How's that for a gripping title?
It's a true story. I can't guarantee that everyone who reads it would have the same outcome that I did, but I'm telling you what really worked for me.
I suffered from migraines for 11 years. They started in 5th grade, and continued until the year I got married, my senior year of college.
I generally got between 1 and 3 migraines each month, and they all followed the same "classic" pattern: I would have visual disturbances (like I couldn't see out of half of one eye, or I saw bright squiggly lines all over my field of vision) for about an hour, then I'd be in pretty horrid pain for 3 to 5 hours, then I'd usually vomit several times, and finally, I'd have a "migraine hangover," or mild-ish pain, on one side of my head, for the next day or two.
If I had 2 migraines a month (fairly typical), that meant about 4 days of being mostly out-of-commission, missing school or college classes (or work), fun times with friends, etc. In high school, when my youth group went to Washington D.C., after I narrowly avoided throwing up in the White House (sure wish I had now - that would make a great story), I spent the rest of the day suffering back at our lodging instead of touring the city with my friends. My freshman year of university, I had the huge joy of taking my first ever college finals while only being able to see out of one eye, and with pain quickly building in the back of my head. But my favorite (ha ha) memory is of sitting on stage with my high school orchestra at a highly-anticipated all-city concert, being thankful that I had my music mostly memorized, because I couldn't see it, and praying that I wouldn't vomit into my clarinet.
I started planning ahead when I got that familiar fuzzy-vision feeling, making sure I only ate things that would not be too horrible to throw up later. It was something of a pathetic science.
If I averaged 4 migraine-suffering days a month, for 11 years, that's 528 days of my life, basically down the drain. About a year and a half.
My doctor was a very kind and conscientious man who sympathized with my pain, gave me a list of "migraine triggers" to try to avoid, and prescribed me a prescription drug to take when a migraine began. The medication didn't help at all (and I usually threw it up after a few hours anyway... it was really gross tasting), and the list of "triggers" I was supposed to avoid included cheese, wine (hmm, scratch that one off, I was in 6th grade), chocolate, stress, lack of sleep, travel, and changes in weather, like high winds. Wow.
So as long as I didn't eat two of my favorite things, travel, worry ever, attend slumber parties with friends, or experience wind storms, I just might be okay? Sounds like a real treat for a kid. Oh, and none of it helped.
So, why am I sitting here, looking back and laughing about these rather nasty experiences, instead of hating my life 3 days a month while hanging my head over the toilet in searing pain?
I stopped consuming MSG and Aspartame.
I know, you've probably heard plenty of people talk about Aspartame giving mice cancer, or MSG somehow mysteriously poisoning the nation's Chinese food. You may be on board with these theories, or you may think they are a load of hooey.
I am just telling you what worked.
After one particularly horrid migraine, before which I had consumed copious quantities of Crystal Light (hey, it's healthy, it has no sugar, right?), I started wondering. I had also started reading a bit at that point, some classics like The Maker's Diet and Never Be Sick Again, and I was just starting to wonder if maybe my body was trying to tell me something.
It has been a journey since that time, first just avoiding MSG and Aspartame (and all the sneaky MSG variations), then learning all about good fats, and gradually evolving my food philosophy to where it is today. But one thing remained consistent.
If I ate anything with MSG or Aspartame in it, I got a migraine. I was like a walking MSG-detector. The migraines were not as severe after a while, and I started carrying crystalized ginger everywhere with me to help alleviate the symptoms (it was much more effective than that old prescription, plus I figured if it didn't work, it would taste better on the way back up. It worked.)
I haven't had a migraine in almost 3 years.
If you get migraines, or if you know anyone else who does, I am not saying all migraines are the same, or that my solution will work for you.
But guess what?
The whole 11 years I was suffering, my doctor never once, NEVER EVEN ONCE, suggested eliminating MSG or Aspartame from my diet. Avoiding travel and high winds? Uh...I'd much rather just stop eating the seasoning in Top Ramen, thanks.
If you or someone you know is suffering, isn't it at least worth a try?
What are your experiences with your food choices impacting health in dramatic ways? Do you have a story like mine or know someone who does? Has conventional medicine ever let you down?
Posted at Fat Tuesday and WFMW