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Pain & Surprises.

From 1984 until about 2003 I would have a 54-hour migraine every 7-8 weeks.

I just lived with them, even though the intensity of the headaches would send the average non-migraineur to their doctor to demand an MRI. I tried hard to ignore them for what are probably the usual reasons. I never missed work on account of them; and it’s not like they were violent cluster headaches, so why should I complain. My mother had been using Imitrex injection for several years, which changed her life, but no… no… mine just ‘aren’t that bad’.

I did nothing about my headaches until a boyfriend had to pull over on the Snelling Avenue exit off of I94 eastbound in St. Paul, Minnesota so I could lean out of the car and hurl my guts onto the icy February street.

That’s when I went to a neurologist and started the Imitrex.

That worked pretty well, so I continued to use it. It wasn’t perfect. I have a fast metabolism, so would burn through each dose in about 7 hours. It took 3 to get me through the average attack. Then there were the pharmacists who would treat me like a junkie. Finally I told one of them, “Look. There is nothing ‘fun’ about this drug. When “you” get a headache, you take aspirin or ibuprofen, right? Well when *I* get a headache, it’s a needle stick in the thigh that makes me feel like I have road-rash on my hands and scalp. For an effect that feels… A LOT LIKE ASPIRIN.” He still didn’t get it. It was an injectible drug, so it must be something heavy. Whatever.

I moved to a larger urban area in 1998, where my doctor referred me to a famous local headache clinic. By then I wasn’t thinking so hard about my situation, I just went. I really trusted that referring doctor.

They had me fill out a huge questionnaire, did an EEG, sent me out for an MRI to rule out anything pernicious (ignorance is not bliss, after all), and sent me off with a large manila envelope of instructions.

On the bus on the way home, I pulled out those instructions, and read that what was certainly a major contributing factor, was pretty much any fermented food. Any food I loved. Not only was I flabbergasted — I had just drunk a large jar of icy- cold pickle juice, after eating the last Claussen the night before. I couldn’t believe it. I was “so” sure the recommendation to change my diet was total nonsense, that I decided to slavishly adhere to their recommendations until the next headache. Then 8 weeks later when I spiked the next migraine, I could tell them how insane they were. So eight weeks become twelve, and still no headache. The next one I had hit after a summer hike when I became overheated. Um. Well. I guess that was a little embarrassing.

The headache clinic did also give me a prescription. I’ve used a few drugs over the years, the current best for me being Treximet. I’m not draconian about the special diet, but I am very, very careful about how much hard cheese, pickled stuff, salami, leftovers that have been in the fridge for awhile, etc. I consume. Overheating remains a trigger; caffeine headaches are a clear trigger. I do still get migraines, and when I do they still last 54 hours and are still terrible. What changed is that they don’t happen anywhere near as often.

I used to see my headache doc once a year, but I haven’t been since my precise doctor left practice last summer. If he’s reading this he knows who he is (he laughed most satisfactorily at the pickle juice story), so I’d give him a big thank you for the manila envelope whose strange contents so drastically, and almost immediately improved my quality of life.

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

  • Deborah Van Der Harst
    8 years ago

    I have recently been diagnosed with episodic paroxysmal hemicrania. I haven’t been able to find much information about this type of headache although it is most like a cluster headache. I do know my triggers are bright sunlight, hot days, exertion, peanut butter, bananas, cheese and caffeine. I don’t know all my triggers though.

  • Deborah Van Der Harst
    8 years ago

    They last anywhere fom a few hours to a few days. The one that just ended was debilitating. I tried indomethecin which didn’t work. That leads me to believe I don’t have episodic paroxysmal hemicrania. My doctor wants me try oxygen which I havent tried yet, but it is next on the list. It is supposed to end the pain within 15 minutes. I hope yours has ended.

  • Wayne C Reinert
    8 years ago

    How long do yours last? I have had mine since memorial weekend. They range from painful to debilitating. Very light, noise sensitive. Any ideas!! Thanks n hope yours are resolved real soon!

