Tag Archives: Headaches

Jess’ Theory: Digestion is King

2 Sep
Digestion is King. Photo credit Morgue Filer User naama

Digestion is King. Photo credit Morgue Filer User naama

So I have a theory. A theory about the connection between the food I eat, my digestion and subsequent fatigue and migraine headaches.

It is only a theory, not backed up by any precise science or medical research.

It is a theory based on the solid evidence that my body has presented to me time and time again. My body the great scientific experiment 🙂

My theory goes something like this:

(I warn you it is not a particularly pretty theory..)

  1. I eat a food that is technically ‘Jess Friendly’ (a technical term meaning gluten and dairy free)
  2. Sometimes immediately, though often up to day or two later, I have a severely bloated and distended abdomen, I suffer with spasms of cramping pains and most significantly to this little theory of mine, my digestion grinds to a halt. No pooping. My body has firmly dropped anchor at constipation-city.
  3. I can’t stop yawning. I have a never ending need to rest and when I do I fall asleep. My energy is drained, reaching new lows.
  4. My head is filled with haziness for a day. And then a dull ache builds up on the left side of my forehead. It creeps up gradually, often so slowly I don’t always recognise what’s happening. But the pain always starts on the left side. It spreads down behind my left eye and inches across my face and down my nose. I feel nauseous, dizzy and generally spaced out. Bright lights and loud noises are horrible. On the worst occasions I end up in bed horizontal and not moving with a cold compress over my eyes.
  5. I take co-codomol, the pain reducing drug, which, if I’m lucky hits the spot and gives respite for a few hours. The side effect of this glorious drug…constipation. A classic catch-22. Either, a) I try and relieve the pain by taking the drug and thus exacerbate the constipation, which caused the headache in the first place or b) I just suffer in agony, waiting for the pain to pass.
  6. Once the acute pain is passed, usually after a long sleep, I’m left with a head that feels physically battered and bruised. I feel fragile and very sore, as if someone has been pummeling my head with their fists. This gradually subsides over a day or two.
  7. Slowly after 3-4 days the cogs of my digestive system slowly begin to grind into life once more and things begin to return to normal.
  8. Oh and to top it all off, around stage 2, a giant spot (or three) forms on my chin, huge, red and very painful. The toxins literally popping out to say hello any way they can.

This was the story of last week for me.

I ate a, supposedly, gluten free and dairy free pizza whilst at a friend’s house. I suspect the base was gluten free (it was too hard and tasteless to have been wheat filled) but the toppings (despite pertaining to be Jess friendly) most likely were not, or at least had been contaminated in some way. I reacted immediately with bloating and stomach pains and then as the week progressed, the full theory played out.

This is not the first time this pattern has happened for me. A few months ago, Mr B and I ate dinner at a (new to us) local pub. I was ecstatic that this place served gluten free dairy free fish and chips! And the main course was, and has been on numerous occasions since, fine. When I’ve only had the fish and chips I’ve been fine. No reaction. But that first time in my over eager state I ordered the gluten free crumble for dessert. So overjoyed that there was a gluten free dessert, that I forgot the key ingredient to a good crumble topping is of course butter. Dairy. It wasn’t until several spoonfuls down that I made the connection. Oops. And the next day I paid the price with the above theory cycling into action.

There was another time involving sausages at a friend’s BBQ. And another involving crĂšme brĂ»lĂ©e (yes I know it’s dairy laden, I was so brain fogged at the time I stupidly thought it was just made from eggs) and another after eating pĂątĂ©. These are just the incidents that I have recognised and remembered as preceding a severe headache.

The fact it is not usually an immediate reaction is my excuse for why I have not joined the dots before. It was a real light bulb moment when the penny finally dropped last week. ‘I’m so tired, I have a huge spot, I haven’t been to the toilet properly all week, my head is so sore, yesterday I had a migraine’ I complained to my Mum and Sister over Skype. My Mum (always the wise one 🙂 ) asked, ‘what have you eaten?’ And then after a few moments of back peddling through my memory in search of a ‘bad’ meal, I realized. The pizza on Sunday. I bet that will have been it.

