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Migraines, Health, and This Ecosystem I Live In

One of the more complex elements of living with Migraines is that the disease doesn’t exist in a vacuum. What impacts our general health and other health issues we may have can also impact our Migraines and vice versa. Some people who read my work have noticed recently that I’ve been rather quiet, not writing nearly as frequently as usual. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t talk much about why, but it occurs to me that what I’ve been dealing with is something many of us have in common, so maybe it’s better that I share.

In addition to Migraine disease, I have some other health issues – type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, glaucoma, and a couple of other issues. In early January, I visited a new family doctor. I hadn’t been feeling great, and it was time for a check-up anyway. It couldn’t have come at a better time. It turned out that my blood glucose levels were far higher than they should have been, and my blood pressure was running too high. This is the point where I have to admit to you that I hadn’t been taking very good care of myself. My family doctor and I had had major communication problems, so I hadn’t been going regularly. In December, I gave myself a good, stern lecture and found a new doctor.

The day after that appointment in January, my new doctor called me to give me the results of my lab work. Of special concern was the tests that looked at my glucose levels. He suggested that we double one oral medication I’d been taking (metformin), continue the injectable medication I’d been taking (Byetta), and add a second oral medication (Actos). The alternative was switching to insulin, a path I’d rather not take until absolutely necessary. I immediately cracked down on my way of eating – measuring or weighing everything I eat, reducing carbs, eliminating snacking for the most part, making healthier choices. I also got stricter with getting in more physical activity — walking on my treadmill every day and alternating a yoga routine one day with a tai chi routine the next. I learned that much of the moodiness I’d been experiencing was due to the high glucose levels. Hopefully, that’s also the reason for my having been so fatigued as well. Daily glucose testing has shown some improvement, but my levels still aren’t where they should be. Last week, I went by the doctor’s office for a blood draw so we’ll have the results Wednesday when I go for my three-month follow-up appointment. At that point, we’ll need to decide if my current treatment regimen is going to be enough, or if insulin is necessary. We’ll also take another look at my blood pressure and decide what to do about that.

Now to the part about this ecosystem. My Migraine preventive regimen is good enough that I’ve been able to get up to eight to 12 weeks between Migraines for some time now, but not recently. For several months now, I’ve been getting at least one Migraine a month. I realize that’s not many Migraines, but since I’m still taking all my preventive medications, that’s not great. That’s when it hit me that a body is like an ecosystem. Webster defines an ecosystem as, “the complex of a community of organisms and its environment functioning as an ecological unit.” Now, isn’t that like a body? And that’s what I meant earlier when I said Migraines don’t exist in a vacuum.

I haven’t developed any new Migraine triggers, haven’t been encountering my triggers any more frequently. The problem is that the high glucose levels, high blood pressure and the stress they put on my body have made me more susceptible, more vulnerable to my Migraine triggers. Were I healthier, my Migraines probably wouldn’t have increased. That’s why my Migraine specialist and I aren’t rushing to change my preventive regimen. Once these other health issues are sorted out, we’ll decide if any changes need to be made to my Migraine regimen.

Are you living with other health conditions? Do you find that they impact your Migraines? If nothing else, I hope this post makes us all think a bit about our overall health and how it can impact our Migraines. Our bodies are our personal ecosystems. For me, this has been a wake-up call to pay more attention to mine.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Ricki
    7 years ago

    Teri, that’s all so true and so many doctors treat migraines as if they exist in a vacuum. Wanted to tell you that when I switched to a vegan diet, my headaches decreased, my sugar levels dropped and my cholesterol dropped 70 points in just the first 3 months, my skin cleared up and I lost weight. Dr. McDougall is a good one to hear regarding a plant based diet — there are others. Check out and some of his lectures are on YouTube. Best of luck!

  • Teri-Robert author
    7 years ago

    Ricki, so true about many doctors. That’s one thing I love about my Migraine specialists. He realizes how much everything weaves together and pays attention to everything. Glad the vegan diet has helped you. It’s always good to hear from someone who has found something that works well for them.

  • Charry Black McDonald Jones
    8 years ago

    I have hypothyroidism and I know that contributes to high cholesterol, weight gain and depression, and depression. I feel like all that causes stress (along with m other triggers) that just makes the migraines worse.
    I t is sooo difficult to find a primary care doctor to take me seriously enough when I have so much going on. Quite frustrating!

