Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feeding the Hungry Headache

Well, I'm finally emerging from the migraine fog. It was a real humdinger, a week-long whopper the likes of which I haven't experienced in a long time. Not sure what I did to deserve this one, but clearly I somehow managed to really piss off the headache gods big time!


It did make me thankful that this sort of thing is now an oddity and not a regular occurrence as it used to be. I often have people ask me how I have managed to go from 3-4 headaches per month to 3-4 per year, and I promise I'll write a long post about it soon.

Anyhow, part of the whole migraine thing is the nausea, and a while back I read something that speculated that the nausea associated with morning sickness was really extreme hunger triggered by the body's increased demand for calories. I've never been pregnant (and God willing, never will be) but it made sense to me. So this time, instead of shunning food like I generally do when I've got a headache, I decided to try eating.

HOLY MOLY! As soon as I started eating, the nausea morphed into extreme, ravenous hunger! It was really rather incredible. And on day three, when I finally managed to drag myself to the grocery store, I actually came home with a "nasty rotisserie chicken." A friend of mine used to call them "nasty" because of all of the grease, and the name stuck. I actually rarely eat meat, but my body was screaming for it, so I decided to let my body win, and consumed the entire thing in a matter of a day or two.

It totally goes against my principles in so many ways, but I couldn't help myself... and it really did make me feel better. I'm sure the bird wouldn't see it that way though... Sorry, Mr. Chicken, I really am...

Of course, since my defenses were down, I also ended up bringing home a box of Girl Scout Cookies... Samoas, my absolute favorites.

The thing was, they didn't really taste as good as I remembered them, and the sugar probably didn't help the headache any, as I managed to scarf down the entire box in about 24 hours. But hey, my defenses were down.

Anyhow, I'm not sure what to make of the whole thing. It makes me wonder if there's some metabolism component to migraines that isn't currently recognized. I swear, I probably ate double my normal calories last week. It didn't make the headache go away, but it sure made it much easier to tolerate! I do think I'll skip the Girl Scout cookies next time though...

I did a Google search and found a few other people reporting ravenous hunger with migraines. Has anybody else out there ever experienced this sort of thing?

18 comments :

  1. Ah, I'd been wondering where you went. Glad to hear you're feeling better -- rotisserie chicken and Samoas, huh?

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  2. i would assume it's malnutrition! and perhaps candida overgrowth... most likely a combination of both! not that im an expert, but im getting into it on my own account, and its makes total sense

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  3. I get migraines, too. And they often start when I have gone too many hours without having eaten. And even though I don't "feel" hungry, I KNOW I need to eat. It usually does help or even eventually (within a few hours) stop the migraine progression, IF I eat quickly enough. I also take 3 Excedring and 2 Ibuprofin at the onset, and this too helps, but ONLY if I take them at or near the onset.

    You choose strange visuals, EcoCatLady. The chicken grossed me out (I'm a veg), the cookie triggered me (eating disorder tendency) and the burnt diva cup on a previous post made me queasy.

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  4. Ha! The scary part is that I'm also a vegetarian - at least most of the time I am. I do confess though, that the idea of rotisserie chicken and Samoas sort of makes me sick to my stomach at the moment... I think that's a good sign.

    I'm also very interested to learn that I'm not the only person who gets headaches from lack of food. I used to take Excederin, but I can't handle that much caffeine anymore. So now I find that I can usually knock it out with a couple of either Tylenol of Ibuprofen and a cup of green tea.

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  5. Oh man. I just wanted to say thanks for posting this, because it is SO nice to know my post-migraine hunger insanity is normal! It's so weird. When the migraine's attacking, I never want to eat again, and then as soon as it lifts, BAM: CAKE CAKE CAKE, NOW NOW NOW. I literally can't stop myself, and the idea of anything but sugary and/or starchy stuff sends me queasy again. Just now for the first time in over a year I drank a couple of glasses of cow's milk. It felt sooooo goooooooooood. Haha. Sorry, thighs!

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  6. Anon - Well... I don't believe in name calling, so I'd never call you "normal" :~)

    Seriously... I don't know if we're "normal" or not... but at least we're not alone!

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  7. I get ravenous hunger during the migraine prodrome phase mainly and sometimes in the beginning of the migraine. I'm amazed how much I can eat and still feel so hungry. I was talking to a nurse about this and she had a theory that whatever was going on in my brain during the migraine might be affecting the signals in my brain that tell me I'm hungry or tell me I'm full overriding the normal signals with different ones. I also will often notice insatiable sugar cravings during the prodrome along with excessive thirst.

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    1. That is a very interesting theory, and one that I hadn't considered. Hmmmmm... thanks for sharing that little tidbit.

