I wanted to share a case study today of a real-life client of mine from last year, as it demonstrates a point I often make about Naturopathy: when we address the causes of one condition, we often clear up other issues at the same time.
Mandy (not her real name but she has provided permission to share her case here) was 37 when she came to see me about her worsening migraine attacks. She told me that she previously used to get a migraine once a month – just before her period – but now she was getting 3 or 4 migraines a month.
She thought this had starting happening a year ago after a particularly stressful event. She had tried different medications and painkillers from her GP – which helped for a while – but then the regular migraines would re-occur. She had also seen a neurologist and had been referred for an MRI, but no abnormality in the brain was found. The next step was to go on a preventative medication, but she was concerned about the side effects, and so came to see me.
Mandy had other health concerns as well. She was experiencing PMS which hadn’t been an issue before and noticed that she was anxious about things that wouldn’t usually bother her. Since having her second child two years ago, she had been overweight, and was finding it difficult to find the motivation and energy to eat well and exercise. Mandy reported recurring thrush and sometimes said her lower abdomen felt uncomfortably bloated at the end of the day.
Mandy was having difficulty sleeping and was tired all day. She felt “so stressed, overwhelmed and like she was close to having a breakdown”.
She had tried avoiding citrus, coffee and chocolate, because she had heard they caused migraine – and also tried to go gluten-free for a couple of weeks but didn’t notice a difference in her migraines. Mandy had also experimented with a magnesium she purchased from the chemist but hadn’t noticed a difference. She was concerned about sugar cravings and did not know how to eat less sugar because she craved it so much, particularly after meals.
Based on Mandy’s presentation, and following food intolerance testing, microbiome testing and hormonal profiling, I started her on a customised food plan which I created to be easy to follow and also could be simply adapted for family meals. For the first week we started by making gradual changes to make the transition easier. This program involved avoiding all refined carbohydrates, while eating lean protein, plenty of vegetables and high quality fats to fuel her brain and body.
As her migraine seemed to be driven by stress and hormones, I also prescribed an individual treatment protocol consisting of herbal and nutritional supplements for:
- Nervous exhaustion
- Hormonal support
- Plus a liver and digestive microbiome support for the thrush and bloating
I replaced her ineffective off-the-shelf magnesium supplement with one that was better absorbed and indicated for migraine. Finally, I suggested some daily habits she could implement for migraine prevention and stress management.
Mandy returned for appointments every 2 to 3 weeks for 3 months.
After four weeks, Mandy reported that her anxiety was considerably lower. She felt that her energy and mood had improved. She reported a headache around her period, but it was no where near as severe as previous migraines. The bloating had not occurred again either.
By week 6, Mandy was sleeping better, and had not had another migraine. She had lost a little weight, and her clothes were fitting better. She commented on how much more energy she had, and that she felt more able to cope when stressful events happened. She was enjoying work more and had more energy for her family.
At week 12, she had not had a significant migraine attack. At times she had thought she might be getting one – particularly if it had been a big week at work - but had used some of the strategies I had provided to help manage a potential migraine. She had lost 6 kilograms and reported that she felt “so much happier in my own skin”. The PMS was not noticeable anymore – her last period had arrived without any moodiness, bloating or migraine.
Mandy said that she was enjoying her food plan now, and felt that her family was healthier as well, as she was cooking more nutritious foods. She was enjoying experimenting with clean food recipes. She no longer craved sugar as much as before either.
Mandy was such a pleasure to work with, as she was so committed and dedicated to following her treatment. She committed to her follow up appointments.
It’s a cliché – but the results really speak for themselves in this case. And it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to help people turn their health around. *happy dance*
If you have been thinking of seeing a naturopath, but not sure if I can help, then feel free to book in for a free 10 minute chat.
Much of the conversation around food and migraine is about avoiding trigger foods.
I’m sure you have seen the lists before…chocolate, alcohol, cheese, citrus, wheat, dairy, and so on.
While not chowing down on these foods can be a good start to prevent a migraine attack, it doesn’t look at the potential of food as medicine.
The concept of food as medicine – particularly when combined with individualised medicine – looks at the possibility of a tailored or special diet to promote health or reduce illness. In addition to the overall diet, you can look at foods with medicinal properties from nutrients and plant compounds.
In my experience as a naturopath with a special interest in migraine (as well as being a migraineur myself), there is no single diet which works best for all people with migraine. But there sure are a few key nutritional programs with which my clients have had great success.
Generally, through taking an extensive case history and sometimes testing, I work with the client to find the right diet the first time.
The most successful diets include:
Additionally, we look at adding medicinal foods into your diet – such as ginger for its potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Sometimes, we also consider food intolerance testing to find out if there are any foods particular to you which are driving inflammation in your body.
