As a collaborator for Dr. Bryant’s #BrainWeek, I thought I would finally share my experience with debilitating migraines and how I ended up curing them holistically...without prescription drugs and expensive treatments!
I used to get bad headaches as a kid and experienced a few migraines in H.S. and college but the worst ones came about 3 years ago when I was working in a high-pressure job in social media management and marketing. I was glued to my computer screen for 8-12 hours a day and only took a break if it was to go fill up my coffee cup…little did I know that was doing more harm than good. I was always on edge and was scared that if I didn't do my job “perfectly” and bend over backwards for all my clients, I'd be let go. That meant I was usually the first to arrive to the office and one of the last ones to go home. I lived on Quest protein bars, tons of coffee, rice cakes & cream cheese and random packed lunches (always focusing on low-calorie, not nutrient-density). I remember that I was always complimented for being "so reliable" but now I realize it's because I didn't set boundaries...I responded to emails long after working hours and would wake up at 4am just to check my emails out of one eye and then go back to sleep until 7am. Needless to say, I developed migraines so debilitating I had to leave work immediately and could barely make it home before I'd be vomiting and laying in bed in the dark for days at a time. The tiniest bit of light or noise would hurt my eyes and send shooting pains through my skull...
I craved immediate relief so I saw multiple doctors who suggested everything from Vicodin to heavy duty migraine prescriptions like Relpax and Imitrex but never suggested that there might be a root cause. I tried all of the meds because I needed to get back to work and didn't want to disappoint my team...even though they were so understanding and even gifted me a massage to help me slow down. All I wanted was to feel better but the medication wasn't working as more than a quick fix...in fact it was making everything worse....and there was one point I took up to 4 Vicodin in 1 day just to survive the holidays! I quickly developed rebound migraine which is when the medicine wears off, and the withdrawal from the drug triggers another migraine...it became a vicious cycle and I finally decided I was DONE suffering!
I did a TON of research on holistic migraine treatments and natural remedies and I came across the book Heal Your Headache., The 1,2,3 Program by David Buchholz, a neurologist who had cured thousands of patients of their migraines. I read every word and began his protocol for 4 months...it not only eliminated migraine specific trigger foods (due to specific chemical compounds) like avocado (that was the hardest), citrus, red wine, aged cheese and most alcohol, but I had to flush my meds down the toilet and get off coffee cold turkey…I used to drink 2-4 cups a day. I was sick of planning my life around my "headache days" because even when I didn’t have a migraine, I usually had a headache…so needless to say, I was willing to try anything... and can you believe it? This actually worked! It's been 2.5 years and I haven't had a debilitating migraine since (or frequent headaches) and when I've felt one coming on, I now have the tools I need to get over them MUCH faster than I used to!
HERE’S WHAT WORKED FOR ME:
Therapy (not diet): “Heal Your Headache, The 123 Step Program” eliminating possible trigger foods/drinks/meds for 4 months. In reading this book you’ll learn how the “migraine threshold” works and how a migraine cannot be pinpointed to just one or two triggers but a combination of different things (food, lifestyle, sleep etc). It’s also important to understand that our gut is our second brain (where 80% of our immune system lives) and that the immune system plays a role in the development of migraines, as does the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the digestive tract. The immune system is involved in both migraine attacks and in intestinal disorders that are influenced by gut bacteria. Both migraines and disorders like celiac disease and IBS cause inflammation and kick-start the immune system so it’s imperative to focus on reducing inflammation which you’ll see below.
Got Off: All prescription drugs & caffeine (now I can have green tea). The caffeine in coffee can lead to blood sugar imbalances and create rebound migraine.
Reduced Stress: started getting regular massage and chiropractic adjustments, took breaks from my computer and actually took a lunch break…and eventually quit my job to become a health coach…another story for another day!
Focused On: Hydration (100 oz water daily) and sleep (7-8 hours without checking my phone) and balancing my blood sugar levels (and my hormones) which meant eating regular meals (I used to go way too long between meals). adding protein, fat and fiber to each one and getting off all processed sugar which is one of the main reasons I created my 20-day Sexy Sugar Cleanse!
Supplements: Magnesium (a deficiency can contribute to migraines), Butterbur (supports healthy blood flow to the brain), Melatonin (can help reduce migraine frequency & duration), Vitamin D (boosts immune system) and COQ10.(reduces environmental damage to cells).
Herbs: Tons of ginger and turmeric as they are highly anti-inflammatory…the compound circumin in turmeric is touted as natures ibuprofen in thousands of studies!
