Michele Bachmann’s Migraines

Dear Michele Bachmann:

I’m not one of your fans, but my heart goes out to you if you really do suffer from migraine headaches. Michele, I cannot say that I have felt your pain. But I have felt pain that was probably similar to yours. Some reporters are calling migraine a stress-related disorder. In many cases, however, it’s really a food-related disorder. You might be able to end your suffering just by identifying and avoiding the foods that trigger your headaches. Another possibility is that your headaches are being caused by the very medications that you are using to treat them.

Although migraine pain can be unbelievably severe, the pain isn’t necessarily the worst part of a migraine episode. I’ve known people who go practically blind from the migraine aura, sometimes while they are driving. One of my friends would speak gibberish during her migraine auras. Some people get paralyzed on one side of the body. And then, there’s the nausea and vomiting and inability to tolerate light and noise. Sometimes, the migraine will start while you’re sleeping. I’d wake up and think, “Holy crap, am I hung over!” Then, the horrible realization would dawn on me that I don’t drink and that the living hell could last for days.

Migraine can be a disabling condition. However, most migraineurs just put on their sunglasses, stick close to someplace where they can vomit, and just somehow manage to drag themselves through their day. Medications can help a lot. Some people can get relief from an over-the-counter combination of aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine if they take it at the earliest sign of a migraine attack. Other people need a prescription tablet. Some people with severe migraines need to keep a sumatriptan injector with them at all times.

The good news is that many people can get substantial relief from their migraine attacks if they make some simple changes in diet. The good news is that most patients can eliminate their migraines if they simply eliminate the dietary triggers of their migraines from their diet. I went from having about one migraine attack per week to having maybe one mild attack per year, simply by eliminating gluten-containing products (wheat, rye, and barley) from my diet. Other people can eat wheat with no problem but get migraines from some other trigger.

If your doctor can’t stop your headaches, talk to a registered dietitian to help you work out an elimination diet. The dietitian will give you a plan that eliminates animal products and fatty foods and the foods that are most likely to trigger allergic reactions. Once you are headache-free, you can reintroduce suspicious foods one at a time to see if they were responsible for triggering your headaches.

Remember also that you can get into a pattern of chronic headaches from the drugs that are used to treat headaches. Any kind of prescription or nonprescription headache remedy could be responsible. The only solution to that problem is to stop taking the medication completely and suffer through the withdrawal phase.

I hope that this information delivers you from the evil of migraine. If it does, you owe me a favor, and I’d like to call it in. I’d like you and your husband to stop being mean to gay people.

Note: Since I wrote this post, an exciting new way to deliver a traditional treatment for migraine headaches and other face-pain syndromes has become available. It involves a safe and easy way to deliver a dose of topical anesthetic to a spot far back in the nasal passages. Underneath that spot is an important bundle of nerve cells, called the sphenopalatine ganglion. The technique is quick, easy, and comfortable and does not involve a needle. The effects can be prolonged:

Several brands of catheter are available to do this treatment.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

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