The best thing about these diets, is that they increase your tolerance to foods which previously may have been a trigger for you. So, providing you follow your diet most of the time, then you can occasionally have the glass of champagne or piece of chocolate without causing a migraine attack.
If you are keen to explore how diet may reduce the number of migraine attacks for you in the future (and hey, who doesn’t want that?!) then feel free to reach out to me for a chat to see how I can help.
Keep on smiling migraine warriors x
One of the questions I am asked most as a naturopath, who also lives with migraine, is what I do personally to keep my own migraine attacks at bay.
I’ve lived with migraine for 30 years now, and I’m grateful to have been able to manage them to the point where they rarely affect my day-to-day life – something which feels like a miracle as I approach the “danger time” for migraine - approaching menopause.
So here are the things I do personally to prevent migraine attacks. I don’t get it right every day as sometimes my life can be a bit of a hot mess (which happens when you work full time, run a business and have a small child!).
But honestly, these little adjustments I make to my routine mean that I can spend more time doing all the things I love, and less time struggling with a nasty migraine attack.
And there you go – those are the things I include daily to keep the migraine attacks away.
I don’t always get it right, some days stress, work, travelling or just being super busy means I have to take shortcuts sometimes (like a takeaway dinner) but I find that if I take care of myself 90% of the time, my body can handle 10% of indulgence.
If you would like a little help to investigate what YOUR migraine prevention routine could look like, then feel free to book in for an appointment. My treatment plans are perfectly designed for people with migraine, and I’d love to help you.
You know how it gets when you are in the middle of a migraine attack and you can barely lift your head from the pillow or open your eyes? Well, at the point in time, all you can really do is lay low, try some drug free strategies and just get yourself through to the other side of the attack.
But what about when you feel OK again? What can you do then to reduce the frequency and severity of future migraines?
All too often, the focus when it comes to managing migraine is to consider just 2 or 3 things. Often, these are medication, avoiding food and drink triggers and perhaps some musculoskeletal therapy – perhaps chiro, massage or physio.
But, there is so much more we can consider. This is where I often introduce my Migraine Circle of Self-Care to clients.
The Circle looks at various groups of strategies we manage to give ourselves the best chance of reducing the frequency and severity of migraine.
And it's a great place to start to build your toolkit to prevent migraine attacks in the future.
The toolkit you use to manage your migraine condition will vary from someone else living with migraine – and this is where I can help guide you towards what will be most likely to help YOU.
For example, we might look at food intolerance testing to help identify foods to avoid, or we might look at your hormonal health or nutritional status for clues on supplements that might be best for you.
You can start using the Migraine Circle of Self-Care right now to identify perhaps 1 or 2 things in each area that you would like to consider trying for your own migraine management toolkit.
And of course, reach out and book an appointment if you need any support in this area.
What can I eat?
When I first began to see the real link between what I ate and migraines, I was really confused about what I should eat to help manage migraines. Even though I was a qualified nutritionist!
Some research showed me to just avoid trigger foods. There were also lots of diet recommendations out there for migraine – low carbohydrate, keto, anti-histamine diet, anti-inflammatory diet, plant-based and paleo. What diet was best for migraine? Were sugar-free foods okay? What about carbs?
I was overwhelmed and felt paralysed.
Through my extensive research into the right foods to nourish and heal my body, I learned that food is medicine. I began avoiding processed foods, reducing trigger foods and aiming for proteins and vegetables as the base for most meals.
I found that the best approach was to keep blood sugar levels balanced with low carbohydrate foods and aim to include anti-inflammatory foods such as vegetables, blueberries, ginger and fish.
Amazing things happened. Less migraines, clarity returned and I just felt better. I transformed into a healthier, clearer, and happier me.
You can too.
Baby steps are the key.
Start small - with breakfast.
I tell all my clients that a low sugar, nutrient-dense smoothie is a good place to start
I don’t mean the smoothies you find at cafes and juice bars – you know – the ones that are more a dessert than nutritious.
No, the best smoothie is one you make yourself. Done right, smoothies are the quick, delicious and portable way to start your day off on the right note.
If you use the right nutrient dense ingredients, a good breakfast will:
• Keep your blood sugar balanced
• Provide protein to keep your energy level high and even
• Give you fibre to nourish your digestive system
• Get you off to a great start by including your all-important leafy greens first thing in the morning
• Start your day off right so you are less likely to throw in the towel by lunch
If you are ready to try this approach, I encourage you to start with one of these easy, super quick recipes which I’ve designed especially for migraine nutrition.
DOWNLOAD THE 5 BREAKFAST RECIPES
These recipes reduce or avoid common migraine triggers, and reduce inflammation while being low carbohydrate so you won’t have blood sugar fluctuations throughout the day.
Another great quick option is the chia seed pudding which you can make the night before for a quick grab and go breakfast. The other recipes are also super quick to make.
Ready to really heal?
I'd love you to make an appointment for a private consultation.
In good health,