  • Gregory Mims
    8 years ago

    I feel you on the trying to find a Dr. period, that will take you serious at all….I know all about being frustrated trying to accomplish that!…

  • Ashley Dixon Goff
    8 years ago

    I have MS and I definitely think that contributes.

  • Jr Saligan
    8 years ago

    yes its ah migrane ecosystem.

  • Janet Robinson
    8 years ago

    Your comments are so perceptive. That is why daily exercise and healthy eating (attending farmers markets is both fun and conducive to healthy, organic eating!) seems so helpful! I’ve seen type II diabetes diminish or disappear from exercise and a healthy diet. Your comments are so helpful to your readers. Best of luck to you!

  • Leah May Miller-salmon
    8 years ago

    Happpihappppi bday miss ya xoxo

  • Nancy Orlando-Bell
    8 years ago

    Teri,
    Your story just gave me the real courage I needed to stand up for myself and get another.
    Neurologist. By the end of the day tomorrow it will be completed. I thank you for sharing your heart felt story with us.
    Tobysunny 🙂

  • Teri Robert
    8 years ago

    Tobysunny,
    You’re welcome. Thought about it and it seemed like a good subject to share because other people have to be having similar issues. We’re all in this together after all. 🙂

  • Jennifer Collins-Gonzalez
    8 years ago

    also read Dr Andrew Weil’s book on integrative health. He is a MD grad of Harvard and now has a school for doctors to show how supplements and healthy nutrition can prevent aging & illness. I found it to be quite helpful and have been including these in my daily regime and find them to be very beneficial in one’s overall health. I 100% believe sugar is poison and so is salt so I do not include tem in my daily routine at all.No artificial sweetners either & NO sodas! Water or green or black tea and watered down tart cherry juice w/breakfast. Alsoelimanate trans fats and red meats. Exercise is a must and also a good night sleep at least 7 to 8 hours. De-stress yourself and learn to let go and RELAX! It will do your body good! Best of Health to everyone!

  • Vivian Leightner
    8 years ago

    I never thought about the body as an ecosystem, but it’s so accurate. This has really given me much to think about. Thank you!

  • Migraine.com
    8 years ago

    Teri talks about how general health and other health issues can impact Migraines, including her own. Are you living with other health conditions? Do you find that they impact your Migraines?

  • Cheryl ShadowBoxing Smith Gabourel
    8 years ago

    Yes. I feel that the migraine has majorly impacted other health issues.

  • Harriet Williams Berg
    8 years ago

    Oh, yeah…all very serious, but the migraine illness is one of the most debilitating…

  • Patty
    8 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your story. We do need to take extra special care of our health when we have migraines, I can’t imagine having any other health problems along with constant daily migraines. I always try to look for something good when bad things happen and one of the things that having migraines has taught me is to take care of my body by eating a healthy diet and exercising. It hasn’t helped the migraines, but at least someday when these horrible migraines pass, I’ll still be healthy and able to enjoy life without the pain. Terri, I will continue to keep you in my prayers….you have helped so many people, including me!!! Keep us posted.
    Patty

  • The Migraine Girl moderator
    8 years ago

    Teri, I find this so enlightening. Though many of us know that “migraine can be related to other ailments,” the relationship among the body’s systems and issues has rarely been explained so well.

  • Stormlaughter
    8 years ago

    Word! Your article is spot-on, Teri.

    I have thyroid disease and things associated with it like fibromyalgia and never-ending fatigue. One of the nodules is growing again so it’s time to have an ultrasound and maybe another biopsy. And Synthroid again? Maybe.

    I also have Meniere’s Syndrome, an inner-ear disorder. I float between the major symptoms of vertigo, cochlear pressure, tinnitus, and fluctuating hearing loss. I have no measurable balance anyway and when vertigo is raging, I’m simply not safe walking around. Or doing anything for that matter.

    My last two New Year’s Resolutions have revolved around improving my health between attacks. I’ve made some progress.

    My objective is to get back my functioning. How much better will my life be with more function? It’s exciting to think about!

    Very good, timely advice and everyone should read this and take stock of their overall health.

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