  • Karen Stanley Haack
    8 years ago

    Histamine intolerance..for most migrainers fermented foods, foods made from mold (cheese) foods that are fungal bananas, mushrooms and more and foods with yeast. If you eat these foods and your prone to migraines your going to get one. Stay away from them and you should be fine….No leftovers either….I noticed you wrote that. We treat Sami with good fresh food without preservatives molds or fungus. Also no no no to citric acid and high fructose corn syrup…..

  • Sandyle Baby And Kids Boutique
    8 years ago

    I was fortunate enough to find the winning combination to be Bio-Identical Hormone replacement therapy (as mine were hormone related, since my 20’s) and Botox injections. Another trigger for me was stress. Neither worked by itself, but the combination has been a winner. I used to get 15+ migraines monthly, so I was a challenge. I also was able to rule out the typical triggers.

  • Genie Skinner
    8 years ago

    Food is a trigger for me as well. In addition to getting too hot, not drinking enough water, a change in altitude, stress, and on and on. It is a balance to avoid triggers, and sometimes it isn’t possible, and sometimes it feels pointless. I am 4 weeks migraine free right now (a record), and blessing every day that my head does not hurt. I haven’t done anything miraculous to bring on the 4 weeks of relief, I have eaten comfort foods, there is hot summer weather, my allergies are terrible, and I have been stressed… AND I am not taking any maintenance migraine meds. So, all of my theories are disproved for this stretch of time. Meanwhile, I am getting up each day thinking ‘Yeah! Another glorious day migraine free.’

  • Barbara Collins
    8 years ago

    What I don’t understand is that this week I can eat the cheese, have a glass of wine, cold cuts and pizza and it won’t bother me. Next week, I will be sensitive to all of those things. Why is that?

  • Laly Young
    8 years ago

    I will have to try this, I love cheese, and I have noticed I get headaches after eating it, Guess I’ll do without most of the time.

  • Karen Stanley Haack
    8 years ago

    cheese is made with mold, however sami tolerates kraft american cheese I know it’s processed but it doesn’t make her sick and all natural mozzarilla. However that is it. No other cheeses.

  • Dawnie BohanonAsh
    8 years ago

    I have tried pretty close to everything and still no help. right now I’m taking migranol and I don’t like what it does to my nose it kind of burns. treximet and imitrex didn’t work for me but I know people who have taken them and say they love them. I know certain foods do trigger my head aches grapes are one as weird as that sounds.

  • Karen Stanley Haack
    8 years ago

    Sami had all those meds also and were so horrible she would rather have the migraine.

  • Dawnie BohanonAsh
    8 years ago

    it seems like everytime I eat grapes within an hour and 1/2 i’m sick in bed with a migraine 🙁

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    8 years ago

    Dawnie, Grapes aren’t actually an unusual trigger at all. They’re one of my favorite things sadly…

  • Denise Pioneer AuCoin
    8 years ago

    hmmmm Something to try 🙂 At this point I would stand on my head if that’s what it took!

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    8 years ago

    Denise, the month of July the blog has been full of articles on Migraine triggers. You might go back and check them out!

  • Benice Shaw
    8 years ago

    Food is a big trigger for me any processed foods, cheeses, etc. My mother loved pickled onions but we knew that whenever she ate them she would get a migraine. Why is it so hard for people to admit their triggers and give them up? We are not depriving ourselves we are saving ourselves from agony. Think about healing yourself not depriving yourself. Think positive not negative it helps.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    8 years ago

    Love this Benice <3

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    9 years ago

    Thorn, thank you for so eloquently illustrating the effect of finding and avoiding Migraine triggers!!! Boy do I know what you mean. I crave pickles and cheese and all those lovely fermented foods I used to eat. When I cave and indulge I always pay the price. I hope you continued success in trigger/Migraine management!

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