We’ve all been there before: severe headaches accompanied by nausea, indigestion, sensitivity to light, a lack of appetite, and chronic fatigue. With full-time jobs, school, family, and our social lives, migraines will slow us down and that extra cup of coffee is just not enough. For many, migraines come and go. For others, migraines are a genetic condition we just can’t shake off.
As a full-time undergraduate student and part-time intern for a major television network, I began suffering from migraines every day. After many visits to the neurologist and an expensive load of prescription migraine preventatives, my migraines were not going away. While I juggled school, work, and my personal life, I dealt with a constant pounding in my head and severe nausea. It turns out there were simple factors in my everyday activities contributing to my migraines.
You Are What You Eat
Nausea was the worst symptom I had with migraines, and after a long process of trial-and-error my doctors ordered a migraine-friendly diet.
Always go for fresh food over processed, aged, pickled, or fermented. That slice of pizza may sound good now, but cheese (among other dairy products) is a trigger for migraines. If you’re going to eat meat, stay away from canned meat and stick with a freshly grilled burger.
Cater to your sweet tooth with fruits rather than chocolate. We all enjoy a little happy hour at the end of a busy work day, but keep in mind the side effects of alcohol on your head and stomach.
Coffee is Good for You
When I started getting migraines, I stopped drinking coffee. As someone with an already sensitive stomach, I was afraid coffee was the trigger for my migraines. When I told my doctor I stopped, she ordered me to continue drinking coffee. That extra boost of caffeine can actually help your headache; and if you’re a regular coffee drinker like I am, you do NOT want to quit cold-turkey.
Remember to keep a healthy balance: five cups of coffee a day are sure to give you a headache, zero won’t help you either; stick with two cups.
Get Some Sun!
I know it’s hard to step away from all that work you have to do, but it does help your migraines! I took several blood tests after being diagnosed with chronic migraines and I found that I was Vitamin D deficient. I started taking D3 tablets daily — but there’s nothing like the real thing.
Take a stroll around the block during your lunch break or spend a good 15 minutes breathing in some fresh air before heading home after work. It makes all the difference when you take some time away from work and your smartphone to remember the things we take for granted. A little sun will also brighten up your 9-5!
Vitamins Aren’t Just for Kids
Before vitamins, I was taking Propranolol, a prescription preventative for migraines. I felt unhealthy taking medication every day, so my doctor suggested an alternative to prevent migraines: vitamin B-2 riboflavin. I take 400 mg (200 mg twice a day) every day and it has made all the difference! Vitamin B-2 has also provides additional health benefits by acting as an antioxidant; as a treatment for anemia; and by breaking down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to produce more energy.
I get it — if you don’t even have time to sleep, how could you have time to exercise? It’s hard to fit an hour of gym time into your busy schedule, but I guarantee it makes a difference. After I graduated college and had more free time on my hands, I started working out every morning. Not only was I staying fit, but the extra energy kept the migraine away and I was stress-free! Hit two birds with one stone and take a jog outside. You’ll get that Vitamin D and have your body feeling great.
When the Inevitable Happens
So, these are great ways to keep your migraine at bay, but what happens when you do get one? These tips work great for me, but there are days when all the nausea and head-pounding stress comes back.
Bland food. I tend to treat migraines and indigestion the same way I’d treat a weekend hangover. You don’t want any dairy or oily food in your stomach. For me, I like to eat bread, Cheerios, or bananas. They keep your stomach full and won’t make you nauseous if you’ve lost your appetite. In addition, a hot cup of peppermint tea is guaranteed to make you feel more comfortable.
Cuddle up to ice. Sometimes it’s hard to sleep with a migraine. Go to bed with an ice pack* on your head or invest in a cold head wrap to soothe your headache overnight. The cold compress will ease your migraine and help you sleep better.
*Editor’s Note: Most doctors recommend using ice for only 15-20 minutes at a time.
Everyone has their own methods of approaching migraines, and it takes some time to see what works for you. It took me as long as four months to discover ways to manage my daily migraines on top of my busy lifestyle. The key is to eat healthy, stay active, and keep a regular sleep schedule. Most of all, just accept the painful experience and remember it will go away eventually. Contributing stress to your headache won’t help it go away!
Photo credits: mislav-m, BobPetUK, waferboard, erink8, colindunn, and lululemon athletica.