what I eat on sick days | what’s your migraine story?

Well goodness, friends. It’s still happening!


The migraine nonsense has yet to fully release me from its grip – although I’ve started to have enough information to piece it all together (what’s causing what, why does this feel like this, etc.). I think I know how my brain found itself here, and I’m fairly certain that I’m days away from a full recovery (unless I just jinxed myself).

I wanted to continue to tell this story because I’ve found this whole experience to be a lot to process, both physically and mentally. Readers who have migraines, I want to hear about your experiences. Readers who have friends or loved ones with migraines, I want to open up a dialogue about them, so please share this post with them.

Because let me tell you — they suck. Since migraines don’t have one cause or trigger, and they also don’t have one universal treatment or solution, they can be difficult to manage. I’ve found it extremely helpful to talk to fellow migraine sufferers, because unless you get them, I can imagine that it’s tough to understand from the outside how they feel.

If you have migraines: I want to know if you also crave cheesy carbs, and if you have different terms for the types of pain they’re feeling, like “low buzz” vs. “drill hammer in temples” vs. “strangle” (when it feels like your neck is getting pulled down all day). I want to know what solutions you’ve tried, what has helped and what has hurt, and how you communicate with others about your migraines.

Please share your experiences in the comments section below — let’s start talking!

Here are some things I’ve learned about my own migraines:

preventative pill (topamax) = literally a headache

I’ve learned that pills can be dangerous, and it is 100% your responsibility to ask every question there is to ask, and your right to make the decision about what you choose to put in your body.

When I was prescribed Topamax, I was told that the only side effects were “tingly feet and maybe some weight loss”.  And no migraines? It sounded quite nice. But the reality was far different from the picture the doctor painted — I should have made him paint a more accurate picture by asking questions and filling in the details. Now ya know.

With Topamax, I had issues with focus and memory loss that made my normal job performance impossible to achieve; I woke up with headaches, unable to open my eyes; I “hit a wall” after 20-30 minutes of light activity (like walking) and became severely fatigued, and I was sensitive to light and sound, to where walking down the street seemed torturous. It’s been rough.  

I will say, the emergency pill I was prescribed (Relpax) for when I feel a migraine coming on has been very effective. I had to leave work with a migraine yesterday, and after a Relpax and a short nap, I felt back to normal within a few hours (usually I’m out for the day).

My body’s been through a lot in the last month, with the wisdom teeth surgery, the week of migraines, and then the zombie meds and MRI (came back normal, hooray!). So I’m going to lay off all meds for a while. If I decide to try a different preventative medicine, I’ll ask a lot more questions about it so I know what I’m signing up for.

chiropractic care = calmer neck ❤

So far, after three sessions of chiropractic care, I’m finding that seeing a chiropractor regularly helps reduce the neck and shoulder tension/pain I feel when I get migraines. Usually, a migraine for me is a definite, head/neck pain combo. Today, it was just the head pain — I see that as success. The wonderful, humble husband and wife team at Nashville Chiropractic is doing a great job and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

I’m currently seeing them twice a week since I’m still having near-daily migraines. After I get back to normal, I’ll continue to go once or twice a week as a preventative measure.

migraine tools ❤

My heated neck wrap is my saving grace. This thing has constantly been around my neck for two or three weeks now, and I *kind of* want to have it surgery implanted there, if only it could stay warm. It relaxes the tension in my neck muscles by heating them and gently weighing them down. Obsessed. 

Using candles as light to reduce brightness is amazingly soothing. I love letting a candle’s gentle light be the only light in the room. It’s very peaceful — which helps release tension in my neck and shoulders. Huge fan of this wonderfully named candle, made locally.

Screenshot 2016-08-24 13.36.58

If light is a problem for you while you sleep, an eyeshade can work magic. It seems slightly silly until you try it when you have a migraine. Holy Cheetos. Find one that speaks to you (and fits your face).

eating well ❤

My body is craving simple, clean food and I’m giving it what it wants. Although I’m breaking some of my usual habits — like getting bread at Jimmy John’s (learn how not to here) — I’m eating real, whole foods and trying to focus on getting high-quality calories. This is important during migraine-y times because it’s often hard for me to eat anything due to nausea.

what I eat when I have migraines (based on no science whatsoever and my gut alone)

When I’m having a migraine or a bad headache, my jaw is tense, my neck is tight, my mind is in survival mode, and I want something simple, light-ish, and comforting.

I’m glad I now have a good roster of migraine-friendly foods that I can prepare or find quickly and easily, especially when I am home alone with a migraine.

These may not be the exact things my body might needs from a nutritional standpoint (still doing research to find out exactly what that is) — but they are what my body craves, which to me feels like a signal that I should listen to. They also make my body feel better when I eat them, which I see as a good sign.

