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migraine pain - brain on fire - what it's like having a migraine

What It’s Like Having a Migraine

Ever had a migraine? Do you know a migraine sufferer?

A migraine is not just a common or severe headache. It is that, but much more. A migraine with aura means a migraine accompanied by sensory disturbances or odd perceptions or sensitivities to various stimuli. An aura is something that can show up for people before a migraine or seizure. However, I often experience mine during the migraine.

Everyone’s migraine experience differs in some way from others’ experiences – in the presence or absence of various symptoms, the severity and timing of those symptoms, and the triggers and remedies.

I’ve had migraines since I was six (or at least, I first recall experiencing them at that age), and only since radically changing my diet and lifestyle in recent years (especially the past year or so) have I seen major improvements.

I don’t get migraines very often now, but when I do, they’re still quite the nightmare.

Walking Through a Migraine

It’s 11:15 at night. You just got home from work, and you feel a throbbing pulse of knotted-up heat surrounding your right eye. You try to massage your head and dig at the deep pain, but it is too deep to reach, and it almost feels like any pressure you apply just pushes the pain deeper inside.

“Light jazz” music is on the radio when you walk inside. Normally, this type of music can give you a headache, but now, it’s triggering feelings of nausea. The lights are too bright, and the smell of garlic bread and pasta seeps through your nostrils and pierces deep into your head, setting on fire your already inflamed brain. The pain intensifies and spreads. You wish your remedies could pervade your head this quickly, could heal the damage as fast as it’s inflicted.

You faintly, dizzily wobble up the stairs to your bedroom and lie on the floor in the dark.

It’s been a long day, but you want nothing to eat. Even imagining food or the smell of it makes you sick.

You struggle to find a comfortable position.

Once you do, you don’t want to move. Doing so – even an inch – just reignites the fire.

Even the slightest motion is infinitely painful. It hurts to talk.

People visit and ask you questions. “Are you okay?” “What can I bring you?”

You attempt to respond as briefly and painlessly as possible, not speaking too loudly or moving your mouth too much. Which then prompts them to ask you to repeat your response, because it was not discernible the first time.

Inwardly annoyed – at your own hypersensitivity and pain more than anything – you muster the strength to speak more loudly (if possible), knowing that may set you back for the next several minutes or hours.

You know that they care and mean well, and you don’t want to ignore them. But it’s so painful to shout. You feel like you’re shouting. All sound is magnified. The vibrations of sound fuel the flames permeating your head. And it hurts to move your jaw. It hurts to think.

Your cognitive function is compromised, and it’s painful – if not impossible – to process thoughts efficiently or lucidly.

In response to your loved ones’ queries, you request a hot cloth to place on your face. This will aid in blocking the traces of light biting through your eyelids, as well as relaxing muscles and possibly clearing some nasal congestion, removing at least some pressure from your head.

After about five or ten rounds of heating and applying the hot cloth, you’re beginning to feel some improvement, but you know that your only hope for seeing the end of this migraine is taking pain reliever and trying to sleep it off.

But…nope. Unless you’re fortunate, it’s still there in the morning, if slightly less so. “Hey there!” it greets you. “Didn’t think I’d leave so soon, did you?” Your head feels like a block of lead weighing down your pillow, and you know you lack the energy or equilibrium to get out of bed uneventfully right now.

The pain has traveled since you fell asleep, radiating to other areas of your head.

Once you finally manage to safely descend from your bed to the floor, you attempt to rebalance yourself enough to make it down the stairs, and repeat the hot cloth procedure. You also prepare a cup of tea so that you can drink in the steam (and eventually drink the tea).

You finally feel like eating something mild, and after doing so – and continuing to apply other remedies – the final traces of your migraine at last begin to fade.

Migraines and the Workplace

In the workplace, staying home for a migraine is often viewed as a weak or unnecessary decision. As far as I recall, I never called out for a migraine (perhaps because I feared it’d be viewed as an “excuse” not to work), and so I remember dealing with them while working.

