Today marks one whole month without a migraine.
For those of you who suffer from migraines, especially migraines with aura, I feel you.
I get the dizziness, the blindness, the disorientation and distorted speech. I understand feeling like a vampire, as if the light would actually burn my insides to a crisp. I know the throbbing, and how the force is strong with it on one side of the head in particular.
I’ve only been dealing with migraines for about a year and a half, but they are absolutely debilitating. Ask my husband. Or, actually, look at the research: migraine is now considered a disability. In fact, it’s the main cause of disability among neurological disorders.[i]
In the process of filling out a job application for a freelance gig, I was asked to disclose disabilities. I had just spoken the words, “You know a migraine should be considered a disability,” and there it was. The very last item on the drop-down menu: Migraines.
While this might be true, and headaches are a common ailment for countless people across the world—there’s just not a lot of help aside from popping a pill or sapping every last ounce of joy from your life (at least the moments migraine hasn’t already taken). Or is there?
My sweet, patient husband has been telling me about The Wild Diet since we started dating at the beginning of 2019. But, having several food allergies, I balked at the word diet. To me, that was (and always has been) an evil word. I love food, and I already felt so restricted; I didn’t want to add more “no’s” to my list.
Essentially, I laughed every time he brought it up: “Diet? Me? No thanks!” About four months after that first conversation, the migraines started. At first, having one migraine every six weeks or so was the norm. But that rate steadily increased until I was having them about once a week in January. And on February 4th, I got hit with back-to-back migraines, within an hour of each other.
Here’s the kicker: Just the day before, I had committed to “trying” to eat “wild.” We had paid off our debt the previous week, and to celebrate, we went to McKay Books in Winston. Propped up on a shelf was the book, The Wild Diet by Abel James. We’d already been listening to the podcast (“Fat Burning Man”), but decided the book (chock full of research and recipes—two of my love languages!) would be a good investment too. Plus, I had some McKay credit to burn. We thought: Why not?
But I was still skeptical. Until the following Thursday, that is, when I had the back-to-back migraines. That day was the final straw for me. I was ready to try anything to beat these monster headaches. (As a side note, I did also set up an appointment with my integrative health specialist, who encouraged this process.)
Either way, as I approached the end of the book last night, I shook my head and chuckled to myself when I saw the list of issues eating wild can help. You guessed it. One of the benefits of eating wild: “decreased migraines.”[ii] Y’all. I haven’t even done this thing perfectly. My 30th birthday came and went about a week after we started eating this way, and I wanted cake. I’ve had Mexican food from Don Juan’s, and I’ve had some dark chocolate with more than 5 grams of sugar. (Can I tell you how tough it is to find peanut free dark chocolate? OR how expensive it is when I do track it down?)
Aside from that, rather than being restrictive, the Wild Diet gives me permission to enjoy good quality food and the courage to say no to the stuff that my body just wasn’t made for like processed/boxed junk, fast food, and giant, chemical covered fruits and veggies. As Abel mentioned in his book, it’s a good practice to tell yourself “I don’t eat that” rather than “I can’t eat that.”[iii] So much of changing your health is changing your perspective. And trust me, I know this can mean tearing down years of what you thought to be true. It is not a painless process.
I can’t tell you that your migraines will go away permanently if you eat like this. I can’t tell you for sure that they’ll happen less often, like mine have. I can’t tell you that you’ll love eating this way. I don’t know any of these things for sure. But I do know that I’ve seen a vast improvement in my health—body, mind, and soul—over the last month as I’ve slowed down, paid more attention to my food, and spent more time enjoying it too.
Special note for Christians: A few years ago, when I heard about homeopathic and integrative medicine for the first time, I was skeptical. Maybe I was even sheltered in a way, because it all just sounded a little new-agey to me. So, if you’re there, I feel you. But I want to ask you to set that aside for a moment and consider the One who created your body and soul. Consider the tender love and care He demonstrated as He “remarkably and wondrously made” you (Ps. 139:14) . And He calls us to take care of the body He has given to us, as it is where His Spirit dwells (1 Cor. 6:19-20). So, there is absolutely nothing new-agey about eating this way. In fact, I’d say, taking care of your health is a God-honoring endeavor and eating good food is part of that.
