A woman dismissively gesturing towards a collection of triggering foods mentioned in the article.

How I Transitioned to Integrative Care for Migraine: Part 1

Migraine started for me in elementary school. I recall countless days in the nurse's office sleeping (and vomiting) until my mom came to pick me up.

I was young for such debilitating migraine attacks, but there was no question that I was experiencing migraine.

Looking for anything to make migraine stop

I remember being willing to do anything to make the migraine attacks stop. I quickly found myself taking multiple daily medications and really strong rescue medicine for when migraine struck, and yet another for nausea. At one point my doctor even offered a medication for me to take when I exercise so I wouldn't experience headaches during a workout.

How long would I have to take migraine medications?

I'm not quite sure how all the medications added up so quickly, but I asked my doctor how long he felt I would be on the drugs for, and his response startled me.

"You may just be one of those people that has to be on medication for the rest of your life."

I didn't want to always rely on medication

I wasn't even old enough to vote and yet my medicine cabinet looked like that of someone who is in a nursing home. And the idea that this is just how things were going to be didn't sit well with me. What bothered me most was that there was no concern about me being permanently on medication, and no discussion around other strategies to reduce my need for medication.

So, I decided if I wanted a different ending to my migraine story, I had to start writing it. And so began my chapter into integrative care for migraine management.

I didn't go cold-turkey on my medications

Probably the most important step I took in the process was to not abandon or change my medications right away. My goal was to get off them but I needed to reduce my dependency on them before I could wean off of them. If I stopped them in that moment, the migraine attacks could have gotten out of control.

Alternative migraine management strategies

So, I stayed the course with all my current medications with the understanding that I was going to put a plan into place that would reduce my need for them. There wasn't an existing playbook to create this plan, but I knew diet and lifestyle were contributing factors that were in my control so that's where I began.

Trying an elimination diet for migraine

Food was my first stop. I took myself through an elimination diet. I got a list of foods that could trigger migraine. The list was extensive! So, the harder part was actually finding foods that I could eat.

I'll admit, it wasn't easy, and it wasn't fun. Changing your diet is hard at any age, but as a kid, there's an emotional and social layer to it that can't be overlooked.

Dietary changes as a kid aren't always easy

I couldn't have the chocolate cake at my friend's birthday party or the orange soda when I was at the cheerleading pep-rally, or the peanut butter chocolate candy bar at the movies. I was different from my friends in a way that I didn't want to be. But I also didn't want to be home in bed with a migraine. I may not be able to have the cake at the birthday party, but I was at least at the party!

Diet had an impact on my migraine attacks

I committed to it for three months. It didn't even take that long for me to realize how much food was affecting my migraine. The fewer trigger foods I ate, the fewer migraines I got.

Staying away from trigger foods

Chocolate, nuts, and all the "fun" colored drinks, food, and candy began losing their appeal because I knew the cost that came with them. The idea of trying to reintroduce them didn't even cross my mind. Why would I reintroduce foods that I knew would trigger migraine? Why would I continue to eat foods that ultimately made me more dependent upon the very migraine medicine I wanted to reduce or ideally eliminate?

Nothing tastes as good as being migraine-free. This is a great starting point, and be sure to stay tuned for part two!

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