Migraine – Self Help

During my fifties I suffered the most excruciating migraine headaches.

When they occurred I was completely unable to work properly, and felt both as if I were going to vomit and have diarrhoea. Sometimes the migraines would occur as often as twice a week.

Having always been interested in trying to understand what causes something to happen in my body rather than simply dealing with symptoms, I tried many ways to define what was causing the migraines. For instance I have often taken vitamins, and at the time I wondered if they were contributing. But when I stopped them migraines still occurred.

I went through all manner of such tests to see what the contributing factor was, and one thing that I did notice always occurred when a migraine started melting, was that I passed a lot of urine.

However, at that point I did not completely connect with what that meant. The insight was arrived at when I was teaching in Northern Ireland. I was taking a weekend conference and was lodging with a family who were involved in running it, and so was eating with them. The food they gave me was very wholesome but incredibly salty.
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Research has shown that during a migraine swelling occurs and the brain cells became starved of oxygen. The nerve cells are damaged — specifically the dendrites, the long, thin spikes that stretch from one nerve cell to another.

On the last day of the conference I had a terrible migraine. It felt as if an explosion had taken place inside me and I would be sick at any moment. It was difficult to think or carry on leading the group, and when the group finished I simply sat on the floor almost curled up holding my head. It is difficult to describe exactly what the feelings in my head were, but it felt as if my brain were being drowned and pressurised all at the same time.

It was my good luck that a woman doctor was one of the participants at the conference. She asked me what was happening and I explained about my migraine. I also explained that I had been trying to understand causes of the migraines, and the various things I had tried. I also said that in some way retention of fluid must play a part as I always passed a lot of urine when the migraine broke.

Remembering the very salty meals and realising that salt causes the body to retain more fluid, both of us put these factors together to point the finger at salt.
Dandelion in bloom

The kindly doctor then told me to sit still and not move. She went off somewhere and came back shortly with a cup of black coffee. Caffeine is a powerful diuretic, and not being a coffee drinker it had a very pronounced effect on me.

The effect was magical. Within a very short time I could feel the migraine beginning to fade. I also started passing a great deal of fluid from my system.

Since then I have known exactly what to do if a migraine begins or I feel it on the horizon. I immediately use something that will help my body to get rid of excess fluid. Coffee, for me is too much of a stimulant, so I tend to use some other form of diuretic. Cocoa is a gentler form of caffeine, as is black chocolate, and gree tea is wonderfully helpful. But mostly I avoid salt in my diet.

Strangely, having talked to other migraine sufferers, some will not accept that salt might in any way cause a migraine. One man in particular loads his meals with salt and consistently suffers migraines. He has tried all the medical help you can get, and painkillers, migraine tablets, with no result.

If that is you, what harm is there in trying a salt reduced diet, and using a diuretic when you do have a migraine or feel it coming?

Other things that can help maintain a reduced level of fluid in your system are vitamin C, dandelion coffee has a gentle effect, and dandelion extract is stronger. The B vitamins help the body to discharge excess fluid also. Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) is used with good effects.

However, you will need to experiment to find your own best relationship with the use of salt and substances mentioned to reduce fluid in your system.

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