Headaches are becoming all the more common in our society, and the impacts of this ailment are becoming all the more clear, from decreased workplace productivity to general adverse health effects.
The problem with headaches, as they’re treated nowadays, is we only focus on treating the pain once it has started. Rarely do we aggressively target what is causing the headaches to prevent them in the future. That’s why we need to look at lifestyle changes. Here are some things I want you to consider as you figure out how to avoid suffering from headaches.
Migraine headaches represent a serious health issue in America today, and the statistics are staggering. As many as 13% of adults experience migraine headaches, and as many as 5 million experience at least one migraine attack each month. In fact, more than 90% of people who have a migraine headache are completely unable to function normally during such an episode. They experience symptoms far worse than those associated with the common migraine headache, such as pain, light sensitivity, nausea, and vomiting.
Genetic and environmental factors both play an important role in the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. For instance, migraines are more common in women, and more than 70% of migraine patients have a family history of the disorder. A full 25% of patients with migraine headaches have one or more migraines each week! The standard approach of many healthcare practitioners to migraine headaches is typically two-pronged: drugs are prescribed to reduce migraine frequency and to provide immediate relief during an episode. But before prescription drugs are utilized, I think it’s useful to take a step back and ask an important question: what could be increasing the risk that any particular person would suffer from these debilitating headaches?
I’m moved by Joni’s daughter’s story of triumph over her illness. Hope it inspires all of you as well. Wishing her much luck at college. – Dr. Perlmutter
I have an 18 year old who is a success story. At the age of 4, she was first hospitalized for an abdominal migraine, which escalated to years of cyclical vomiting. She had been in and out of the hospital for the next 10+ years, sometimes as frequently as bi-weekly. As her vomiting increased, so did her constipation. She eventually ended up with a cecostomy tube, placed in 2012.
My incredibly determined daughter, who never complained, was ready for a change. We both love the science of food and read all we could. Shorty after the tube went in, she went gluten-free, processed food-free and cut out sugars. We just read Grain Brain and felt that we were reading her story. She hasn’t had a migraine for 2 years and they were set to remove her large intestine last year, but she promptly refused. She forged forward with her diet and the tube was removed last week. Her colon is working on its own again. She is currently a normal healthy 18-year-old heading off to college next year.
She eats, lives and breathes gluten-free and, as her brother says, “green leafy foods”.
In Grain Brain, I found a book that had resonated with what I had for so long believed to be the truth about optimal health. Prior to reading, I had suffered from severe headaches since I was eleven.
Once I stopped eating gluten, lowered my carb intake, and increased my fat intake, my condition suddenly began to improve! Now, I rarely get headaches, and if I do they go away quickly. I also lost weight and my overall mood has improved. I’m very happy with my results!
The success Cindy has seen with her migraines has been well-documented in others. There are some studies available on my site that highlight this. – Dr. Perlmutter
I have suffered from migraines for 26 years. They have been debilitating and over the years I have tried everything to prevent them. My neurologist has prescribed an arsenal of drugs, including beta-blockers, anti-depressants, calcium channel blockers, antihistamines and topamax. I tried eliminating triggers from my diet to no avail. I always got a migraine when the pressure dropped and there was a storm. Nothing stopped my weekly headaches. Sometimes I had them several times a week.
Four years ago I found a doctor that changed my way of thinking about my diet. My mother has Alzheimer’s and I want to do whatever I can to prevent it. My blood work started showing elevated blood sugar and I couldn’t figure out why.
She coached me to eliminate gluten and to increase the right kind of protein in my diet. I was eating too many carbs.
The migraines continued.
Three weeks ago, a friend of mine, who has IBS, told me to eliminate flour and sugar after I told her about my symptoms of painful, achy feet, ankles and knees. In addition, I was experiencing migraines every other day, regular fatigue, and persistent brain fog!
Three weeks in, after cutting gluten and sugar from my diet, I exhibit none of those symptoms at all! I have only had two headaches in the past three weeks and my energy levels are at an all-time high!
What I like about Sandy’s store is the role her husband’s aunt played. On both social media and this website, I always talk about the important of sharing this information with others. The reason why is because I want to facilitate more stories like Sandy’s. – Dr. Perlmutter
I am listening right now to your talk on The Gluten Summit; at around minute 35 you talk about the 66 year-old man who eliminated the migraines he had suffered from his entire adult life. I just turned 60 this month. I want to tell you I’ve had a similar success over the past 18 months after deciding to quit carbs.
I recall having headaches as early as 6th grade: I got in the car after school and my head was hurting, and I can still hear my mother saying “You shouldn’t be having these headaches this young.” My dad really suffered from headaches, and I believe now that he had migraines. We just assumed that I inherited the tendency to have headaches from him; my mother and brother didn’t have them.
I was probably early 20s when I realized that my headaches fit the description of migraines. The left side of my head would just feel like it was exploding, I couldn’t see out of my left eye, sick to my stomach…light, sound, movement, made it worse, etc. Me being me, I would always try to tough it out rather than go from doctor to doctor in a search of pills to take (perhaps because I thought I had inherited this problem and just had to put up with it). So, for many years, I took extra-strength Excedrin hoping it would help (usually it didn’t) with ice packs or massage. I worked as a computer programmer for 7 years after college when I finally had to quit; I just could not get through the day and suffer through the headaches. I eventually went to several doctors and tried various drugs, which only helped sometimes, but usually the headache came back in about 12 hours. Given the cost and the fact that they often didn’t work, I gave up the drugs. Not once did any doctor ask what I was eating.