What a Headache

More than a decade ago, I went to go see a psychiatrist because I was bummed about having lost my job. The doctor listened to my story and prescribed me a drug called Lamictal. He explained that Lamictal is an anticonvulsant that carries only a slight risk of causing permanent hearing loss. I didn’t fill the prescription.

The doctor actually called me the next day to see if I had broken out into the severe rash that precedes going deaf. I told him I wasn’t going on Lamictal, and he started to argue with me.

I remembered this story after my wife’s visit last week to a neurologist.

My wife has been experiencing migraines since childhood, although they seem to get worse when her estrogen levels drop along her menstrual cycle. The doctor listened to her story and prescribed her a drug called topiramate. He explained that topiramate is an anticonvulsant commonly used to treat epilepsy. Side effects include aggression, personality changes, and crushing fatigue. He also provided my wife with a printed list of 200 foods that can trigger migraines, including the very helpful and specific “restaurant food,” and “pizza” (is it the wheat crust, the tomato sauce, the cheese?). This is all so crazy.

Based on my prior knowledge and with less than an hour of research, I was able to come up with several non-pharmaceutical, low risk interventions to help my wife. These include:

  • Take high doses of vitamin C and magnesium to boost oxytocin. Oxytocin helps control nerve activity in the brain. When estrogen drops during a woman’s menstrual cycle (after ovulation and again just before menstruation), oxytocin also drops. High doses of vitamin C help the body make oxytocin and large amounts of magnesium can increase the sensitivity of oxytocin receptors. You can also add an over-the-counter oxytocin nasal spray to further boost oxytocin levels.
  • Consume tremendous amounts of sodium. Some people have a mutation in the potassium channels in their cells which causes the channels to be stuck open. Excess potassium excites nerves and creates electrical problems in the brain. The solution to out of whack potassium is to consume more sodium to restore the body’s natural ratio of potassium to sodium. (As an aside, the solution to high blood pressure is not to reduce sodium but to increase potassium.)
  • Reduce insulin resistance. Too much insulin lurks behind virtually every ailment. In the case of migraines, a switch to a low carb/low sugar diet 1) stops your body from retaining inaccessible sodium, and 2) boosts the body’s production of ketones. Ketones can serve as an alternative energy source for brains with an impaired glucose metabolism and energy deficiency, a potential source of migraines.

My wife decided on her own not to proceed with the epilepsy drug, but that’s only halfway there. Sane, natural remedies still seem radical to most people if they lack a doctor’s blessing.

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