments have been necessary for comfort and effectiveness.  I sewed cotton fabric into the chin area because it did not seal well initially.  The metal bar across the nose is uncomfortable after wearing the mask for about an hour.  So, I placed a thin piece of padding to the underside of the bar.  It seems to me that securing the mask around my neck tends to pull the mask downward, causing the chin to leak and the metal bar to press harder into my nose.  The adjustments I have made have resolved these issues though. The huge upside to this mask is that IT WORKS!  I have been able to attend church, take children to appointments, and run short errands without getting a migraine!

My hope is that there is a more comfortable option at some point, but I am thankful for what I have now.

 

Acupressure Update

As I write this, I am on the tail end of a migraine.  However, I am eager to update what I am finding to be helpful with acupressure.  In the last two days, I have found a modified use for a technique I posted here and here as well as a new product that has been beneficial.

Originally, I had posted that I used a scarf, a small washcloth, and a rubber ball to apply pressure to the daith region of my ear.  I no longer use the washcloth because it just hasn’t been necessary, and I find it easier to get the ball in place while I’m struggling with pain.  What I found during the migraine that is now ending is that there may be a better location for me than the daith.  Last night, I palpated my skull around the back of my ear and found an extremely tender spot.  Rubbing it with my finger felt strangely comforting, so I tried placing the ball at that location with the scarf and went to sleep.  After a few hours, I woke up with much less pain!

My other acupressure find is this ball which I originally purchased to relieve pain in the arches of my feet.  It definitely works for that, but I have been using it the past couple of days to relieve pain due to my migraine as well.  When I have a migraine, the muscles in my neck and back get increasingly painful as the migraine wears on.  I find myself attempting to rub them with my fingertips or seek massages from family members.  Both are difficult to do.  It is a struggle for me to use my fingers long enough to do any good while I’m in so much pain anyway, and family members aren’t always available.  However, I easily rolled this ball back and forth over my neck muscles with the palm of my hand while resting in bed. The nubs are firm and get into the right places, even more so than fingertips do. I also relieved my upper back pain by rolling over onto the ball.  This doesn’t make the migraine go away, but my overall suffering is reduced!

I would love to know if any of you have found acupressure to be helpful.  Please feel free to comment below.

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.

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!