Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Migraines and Anger

Like many people, I suffer from migraines. Mine aren't out of control or completely debilitating anymore. This could be for many reasons such as diet and lifestyle changes, or the more prosaic getting older and having my hormonal milieu change. One thing I have always noticed is a correlation between sugar and my migraines. Eating too much to regularly increases the occurrence for me. Natural sugars like fruit, honey, or sucanat tend to be ok, but white sugar and HFCS seem to set me off. I don't know if the fact that they are frequently GMO plays a role in that, but I suspect it does. I have also noticed a correlation between sugar and uncontrollable anger outbursts. I never really put them together before. I had always assumed that it was the sugar that lead to the anger and irritability, not the migraines themselves.

I came across an article that made me think about that. I wasn't intentionally doing any migraine research. By chance I somehow clicked a link I didn't notice, and as I worked through the slog of open tabs on my computer I came across it. It is neither a long article, nor a well referenced one, but it gives me something to ponder and observe.

Anger and irritability are some of the lesser-recognized symptoms of migraine disease. These symptoms are most often experienced during the prodome phase.
The prodome phase comes before the migraine attack itself and serves as a warning of an impending migraine attack. The prodome phase can start as early as 24 hours before the onset of a migraine attack.
This anger, impatience and irritability are some of the most often misunderstood aspects of migraine disease for family members and friends. We often do not realize these tendencies are related to our migraine attacks and cannot warn our loved ones of this, either. It is not uncommon for those closest to us to perceive us as having a bad or nasty attitude that comes out of nowhere. The reality is that it can be extremely difficult for us to control this tendency, especially when we haven’t yet made any association between these symptoms and our migraine attacks.

I tend to have intense sugar cravings before a migraine which generally doesn't make me feel great and I've recognized that eating certain kinds of sugars like table sugar or HFCS sometimes leads to anger bursts. Does it happen every time? No. Which is why I haven't made a connection to it before or tried to observe it. When it does happen I feel like my liver becomes irate and the energy springs forth suddenly. It is a very "HULK SMASH!!!" sensation for me. This is based in a TCM understanding of liver and anger, not necessarily a directly physiological one. Sugar and fructose have been implicated in liver damage and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, so I think the concept of angry liver might deserve consideration. This is my personal story and only reflects my personal experience in my own body. I'm writing about it here so I don't forget to take the time to observe.

Migraines have many presentations in the body and how they appear is entirely dependent on your own constitution. That is one reason they are so hard to get under control. This post is not meant to diagnose anything. It is important to pay attention to our bodies and to learn about signs, triggers and everything else. It is a constant challenge as we are always changing. At one time in my life I had migraines 15-20 days out of a month. Now it is down to about 2 days with very little effort on my part. I even get other types of headaches now. Like I said at the beginning, this could be due to lifestyle or it could be internal hormonal changes as I've gotten older, or both. I suppose I will leave it at that for now.

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