It’s one of the most common neurological conditions, affecting over 1 billion people worldwide but despite this, migraine still remains misunderstood in a lot of ways.
From the common symptoms to the causes and triggers, many myths about migraine still exist, leading to confusion about how to manage the condition.
With Migraine Awareness Week just around the corner, we’re taking a look at some of the most common migraine misconceptions.
Firstly, what is migraine?
More than just a headache, migraine can be a long-term health condition which involves the whole body. During a migraine attack, which can last anywhere between four hours and three days, symptoms can include:
- Head pain
- Feeling nauseous or vomiting
- Problems with your vision
- Sensitivity to light, sounds or smells
- Tiredness and fatigue
While symptoms can vary from person to person, for many, when an attack hits, it’s impossible to function normally.
Common myths and misconceptions about migraine
“It’s just a headache”
While a migraine is a type of headache, it’s a far more complex neurological condition which involves substantially more pain and affects more systems in the body. Often, head pain doesn’t actually feature during a migraine attack at all.
Migraine is often associated with nausea, sensitivity to light, smells and sound, brain fog, vertigo, and visual disturbances, numbness and speech and language impairment.
“Lifestyle choices cause migraine”
While it’s common to blame a range of factors for migraine, the main cause of migraine is generally down to your genetics.
“Caffeine causes migraine”
Caffeine often gets the blame when it comes to migraine, but it’s not necessarily the case. In fact, caffeine is a key ingredient in headache medications.
Like all things, it’s about balance and moderation as too much of anything can prove to be detrimental.
“It’s only migraine if you have an aura”
Aura – a phase of migraine involving visual disturbances such as flashing lights – is often thought be a key part of a migraine, but this isn’t the case.
Migraine can occur with or without aura. Whether or not a person experiences the aura phase of migraine does make a difference in the types of treatment options they should explore so it’s a good idea to keep a headache journal to track symptoms.
“I can control my migraine by taking more headache medication”
While it might seem logical, taking more medication to treat individual attacks is unlikely to help a migraine and could actually make it worse.
Some people living with migraine complain of “rebound headaches.” Taking a lot of medication to treat an acute migraine attack could lead to more frequent and more severe migraine attacks in the future, which are often more difficult to treat.
“There is a diet plan that will cure migraine”
There are some foods often believed to trigger migraine, including alcohol, gluten, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and histamine containing foods, chocolate, and cheese.
People living with migraines might try to eliminate these foods from their diet, but as the list of potential migraine trigger foods is extensive, avoiding all of them may be unhealthy and unnecessary.
Everyone’s body processes food differently. The best thing people with migraine can do is to know and understand their own specific triggers and avoid them.
Could food intolerance be triggering my migraine?
Food intolerances, which can occur when your body’s immune system mistakes a food protein as a threat, releasing antibodies to fight it, can cause a host of inflammation.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), bloating, low mood and joint pain are all reactions that can result from a food intolerance, as well as neurological complaints such as headache and migraine.
Keeping a diary
If you suffer with migraine and think something in your diet could be a cause, it could help to keep a headache diary. This can help keep track of your attacks and what you’ve had to eat or drink around that time.
If certain foods look like they could be a tricker, it could be worth trying an elimination diet, where you remove one food at a time for a few weeks to see how you feel. However, this process can take a long time. And, although many of us commonly react to a few different ingredients, the elimination diet is often abandoned when the first trigger food is found, leaving an incomplete picture of what’s causing the problem.
Get answers faster with Smartblood
When it comes to food intolerance testing, it’s important to do your research and choose a reputable laboratory testing company.
At Smartblood, we offer a comprehensive test to help you take control of your diet quickly and discover your own trigger foods.
Our home-to-laboratory service gives you fast, accurate results that pinpoint exactly which foods you are reacting to. Tests are completed in our accredited laboratory by trained experts, with clear, easy to understand results sent to you via email within three days.
Dedicated nutritional support
Importantly, our tests include a telephone consultation with our BANT registered Nutritional Therapist. This additional support is there to help you understand your results and put a plan together to make safe, sustainable changes to optimise your diet.