How I Tried Functional Medicine to Ease my Migraine
Recently, I have been investigating my health through functional medicine to ease My Migraine Life. My health and illness are a journey, but it’s a method I’ve learned from. My life is very different from yours, but if you are interested in functional medicine, here is my experience. First, why did I decide to go to a functional medicine doctor? If you’ve followed along, you may have read that I go to a headache specialist for my migraine treatment. Additionally, I have taken an integrative approach and approach my health in all diretions. But even with “trying everything” and all the therapies I was doing, I just never feel great. So I decided to get to the root of the issue.
Functional medicine is an approach to healthcare that focuses on identifying and addressing the root causes of illness, rather than just treating symptoms. When it comes to migraine, functional medicine takes into account various factors that can contribute to their occurrence, including genetics, environmental triggers, lifestyle choices, and underlying health conditions.
I sought out functional medicine to identify the underlying cause of my not feeling well. The cause of migraine is unknown and it was more to delve deeper into my health overall. My doctor utilized my health history, symptoms, conditions, previous testing, genetic testing, and the latest diagnostics, to form the best picture of my current health status as possible. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Once the underlying factors of my not feeling well are identified, treatment may be more effective.
Strategies Used in Functional Medicine for Managing Migraine
First, I gave blood and urine to test for an array of ‘things.’ My functional medicine practitioner evaluated my medical history, lifestyle, diet, and environmental exposures to identify potential triggers and underlying factors contributing to my migraine disease.
Once all my tests came back, I received an individualized treatment plan. The plan is based on my specific needs and triggers.
Certain foods can trigger migraine in susceptible individuals. For me, a functional medicine approach involves identifying and eliminating trigger foods that my body showed intolerant to. I don’t have any allergies, per se, but the tests showed that I was extremely intolerant to foods I thought were “healthy for me.” I was excited to have a test that show how my body reacted instead of listening to common migraine foods that may be a problem for many but not for me. And the same goes for foods that I thought were ‘migraine friendly’ but not for me. Having specific foods to avoid or add was helpful.
Supplementation with specific nutrients may be recommended to address deficiencies or imbalances that could contribute to migraine. For example, magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and coenzyme Q10 are commonly used supplements for migraine attack prevention.
The nutrient analysis, I took, evaluated a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and other biomarkers to determine nutritional deficiencies and imbalances. My doctor was able to see what supplements I needed and what I was taking to get rid of them. Turns out, my vitamin brand had toxins in it that I was reacting to. My vitamins?! So I went on a cleaner brand and learned that all vitamins are not created equal.
Next, I took a urine analysis to help pinpoint the causes of gastrointestinal symptoms and chronic systemic conditions. It measured key markers of digestion, absorption, and inflammation. This can also include bacteriology, yeast cultures, and can include infectious pathogens, and antimicrobial susceptibility testing. Let’s just say, I have some gut issues.
The brain-gut connection has always been one of my biggest struggles and my tests showed all sorts of issues in my gut. I was told I have candida overgrowth and other issues I tried to understand. This was an explanation of why I crave sugar and carbs intensely! I always thought it was an addiction to sugar plus a migraine symptom but learned that on top of that, the candida thrives off these things and makes cravings intolerable. The gut contains more than 70% of the immune system and is often called the second brain. It is worth looking into and being cared for.
Longstanding gut infections are also a possible culprit for head pain. Harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal system, whether in the stomach or small or large intestines, can produce toxic waste products that can travel to the head and nerves, triggering severe pain and brain fog symptoms.-Dr. Brian Lum
My food sensitivity test wasn’t off the charts but was very telling. You know that old saying, “Eat a handful of almonds and it’s like taking a Tylenol.” Well, not if you are severely intolerant to almonds! I had been thinking I was being healthy by eating plant-based and came to understand that I’m very intolerant to many plants. This was the reason I came to a functional medicine doctor for my migraine. I wanted to know exactly what was and wasn’t working for MY body. Not the general advice that is given to all. My body is unique and these tests helped me understand what I was lacking and what I needed to cut back on.
The next step was to lower my exposure to toxins. She discussed lowering EMFs (Electric and magnetic fields). I learned that EMFs are associated with the use of electrical power and various forms of natural and man-made lighting. Lighting, I address with green light and glasses, and use little light around the house. But what I hadn’t thought about was my technology. My doctor had me make switches in my home like keeping my phone and watch away from my nightstand when I sleep and getting a protective device for my wifi. She even mentioned sitting my computer on my lap while I work and how bad that can be. There was a lot that was eye-opening to me about the use of wifi and EMFs floating around us.
Functional medicine recognizes that toxins in the environment can contribute to migraine. Detoxification strategies, such as minimizing exposure to environmental toxins and supporting the body’s natural detoxification processes, are incorporated into the treatment plan. She recommended detoxification with an Infrared sauna and Epsom salt baths. An increase in hydration is especially important during detoxification in a bath or sauna. Dehydration, in general, can trigger a migraine attack so hydration is crucial always! She also recommended non-toxic cleaning supplies, clean beauty products, mold testing, and reducing toxins wherever possible.
Poor sleep quality and inadequate sleep can increase the risk of migraine attacks. My functional medicine practitioners evaluated my sleep also. I already have a sleep schedule due to the integrative approach, but I no longer sleep with my phone next to my bed or wifi. More toxic exposure!
Stress is a common migraine trigger. Functional medicine emphasizes stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, relaxation exercises, and counseling to manage and cope with stress effectively. Migraine is closely tied to the functioning of the nervous system, which regulates the fight or flight response to acute stress or trauma.
Additionally, I was tested for a common migraine gene called the MthFr. I carry this gene but am not exactly clear what that does or doesn’t mean for me.
Things to Discuss with Your Functional Medicine Doctor
If you are going to see a functional medicine doctor, consider talking about diet, genetics, toxic exposure, lifestyle, health symptoms, and more. After a few tests, we knew where the issue of concern was coming from and addressed them in my treatment plan.
My Tips for Using Functional Medicine
It’s important to note that while functional medicine can help manage migraine, it should be approached as a complementary approach to conventional medical care. Consulting with a qualified functional medicine practitioner can provide personalized guidance and support tailored to your specific needs using these techniques.
- Focus on Brain-gut Connection
- Regulate Nervous System
- Avoid Food Intolerances
- Add Supplementation
- Reduce Toxic Exposure
- Increase Hydration
- Adjust Sleep Habits