Friday, April 01, 2011

Zero Tolerance

I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced this. Since Lucy was born I have developed an increasing intolerance to alcohol, to the extent that one drink these days will give me a hangover of collegiate proportions. It's not fun. Particularly because I really enjoy a glass of wine with a meal, or a ridiculously overpriced cocktail at any restaurant in this shi-shi town. To say I was reluctant to believe I was becoming intolerant to my evening glass of wine, is an understatement. I wanted so badly to believe that it was maybe just red wine, just sulphites, or stress, a waning moon, pixies, anything other than that one glass of something to unwind with at the end of the day. 

It turns out that it wasn't hangovers I was dealing with. It was migraines. When Lucy was six months old I went back on the pill - except I couldn't remember what pill I'd been on in the four years post-Anna, so they tried me on a low dose hormonal thing. I spent the next two months with pounding headaches, pain like an iron stake behind my right eye, and vomiting every morning. Not ideal, so I changed over to a different brand which left me with the same migraines and vomiting, plus the hormones of a banshee. Without going in to details I will say that feeling emotionally precarious, having noise-sensitivity due to migraines, and living with two small children and running a busy medical practice - not a great lifestyle.

I know very well that there's medicines you can take, for both prevention and relief, but I've been reluctant to go that route. I think it's because I see so many patients with horrific, intractable migraines, that I've been unwilling to admit that I may have that future ahead of me. Unfortunately I do have to  take migraine pills in order to just function on some days. The few I've tried generally just turn down the volume of the pain, do nothing for the nausea, or leave me a jittery mess with the parenting tolerance of a Victorian governess. 

To cut a long story short I stopped the pill, and I stopped drinking. I officially gave up for Lent, in support of LK who also gave up booze for Lent. It wasn't such a stretch for me, obviously, as I'd all but given it up anyway. I do feel better, but not miraculously so. I still get migraines, but they are not as frequent. Sadly, it seems that all alcohol is a guaranteed trigger, and because I don't like what's out there to treat migraines, I want to try everything in my powers to try and avoid them - and that's why I've been looking at what causes them, just in case it's not just alcohol, or not alcohol at all. Briefly, migraine triggers can be:

  • Sleep disturbance (I'm looking at you Lucy)
  • Stress (ha!)
  • Alcohol *sigh*
  • Chocolate/sugar
  • Caffeine
  • Aged cheeses
  • Processed meats
  • Salt (increased blood pressure)
  • MSG
  • Having any kind of fun AT ALL

To eliminate all that from my lifestyle reminds me of a 'Wellness' seminar I went to a few years ago. The speaker stood up and gave a run-down of the things you need to do in order to live a long life: go to bed at 9pm, wake at 6am, run, eat steamed fish, fresh vegetables, yoga, no stimulants, no alcohol, etc etc. He concluded by saying that this would not guarantee that you would live til you were a 100 - it would just feel like that.


I've spoken to my doctors - and the good news is (!) - roll on menopause, it seems this too shall pass, and I will be merry again. In the meantime I feel like I've been launched in to premature middle age. It's not that you have to drink to have a good time, it's just that not drinking is such a statement. No, I'm not pregnant. No, I don't mind if you drink, please go ahead. It's ridiculous that it's such a conflict. Maybe our culture out here is too booze-centric. We do live in wine country after all. I know I should be grateful that I have identified a trigger that, when avoided, cuts my migraines in half. Plenty of people live with this pain day in, day out. I just wish it was cheese, or processed meats, or even chocolate that I was sensitive too. Yes, I'd even give up chocolate for a glass of wine at the end of the day.


Genie said...

I've been lurking about here for a short while -- sorry about that -- but feel compelled to comment here. A couple years ago when I saw a neurologist about frequent migraines. Since I was trying (at the time) to get pregnant, I couldn't take any of the usual medications, and she said "well, I recently read this study ... " Turns out that for *some* people, high doses of magnesium and riboflavin (vitamin B2) have a prophylactic effect on migraines. I now find that 200mg of magnesium has as good or better effect on my migraines as medication. It takes longer to work, but taking both those things every day does keep the migraines away for me. (I still get them though. Because I'm too stupid to take it every day!)

Anyway. The doese of each are high (200mg Mag, 400 mg Ribo) so you might want to check with your own doctor, but I'd highly recommend trying it. It's generally safe, effective, AND you can have wine with it!

AliBlahBlah said...

Genie - thankyou, for delurking, but also for lurking in the first place. I will definitely try the Magnesium and Riboflavin - thanks for the glimmer of hope that I can enjoy a margarita or two this summer ;)

NZSarah said...

I'm also a lurker with migraines - isn't that a charming, yet succinct way to describe myself. I feel as if I should be wearing a trenchcoat in a darkened room holding my head.

Wine is a big trigger for me but some wine is worse. I find red terrible but a riesling or a chardonay is generally fine. I have also found this (Southern Hemisphere)Summer, that beer or cider is not too bad and lovely on a hot evening.

Genie I'm really interested to read about the magnesium and riboflavin. I miss red wine!

Jane/WTKnits said...

Ali - What can I say, this brought it all back. I've been in denial about the alcohol thing on and off for the past 12 years, but finally accepted that it was making me really ill. My tolerance has diminished so much over the years that 2 months ago I gave up and finally went teetotal.
Yes, I think we live in a boozy culture. The lack of imagination in the drinks department when you go out for a meal is astounding. I normally challenege the server to come up with something non-alcoholic that isn't soda. Throws them into a panic most of the time! When one offered me a Shirley Temple, I gave her 'the look'! The best drink so far has been a peach lemonade.
Good luck with your anti-migraine quest. Several friends have found help by changing their diet, cutting out the chemicals and reducing gluten. BTW - the wellness lifestyle you describe is now my adopted one. All those leafy greens and yoga! Namaste my friend.

The Honourable Husband said...

You know, ABB, I'm also one of those people who suddenly found alcohol caused more pain than pleasure. Perhaps they weren't migraines, but booze certainly did cause headaches, and the sleeplessness from a good session would take its toll much worse than before. Less alcohol in my life hasn't been a bad thing at all, from a physical and spiritual point of view. I never thought I'd say that.

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