(The first manager I worked with there was pretty kind and understanding, and once he found out I suffered from migraines, he encouraged me to do whatever was necessary to care for myself, but he left soon after I was hired, and leadership changed a lot after that.)

I wonder how much the quality of my work was compromised, as migraines can diminish my thinking/processing ability, and also render me more dizzy and clumsy (I did spill/break my share of things at that job, a highly active and fast-paced position).

To make matters worse, at my first workplace, we were actually not allowed to have water bottles with us. We were only permitted to somehow carve out the time to walk far away from our work area (which was not always allowed) to drink water (laced with germs, heavy metals, and likely fluoride) from the water fountain.

If employers are going to “demand” that their migraine-suffering employees show up to work, they should at least make provisions for their staff that would aid them in coping with the pain:

An electric tea kettle.

A quality water filter.

Maybe some gluten-free tea bags with minimal ingredient lists.

Pain relievers (at least – or including – natural options such as boswellia and maybe white willow bark. Businesses should be able to get away with providing these if they label them as “food” and not “medicine”).

Slightly longer breaks.

Light sensitivity glasses (and/or yellow-tinted glasses for desk jobs), or allowing employees to bring/wear their own on the job.

If businesses are unwilling to make these accommodations, they should not expect employees to show up to work while suffering from migraines, unless they want to risk damage/loss in inventory, information, or labor processes and work quality due to clumsiness/dizziness, severe pain, and impaired neurological processes in their employees.

Chronic illness and autoimmune disease rates are only increasing, so the long-term solution is not simply to fire these employees and hire healthier ones.

The solution is to make our workplaces, homes, and environment cleaner, less toxic, and safer for – and more supportive of – those with chronic illness.

Triggers and Remedies

Some things that may trigger migraines for me (sometimes, they start out as garden-variety headaches and “transform” into migraines):

  • Dehydration.
  • Prolonged exposure to blue light or sunlight.
  • Crying.
  • Walking inside the mall (which I don’t do anymore).
  • Excessive physical activity.
  • Running, or lifting weights.
  • Eating dairy, eggs, corn, coconut, or foods high in various glutamates (tomatoes, grapes/raisins, black beans, foods [such as soups] with the ingredient MSG [monosodium glutamate]).
  • Eating foods high in refined sugars.
  • Eating foods containing dextrin, dextrose, or maltodextrin.
  • Exposure to gluten/wheat (sometimes even without consuming it).
  • Certain types of “jazz” or other “light music” (not quite sure how to describe this music, other than that it sort of tastes like peaches canned in pear juice).
  • Exposure to petroleum for more than a few seconds.
  • Exposure to synthetic fragrances (even briefly smelling them on other people).
  • Smiling for long periods of time (something I still have to work to do less, but often do because sometimes people perceive me as angry or upset if I wear what feels like a neutral face [I have deep-set eyes, so this makes me naturally look a bit more austere or intense when I’m not smiling]).
  • Staying at a party for more than maybe 1-2 hours.
  • Riding along in a car but not driving (in this case, I can usually only prevent a headache or migraine if I’m lying down or resting comfortably against something, or am riding along only for a short time). Additionally, the scents/smells of others’ cars often bother me and make me feel unwell.
  • Sickness.
  • Not taking magnesium.
  • Not getting adequate sleep.
  • Walking through a hardware store.
  • Walking through the laundry detergent aisle.

Some remedies that can help:

  • Being in a quiet, dark place
  • Putting a warm cloth on head
  • Steaming face over hot tea
  • Drinking water/tea
  • Taking natural pain relievers

If you are a migraine sufferer, what are some migraine triggers for you? What things help?

Please see disclaimer.

© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

girl sleeping

Adrenal Fatigue

Do you have….

___ High levels of fatigue every day

___ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

___Cravings for salty foods

___Overuse of stimulants like caffeine or chocolate

___Difficulty getting up in the morning

___Inability to handle stress

___Higher levels of energy in the evening

___Recurring illness or infection

___Low or high blood pressure

___Low thyroid function

___Foggy thinking


___Irregular periods

___Candida infection

___Mood swings or depression


If you answered yes to even one of these, it’s possible that you’re suffering from at least a mild form of adrenal fatigue.

