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.

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I Absolutely Know

I absolutely know how many of you feel.  You may think that because my focus is posting recipes and encouraging messages about how well my migraine diet has worked that I don’t still experience migraines.  Sometimes some of them are still pretty bad.  The past couple of weeks have been particularly challenging for me.  Many things besides foods still trigger my pain.  Many of them I cannot control.  That is why I am so glad that I am able to control my diet, which has reduced the severity of most of my migraines.  However, there isn’t much else I can do that really makes the pain go away.  Many of you experience exactly the same thing.  We’ve been to many doctors and tried many treatments to no avail.

I’m writing this post in the midst of much pain, because I want to testify for you how I make it through.  This pain (and the dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and the superpowers of severe sensitivity to sounds, smells, lights, touch, and some tastes) bring me to a point of utter helplessness – in myself.  The fact that there isn’t much that I can do to relieve the pain is very humbling.  This is exactly where God wants us to be so that we realize that we need something bigger than ourselves.  Sometimes, I feel that I need a parent’s lap to crawl into like I did when I was a child.  I need that lap and the enfolding arms to just make it all better.  This is what God provides through faith in Jesus Christ.  He just wants us to accept this gift He offers.

God absolutely knows how we feel.  He does not take delight in our physical or emotional pain, but He does use it for something good.  He promises that He will do this.  It’s just that His definition of good is very often different from our definition of good.  This is similar to a child who might think that eating 30 cookies would be good for him, but the parent knows better.  I’ve wondered what good could possibly come from feeling so much physical pain.  While I now trust that I don’t need to know, it is still helpful to me to reflect on how I have seen Him work and consider what He might still have in store.  I admit that this reflection is probably not something that I would have done if I wasn’t going through this trial.  He knows that, so He allowed the trial.  Awareness of God’s care and His promises to do so in the future is what helps me persevere.

Here are some of the ways that I have seen good come from this trial.  There are probably 10,000 other good things of which I am unaware.

  • My pain helps me to understand the pain of others.  If I wasn’t going through it myself, my testimony above would be harder for you to accept.  Also, the depth of pain and the relative relief I have found through diet changes is what inspired me to start this blog with the hope that something might be helpful to others.
  • Feeling so physically awful has caused me to think about death and trusting God to care for my family whenever my day comes.  I’m learning to accept that I can’t hold onto my kids forever.  I have loved being with them so much that I didn’t think that I could bear to let them become independent.  However, as I have become less able to do things, I am learning to be glad that they are increasingly able to do so.
  • These physical ailments are like little tastes of Hell that make me appreciate that I will some day go to Heaven instead.  I absolutely know this because of my faith in Jesus Christ.  The suffering makes me increasingly aware of the value of Christ’s sacrifice which is exactly what God wants me to focus on.  The glorified body that I will have for all eternity far outweighs the painful body that I have now.  I can wait for this comparatively short time to experience what is yet to come.

Ketchup

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I would like to post recipes for food items like ketchup and sausage, because having these items available opens up meal options for migraineurs.  Sausage contains more migraine triggers than I desire to list here, but these triggers are primarily food additives.  Ketchup, as is commonly available at grocery stores, contains tomatoes and onions which can trigger migraines in some people (our migraineurs included).  However, ketchup has not always been made from tomatoes and onions.  In fact,  different cultures use food items such as fish, mushrooms, or walnuts as bases for ketchup recipes.  With this in mind, I realized that I could (again) step out of my food paradigm to consider other options.

Since I really don’t think I can conjure up a desire to dip my sweet potato fries in a puree of fish:), and I am currently not eating mushrooms or walnuts, I searched for other ideas. My daughter found a product called “Nomato Ketchup.”  I was immediately excited about the possibility of a simple solution to my problem!  However, my hopes were dashed when I found out that although tomatoes had been eliminated from the product, cider vinegar and onions were still included.  I needed something that could be called “Nomatonion Ketchup.”

The recipe that we are now using was initially inspired by this tomato-free recipe which seems to be similar to the Nomato Ketchup product.  I have eliminated the onions and changed the types and amounts of vinegar, sweetener, and spices that are used.  This recipe definitely does not taste just like tomato-based ketchups, but I am sticking with my philosophy – it doesn’t have to taste just like__________; it just has to taste good!  And…..it doesn’t taste like fish!

