Emily was sitting in my office visibly upset and tired – and understandably so. She was just 24 years old, a newlywed, and a beautiful person inside and out. From the outside, it appeared that she had it all, but the reality of her life was quite different. She told the story of how she had been suffering from debilitating migraines from age 14 and how, now, when she was hoping to become a mother, and should be so happy and excited – instead, she was terrified.
You see, her migraines had been getting much worse. They were occurring 2-3 times per week now and nothing was helping. She had given up on her migraine medication, stating that it very rarely seemed to work. She had also been on birth control pills since her period began to help control her migraines, severe PMS, and heavy periods. Now, knowing she would have to discontinue birth control pills, she did not know if now she could even have a normal cycle and was incredibly nervous about her ability to function in the world. She was missing work, stressed, exhausted, and fearful of what the future might hold for her.
Emily’s story is not uncommon. Migraine is the third most common disease in the world (behind dental caries and tension-type headache) with an estimated global prevalence of 14.7% (that’s around 1 in 7 people). Migraine affects three-times as many women as men, with this higher rate most likely being hormonally-driven. 18% of women in the USA experience migraine headaches. Migraine often starts at puberty and most affects those aged between 25 and 45 years, but it can trouble much younger people, including children. Migraine is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined.
If you are someone that suffers from migraines or chronic headaches you probably have tried triptan medications, over-the-counter analgesics, birth control pills, or IUD with varying degrees of success. Something that may have worked in the past for you may no longer work, or only seems to work some of the time and you are not sure why. You might find some pain relief with these medications but struggle with the post-treatment hangover feelings.
If you are one of the many people still looking for better relief, or you are wanting to get to the root cause of your headaches, keep reading. Most often the root cause is an amalgam of reasons rather than a single underlying cause. Even with a fairly large amount of research, the exact cause of migraine is still not yet well understood and conventional treatment options are limited. We will discuss some of the root contributors that women suffering chronic headaches or migraine should explore. While there is no magic bullet or a single protocol that will work for every migraine sufferer, there are multi-pronged strategies you should explore and see what works for your migraine.
Alderman, M. H., & Cohen, H. W. (2012). Dietary Sodium Intake and Cardiovascular Mortality: Controversy Resolved? American Journal of Hypertension, 25(7), 727–734. https://doi.org/10.1038/ajh.2012.52
High Blood Pressure May Protect Against Migraine. (n.d.). ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080414161552.htm
Krusz, J. C. (2006). Intravenous treatment of chronic daily headaches in the outpatient headache clinic. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 10(1), 47–53. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11916-006-0009-z
Lisotto, C., Mainardi, F., Maggioni, F., & Zanchin, G. (2013). The comorbidity between migraine and hypothyroidism. The Journal of Headache and Pain, 14(S1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1129-2377-14-s1-p138
Migraine Attacks Shortened by Diamine Oxidase Supplements. (n.d.). Medscape. Retrieved February 17, 2021, from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/811920#vp_1
Pogoda, J. M., Gross, N. B., Arakaki, X., Fonteh, A. N., Cowan, R. P., & Harrington, M. G. (2016). Severe Headache or Migraine History Is Inversely Correlated With Dietary Sodium Intake: NHANES 1999-2004. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 56(4), 688–698. https://doi.org/10.1111/head.12792
Rider, B. (2019). Hives, Headaches & Heartburn [Review of Hives, Headaches & Heartburn]. Summerland Publishing.
Stanton, A. A. (2014). Fighting the migraine epidemic : how to treat and prevent migraines without medicines – an insider’s view. Authorhouse.