13 November 2008

Analysis of a headache

As a kid I always used to get a headache when my mother had served us sausages. I'm sure she didn't believe me and thought I was trying to get out of eating sausages, but it did happen. I've had occasional really bad headaches as an adult - maybe seven or eight a year, but I've never associated them with a particular cause.

Until yesterday, when the penny finally dropped. A headache slowly came on during the afternoon and I had no painkillers with me, so had to wait until I got home at 6.00pm. By which time the headache was a full-blown migraine and it was too late for the recommended dosage of ibuprofen to have an effect. I spent the evening in bed feeling utterly wretched, finally accepting that this was a migraine rather than a bad headache and trying to work out WHY it was happening.

Parmesan. I'd had rice with mushrooms and parmesan for lunch. Could it be parmesan that was causing this? So this morning, with a slightly tender skull but otherwise recovered, I researched 'parmesan headaches' and ended up discovering that yes, parmesan can be a trigger, but also (thanks to this brilliant article) that in women our menstrual cycles are a major contributory cause of migraines. When oestrogen levels are low (at menstruation and ovulation), migraines are more likely to happen.

So I feel greatly relieved at finally understanding these migraines and knowing that there are ways to avoid triggering them. The article also had some hope to offer: "Many women will experience an improvement in their migraine after menopause." So that's something to look forward to, then!

Image Migraine #2 by Arty Smokes on Flickr.


Esther Montgomery said...

I truly identify with this post.

About fifteen years ago, I started being sick. This was accompanied by a terrible (and I mean terrible) pain in my nose.

I had two teeth extracted.

It didn't stop the pain. I was still sick . . . for days on end.

I got awfully thin.

. . . long story . . . it's a facial migraine caused by wheat and gluten intolerance.

This intolerance has now spread to dried fruit, marmite (!), chocolate . . . oh and all sorts of things (including some cheeses) and there are foods too which I didn't realise contain gluten until they started making me ill - like malt vinegar.

For about three years, now, I've been eating and not being sick and not suffering the terrible pain. (And putting on an awful lot of weight!)

I'm glad I worked out what was causing the trouble and feel embarassed that I used to imagine food intolerance was a fad.

I also wish I didn't have to explain you really can have a migraine in your nose.

(And that it isn't funny, it's AGONY!)

(And funny.)

Hope life is easier now you know what's been zapping you.


Admin said...

Wow, that's very interesting, I got a terrible migraine once after eating a pizza, maybe it was Parmesan, sometimes I try to blame it on chocolate, either cereal, ice, cream, or a candy bar, but I can't usually explain it. I actually reduced my headaches extremely by moving away from the major stress source of my parents! My grandmother also commented that she had headaches from age 5 until age 55, approximately menopause. Well, I guess no headaches and no periods are something to look forward to when I'm old!

Anonymous said...

The menopause is great for getting rid of headaches.
And those awful bad tempered feelings - all gone now, no more PMT.
It is interesting about food intolerance's - I think they also have more effect when we are run down, stressed etc - when we are top form - our body seems more able to cope.

Amy said...

Those migraines are awful :( My husband's are trigger by certain kinds of lighting and bright sunlight. Now that he can work from home things are better. His office is a windowless room and he doesn't even turn on the lights! Sounds terrible, but it seems to have helped him.

It's amazing how foods can cause such terrible symptoms! Hopefully you've found the cause.

IBOY said...

Nitrites (used to preserve meats) are a very well recognized cause of migraines.

Amanda said...

Oh Esther, facial migraine sounds horrible (and no Marmite - that's just tragic!). Fancy having to lose teeth unnecessarily, too. Nasty.