Other Ideas for Reducing/Relieving Migraines Naturally
Quick disclaimer: This is not medical advice. These are tips I’ve found in various areas of research that have helped me personally. Always, always consult with your preferred medical professional.
Take a nap and go to bed early. Getting enough sleep is vital to reducing your susceptibility to migraines.
Keep your caffeine intake low and level. I cut out all forms of caffeine other than the occasional dark chocolate, tea, or coffee. Honestly, with tea, I go for lowcaf or decaf varieties. But most days, I have just one cup of coffee in the mornings, with a scoop of collagen powder and tablespoon of coconut cream blended into frothy magic. Some doctors say you should cut out caffeine altogether. However, research shows that consistency in daily caffeine intake can also be effective, although you still want to keep your caffeine consumption pretty low.[iv]
Destress. I put in my notice at my “normal” part-time job in favor of the more flexible hours and work as a freelance writer and editor. I also spend more time in prayer, doing deep breathing exercises, and curling up under my weighted blanket with a good (printed) book.
Reduce screen time. Especially if you work on computers all day, like I do, try not to read on kindle. Not only are the books often more expensive, you’ll put less strain on your eyes if you read on paper.
Get off of social media. Check in occasionally if needed, but this was a major stressor for me. So only getting online every once in a while, with a specific purpose (and limiting my time to do so) has been incredibly helpful.
Create space. Set good boundaries around work (like how late/early you’ll respond to emails). I’m not telling you not to help your coworkers, but know when something isn’t your job and hand it over to the right person. This helps you and them. Learning to say no goes well here too.
Be social. I know, I know. I’m not supposed to say that in Covid times. BUT you absolutely cannot neglect your social health. It is key to your brain health. (Ask dementia/Alzheimer’s researchers about this.) So, even if you’re more comfortable sitting outside with a mask on, chatting through video apps, or parking next to your best friend in a random (but safe) parking lot— do what you need to do to be social while physically distancing. Hopefully, we’ll have to worry less and less about this soon. Hold onto hope, friends.
Use a heat wrap on your neck the day after, but lie down in a dark room with a cooling eye mask while you’re having the migraine (so that same day). Here’s the eye mask I have (and LOVE!).
Be as active as you can. I fail at this one often, but the hubs and I started throwing a frisbee (and running and jumping to chase it) the other night, and I had a blast! I also felt it the next day. These short bursts of intensity are SO good for you. I also have a volleyball sitting in my cart on Amazon right now. DO NOT make exercise miserable. Do something you love! A few of my other favorites are hiking, kayaking, and biking.
Eating Local in Lexington, NC
Here are a few places we’ve tried (or are set up to try soon!) and loved.
Crossings Farm (for pork, chicken, beef, eggs, honey, and even raw dairy)
Seven Sisters Farm (for a farm share box, filled with fresh veggies, for 24 weeks out of the year)
Lexington Farmer’s Market (May – October at the Lexington Depot)
Aldi on Talbert Blvd. (You’d be surprised at how many healthy options they have. Specifically, we can get grass-fed ghee and butter, as well as sheep cheese here)
The Forrest Hill Food Lion (They have quiet the selection of Kerrigold grass-fed cheeses, and they often feature locally farmed produce.)
The Wild Diet by Abel James
[ii] Abel James, The Wild Diet: Go beyond Paleo to Burn Fat, Beat Cravings, and Drop 20 Pounds in 40 Days (New York, NY: Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2015), 293.
[iii] James, The Wild Diet, 285.
[iv] Magdalena Nowaczewska, Michał Wiciński, and Wojciech Kaźmierczak, “The Ambiguous Role of Caffeine in Migraine Headache: From Trigger to Treatment,” Nutrients (MDPI, July 28, 2020), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468766/.