Added back in: After 4 months, I was able to add back in almost all foods I eliminated but found out my major triggers were: red wine, champagne, coffee, sugar and stress!
WHAT I DO FOR MAINTENANCE:
Drink Four Sigmatic matcha instead of coffee…hence my obsession! You can use my code SHROOMBLISS for a discount. I love to mix 1.5 tsps with coconut milk, and stevia, blend and then heat on the stove for a frothy latte & top with cinnamon!
I only take 2 Aleve when I have a headache….if I really need it!
I take Magnesium citrate, HUM Vitamin D, HUM B-12 (use code 12350F for $10 off) and my favorite Hyperbiotics Probiotic every night before bed which is very important because migraines often stem from an imbalance of good to bad bacteria in the gut (made worse with prescription drugs, diet and stress) and a high-quality probiotic can re-populate the gut with the good guys! Use this link and code WELCOME10 for $10 off your first purchase of Hyperbiotics which I love because they are shelf-stable and formulated to withstand the journey through harsh stomach acid!
I use ginger and turmeric in everything I possible can… I even love to add fresh ginger to my matcha latte’s and turmeric into my chocolate protein shakes!
I eat lots of essential fatty acids which are vital for brain health i.e. wild-caught salmon, avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut, olives etc
I add a scoop of collagen protein to my morning smoothie or chai latte for hair, skin and nail health but also because it helps heal and seal the gut lining! My favorite is Further Food (use code BODYBLISSBYJESS for 10% off). I love to add their turmeric tonic to my chai latte’s and smoothies too.
I carry Saje Wellness peppermint halo on me ALWAYS and rub into my temples any time I feel tension coming on. and every night before bed!
I give myself breaks from screen time (I've taken about 3 breaks since starting this article)
I do yoga at home, deep breath and try to reduce stress when I feel it coming on. I take my favorite pilates Megaformer class at The Studio MDR 2-3 times a week…if you’re in LA, reach out to me to try a class as I’m lucky enough to be their new health coach!
I get one massage per month which I used to think was indulgent but now I understand is absolutely necessary! I love the Zeel app because massage therapists come to your home so you can skip the stress of traffic, choose your own relaxing music and find a therapist that you love who you can prioritize! They have Swedish, deep tissue, couples, prenatal and sports massage and the membership is so awesome because not only do you get a discount but after 3 months, you get a free massage table! If you’d like to try it, you can use my code 13gcc for $20 off your first massage! You’ll love it…
I ENJOY wine! For the last 2.5 years I stayed away from my favorite red wine and champagne during celebrations but I just discovered Dry Farm Wines which is the only health-focused, all natural wine club in the world! All of the wines are sugar- free, low-sulfites and lab tested for purity…. and not only do I not get a headache after I drink it, but I feel GOOD the next day! If you’re interested in joining the wine club, you can click THIS LINK to select get 6 bottles to be delivered every (or every other) month and you’ll even get an extra bottle for a penny! Just for the holidays, they’re also offering 3, 6, and 12 bottle gift options here which are amazing since most people love the gift of wine that doesn’t leave you with a pounding headache the next day and that tastes amazing too! My trick is that I take a bottle out to dinner with me and just pay the corkage fee at the restaurant ;)
NOTE: I only ever recommend brands I trust and use myself on a regular-bases and have reached out to many of them to provide you with discount codes so you can try them too!
When I look back on my journey it is hard to believe that I went from having more headache days than non-headache days and that migraines were just a part of my month. I'm here to tell you that if you suffer from migraines or any other type of gut issue (remember migraines are often gut related), there is a way out the other side and while it will take a commitment to making changes and getting deep (journaling and keeping a food log helps a lot), it will result in a sense of freedom you never thought possible. There isn't a week that goes by that I don't think about how lucky I feel to be able to make plans with my friends or put events on my calendar without the fear that a headache might get in the way!
It was when I FINALLY cured my migraines holistically that my life changed and I realized the power of food as medicine and the gut as our second brain. I signed up for the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and took a leap of faith by quitting my job and embarking on a journey to help men and women find relief the way I did and start actually listening to their bodies! This was the best decision I ever made and while it was scary, it was liberating and magical and I’m forever grateful to have a platform to share my story and to hopefully help others find a way out of the cycle like me…
Please reach out if you have any questions or are interested in working together because having support and accountability along the way is everything! Are you ready to make a change?!