I’m not a doctor. And medically what I’m saying may make no sense. But I think from the research and reading I have done on the topic, our digestion is at the heart of our health and when it fails to function optimally, negative consequences show up across our bodies. It may not be headaches and migraines for everyone. But for me I clearly have a vulnerability in that area and too many times now my body has followed this pattern. So for me and my body my theory makes sense. Digestion is clearly the king for me and when he decides to have a day off, it has as huge knock on effect, with the rest of the kingdom going down with him.

Through having ME/CFS I have had it drummed into me to ‘listen to my body’. One of the causes of the severity of my illness was me ignoring all the warning signs that my body gave me. Now ‘listen to my body’ is my mantra. It helps keep ME/CFS at bay. It is not full-proof but it helps most of the time. And now it has helped me identify another symptom inducing pattern at work.

I’m not sure what the solution is to my theory, other than to be uber cautious (even more than I already am) of everything I put in my mouth and perhaps to never eat out again (which is just too restrictive and dull to be a viable option), but now I can clearly see the problem, I’ve got a better chance at finding a solution.

What about you? Do you suffer from headaches and migraines when you eat something wrong?

Do you listen to your body? What does it tell you?

Post appointment cool down: POTS Party Part 2

29 Jun
I'm so dizzy my head is spinning...like a whirlwind it never ends...I'm so DIZZY...love that song and so appropriate. Image credit: Morgue Files User seeman.

I’m so dizzy my head is spinning…like a whirlwind it never ends…I’m so DIZZY…love that song and so appropriate. Image credit: Morgue Files User seeman.

Last post I shared some news from my latest appointment with my ME/CFS specialist. In short, thanks to my low blood pressure and racing heart on standing he suspects I may have POTS. From the comments I received on that post, it is relatively common for people with ME/CFS to also suffer from POTS or at least some form of othostatic intolerance (an intolerance to standing up….yes I can see the funny side of that too, my body doesn’t like standing up, great….but the dizziness is far from fun).

So what is POTS? What are the symptoms? What causes it? How do you treat it?

These are all very good questions.

And to be honest they are questions that I am still somewhat floundering around with trying to understand what the hell POTS actually is and why it has suddenly (potentially) joined my little party of medical acronyms! IBS…ME/CFS…potentially POTS…enough already!

Have a read of this article from patient.co.uk  or this article if you want to know more about what POTS is.  Both are highly informative but be warned these are both quite medical heavy articles, lots of jargon if you know what I mean.

A site that has helped lift the cloud of confusion for me is a blog I’ve been reading and following for a while. Jackie over at Lethargic Smiles suffers from POTS. Her doctors thought she had ME/CFS for a while prior to a doctor finally noticing her increased heart rate. I’ve always enjoyed reading her blog, but have turned to it in with renewed interest since my specialist appointment. Jackie gives a wonderfully clear explanation of POTS on her POTS 101 page and a comprehensive list of POTS symptoms too. If you want to know more about this condition in layman language I recommend you hop on over to Lethargic Smiles. I know I shouldn’t recommend you leave my site (please come back!) but I don’t see the point of using my precious little energy to write out what POTS is when Jackie has done it so beautifully 🙂

What I will say is this. POTS stands for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome which (very simply) means the body does not react as it is should when we stand up. In a POTS patient on the transition to standing upright from a lying or seated position, the heart rate increases and blood pressure can drop (causing the dizziness) and blood pools in your lower limbs. In short the autonomic nervous system is malfunctioning which causes a whole array of symptoms.

