Living with migraines is challenging. Because of this, turning to simple fixes is tempting.
Everybody is different. Discovering why you suffer — and what makes you better or worse — is extremely important. Many people find it is one or a combination of these four issues contributing to their migraines.
Problems with your adrenal glands.
Located on top of the kidneys, the adrenal glands help our bodies manage stress, metabolism, and other functions. They are in charge of our flight or fight response, and they help control or sex drive and exhaustion levels. These glands release the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, your sex hormones and DHEA.
These hormones are important. In fact, they help you feel happy and get enough sleep. They even assist with memory, libido, muscle mass, and your general mood.
Sometimes, when your body experiences chronic stress, your adrenal glands are unable to keep up with the production of hormones your body needs. Many experts call this adrenal exhaustion, or adrenal fatigue syndrome.
Adrenal exhaustion can cause migraines, but migraines can also put your body under the stress that leads to lower hormone levels. Learning how to manage your stress can be tricky, especially when you are in pain. However, it’s worth it. We’ve written more about stress management here.
Your thyroid is underactive.
- Breathing difficulties
- Unusual or extreme menstrual cramps and cycles
- Body weight fluctuations
- A swollen face
- Feeling cold in moderate or warm temperatures
- Low energy levels, despite rest and exercise
Studies show a correlation between patients with hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, and migraines. In fact, many patients find their migraines worsen in intensity and increase in frequency the longer they suffer with hypothyroidism.
Stress is one of the largest causes of hypothyroidism (and other thyroid problems). Again, managing your stress is one of the most impactful ways you can monitor your health.
Testing for thyroid problems is the right way to go, but most doctors screw this up. Traditional medicine tests largely for TSH and T4, maybe if you’re lucky. This blood work is only able to show the amount of TSH and T4 (the hormones the thyroid produces) in the bloodstream. The functions of these hormones however, happens in the cells, not in your blood. As a result, almost 50% of people with thyroid disorders are misdiagnosed. Learn more about treating thyroid problems and migraines here.
You’re eating the wrong food for your body.
You may have visited the doctor for food allergies and found none. Perhaps you avoid the foods you are allergic to, but you still have migraines. Why? Your body may be reacting to food for which it is sensitive, but not allergic. There is no 100% accurate blood test for food sensitivities. Because of this, I tell patients to keep a food diary and follow an elimination diet to track their food triggers accurately.
Every person is different. The six common foods that cause migraines include:
Gluten (Gluten has also been linked to thyroid problems.)
Read a full list of food to avoid here.
Your spine is out of alignment.
When your spine is out of alignment, your body hurts. Your hands might tingle, your stomach might feel upset, and you might experience headaches and neck pain on top of your migraines. This poor alignment is also called structural dysfunction. It can occur from trauma (like a car accident, or slip and fall), but it can also come from poor habits (like slouching to one side at work).
A chiropractor can help you determine if your spine is suffering from a structural dysfunction. He or she can help bring your spine into alignment, teach you about proper posture, and help you relax. According to one study, 49 percent of migraine patients said their migraines were less intense after receiving chiropractic care. About a quarter of the patients said their attacks dropped by at least 90 percent.
There are a number of reasons you could be experiencing migraines. It takes a lot of detective work and investigation with the right kind of doctor. You can start on your own, however, by looking into the foods you eat, the amount of caffeine or alcohol you consume, and generally identifying your triggers. Migraines are unique to you, so you have to work for your improvement. There’s no better time than now.