Just shoot me now!Last Updated:
Today’s Prompt: What’s your worst Migraine trigger? Can you avoid it? How do you handle it?
Artificial sweeteners & MSG
These are the most “powerful” triggers in that even a brief exposure will send me reeling in pain. My body has a “zero tolerance policy” toward these substances. Avoidance is usually pretty straightforward. I read labels carefully and refrain from purchasing or eating any item that might contain either substance. The tough part comes when I attend parties or accept dinner invitations from people who are not well-versed on my extreme sensitivity to these food additives. Not everyone knows how to shop in order to avoid the additives (they are not always clearly labeled). Still others remain convinced of out-dated information about Migraines and do not take my requests seriously. Sometimes I grow tired of making special dietary requests (and the inevitable personal questions, naive offers of a cure, and even more awkward sideways glances that tell me I am being too much trouble) and decline to inform my host.
A recent example of this trigger’s affect
Most recently I encountered artificial sweetener at a local movie theater’s dine-in service. I ordered a sweetened iced tea (incorrectly assuming it was sweetened with natural sugar). Two sips in and I felt the aftertaste hit my throat. I called for the waiter and quickly switched out the beverage hoping I caught it in time. Within minutes I was digging in my purse for my abortive medication to stop the migraine I could feel coming. This time I did complain. Those pills are like gold to me. Insurance only allows so many each month and I did not appreciate having to use one because the company failed to disclose the type of sweetener it used. I will be watching the theater closely to see if they make the necessary corrections to their menu.
Changing weather patterns
My “most common” triggers are changes in barometric pressure (tornadoes and electrical storms are the worst), high winds, or humidity that is high or low. Any weather change can bring on a Migraine attack. The longer and more intense the weather pattern, the more severely I am impacted. I don’t respond as rapidly as I do with the first set of triggers. However, the attacks tend to last longer and be more resistant to treatment. If I am exposed to several minor triggers near the time of a weather change, the more likely it is that I will not respond to treatment. Minor triggers include: hormone fluctuations, illness, dehydration, skipping meals, missing medication doses, poor sleep quality, strong scents, bright or flashing lights, or loud noises. The more triggers, the worse I feel.
It is difficult to avoid weather patterns. Thankfully I have found a few preventives that increase my tolerance for this trigger. The single biggest thing I can do is make sure I follow my preventive treatment regimen. Secondly, I watch the weather forecast and make adjustments to my lifestyle choices where possible when I know a weather front is coming through. I might move outdoor plans inside or take extra precautions to make sure I am well-hydrated. Consistent sleep-wake patterns and regular mealtimes become non-negotiable. By reducing my “trigger load” I can avoid some of these weather-related attacks.
A recent example of this trigger’s affect
Last week was a good example of not watching my “trigger load” or tracking weather fronts. I got busy at work and let my attention to my chronic illness fall behind. I did not live with deliberate intention, instead I mindlessly drifted through my week. I lost focus on the facts.
- Fact #1 – There was a weather forecast for thunderstorms.
- Fact #2 – I was nearing the start of my menstrual cycle
- Fact #3 – Part of my Botox injections was about to wear off and leave me partially unprotected from weather triggers
- Fact #4 – I had a very busy week that would require a lot of intentional planning to insure adequate hydration and nutrition
- Fact #5 – There were several important appointments not part of my typical routine that could impact even the most careful planning
Wednesday included that unplanned migraine trigger mentioned above. It was aborted with no pain. Thursday included a 3 hour attack that was stubbornly resistant to abortive medication. Friday included a treatment-resistant migraine that wore on into Saturday and finally relented after 26 hours.
This is what happens when I don’t maintain vigilance to reduce triggers. It is exhausting, keeping ahead of all the things that could trigger a Migraine attack, but I do it anyway. When I fall behind, I pick myself back up and try again.
What keeps me going? It is more exhausting to experience the pain and disability that accompanies an attack. I’d rather juggle triggers than be knocked on my keister by a Migraine.
National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation.
The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by www.FightingHeadacheDisorders.com.