POTS can develop following an acute virus, especially during the course of a chronic illness and when the body has become de-conditioned (e.g. as a result of chronic illness). POTS does seem to fit my situation given:

  • I’ve suffered from a chronic illness, namely ME/CFS, knowingly for the last 2 and a half years, and without a formal diagnosis for many years more prior to then; and
  • I had a horrible flu virus in April; and
  • the dizziness and racing heart (tachycardia) have been much worse since then; and
  • POTS symptoms include headaches, anxiety, sweating, shakiness, neck/shoulder pain, bowel problems, poor concentration, palpitations and dizziness, all of which I suffer from; and
  • I suffer with what I will describe as lower limb myalgia – my calfs and ankles in particular often feel very heavy and achy, as if there is something tight wrapped around them squeezing them tighter and tighter. This has become worse in recent weeks. And finally,
  • POTS can cause purple discoloured feet and lower legs. I do suffer from that sometimes but never thought anything of it, it’s normal for your feet to turn blue/purple sometimes isn’t it?! Erm, perhaps not…

At this stage my having POTS is only suspected, though seemingly highly likely. I don’t think it is being suggested that the diagnosis is POTS instead of ME/CFS. I think it is POTS in addition to and as a result of ME/CFS, but that remains to be seen for sure. I know POTS is often misdiagnosed as ME/CFS. For now all that is clear is that I have relatively low blood pressure (115 over 80) that falls sharply on standing up (to systolic 80). My specialist has diagnosed this as orthostatic intolerance for now, subject to POTS tests including heart rate tachycardia monitoring.

It seems like POTS may be another piece to the jigsaw of getting me well. Though that said, POTS like ME/CFS, is a chronic illness and does not yet have a known cure, but there are ways of managing it to improve your level of functioning and quality of life. The POTS path at least gives something else for me and my (numerous) doctors to get our teeth into. It gives another angle, another possible symptom management option which gives me a renewed surge of hope that there is away out of the ME/CFS maze for me. If not an actual get out of jail free card, it at least offers hope of some relief from new symptom management.

POTS aside, onto headaches

POTS wasn’t the only thing discussed with my specialist in my appointment last week. We also covered my frequent headaches in some detail. After he had prodded and pressed my head, neck and back in numerous places (erm…ouch) the conclusion on this was that my specialist suspects my headaches and upper body myalgia may be as a result of contracted muscles and trigger points in my neck and shoulders. So he wants me to have some physio which should relax the muscles and triggers and reduce the level of pressure and tension that keeps giving me headaches. The more headaches you have the lower your migraine tolerance threshold becomes which is why I suffer from severe migraine headaches much more now than I used to. Fingers crossed the physio does the trick, he mentioned botox injections into the trigger points as a second option…

I also discussed my plan to live back with Mr B in our flat rather than staying up at my parents. He said he thought this was a good idea and would help my morale but that I would need to be very careful so as not to wipe myself; so lots and lots of pacing.

So all in all a very productive appointment. It was (this perhaps shows how dire my situation has been at times) nice to come away with a possible new cause of my symptoms and physical treatment and tests that we can try.

Next appointment with my specialist is booked for September 20th, providing plenty of opportunity for my specialist to travel before then so he’ll lots of stories to share with me 😉

Do you have POTS and/or ME/CFS? Has a doctor ever thought POTS may be causing the ME/CFS, or vice versa? If you have any POTS and ME/CFS related advice let me know. 

Do you suffer from frequent headaches? How do you cope? Lets all share in each others’ experiences, it can only help!

Have you read my previous post, POTS joins the party Part 1? If you enjoyed this post, part 1 is definitely worth a read!


Yoga for Headaches 2

9 Feb

Yoga for Headaches from Fit Sugar.

Having talked about Yoga to ease headaches earlier in the week, I then came across another link for Yoga Poses for Headaches on Fit Sugar so I just had to share it with you!

These Yoga Poses for Headaches look really good and I will definitely be trying them when I get back from my weekend away with Mr B!

Back to my lovely anniversary weekend in the country for me,  in the meantime do check out:

Yoga Poses for Headaches on Fit Sugar.

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