Click here for a more comprehensive list of symptoms.

Find out if you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue with Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Fatigue Quiz

How the Medical Community Views Adrenal Fatigue

You’ve probably heard about adrenal fatigue at least a handful of times (especially if you have alternative-medicine-minded friends).

But is adrenal fatigue really a thing? So many doctors still don’t recognize it as a condition.

Most physicians never study adrenal fatigue in medical school or internships. They may learn about Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency) – but Addison’s disease only refers to one end of the spectrum of adrenal dysfunction. It is possible to not have Addison’s, but to still have severely fatigued or overworked adrenals. These “undiagnosable” points along the adrenal health spectrum are still critical to recognize and treat, as burned-out adrenals can lead to multiple health conditions – including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, high or low blood pressure, hormonal imbalance, chronic infections, and thyroid dysfunction.

I have been fortunate to recently discover a few physicians who recognize adrenal fatigue as a real condition. Awareness of the issue is growing in the medical community, but there is still a long way to go.

What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal Fatigue has many possible causes, but most of those causes converge on one point: stress. Adrenal fatigue can be the result of several “minor” stressors over a prolonged period of time, and/or the result of one or two major sources of stress or trauma.

Stress can take on many forms – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. However, your adrenal glands will respond in the same way to each of these forms of stress. The adrenals do not know the difference between emotional/mental stress – such as the stress you might feel interacting with a difficult boss – and physiological stress (for instance, the stress your body experiences when you undergo a major surgery, or are consistently running on few hours of sleep). They respond to all of these events by producing cortisol.

The problem is, our bodies tend to be in fight, flight, faint, or freeze mode nearly every waking hour of every day (in response to a constant barrage of mini stressors). Although most of us aren’t being chased by a literal bear every day, there are enough environmental, social, emotional, and mental “bears” in 21st century life to trick our brains into believing that we are always in danger.

As a result, the adrenal glands keep producing extra cortisol so we can have the strength to take on these bears.

Some “bears” or stressors that can cause or contribute to adrenal stress – and eventually fatigue:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • A poor diet (this includes consuming foods to which you may be sensitive or allergic)
  • Exposure to toxins – mild or strong (this can include everything from asbestos to laundry detergent and perfume.)
  • Sickness/infection – especially repeated or prolonged infection(s)
  • Emotional and mental stress, including:
    • Marital/relationship stress
    • Depression/Anxiety
    • Workplace issues
    • Job interview
    • Getting laid off or fired
    • Financial troubles
    • Emotional abuse
  • Trauma (surgeries, car accident, abuse, trauma from war/deployment)
  • Another chronic illness

Gradually, the adrenal glands begin to wear down from their continuous response to stress, and they lose their power to respond as effectively to future stressors. This is when symptoms really start to show up.

How to Recover

girl walking in sun

Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

The most long-lasting way to recover from adrenal fatigue is to minimize the intensity and frequency of the stressors you face in life, and to develop methods for coping with those stressors which you can’t eliminate or reduce.

Aside from that, there are many remedies known to be helpful for adrenal fatigue sufferers. Of course, you’ll want to run all of these by your physician, and find the things that work best and are safe for you:

