Chronic Migraine, Coping, Diet, Treatment, Triggers

2012: A Year of Remarkable Personal Migraine Progress

Exactly one year ago tomorrow, I had a massive breakdown. Sobbing, I proclaimed that I wanted out of this life. I didn’t want to fight anymore; I didn’t want to live with chronic migraine any longer. I even wished for cancer so that I could choose to not treat it, thus dying without technically committing suicide.

Today, my head pain is at a level 4, which is the highest the pain has gotten in a week. In the past four months, the pain usually topped out at a 5, occasionally a 6. Still far from comfortable, that’s way better than daily pain that hits a level 7 or 8, where I was last January. I don’t know how these pain ratings appear to anyone outside my body, but to me, pain reduction of even a single number is cause for celebration.

In the 11 years that chronic migraine has been the focus of my life, last year was the first in which I made significant progress in reducing the severity of attacks. I tried more than three dozen medications in that time and countless other Western and alternative treatments and diets, none of which had any effect. To see any progress is amazing to me; to now be at a place where I expect even more improvement than I currently have experienced is astonishing.

Though you’ve read about my progress through the year, here’s a summary of what’s working for me:

Magnesium: Although I had been on magnesium before with no success, I noticed an improvement¬† increasing the dose to 700 mg. After trying IV infusions to see if they would be more effective (they weren’t), I ultimately pushed my daily oral dose to 1,000 mg.

Cyproheptadine: The starting dose of 4 mg was enough for me to feel a bit better. Each 4 mg increase brought additional relief until I hit 16 mg, which didn’t seem to be any better than 12 mg. I’m back at 12 mg, though will probably try increasing it again, to be sure that I wasn’t just having a bad week the first time I tried 16 mg.

Diet: It has been a year since I started an extreme version of a traditional migraine elimination diet. Until a month ago, the diet was horribly frustrating. It seemed like both nothing and everything I ate were triggers. I wondered if there were other aspects of foods that I was unaware of that could be triggers. Then a reader mentioned that she feels better when she avoids foods with histamine. This started major research and an even more drastic diet to cut out amines and salicylate.

The initial improvement started to look like a fluke as the migraine attack severity returned to previous levels. A week ago, I switched from ground dark turkey meat to skinless chicken breast as my main protein source and the migraine severity dropped to a level 4. I’m still tweaking the diet and waiting to see a nutritionist. It will be a long process as I test out foods I’ve been avoiding, but I really think histamine and salicylate content in foods and body/beauty products is a major component of my debilitating migraine attacks.

I have so much more to tell you! There’s a detailed post about the diet coming later this week. First I needed to write this overview to remind myself of the massive improvements that 2012 brought. Sure, I still feel worn out and discouraged at times, but every little bit of progress shows me that chronic migraine is necessarily not a life sentence. A year ago, I was convinced I’d never escape that prison.

I was basically the prototype of chronic intractable migraine. (In a bizarre sort of way, that sounds like bragging.) Ten years with no improvement. Countless doctors, naturopaths and all manner of traditional and alternative health care providers have given up on me. I had given up on me. If I can see improvement, so can you. The struggle may be long and arduous, but there is always, always hope. Hang in there.

4 thoughts on “2012: A Year of Remarkable Personal Migraine Progress”

  1. Happy to hear of your improvements. I finally found some relief in 2011 and have been able to maintain it for almost 2 years now after 12 years of horrible chronic migraines. Stay strong and keep up the hope.

  2. I feel like shouting on the roof-tops that hyper-glutenized foods cause migraines. Saltine crackers will not cause them in my situation but a bite of a bagel or bread will. That is because the doughy texture is created by adding additional gluten to an already gluten-filled flour. This puts many over the edge. Studies show hypo-perfusion in the brain after some people eat gluten. Gluten is tricky stuff – can cross the blood-brain barrier. I am non-celiac but definitely react to gluten. I also react to onions, vinegar, and other high-histamine foods. Had a reprieve from headaches during 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy because of high levels of diamine oxidase (DAO) produced by the placenta. This breaks down histamine.

  3. What an incredible entry… I’ve just found this blog this morning (it’s now 5am PST and I’ve been on it an hour), dumbfounded by the volume of daily sufferers out there. My husband is 3.5 months into daily headache rated 6-7, 8 lately which is why I’m up at 4am. Yes we’re doing elimination diet plus experimenting with meds.

    I sincerely appreciate your site, your approach and attitude. And admire your tenacity — congratulations!

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