How Did Migraine Become My Life?
A year into my chronic migraine saga post c-section I was bewildered to realize that my life was still completely dominated by pain, indigestion, brain fog, poor sleep, and the host of problems that stem from that. It never occurred to me that at such a relatively young age (34) I would find myself chronically ill with migraines. That was something that happened to other people, right?
Two years after the c-section, I was still sick as a dog. I spent all of my time researching and experimenting, trying to find my way out of the maize of hell I was in. Occasionally the magnitude of the problem and the fact that my migraines still persisted despite my best efforts became totally overwhelming. Apparently, this was now my life. I was married to an amazing man and had the sweetest son – a son who needed my attention and energy. But my full love of life, my full energy, and my sense of self had been very eroded. I was a shadow of my former self.
Discovering the SimplyWell Protocol
I did not know when or if I would ever have a breakthrough, but I did. I’ve called my breakthrough The SimplyWell Protocol. I call it this because two of the most important aspects of the Protocol (carrots and potatoes) are very simple, seemingly mediocre foods – and as such, easily overlooked. I had not expected that my relief would come from such a humble and unexpected place, especially after all I had tried and the doctors I had seen. (I’ve considered rebranding my name because many people don’t find lifestyle change simple. What they mean is that it’s not easy. Simple and easy are not the same thing).
I discovered the SimplyWell Protocol in January of 2015. I still had indigestion, mild headaches, and a fair amount of brain fog, but the migraines were gone and, because I was so relieved to have a break from them and to have found a solution, I was very diligent in following the Protocol.
Refining the SimplyWell Protocol
By the time summer 2015 came around, I had decided to refine the protocol by diversifying the sources of prebiotics beyond resistant starch in an attempt to increase the diversity of flora in my gut microbiome. That step, combined with all of the vitamin D I was getting from the summer sunlight, meant that my brain fog largely dissipated and I started to feel strangely normal.
The discovery of the six steps that I now call the SimplyWell Protocol allowed me to hold a job. By following the lifestyle changes outlined in my Protocol, I was able to continue my life with a chronic debilitating condition while exhibiting very few of the symptoms of chronic migraine, and without the use of any pharmaceutical or over-the-counter pain meds of any kind.
Eventually, after feeling great and migraine free for six months, I started to slack off on the Protocol. I also wanted to find out what would happen if I went off it. I learned that the underlying cause of my chronic migraines was and is not CURED by my Protocol. I had to – and still have to – stay on the Protocol to maintain a state of being symptom free. I’m grateful for this state of normalcy while on the Protocol. (My belief is that the pathogenic and histamine-producing microbial populations which seeded my gut in the hospital post c-section got the prime real-estate of the inner gut lining and that this population remains difficult to uproot even while the Protocol helps to shift the overall biofilm towards healthier bacteria).
This is the liberty and resilience that the Protocol offers, but it is also risky. The danger of relapse inevitably arises once people start to feel good on the Protocol. They feel so good they stop taking the steps necessary to maintain resilience in the face of eating high histamine foods, getting triggered by a stressful life event, or just being overworked and too busy like most of us moderns are to properly take care of themselves.
On and Off the Protocol Over the Past Two Years
All told, I’ve taken about six months off of the Protocol in the past two years. Four of those six months were a deliberate experiment that I took to see if I could reset my gut flora using B vitamins and vitamin D, as outlined by Dr. Stasha Gominak. The other two months off of the Protocol represent the total amount of time that I’m estimating I went off the protocol through accident, negligence, or laziness. These bouts of slipping off the protocol usually lasted about two weeks each. The migraines do come back after about two weeks off of the Protocol. Currently I am on another break from the Protocol as I experiment with exploring the underlying emotional basis for migraine. You can learn more about that here.
I have had a handful of migraines in the past two years, as compared to about 8-10 migraines a month prior to discovering the Protocol. I will outline the causes of the migraines I have had below. But I think it’s also important to point out that one very big difference in my life is that not only are migraines very scarce and I always know why they crop up when they do, but also the overall quality of my life is greatly improved because I have a clear head without other headaches or brain fog the rest of the time. My quality of life and ability to function as a mother has drastically improved, and my brain and gut health continue to get better as I learn more about sleep hygiene and nutrition, especially the importance of B vitamins (all of these topics will be explored in my comprehensive online course). This has been an amazing journey.
Over the past two years, I’ve had migraines from the following triggers:
- Extreme stress + sleep deprivation
The sleep deprivation has been ongoing for 7 months now that I have a second child and am breastfeeding every night. This makes me less resilient to stress. With sleep deprivation, melatonin levels get disrupted. Melatonin is known to inhibit CGRP, the vasoactive peptide responsible for causing migraine. It is very hard to heal migraine with disrupted sleep. Parenting small kids is very stressfull in general. Stress management is a hugely important aspect of healing migraines, and it’s one that I am still learning.
- Going off the Protocol accidentally or through negligence while eating high histamine foods
These migraines were no mystery. One day I woke up with a migraine and realized that in addition to being off the Protocol for almost two weeks, I had eaten nothing but high-histamine foods the day before: yogurt, pizza, dried fruit, chocolate, kombucha, spinach salad, and a bone broth soup with cayenne pepper. Ooops! While eating high histamine foods becomes less and less of a problem while on the Protocol, eating only high histamine foods while off the Protocol very predictably leads to migraines. No surprises there.
- Experiment with arginine
One disadvantage of not getting migraines often is not being able to experiment with potential solutions anymore. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I actually tried to induce a headache with salami and cheese to see if calcium pyruvate and arginine would clear it up. When it did, I decided to take more arginine – which gave me a migraine. What I did find out from this, however, is that small doses of arginine with pyruvate may work very well to help the body eliminate glutamates, whereas larger doses dilate the blood vessels too much. Valuable information, paid for dearly. (Don’t tell my husband that that migraine was self-induced, K? And if you’re reading this babe, sorry for making you stay home with the kids on that day and missing work).
- B12 supplementation
This was a migraine from a single dose of methylated B12 that I took early on after discovering the Protocol. I have since read that B12 can potentially be toxic if taken when glutathione levels are low. (Folate and folic acid are also huge migraine triggers, even moreso than B12 is).
I’ve also had a few strong headaches that were caused by viral infections. These headaches were different in characteristics than migraine – pain was in a different place (more at the base of the skull/occiput rather than deep behind the eye). I was still pleasantly surprised to see that these two viral headaches I had responded well to the cabbage compress.
It was never my intention to have a c-section, or to get chronic migraines, or to become a migraine relief coach (at least, it was not my ego’s intention, even while it clearly is part of my soul’s path). Given the unintentional way that I ended up in the position I am in, I have nothing to offer but honesty and transparency in my process of healing myself.
The Protocol is quite young, and what I offer migraine clients is always evolving as I research migraine. I continue to find more solutions to migraine headache above and beyond the Protocol, but to date, the Protocol remains the best way that I’ve found to relieve migraine without meds for myself and those that I coach.
It would be nice if there was a natural silver bullet out there that acted as effectively as pharmaceuticals without the side-effects. The protocol is not a silver bullet. It is only a tool. If there is any silver bullet, it is each individual person to the extent that they recognize that healing happens through consistent dietary and lifestyle change, accomplished through an inner motivation to live a better life.
It has been a great joy not only to empower myself to take better care of myself so as to be free from migraines, but to help others do so. The pleasure of my work comes not just from feeling the satisfaction in knowing that low-tech, simple foods can so radically help us, but also from seeing people find the power in themseves to transform their lives. Plants and information are only healing to the extent that people apply the information and use the plants. The only thing that ever heals people is themselves.