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HeadWay, Issue #016 -- Surrounded by Triggers?
November 22, 2004

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In this month's issue:

Surrounded by triggers?

Green Tea

Say what?! The MAO family

Surrounded by triggers?

They're all around me! What do you do when migraine triggers are all around you – in the work place, at home, and even outside? Chemicals, pollution and even normal weather patterns can trigger incredible pain in those of us with migraine. What can you do about it?

Perhaps most importantly ... don't worry about it! That's right. There's a theory out there that the more migraineurs obsess about triggers and try to avoid them, the more harm the triggers will actually do. Well, I think that theory is somewhat simplistic, but the fact of the matter is, you may not be able to escape from all the triggers that are out there. Eating properly, being active and thinking positive may make you less and less sensitive to triggers over time. Don't spend all your waking hours running from things that might cause a migraine. You'll make matters worse.

On the other hand, if you've found a single, clear, trigger, it only makes sense to try to avoid it. Also, many triggers are things that it would be wise to avoid anyway.

For some people, migraine symptoms are triggered by the same things that cause allergies in others. Consider for example, dust and dust mites...

The bedroom: It's wise to replace pillows every year, so why not try hypoallergenic pillows and blankets. Also, look for a mattress cover that is “dust mite proof”. Once you have your new bedding, wash it once a week on the hot setting, and consider getting a laundry additive that kills mites, such as De-mite. Note: It usually takes a good 20 minute soak in hot water to kill the mites. You realize you're breathing these bugs in, right?

The floor: If you must have carpets, vacuum them at least once a week. Change your vacuum bag regularly, and see if you can get micro filtration bags for your model. You can also clean your carpets with a tannic solution that kills dust mites.

Heating systemWhen did you last have your heating system cleaned, and filters changed? While you're at it, consider putting filters on the vents in each room.

Stuffed animals: They may be cute, but they also may be home for our little mite friends. If you must have them, put them in a plastic bag and stick them in the freezer overnight to kill unwanted visitors. Teddy really won't mind a visit to a colder climate for Christmas, and everyone in the house will be a little healthier as the season begins!

Many of these tips are from What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You About Migraines, by Dr Alexander Mauskop and Dr Barry Fox
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Green Tea

Yes, I know, it's another one of those cure-alls. But believe it or not, there are more and more studies coming out demonstrating the benefits of green tea. Keeping cholesterol out of your system, slowing the progress of cancer, weight loss.

Green tea studies related to migraine are limited. Interestingly, Wikipedia reports that tannins are not released into brewed green tea, which means that, if tannins are a trigger for you, you still may be able to enjoy green tea (see this article on tannins).
As a caffeinated drink, green tea could be a blessing or a curse, depending on your reaction to caffeine. Some migraineurs report that a cup of green tea at the beginning or middle of a migraine attack is a big help. This seems to be a result of more than just the caffeine, so if you've tried other drinks, try this one next. The caffeine is usually less than in other drinks.

A few tips: As with most foods, the less processed the better, although a simple bag of green tea still seems to have health benefits. If you don't like the taste, try some of the excellent mixes out there, such as Jasmine Tea (I like this one), green tea and ginseng, and many others. You can also take green tea as a pill – not as fun, but easier for some of us. Visit vitacost for more on green tea supplements.

Say what?! The MAO family

The phrase of the month is MAO inhibitor (Monoamine oxidase inhibitor). MAO inhibitors are a family of drugs originally developed to treat depression, but they are also prescribed for migraine, especially severe attacks and chronic daily headache. MAO inhibitors are usually avoided at first because they have a number of unwanted side effects, including weight gain, insomnia, and constipation. However, they've been successful enough in migraine treatment that some migraineurs find any side effects they experience more than worth it. MAO inhibitors include drugs such as Nardil (phenelzine) and Marplan (isocarboxazid).

Read more about MAO inhibitors here.
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