  1. Consume more salt (add it to everything) [Definitely run this by your doctor first! If you are currently seeing an MD, I do recommend visiting a naturopathic doctor or a chiropractor familiar with adrenal fatigue for a second opinion on this. They may each give you a different answer. 🙂 ]
  2. Consume adaptogenic herbs, such as Siberian ginseng (this is generally recommended over Panax [Korean] ginseng for women. Panax/Korean ginseng can boost testosterone levels, causing an increase in acne). Ginger is also great. I do NOT recommend ashwagandha (which is commonly recommended and used for adrenal fatigue), as it is part of the nightshade family, to which many people are sensitive (though perhaps unwittingly). Nightshade plants contain a glycoalkaloid poison called solanine. Additionally, I’ve read (and personally experienced) that ashwagandha only helps to a certain point with adrenal fatigue, and that if you take very much of it, it can actually begin to weaken the adrenals or sabotage the healing process!
  3. Get more sleep! <3 If this means cutting something out of your life, or finding a way to say “no” to some people, events, or other activities/services, it’s worth it. You cannot continue to take care of others if you don’t first take care of yourself.
  4. Get tested for celiac. Ask your doctor to order a blood test for gluten antibodies. I also recommend getting your genetics tested for the HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 genes, which predispose you to be susceptible to celiac. While you’re at it, I recommend just getting a more comprehensive genetic test, to see if you have mutations on MTHFR, CBS, or other genes.
  5. Test for other food allergies and sensitivities. And honestly, the most accurate (though crappy) way to test for this is to try eating a lot of a given food for a period of time, and see how you feel. Before you do that, though, I recommend cutting back to a very minimalistic diet (such as bone broth and maybe some meat, healthy fats, and/or produce – and NO dairy or grains), then reintroducing each food, one at a time. This will make it much easier for you to recognize a food reaction when it’s happening.
  6. Licorice root can be helpful, but check with your doctor, as this one can cause sodium retention. (Actually, that may be why it’s so beneficial for adrenal fatigue sufferers, as sodium levels tend to drop with the rise of adrenal dysfunction.)

Some other remedies which I’ve personally found helpful (and there is some overlap from the list above):

  • Supplementation with B6 and magnesium
  • Minimal to no exercise. Lately, I’ve been learning some simple yoga moves, and that level of activity is just about right for me. Overtraining and excessive/intense exercise are contraindicated with Adrenal Fatigue.
  • Lots of sleep
  • Supplementation with Siberian ginseng and ginger root.
  • Licorice root tea
  • High salt consumption
  • Hydration (But be aware: it’s important to include enough electrolytes – such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium – in your diet and/or supplement regimen, as hydration will dilute your electrolyte supply. Avocado is a great source of potassium and a decent source of magnesium, but I recommend running a controlled test first to make sure you’re not sensitive to it.)

I also recommend testing for heavy metal poisoning. Rather than doing this with chelation, however, I suggest locating a doctor who practices applied kinesiology (muscle strength testing). This is a lot safer and faster than chelation – especially if you are unsure whether you are genetically responsive to and tolerant of chelation. It is with applied kinesiology that I learned I am still holding on to a lot of mercury and a slightly lower amount of aluminum.

Applied kinesiology (AK) is not an exact science, and sometimes it may miss foods/toxins/microbes that are problematic, but I’ve noticed that the substances it does identify as issues are, in fact, problematic for me. (For example, my doctor was able to accurately identify gluten, casein, egg, sulfur, nightshade plants, high MSG/glutamate foods, and more recently, avocado as issues for me, via AK muscle testing.)


If you’ve been poisoned, then the metals in your system may bind to the proteins in your tissues, creating an antigen that your body sees as foreign. The body then proceeds to attack your tissues that are bound to the metal. Such an autoimmune reaction could certainly wipe out your body’s energy and fighting reserves, which could lead to adrenal fatigue.

However, adrenal fatigue is often only the tip of the iceberg. Heavy metal poisoning, pyroluria, other genetic conditions, and serious infections can cause or aggravate adrenal fatigue, so it’s important to look into these issues, or it may be impossible to fully recover. I recommend finding a naturopath or chiropractic doctor who is open to natural remedies and can help you identify any hidden diseases.

Your doctor may recommend testing for conditions like Lyme, Hashimoto’s, and pyroluria.

Thanks for reading! 🙂 Hope this helps you at least a little in your journey to wellness. <3

For more information:

The Four Stages of Adrenal Fatigue

It’s All In Your Head

Misconceptions about Optimal Health

When You Can Only Eat Five Foods




© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

What is Pyroluria, and Do You Have It?

Pyroluria is estimated to be present in 10-11% of the population. However, it is rarely diagnosed. The treatment does not involve any prescribed drugs. Rather, it requires supplementation with a few specific vitamins.