Ketchup

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1 cup carrots, diced
2/3 cup red beets, diced
1/8 cup white vinegar
3 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. allspice

  1. Boil carrots and beets in water until soft and strain.
  2. Blend all ingredients in a food processor until pureed.
  3. Serve warm or cold.  I freeze my ketchup in 3 portions to use as I need it.  Each of these 3 portions serves 2 people.

Update (6/27/16) – I have started boiling the carrots and beets for 1 hour to get a result that looks more like traditional ketchup.  I think I am getting more carrot color blended in as well as a smoother texture.  Here is what it looks like now:Ketchup cooked longer - 1 hour

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.

Migraine Control: Diet

These migraines that have plagued me for the last 15 years are finally coming under control.  For years, I sought a solution from a variety of medical professionals.  Nothing ever seemed to really resolve the pain.  Prescription medications either didn’t work or made me feel worse.  MRIs revealed nothing “remarkable.”  Each time that I was referred to physical therapy, I tried to convince myself I was getting better, but the benefits never lasted even though I continued the prescribed exercises.  Elimination of caffeine, wheat, and chocolate from my diet made a dent in the daily pain throughout my body including my head, but I still had migraines (just not every day).

Since no prescribed treatment helped, I decided that I would have to learn how to cope with the pain on my own.  Each time I had a migraine, I went through the tools that temporarily relieved pain or distracted me from it: heat or ice, sleep or rest with a cloth over my eyes to block out light,  a bland carbohydrate snack if I could keep it down, earplugs to block the daily noise that was too much during a migraine, and humble pleas to family members for hairbrushing (sometimes all out hair pulling helped more:)) or massage.

Last fall, the migraines progressed to daily occurrences once again even though I had not resumed eating wheat, chocolate, or caffeine.  Since I was also coping with other medical issues that impacted my sleep, I really wasn’t able to process what to do about the pain beyond my standard tools.  Finally, after almost 3 months, I recalled someone once telling me that she couldn’t eat tomatoes because they gave her headaches.  At the time, I thought this was really weird and not something that I wanted to consider would ever be an issue for me.  I think I really just didn’t want to think about a time that I couldn’t salsa:)  However, the daily pain last fall convinced me that I was ready to try something – anything – even getting rid of tomatoes.

Internet searches revealed that foods can definitely cause migraines for some people.  Banned food lists on different sites varied somewhat, but there were some foods that were on most of the lists: dairy, chocolate, eggs,  citrus, wheat, nuts, tomatoes, onions, apples, bananas, some beans, caffeine, alcohol, and food additives like MSG. I hadn’t had alcohol in a long time, and I had previously eliminated chocolate, wheat, and caffeine.  So, it was time to get rid of all the rest – except beans.

For years, I had worked hard to accommodate my child with food allergies.  Much of our diet was based around beans, and I figured the problem couldn’t be beans.  It just couldn’t be.  I eliminated all of the other foods on the banned lists and felt quite a bit better – most of the time.

Even though my migraine frequency had reduced, I started to notice that, strangely enough, every time we had a bean dish, I would get a migraine.  It must have been the weather, loud noises, fragrances in the air, or some other food that just hadn’t worked its way out of my body yet.  After all, these things do all contribute to my overall migraine trigger load, and it couldn’t be the beans.

Just before Christmas, I had the worst migraine I could remember.  It was an astonishing 9 days long.  In addition to the head pain, I had insomnia, night sweats, nausea, and pain in much of my upper body including my rib-to-sternum joints.  Once heart palpitations started, I wondered why I wasn’t going to the hospital.  But then I remembered, there hadn’t ever been any medical treatment that had made any difference.  Why would it now?  There had to be something else that I could do, but what was it?

I had to stop eating beans.

Since this elusive mystery was solved, and I stopped eating beans, I have only had a couple of migraines.  These were both attributable to tomatoes.  I had eliminated all of the other foods on the list, so it was easy for me to figure out what the problem was.  Shhh….I was still occasionally eating ketchup, but not anymore.  It’s just not worth it.

I guess sometimes we have to learn the hard way.  I’m glad God is patient.

 

Note:  The most helpful information I was able to find was in the book “Heal Your Headache” by Dr. David Buchholz.  The cover of the book could mislead a potential reader to think the book would be silly and unworthy of reading.  However, the book did explain what is going on in the body when a migraine occurs.  I found it helpful to understand that there can be a variety of triggers (food and other) that all add up.  Once a tolerance level is reached, the pain starts.   While many of the triggers are not controllable (weather, fragrances, etc), I can learn to control what I eat.