A Functional Approach to migraines asks – what is the root cause?
Migraines are not just a headache – they can be a debilitating, life-long condition which can impact of all aspects of your life. Despite this many sufferers never find out what causes their migraines and take strong medication with a range of side-effects? But is there another option?
A functional medicine practitioner will help you find out why you started having migraines and finding out why is the key to stopping them!
Our bodies are designed to heal, allowing us to live and experience life. Life happens and our bodies with our unique genes, deal with it.
In functional medicine we explore key life events which may set your body up for a dysfunction such as migraine. We will explore:
- Recurrent Infections in early life or at any time (viral bacterial and fungal)
- Stressors and our reactions to it, both learned and instinctive
- Trauma both physiological and physical
- Toxins in our environment: additives in food, work related chemicals, make up, creams, smoke, alcohol
- Our nutrition from an early age, any fussy eating, dietary changes or restriction which can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
The above are all potential triggers of your genetic predisposition and once triggered may result in chronic disease.
Symptoms can start small: niggly, signs and symptoms such as a few headaches, feeling a bit foggy in the head, a little bloating in the belly, food intolerances, slight constipation, skin rashes, allergies , period issues, feeling anxious in times of stress. At this stage, the majority of patient will start taking over the counter medication to help with the symptoms, blame their genetics and then try their best to get on with life.
The second stage is where things can get a bit more intrusive, headaches severe enough to stop you from working, indigestion when out with friends, stronger pain medication for pain and anxiety affecting sleep . Patients may then try and address the symptoms by avoiding certain foods ‘If I avoid bread or tomatoes or alcohol it will help’. Up their activity saying to themselves ‘May be if I do a bit more activity and take some time out?’ Their symptoms may improve for some time but then they can get worse.
Third stage and it is time to see the GP and seek out advice and information and even stronger medication. Even at this stage most patients do their best to carry on; work and home life is busy and no time to discover why this is happening. Life continues to happen, holidays, birthdays, life events.
All of the above IS having an effect on your body. The body continues to do its best to keep on going. And here is what your body is really saying “Please listen to me, I am under severe strain and that is why I am giving you migraines – please stop and take note now!”But the patient tries to carry on. Then the crisis hits. The final straw that brakes the camel’s back. ‘I have had a headache for 3 days and nothing is helping, I can’t go to work again, this is the third time in the month!”
Don’t let it get to this stage. Tell a functional medicine doctor your history of migraines and your symptoms and they will figure out what the dysfunctions are in your body. You may just want your headaches to be dealt with but the FM doctor wants to know about all the symptoms you are experiencing. Think of a Functional Medicine doctor as a detective who will seek out all the clues which your body is holding and will then give you your verdict on why you are suffering from migraines and most importantly how you can stop them!
Your FM Doctor will question you to find out:
- Are you sleeping enough what are the issues behind it?
- What are you eating that could be triggering the headaches?
- Where are your stresses and what techniques or do you have in your belt to help with this.
- Are you over or under exercising?
- DO you have a support network, friend and family and how do they influence your health and your ideas about health and what barriers or support would they provide?
When we look at the above history the following simple ideas help you to help us understand your headache/migraines.
- A headache diary: This is the first step to transformation awareness. Helping you understand your headaches/migraines. Have you ever filled out a MIDAS form for headaches and the impact it’s having on you? http://www.headaches.org/wpcontent/uploads/2015/01/MIDAS.pdf?x92687
- A food diary: Another awareness exercise to look for any food triggers and eliminate them.
- Improving your diet to eat a wide spectrum of different colored fruit and veg which allows you to get all the phytonutrients your body needs to help it rebalance. What about just adding a new color fruit or veg to your evening meal?
- Learning a breathing technique to help manage your stress. Have you ever done 4/7/8 breathing?
- A basic elimination diet: Eliminating common inflammatory food such as Gluten, Diary and Sugar has had major impact on migraines. (Maybe try eliminating one at a time, don’t replace gluten or sugar but replace the milk with nut milks such as almond or cashew milk.)
Often just rebalancing your lifestyle factors may be enough to resolve the issues with your migraines but it might also make you realized that the other symptoms are related as well.Functional medicine is like peeling an onion sometimes just removing the top layer is not enough sometime we need to look deeper.
Change and transformation is a journey. Awareness is often the first step.