Friday, August 19, 2011

Headache Elimination Ideas

Last night after midnight, I posted about my daily headaches returning since I stopped Medifast. Let me give a little more info, and then I am going to go through the possibilities and what I think I can do. This might seem muddled, but I often blog as a way of thinking things through. So bear with me.

The headaches are not really "new." As I said, starting sometime in my 30's I began having very frequent headaches and migraines. I figured there is a genetic component, since many of my childhood memories involve my mother, locked in her darkened room all day and sometimes for several days with an ice pack on her head, only coming out in her nightgown long enough to go throw up in the bathroom. She went to so many doctors, specialists and hospitals, had every kind of scan and test, but they never came up with an answer, and she had migraines until the day she died.

Mine got worse over time until in my mid-30's or so, I was waking up almost every single day with a bad headache. I went to doctors. I had scans and tests. I had full physicals. I saw a special dentist. No one could find any answers and all I got was a list of foods that can trigger migraines and a prescription for migraine medication. I had all the bloodwork and tests, was not diabetic or anything, and my thyroid tests all came back normal. My blood sugar was slightly high but not "pre-diabetic" level. I had some issues with blood pressure but after I had my daughter, it went back to normal. No doctor, specialist, or test could find a reason or cause for the headaches (nor the palpitations, which I also had tons of testing for).

Even when I was losing weight, counting calories, eating healthy, etc (and blogging it), I got frequent headaches. The ONLY thing that made them go away was totally unexpected. Going on Medifast. They went away and stayed away. Now, I did get an occasional headache still. When I'd go off and on Medifast I'd get headaches which they tell you are normal when you are adjusting to mild ketosis. But I didn't get these weird, whole-head-pain, eyes-hurt, mild-nausea headaches that feel like a miniature migraine. I wasn't waking up in pain.

Crazy thing, I blogged about eating ice cream. I blogged about being off Medifast on vacation. But the headaches didn't start until just this week. However they are those same, unmistakable, almost-migraines and I wake up with them every day. Palpitations, too. WHY?

Here are some of the suggestions I considered. First, the ones I think are very unlikely. I know I'm not dehydrated; I drink a ton of water. When I had the headaches before, all the tests said my thyroid was fine and I was not diabetic, so those weren't causes. It's not any sudden increase in stress or anxiety; I had some really stressful times while on Medifast without the headaches returning. It's not a sleep issue, although I do sometimes have trouble getting enough sleep, this was also true over the past year and a half on Medifast. nothing's changed there. It's not seasonal allergies or the dust I stirred up, because I have had those same allergies all along and didn't have the headaches over the past year and a half. No new medications or supplements. If I was actually allergic or super sensitive to something like dairy, wheat, oats, gluten, etc, then I'd expect I'd have had issues while eating those things on Medifast, as they are ingredients in the food. I ate a lot of dairy on that plan... cottage cheese, low fat cheese, etc. Same for artificial sweeteners. I can't think the headaches were caused by withdrawal from artificial sweeteners or withdrawal/detox from *something* in the Medifast food since I had these headaches way, way before ever starting Medifast or using artificial sweeteners. I know it's not a lack of healthy fat, either, as I use olive oil on my salads and coconut oil to cook, and take fish oil as a supplement.

So what is left? The more likely causes could be:

Some kind of hormone issue. It's not a peri-menipause thing, because I had the headaches in my mid-30's, too. But I *was* eating a lot of soy on Medifast. So maybe the soy alleviated the headaches somehow? Maybe cutting out the soy caused a problem. But then I think, well, this past month I cut way back on the soy because of my uterine fibroid issue. So I was eating 80% whey-based, non-soy Medifast meals, and I didn't get the headaches then. Hmmm.

Some kind of blood sugar/insulin resistance/glycemic index issue. This one makes the most sense to me. Before Medifast I ate healthy, but I ate a lot of fruits like I am doing now. I had sugar sometimes. I didn't count carbs or pay attention to glycemic index. And I had headaches. On Medifast, yes I had sugar BUT I had under 100g carbs/day. ALL my carbs were paired with protein and fat. ALL my meals were 2-3 hours apart, keeping a very stable, steady blood sugar level. Now, not so much. Could that be it? Maybe the way I was eating pre-Medifast, and the way I am eating now, makes my blood sugar swing too much. Maybe THAT causes the headaches and heart palpitations. Or it could just be the level of carbs/sugar I eat per day. But this seems to be most likely to be the answer, to me.

The only other thing I found is that yesterday I drank a vitamin water type beverage and my headache went away briefly. Looking at the ingredients, it is loaded with B vitamins. Shortly after starting Medifast, I began taking a B supplement for energy. I ran out about a week ago. I am getting some more to see if it could possibly be as simple as that... a B supplement. I should know in a day or two.

What do you think? Am I on the right track?

