If you’re wondering why your migraine is not going away, check your chocolate or MSG (monosodium glutamate) consumption.
Too much chocolate or MSG could trigger an attack, said Dr. Regina Macalintal Canlas, president of Philippine Headache Society and headache master of the International Headache Society.
“A typical Chinese restaurant soup contains two to three times more MSG compared to its food. That’s why they’re so flavorful,” Canlas said during a press briefing for the International Migraine Awareness Week organized by Novartis Healthcare Phils.
Canlas said other migraine triggers include red wine, cheddar, and blue cheese and nuts, nitrites (such as those in commercial hot dogs, bacon, tocino, salami, frankfurters), caffeine.
“It is most important to change your lifestyle,” she said.
Canlas said oversleeping may cause throbbing pain, while some experience reduced symptoms if they lack sleep.
Migraine is a distinct neurological disease that involves recurrent attacks of moderate-to-severe headache that pulsates in one side of the head. It is associated with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, and odors.
Not a simple headache
“Migraine is not just a simple headache. It is among the 48 diseases that account for 80 percent of the disability-adjusted life years (Dalys) in the country,” Canlas said.
Dalys are measurements of years of life lost due to premature death, plus years lost to severe disability of people living with a health condition or its consequences.
Canlas, who herself suffers from migraine, recalled how she missed her college graduation march because she had to be confined in the hospital because of a migraine attack. She had a complicated migraine that paralyzed the left side of her body. The symptoms of a rare type of migraine mimic those of a stroke, which include muscle weakness and temporary paralysis.
This extremely painful, debilitating, chronic disorder led Canlas to pursue studies in neurology.
“Migraine not only destroys lives. It also destroys the joy of living,” Canlas said.
Migraine affects one in 10 people worldwide. In the Philippines, an estimated 12 million are reported to suffer from migraine.
Migraine is one of the oldest ailments known to mankind. Even Hippocrates referred to the visual disturbances that preceded a migraine, such as flashing lights or blurred vision, now known as aura. The father of modern medicine also described the relief felt by sufferers after vomiting.
But even given this ancient history, to this day, migraine remains one of the widely misunderstood ailments.
Lack of empathy
“People living with migraine may experience lack of empathy from employers and colleagues when frequent migraine attacks prevent them from delivering optimal work outputs,” Canlas said.
Recurrent migraine attacks last between four and 72 hours. Some have more than 15 episodes a month. Around 90 percent of migraine patients cannot work or function when having an attack, according to the World Health Organization.
“Migraine impacts on workers’ productivity. Employers, through their health and safety committee, can include in their Occupational Health Program activities like awareness-raising and information dissemination in addressing migraine,” said Imelda Santos, chief labor employment officer of the Bureau of Working Conditions.
There is a need for employers to work with health care professionals who can provide effective treatment to reduce the impact of migraine on worker productivity. Implement an effective disease management program, including patient education and lifestyle modification, and appropriate medications for early treatment of migraine.
Thirty percent of migraine patients are also diagnosed with depression.
“If both parents have a migraine, there’s a 75 percent chance their children will have it. Definitely one or two of their children will have a migraine,” Canlas said.
Proper management of migraine can enhance work productivity that can lead overall to the country’s long-term economic growth, Canlas said.
There are hormonal factors associated with migraine, such as menstruation, ovulation, contraceptive pills.
Migraine affects women three times more than men. While decades ago the episodes were falsely believed to be due to a woman’s “inability” to cope with stress, today scientists know that migraine attacks are in fact all in the head—literally.
Other triggers are physical stress, such as traveling (especially when crossing time zones) or sexual activities, also change of weather/climate, prolonged TV watching, and use of gadgets, intense smell, loud noise.
“We want to solve the problem once and for all. We want to lessen migraine attacks,” Canlas said.