As some of you will know I’ve experienced some severe migraines in the past. So this is my opinion and I need to say that I’m not a medical professional nor a fitness expert, just someone who’s done a lot of research, trial and error and think some of what I’ve learnt may be useful to you. As always, check with your doctor or medical professional before making any decisions or changes in your treatment and never, ever just stop taking medications as these require a methodical withdrawal protocol.
Anyone who’s suffered through a migraine knows they are highly debilitating, as once our brains are being affected then everything else pretty much doesn’t matter! Other physical needs and requirements get put on the back burner as we deal with the urgency of averting a full-blown migraine attack or navigating and fighting our way through it as best we can.
I’ve found the key to avoiding migraines is to stay well hydrated – it’s amazing how quickly we dehydrate for all sorts of reasons, especially during menopause. A good way to check is to look at your urine colour after going to the loo. Pale yellow to clear is hydrated well, The darker your urine the more your body is showing you that it’s getting dehydrated. As we know, during menopause we tend to sweat (a lot!) and need to replenish our liquids regularly. I think, even drinking more water than we used to is the way to go but make sure you’re drinking filtered water as we also need to protect our kidneys and bladder lining which can get irritated with chemicals in typical tap drinking water.
If you’re like I was and have eliminated salt from your diet, you may want to reintroduce a little salt back into your diet, as there are lots of benefits to adding a little salt back into your diet – of course, check with your health advisor if you’re on low sodium for any reason. I actually put a lot of salt in my diet now – both cooking and seasoning before I eat my meal (rock salt).
The thing is though, once a migraine has struck we’re in a dire place so the key to this condition (migraine brain – it’s an oficial term) is to listen to your body’s language. Learn the early symptoms and act on them.
Migraine doesn’t typically just happen – that’s generally a headache and the two are world’s apart. When a migraine is revving up, your body’s language will become a lot louder and is warning you, trying to protect you, to take action to avoid a full-blown attack.
It’s the rallying of the troops, if you like. It’s not called a migraine attack for nothing – and needs to be treated as seriously as a heart attack. It really does.
I learnt the hard way, by ignoring the warning symptoms and it’s typical of most of us women in menopause, ie the problem arises when you don’t hear the warning bells, when you keep staying late at work, or push yourself to do that bit extra when you’re beyond tired, when you stay on the phone listening to a friend who is a bit of an energy thief, when you eat waaaay too much processed and takeaway food, and you generally continue to ignore your needs across the board.
Migraine Prevention and Survival Kit
So, in my migraine prevention and survival kit are several things –
1. Listen to your body’s language – if I’m tired or getting stressed, it’s me first!
2. Stay hydrated – get into the habit of checking the loo and take action if your urine is getting darker.
3. Remember to salt – even a few grains of rock salt taken with filtered water will immediately get to work to hydrate,
4. Take some time to draw up a commitments list and knock a couple of items off it. Your brain, and your body, are sending you very clear signals that all is not well and you need to cut out the time wasters in your life and give that time back to your health needs.
5. Laugh – life can get very down during menopause, find something that makes you laugh and watch it or do it every single day.
6. Prayer – time spent in prayer is my life saver, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the gift of prayer and being able to connect with my Lord and Saviour.
So, what happens if the migraine attack is underway and you’re experiencing the early symptoms – eg affecting your sight, perhaps experiencing weakness in your limbs, experiencing nausea and drooling sensation, pressure or pain in the brain, an aversion to smell, sound or light?
If a migraine is imminent, you can still reverse the condition by getting some sugar and salt into you asap (in emergencies even a takeaway meal of burger, fries and a sugary coke). This does a couple of things – it immediately rehydrates your body and it’s typically the first action with ambulance personnel to put an IV in with electrolyte solution. I found this out when talking with a paramedic on my fifth ambulance ride. Talk about embarrassing! It took five kicks of the mule for me to wake up and start listening to my body’s language!
My ‘go to’ used to be downing aspirin clear and panadol – three full strength aspirin and three panadol. But they would hardly touch the sides as far as dealing with the symptoms, because I had let it go too far. Again, through not listening to my body’s language.
In an emergency situation, where you know the migraine is moving into another gear, try to get some salt and sugar into you – the reason I suggest powerade or some sports drink is because it’s balanced and will work very quickly and it’s what the paramedic told me to do – I think they were getting fed up with this woman who kept wasting their time!
Sipping on an icy cold powerade is often easier to get keep down too when you feel nauseous, At the same time a cool, wet cloth on your forehead and back of your neck will also help to distract the brain and symptoms.
I learnt (5 kicks) that It’s important to recognise early symptoms and stop them in their tracks. The earlier you move to alleviate the pressure, the easier it is to eat and drink, before nausea has no chance to set in. That’s where learning your body’s language comes in and, as you learn to listen to what’s going on, you will become an expert at avoiding the ‘perfect storm’ conditions that cause a full-blown migraine attack.
So, get to know your body’s language – I can’t stress that enough. As a lot of you know I’m a bladder whisperer and that got me on the trail of listening to my body’s language at all levels. I put my own physical well being above everyone else these days and you need to do that too. Listening to your body’s language is an amazing skill to learn and one of the best things to come out of my rocky old menopause journey.
So, there you have it, some tips from Tess to help you to avoid full blown migraine attacks.
Triggers for Migraines
As you know there can be all sorts of triggers for migraines, eg
- A shift in hormones/chemicals during menopause
- Weather changes – eg storms
- Sudden changes in temperature
- Food reactions – eg chocolate, cheese, red wine
- Stress levels
- Getting angry and raising blood pressure
- Poor personal boundaries – ie doing too much for too many for too long
That’s how I got involved in bladder control issues as my bladder just threw a wobbly after migraine no. 5 and I found myself experiencing loss of bladder control – without any warning, It was the absolute lowest point in my life. I felt like a little kid again with no control whatsoever. It took some real effort and hard work to take back control and I think that’s why I now strive to avoid migraine attacks like the plague!
There’s a saying in our home – “Don’t mess with Tess.” It comes from my journey back to good health, that was my catch phrase when ill health would try to attack me as I was learning all I could about organic food, filtered water and the benefits of sunshine. Head down, bum up in the cupboard boxing up all the processed food packets, cans and bottles!
I’m happy to say that full-blown migraines are now a thing of the past and I know how to manage my migraine brain these days, through watching the triggers and listening to my body’s language.
if you suffer from migraines, it’s critical to monitor your health and not let yourself get stressed to the point where you forget to hydrate. Take it from someone who’s spent many a day in hospital recovering from hemiplegic migraines. Prevention is definitely better than cure!
I hope you enjoyed my little love rant…if it helps one of you avoid what I went through, then it’s definitely time well spent. Just put yourself first, learn to listen to your body’s language and use prevention at the first sign of a building migraine attack.
Research shows that our brains have to repair themselves following migraine attack, so the very best thing you can do is pre-empt them with preventative measures.