Getting ahead of migraine

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Publication Date: 
Mon, 2013-07-01

Ultimately, Cabrera practises what she calls collaborative integrated medicine: “It’s about being pragmatic and asking what’s going to work best for the individual. With migraines I am reasonably confident that we can make a noticeable difference…The people who have the most success are the people who have migraines for identifiable reasons; that is, menstrual or stress related or something we can actually change in their lives, and then of course the migraines change.”

A lifelong lifestyle practice

Obviously, the burden of living with migraine can be daunting. “The idea that it could happen any time, that it could interrupt anything, that I could be in the middle of something very important is a huge constant stress,” admits Shulman. “Migraines are not a joke, they’re a big deal, and I think we underestimate the impact they have on our lives.” This includes living with the stress of related health issues such as long-term depression and anxiety.

Although there are factors outside an individual’s immediate control, such as certain pollutants and other environmental influences, there are also actions a woman can take to decrease the frequency, duration and possibly the severity of migraine without relying on medications with their side effects. Detoxifying the body, getting regular exercise and promoting a healthy gut are important first steps. It is also necessary to know the triggers that set off migraine. Stress is a big issue and finding a way to mitigate its affects is vital, whether through meditation or enjoying a relaxing physical activity. For treating an episode of migraine women can find the approach that best works for them, and there are many that are complementary: medical herbalists, naturopaths and doctors working in the field of environmental medicine have the knowledge and means to help.

Adds Molot: “Chronic illness is clearly complex, so when we see chronic conditions such as chronic migraine the simplistic approach is usually symptom control. So with migraine there are anti-migraine medications, there are preventative medications, there are strong analgesics when the pain is there, and so on, but if you go after the mechanisms, there are no simple answers ... Women have to be able to commit to buying into lifestyle change, to do all the things that can influence migraine, on an organ level and a cellular level. The more they do the better chance they have to reduce the frequency and duration of migraine, and maybe the severity.”

Mary-Louise Leidl is a Vancouver Island-based freelance writer with interests that include health and the environment, food, travel and photography.