I still have a headache. I am not sure what to do with my thoughts or how to turn them into actions. Medifast actually did send me a month's worth of food (it was in the mail when I decided to quit Medifast, but I didn't know that). If the B vitamins don't change things, I might try adding in 2 or 3 soy Medifast shakes a day (while still eating the whole foods I am eating now) to see if adding soy back in helps anything. Note, I am not talking about going back on Medifast 100%, but using the soy shakes to see if SOY is somehow the issue. If I can't get this figured out on my own, I do have the month of Medifast food here and would consider going back on, eliminating headaches, and adding things back slowly.


Princess Dieter said...

YOu might be. I know that I've read how people on the limited carb dieets like Medifast who then bring carbs back in can have issues. But you're seeing other stuff.

Try cutting carbs to 100 or fewer and limit fruit to 1 to 2 servings. Take a B supplement. See how you feel. If that takes care of it, then yes, you are a person who can't take much sugar/carb in the diet. (Well, it's obvious sugar is a trigger for you, we've seen this over and over during your blogging time, so that has to go, period.)

I hope that does it. How lovely if you could just pop the supplement, watch the carbs moderately, and feel great on REAL FOOD.

As great as medifast has been as a tool for weight loss for you, it's still processed, weird, Frankenfood and we're not meant to eat that (by nature/evolution/God/pick any). ; )

Be well..

Dina said...

Dude, same boat here. My mom had migraines too. I've cut out migraine trigger foods, including yogurt, cheeses, lots of carbs, just got a full blood workup done, etc. sucks. I take Imitrex for the bad headaches. I agree that there is a strong genetic component.

Not suggesting what works for me will work for you, but I take Inderal daily to prevent the, and I just started taking Topamax daily too, and it's supposed to have the added benefit of cutting down on food craving/and binges. You can email me if you want.

Good luck, and you're doing great.

Congrats on the pup too!

Dina said...

Wow, that was barely legible. lol. I mean that long rant to read-I still get them even though I do all that. Now that I take the daily pills I do get them less though, and it does my quality of life a lot more bearable.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it looks like getting back on B vitamins might help. And as much as you probably hate to hear it, cutting sugar out, whether processed or natural is something you may always have to address. It's hard to hear that you may have to limit fruits, but if you eliminate all fruit and bring them back one at a time in small doses, you may be able to see what is tolerable. Headaches even with "healthy" food is a sign that something isn't right.

Mandy said...

Can I just plug this book one more time? BODY CONFIDENCE by Mark MacDonald. He is ALL ABOUT stablilizing blood sugar. His wife was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and with the right diet and vitamins/minerals, she got off her pain medication. I went to the bookstore and read through it before I bought it. :) I know it's annoying when people harp on books or diets, but it has seriously been a revelation to me. Each meal is a combination of a complete protein (nuts/peanut butter are not complete proteins - count as a fat), a healthy fat and LOW carbs. The meals are small and spaced in equal intervals so your blood sugar doesn't go too high from too much food, or too low from not enough. Once you have this formula down for each meal, you really don't have to weigh or measure anything. You just eat the small meal combinations at regular intervals during the day. Examples:

6:30am: 1/4 c. oatmeal, 3 egg whites, 1 egg
9:30am: Protein Bar (this is considered a "low quality" meal, but if you're in a hurry, it's nice
12:30pm: 2 cups salad/veggies, 4 oz. chicken breast, 3T. low-fat balsamic dressing
3:30pm: 3 oz. turkey breast, 1/3 oz. raw cashews, 3 oz. apple
6:30 pm 4 oz. salmon, 1/4 c. brown rice, 4 oz. asparagus
9:30 Protein Smoothie: 1 scoop whey protein powder, 1/2 T. natural peanut butter, 3 oz. strawberries

I actually don't weigh/measure much. I've been doing this so long, I already know what the amounts are. I feel SO MUCH BETTER when I follow it. I bet you're also right about the vitamins, too. They make a huge difference. I really hope you figure it out soon! It sucks to feel crappy! Wishing you luck...

Anonymous said...

If you are have insulin resistance, such as in PCOS, then eating fruit - which contains lots of sugars - will trigger headaches. Maybe if you try to eat high protein, low fat foods with moderate veg and no fruit? I adapted a Dukan diet and found that I could eat good quality unprocessed foodstuffs without side effects such as headaches, tiredness and binges. Good luck finding what works for you.

Stephanie Hill said...

Have you done any reading of Robb Wolf, Sarah Fragoso or Mark Sisson? I think that type of lifestyle might work for you. It's based on whole foods, and lower in carbs. I'm sorry you're not feeling well.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for about a year. I have all of your same weight and heart issues and have been through every diet imaginable. I couldn't possibly afford Medifast, so I never considered it or any other packaged plan. What I have done is hire a nutritionist. No more processed foods, no more anything made with white flour, assume whole wheat bread is crap, watch the fruit for the sugar, refined sugar is gone. Just eat whole food. I have no cravings. My cardiologist told me two years ago that the one thing I could do to help myself was get off the caffeine. It has made a tremendous difference. I still struggle staying away from Diet Coke, but there is too much research that says how really, really bad aspartame is for you. I totally agreed with earlier posts that doctors really don't know much about nutrition. Consider that it might be time to consult with someone who actually knows about food.

beerab said...