Some additional symptoms of pyroluria may include:

  • Little or no dream recall
  • Pale skin, poor tanning, easily sunburned
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Hypersensitivity to loud noises
  • Poor ability to cope with stress
  • Abnormal body fat distribution
  • Difficulty digesting protein
  • Frequent fatigue
  • Overreaction to alcohol or prescription drugs (a little produces a powerful response)
  • Acne, eczema, or psoriasis
  • Frequent colds or infections

Pyroluria is a genetic condition (gene NBPF3), in which pyrroles – byproducts of the liver’s hemoglobin production – accumulate in the body. (Pyrroles have no known health function, and are typically excreted from the systems of healthy individuals.) Individuals with pyroluria, however, are unable to clear these chemicals from the body. These copious pyrroles then bind to B6 and zinc. Once they have attached themselves to these critical nutrients, the pyrroles are then flushed out through the urine.

Consequently, pyrolurics end up with severely low levels of vitamin B6 and zinc. These two nutrients are crucial for the production of neurotransmitters and enzymes. Many pyrolurics suffer from severe depression and anxiety (low/imbalanced neurotransmitters), or are diagnosed (sometimes inaccurately) with various mental health disorders, and frequently suffer from digestive issues and protein intolerance (due to poor enzyme production).

The onset of pyroluria is frequently triggered by a traumatic event or chronic infection. It is more common among people of Scandinavian or Irish descent, as well as those with fair features.

So how does one treat pyroluria? Happily, the solution is pretty simple, albeit a lifelong one. It involves consistent supplementation with vitamin B6 and zinc. (I’m currently using zinc gluconate, which seems to be working alright. However, ionic zinc is considered the best form for absorption throughout the body, and I am planning to switch to this once my other bottle runs out.)

UPDATE: I’m now using zinc picolinate, which is working very well. It’s helped to improve my skin and dream recall (as well as to remove fingernail white fleck(s)). See below for specs on my favorite and most trusted zinc supplement.

It is also important to supplement with magnesium, as the B6 will deplete magnesium levels. Manganese is important as well, as the heavy zinc supplementation will deplete this nutrient. I like to get my manganese from the clove spice. However, some individuals may actually need to supplement with manganese to maintain adequate levels.

If treatment is discontinued, symptoms will likely reappear within a few days to a couple weeks. (When I’ve skipped B6 and zinc for even two days, I notice a significant difference in my mood and energy levels.)

Pyrolurics also tend to have a greater need for omega-6 fatty acids than most people.

One of my favorite ways to incorporate more of these fatty acids into my diet is to make this healthy “fatty frosting” that I add to stuff.

Fatty Frosting Recipe

  • Salted Grass-Fed Ghee (replacement for normal butter)
  • Organic Arrowroot Powder (instead of powdered sugar)
  • Local, Raw, Gently Filtered Honey (sweetener)
  • Organic Vanilla Extract (I cook out the alcohol)

Consuming this seems to improve my skin.

Pyroluria: The Most Common Unknown Disorder – Dr. Jockers

Do you have pyroluria? Try taking this informal test. If you suspect you may have the condition, you can verify this with a urine test that measures your kryptopyrrole levels.

The B6, Zinc, and Magnesium I Use

Pure Encapsulations – P5P 50 – Activated Vitamin B6 to Support Metabolism of Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins – 180 Capsules

Pure Encapsulations – Zinc 30 – Zinc Picolinate (30 mg.) Highly Absorbable Hypoallergenic Supplement for Immune Support – 60 Capsules

Pure Encapsulations – Magnesium (Citrate/Malate) – Hypoallergenic Supplement Supports Nutrient Utilization and Physiological Functions – 180 Capsules


Disclaimer: Each individual is, well, individual. Different genetic combination. Different environmental and life factors. Consequently, appropriate treatment will, no doubt, vary from person to person. I am not a doctor, just someone who has studied genetics a lot, has some “interesting” genetics, and has experimented on herself because of that. Please do not treat this information as medical advice.


© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved


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