I try to get a good mix of carbs, protein, and fat, with some fruits and veggies worked in, but sometimes I don’t achieve it. The general theme is: (mostly) complex carbs, with functional natural beverages, as clean as possible. Please share your favorite migraine or sick day foods below!

highly uncomplicated carbs

peanut butter crackers 

Screenshot 2016-08-24 14.01.26

Back in the day, mom’s office used to have a snack closet that was meant for her patients, but after school, we were allowed to snack as we pleased. The luxury of having your mom as the boss. My favorite option was the peanut butter crackers.

Those crackers were like gold to me, since we only had “real food” (eye roll) at the house and they didn’t fit the bill. I think I used to eat them when my head hurt as comfort food, and I definitely do now — our office carries them regularly in the snack closet (thanks Tia!). They’re basic, carby, slightly salty and feel very wholesome in the moment. Horizon Organic and Late July make an organic versions, although if we’re being honest I usually eat the conventional kind.

oatmeal and oatmeal-y things

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Whether it’s overnight oats with banana, cinnamon, and raw honey, or Kind Healthy Grains bars, oatmeal has a very soothing quality about it, so it’s a migraine day staple. I used to take baths in oatmeal for my eczema, so it obviously has a lot of healing powers.

a little protein and fiber

Quest Bars 

I eat these for the protein and the fiber. To be honest, I constantly debate how I actually feel about the nutritional integrity of Quest Bars (since they have cookie flavors and aren’t made from ingredients I can buy at a Whole Foods), but I like how they make my body feel, which is a good sign to me. 20+ grams of protein is tremendous for that small amount of slightly sweet, chewy food, and Quest Bars also have a lot of fiber — 25 grams, which is basically a daily serving. The fiber makes it digestively disruptive for people who already eat a lot of fiber, but on migraine days, it’s a perfect dose to keep your stomach from grumbling for a while, since eating is painful.

wild rice cakes, nitrite-free turkey, and dijon mustard

When you’re eating pretty bland foods, mustard can be a welcome (but not overwhelming) adventure for your taste buds. The wild rice cakes add some complex carbs, and the turkey adds some protein. Mostly I do yellow mustard, but sometimes I upgrade to dijon.

This is my favorite brand of rice cake. Taste around and find a turkey you like — that’s personal. 

our avocado toast

Screenshot 2016-08-24 10.20.41

Made exactly the same way my boy and I always do — with feta, lime juice, salt, and local bee pollen. It’s delicious, has a complex carb and a healthy fat, and it makes me feel normal because it’s a food I eat at least once a week.

a soulful splurge

garlicky polenta

Screenshot 2016-08-24 10.50.56.png
served here as “shrimp and grits” on one of my better days

A recent favorite, discovered after the wisdom teeth surgery, is garlicky polenta with cheese. Yes I know that aged cheeses are supposed to be a migraine trigger and to that I say, everything is a migraine trigger.) Adding an egg — poached or scrambled — adds some protein and makes it more of a meal. I’ll write up that recipe soon, which my boyfriend has perfected — he had a lot of time to experiment. ❤

functional beverages

green juices

Screenshot 2016-08-24 11.23.50.png

When I’m in a migraine-y time, I’m not usually very interested in salads. I don’t normally drink a lot of juices (because they’re expensive and I eat a lot of greens), but I always try to grab one on days when I get migraines, to make up for the lost greens and give me a hit of vitamins. I try to limit the sugar, and go with greens, ginger, lemon, and maybe green apple. 

coconut water 

Screenshot 2016-05-17 10.31.14

Coconut water is packed with electrolytes [learn more], which help ease the effects of dehydration. Dehydration is a major contributor to migraine pain, and can sometimes (in my experience) trigger migraines on its own. Stay hydrated! On normal days, I just drink a ton of water, but on migraine days, I add in coconut water.

herbal tea

Screenshot 2016-04-20 17.31.55

I think the tea just calms my nerves. I often stress when I’m having a migraine, because it keeps me from being able to perform my normal activities — so I feel guilty for skipping out on life. This stuff is good.

coffee in serious moderationScreenshot 2016-08-24 13.57.22.png

Caffeine withdrawal can trigger migraines, and I’ve found that it’s important for me to stay on a fairly tight schedule — wake up, coffee. If I wait too long before finding coffee, my head starts to pound. On normal days, I have black coffee, sometimes iced. On days that start with migraines, I usually make a large, milky coffee and sip on it. I add the milk because it adds a little protein and fat, which I need since I’m often not really able to eat.

share your stories

I’d love to hear about your experiences with migraines and what you’ve found to be helpful. Moving forward, I’m interested in pursuing a yoga practice, meditation practice, and acupuncture, so far. What have you tried and how has it worked?

I want to… get inside your head. (That one’s for you, Liz.) Please share your comments in the comment box below. ❤

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5 thoughts on “what I eat on sick days | what’s your migraine story?