Definitely could be a vitamin thing- I'd make sure to get me some of that stuff and fast! :)

timothy said...

i hope the b vitamin works sweetie! sending prayers your way. xoxoxoxoxoxox

lisa~sunshine said...

Lynn.. I have PCOS (diagnosised in 1994) , severe insulin resistance and no longer have a gallbladder to process fats correctly.. I've lost 85+ pounds and kept it off for 2+ years.. THe insulin resistance issues will cause the headaches.. I'm not saying to give up fruit.. but watermelon is horrible for elevating it.. cantaloupe isn't as bad.. Berries are good.. but you have to watch the higher glycemic fruits.. For example.. I enjoy living my life using whole foods and for a treat.. I love making the homemade lara bars with dried dates.. but the dried fruits including dates.. will spike my insulin EVERYTIME.. YOu just have to get experimental and journal and know what you are eating.. it's a process.. it's a learning experience.. and yeah you can read all different kinds o of books and plans but ultimately.. figure out a plan that works for Lynn.. I wouldn't go elimating entire FOOD groups.. like fruit..
I will say.. I did a VERY low carb diet last year and after I came off it.. I struggled majorly.. I had huge insulin swings.. until I figured out what worked for me..
Also.. exercise will help..
I know you will figure out what is best for you.. I love your blog..

Maybe go back to journaling what you eat.. but not necessarily weighing the foods.. or structuring it too much.. but then again maybe you will need to do this.. I know I still do..even though I have a good handle on how much is the right amount..

lisa~sunshine said...

You know.. another thing would be the high amount of carbs you wanted to eat.. i know you talked about reducing your protein from animal sources.. but honestly the beans are high in carbs.. and fiber.. and moderate in proteins.. I think you might have issues with figuring out a plan like this now if it's insulin issues..

Maybe try and balance your meals out for a bit.. like no fruit alone.. combine it with your meals... have you tried getting macro splits on your meals.. like 40% carbs 30% protein 30% fats.. and only allowing one starchy carb option and or a fruit option and all the remaining from veggies..

I find I do better if I figure out my protein (meats or greek yogurt) then add fats.. ( I LOVE almond butter) and then decide if I'm having fruit or tortilla or english muffin and then eating as much veggies as I want.. or if you want to eat your fats as a dressing on your salad.. or used as a cooking tool for your meat.. but regardless limiting the simple and starchy carbs..

if this was too rambly.. just delete it.. but i'm just trying to help.. I want to watch you succeed and feel good about you.. and WITHOUT headaches..

Anonymous said...

Try 400 mg magnesium daily. May help when you have a variety of triggers. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that being low on B-vitamins can trigger sugar cravings and in turn that the more sugar you eat, the more b-vitamins your body uses up. If I were you, I'd definitely look into the B-vitamin supplements.

And, as others have said and you have repeatedly blogged in the past, sugar is such a huge binge trigger for you and gives you medical issues such as joint pains etc., it just has to go.

Here's a good guide I am going to use myself starting with the recommended cycle point next week:

Anonymous said...

Hopefully it's as simple as the vitamin B issue.

Have you looked at your blood pressure? I used to think my headaches and "blah" feeling was from blood sugar fluctuations, but when I looked closer it was more linked to changes in my blood pressure. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Lyn, have you read any of the books by Diana Schwarzbein, MD ?
In her books she talks about balancing carbs and protein, only eating carbs WITH protein, and fruit and starchy carbs in controlled amounts. She allows generous amounts of most vegetables, but potatoes,legumes,etc have to be included in your carbs allowance for the day.
She's all about eating good, natural food.
It may be worth you having a look at one of her books - the first one is called The Schwarbein Principle. I have all her books. When I follow her plan I feel and look better within a few days.
I know you felt like you'd had it with plans and diets etc but this book is defintely worth a read, IMO, even if only to reinforce your thoughts about formulating the best way to eat for YOU.

Anonymous said...

my neurologist had me take a large amount of riboflavin (b2) with magnesium to prevent migraines and it worked well for me.

Alissa said...

I found out that I had some type of dairy intolerance during a month-long vegan challenge this summer. Prior to this challenge...I had dairy..LOTS OF IT.. I also had migraines/depression/constant craving for carbs & a low pain tolerance. Once I was 3 weeks into vegan..I realized that I was not visiting the fridge every hour looking for something to eat. After much research and playing back and forth with dairy....I have found that certain types of dairy intolerance cause you to have low serotonin (with no normal dairy intolerance issues..bloating..gas...etc)Low serotonin can cause the 5 symptoms listed above including carb cravings and migraines. If you have never tried to give up dairy for 2 might want to consider it just to see if you feel any different. It really shocked me. I loved dairy so much and ate/drank it so much...I never would have thought it was making me sick in weird ways. Now (mostly) dairy free and feeling so much better. I miss a few things but have found some great lactose free alternatives.

Anonymous said...

Lyn, I'm sure you're aware of it but weight loss blogger Pasta Queen has written a book about her struggles with headaches. I think hers started occurring as she had lost a lot of weight.