My Own Medication System
Lately there have been a lot of articles written by my fellow advocates on medication dispensers and supplements for migraine. Organizing the pills one takes every day, figuring out which of the many suggested natural preventatives to try and how to keep track... it's a lot to think about. Because all of us are different, I decided I would toss mine into the mix.
Daily medication organizer
Like so many others, I do use weekly four-times-daily
Medisafe phone app
The bells and whistles aspect, like alarms and digital read-outs, can be handy, and mine is on my phone instead of the pill dispenser itself. My friend Tarla had forwarded an article with chronic illness “tips and tricks,” and it mentioned a free app called Medisafe. That app has made my life so much easier that I couldn't thank Tarla enough. It allows you to enter every medicine you take and what time you need to take it, or if it's an as-needed med, and there is an alarm when it's time for you to take something. I opted for the premium version, which among other things plays Morgan Freeman's voice instructing me from on high different versions of “Time to take your meds.” (One of them actually begins "This is the universe speaking" and it does sound just like him. It took the girls months to get used to it, and John once thought he was going insane when he heard the voice for the first time, emanating from somewhere unseen when I was in another room.) The app also helps tremendously with filling my containers because I don't even have to think; I can just follow the list. Other features: it can give you refill reminders, alert you of interactions, create reports, and keep track of appointments.
Refilling containers every 3 weeks
So once every three weeks I bring my big plastic medication drawer into the living room to refill my containers. My prescription medication bottles normally stay in the medicine cabinet, with controlled substances locked in a small pink safe in the closet. Zo loves to help me fill the little boxes with all the colorful capsules and softgels. No preventatives have worked for me – either the side effects were too severe or they just didn't help – although because my blood pressure has been high I am again trying one of those medications, an ACE inhibitor this time called Lisinopril. Normally Beta and Calcium Channel Blockers lower my blood pressure and make me exhausted, but we'll see how it goes this time. (I suspect it is altering my sleep cycle because I've been having intense dreams and waking up with pain - maybe I'll stop taking it right before bed.) Because of the lack of helpful prescribed prophylaxis so far, I do take a large amount of preventative supplements.
Here are the supplements I take daily for migraine:
- CoQ10: studies have looked good for CoQ10 for migraine prevention, with 100-300 mg recommended daily. It can cause insomnia, so I take it in the morning, and right now only take 100 mg. It has the disadvantage of being pretty expensive.
- Magnesium Malate: I have written about Magnesium before, as it is nearly always recommended for migraine but it is often unclear which type is best absorbed, least likely to cause stomach upset, or whether it works to take it orally at all. Malate is supposed to be easy to tolerate, highly absorbable and good for energy production. I take three 450 mg capsules per day.
- Probiotics: Probiotics are just supposed to be a good idea for all kinds of issues.
- Omega 3 Fish Oil (DHA and EPA): studies have shown a possible decrease in migraine intensity and frequency from these omega-3 fatty acids, mostly found in fish. They are also supposed to help with memory, and most of us can use a helping hand there, and cardiovascular health is always a good idea. I take 3 large softgels per day adding up to 2400 mg. Make sure to purchase a bottle that says “No Fishy Taste” and no mercury or other pollutants which can be found in fish. I also read recently that Krill Oil is an excellent source of DHA and EPA as well, and perhaps better absorbed, so I have added a 500 mg softgel of that once per day as well. Krill Oil is far more expensive than Fish Oil. Most of the benefits to the brain require fairly high doses.
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): Along with Magnesium this is one of the first supplements a neurologist recommended to me. I purchase it online, where the whole 400 mg recommended for migraine comes in one capsule. It is difficult to find B2 by itself in stores, and if you do find it, they will be 10 or 20 mg bad-tasting pills.
- Vitamin D: I actually take quite a large dose of Vitamin D daily. It is recommended to have your levels checked before deciding how much to take. When it was thought I may be having cluster headaches, I began taking it then as part of a cluster prevention regimen. Vitamin D has many benefits, but as with all the supplements mentioned here or anywhere, be sure to discuss with your doctor.
- Feverfew: Feverfew is an anti-inflammatory herbal supplement that has known to be beneficial to migraine for a very long time. I am not able to find it in stores here, though a health food store would most likely have it. I order a brand online called Mygrafew (clever, right?) and take a tiny green 600 mcg pill daily. It is very fragrant in capsules, similar to chamomile, and a benefit of the concentrated pill is that it is much less odorous.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C also has anti-inflammatory properties and I read one article somewhere about it possibly decreasing migraine. This goes in the “it couldn't hurt” category. I do take some supplements specifically for their anti-inflammatory benefits since I can no longer take NSAIDs.
- Magnesium Glycinate: This form of magnesium, also easily absorbed, is supposed to help with sleep. I take two 100 mg capsules at bedtime.
- Melatonin: My headache specialist recommended daily melatonin to me for both migraine prevention and help with sleep, so I've taken it ever since. 10 mg caused me to be groggy in the morning and I seemed to have increased migraine, so I cut back to 5 mg.
Butterbur and petadolex
Two other supplements are worth mentioning. Butterbur has been very successful reducing migraine in studies. The type to order is Petadolex, which has toxins removed (although all brands do now) and is what was used in most of the studies. For some reason, it caused side effects for me although I think most people tolerate it well. Also sometimes used to prevent migraine is 5-HTP, which alters the brain's serotonin and is often found in those all-in-one, many-ingredient “Migraine Relief Formula” type supplements found online, usually with glowing testimonials and money-back guarantees. If you are on any type of antidepressant, however, taking 5-HTP is a bad idea; the times I have tried it I immediately felt symptoms of serotonin syndrome. (And yes, I did fall for one of those fancy supplements several years ago, and it contained 5-HTP so I had severe side effects and DID get my money back.) Remember too that most acute medications for migraine (triptans and ergots) affect serotonin, as do many of the preventatives (such as Topamax). Even Sudafed and cough medicine alter serotonin levels so supplements like 5-HTP and St. John's Wort are best avoided for people with migraine unless none of the above medications are part of your regimen.
Figuring out what supplements to take and how to keep track of them can be exhausting, and I've finally developed a good system. My hope is that one or more of our advocates' articles will help some of you discover your own best supplements to take and dispensing systems, because having everything organized and figured out does make this migraine life a bit easier, and it's hard to argue with that.
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