  1. When I have a migraine this is my method for making it go away:
    Tons of really cold water
    Imitrex (brand name) or sumatriptan succinate
    One execedrin- the caffeine in it will sometimes help my body kick the imitrex into high gear
    I eat something very plain that settles the stomach. Peanut butter makes it worse for me, bananas are a trigger for me too, and sweets aren’t good. Usually a few crackers is enough to settle my stomach.
    A long shower with the water pounding on my head, also if this is timed right after I take the pills and eat a few crackers, the shower keeps me from getting nauseous, so I can keep the pills down.
    Out of the shower, chug more cold water.
    Ice pack on my head
    Sleep/rest eyes for 20 minutes.

    USUALLY if I wake up with a migraine, I do the above routine and I’m only 30-40 minutes behind and the migraine is mostly gone when I wake up again. I still feel sore all day, but not miserable. I can’t eat chocolate, soda, red wine, onions, or really anything complicated. Honestly on migraine days I stick to the most plain food I can.

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    1. I would expect no less from you than to have a full routine to get you back to productivity in under an hour. 😉 I’m glad you’ve found a method that seems to at least stop the worst of the storm from happening, even if some of the aftershock is still there (though I wish that could go away for you too). I’ve had good results with Relpax when I take it right as a migraine comes on. Curious to see how it works now that I’m feeling normal again, whether I’ll be able to use it to stop a migraine in its tracks and continue with my day.

      Question for you: Do you always avoid chocolate, soda, and red wine or only on migraine days? Have you found them to be definite triggers, or just things that make it worse when you already have a migraine? I’m a big fan of a piece of dark chocolate for dessert after dinner, and an occasional glass of red wine as well — I’ve been avoiding them entirely this month, but can’t decide if that’s something I should do all the time as a preventative measure. Thoughts?

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  2. So glad you’re on the mend! I had my first migraine (complete with a freaky aura) nearly 16 years ago and have had chronic headaches for about 12 (as in I haven’t had a single day headache free in that many years. Sigh.) But, sadly, I tolerate the headaches because…well…they’re not migraines! Both my migraines and headaches often stem from an issue with my C7 so, unlike you, my neck problems cause my pain – not the other way around! I loathe meds (Maxalt and Imitrex made me feel too loopy) so I treat with essential oils (peppermint on the temples and neck), yoga, acupuncture, whole foods and lots and lots of adjustments with my chiropractor (as many as 4 during an especially tough week.) I do caffeine maybe once a week and usually on Saturday morning when I know I have some leeway with my bed time. I always (always!) get at least 8 hours of sleep but really feel my best when I can get 9 or 10. I love oly lifting and hot yoga and feel like it’s done wonders in strengthening my posterior chain but I have to be honest in saying there are some days where I know it’s the cause of a migraine. Migraines usually mean a lot of hot, hot showers sitting in the tub with the water targeted towards my neck and a lot of alone time in a dark room. It’s so tough to maintain the preventative measures I know will make my pain more tolerable (because life!) but it’s so, so necessary.

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    1. Kristin! Thank you for sharing your experience. I cannot believe that you have daily headaches — so rough. I’m glad you’ve found a variety of natural healing/preventative methods, but I wish it could all go away for you. On one hand, I’m grateful for this introduction into holistic healthcare, specifically chiropractic, which I feel has done a lot of good. But as you said — I know it will be a struggle to live this preventative lifestyle, as essential as it may be to our overall health. Maybe we can carpool to our various appointments. :p Lots of love for you Kristin!

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  3. So glad you’re on the mend! I had my first migraine (complete with a freaky aura) nearly 16 years ago and have had chronic headaches for about 12 (as in I haven’t had a single day headache free in that many years. Sigh.) But, sadly, I tolerate the headaches because…well…they’re not migraines! Both my migraines and headaches often stem from an issue with my C7 so, unlike you, my neck problems cause my pain – not the other way around! I loathe meds (Maxalt and Imitrex made me feel too loopy) so I treat with essential oils (peppermint on the temples and neck), yoga, acupuncture, whole foods and lots and lots of adjustments with my chiropractor (as many as 4 during an especially tough week.) I do caffeine maybe once a week and usually on Saturday morning when I know I have some leeway with my bed time. I always (always!) get at least 8 hours of sleep but really feel my best when I can get 9 or 10. I love oly lifting and hot yoga and feel like it’s done wonders in strengthening my posterior chain but I have to be honest in saying there are some days where I know it’s the cause of a migraine. Migraines usually mean a lot of hot, hot showers sitting in the tub with the water targeted towards my neck and a lot of alone time in a dark room. It’s so tough to maintain the preventative measures I know will make my pain more tolerable (because life!) but it’s so, so necessary.

    Like

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