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  8. What you have is hypoglycemia. It begins with lack of glucose in your blood. The brain needs a continuous supply of glucose or it will constrict off the artery on the left side of your neck and the vessels in your brain. This constricts oxygen to your brain. After that, a chemical is released in your head which causes an increase in the ability to feel pain more intensely. Finally, the vessels and artery are dilated and enlarged- larger than normal- to allow a large amount of blood flow (and O2) but the large vessels cause pressure to build up (pain)- such as above and below your eyesockets there is a blood vessel, causing pain there. To prevent this you need to follow a hypoglycemic diet which is similar to a diabetic diet. No more than 15 carbs per meal. And eat every 3 hours. No white pasta, no sugar. Even fruit must be pared down to reduce the carb load. Hypoglycemia is common in overweight people. It causes migraines and hunger 'attacks' unless you follow the diet plan. The new diet won't cure hypoglycemia, only manage it.

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    1. Thanks so much for your thoughts. I know I tend toward hypoglycemia, and I've had my fasting blood sugar measured numerous times, but it always comes out normal. For a few years I went on a very strict low-carb diet to see if it would help my migraines and well... I would say the results were negligible. I did lose weight though... but probably too much as I ended up below the healthy weight for my height - back to normal now though.

      All that being said, I do my very best to keep carbs to a minimum... reserving sugar and simple carbs for days when I'm riding 50 miles, because I just feel better in general when I do that. But the triggers for my migraines are almost always hormonal or emotional - or alcohol.

      But now that I think about it, I wonder if there's something about the migraine itself that might trigger a hypoglycemic state. Hmmmm... well, I'm hoping that I won't get the opportunity to test this any time soon, but next time I get a migraine I'll try going lower carb than usual and see if it helps.

      Thanks again for your thoughts!
      :-)
      Cat

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  9. Reading these posts has been so encouraging. I have a rare, genetic migraine which causes confusion and stumbling, similar to a stroke. Usually I feel pain, but sometimes I have auras and lose my ability to speak. After this last migraine, I had intense hunger. Even though it's been a day or two, I am still ravenous.

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    1. Yikes! Those migraines sound frightening! I still have no idea whether migraine induced hunger is a real thing or not, but eating does seem to help, so I figure why fight it!

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  10. Eco, I can't add any wisdom but it's nice to know I'm not the only migraneur out there with extreme hunger as a prodrome symptom. My doc (a migraine sufferer herself!) is sympathetic but acknowledges that that is a rare symptom and indeed I have looked long and hard for information about that aspect, to no avail. I tend to agree with all of your speculation about the nausea-hunger connection. I made that connection myself -- that is, between low-grade nausea and hunger -- not while pregnant, but while riding on Amtrak and finding myself eating everything the dining car had to offer to keep my motion sickness in check. I also think your nurse might be onto something with the brain signaling getting crossed in the prodrome. I tend to think that it is not hypoglycemia. Like you, my blood sugar has always tested normal and I am not an overeater or even much of a carb/sugar eater. In my life from time to time I have experienced hunger headaches and this is nothing like it. The prodrome hunger frenzy is a different animal altogether. Moreover, my migraines are not triggered by diet in any event -- after years of observation, I can say that my main trigger tends to be sleep distruption. So I can comfortably conclude that the hunger is not a trigger but a symptom of the migraine itself. Anyway, I wanted to weigh in as someone who knows exactly what you are talking about. I sure wish someone would unlock the key to these peculiar sets of symptoms (and migraine generally)!

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    1. Hi Jana, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I tend to agree with you on the hunger being a symptom rather than a cause, and I think "hunger frenzy" is a good way to describe the experience.

      My stepmother is a doctor and also a migraine sufferer - she also loves chocolate. Anyhow, her love of chocolate prompted her to do some research on the chocolate/migraine connection. Apparently what she found was that the research indicates that chocolate does not cause migraines, rather the migraine causes cravings for things like chocolate. I wonder if it's the same mechanism for our intense hunger.

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  11. Hi, im glad the migraine hunger is not just me ! I had 3 ocula migraines yesterday gradually getting worse in severity, but at the beginning of all of them i could have eaten a whole supermarket !! The hunger was unbelievable, i was so completely starving it was bonkers ?? I feel very delicate today but still feel quite hungry and im worried as i really dont want another migraine, mine are few and far between so yesterday was a shock to me, i think it could be hormones as my period is due next week ( but then why dont i get migraines every month ?) As i dont have migraines that often i had no medication with me except paracetamol and ibuprofen which did nothing, i managed to get to a chemist and picked up Sumatriptan, took one tablet as advised but didnt feel it worked so just went straight to bed ( while still feeling ravenous!!) Ive had paracetamol and coedine today and i think i might make some cakes lol !

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    1. Thanks so much for commenting. First of all, I really hope you're feeling better soon! I'm not a big fan of Sumatriptan, or any of the triptans for that matter. I get really bad side effects and usually rebound headaches that are worse than the initial migraine. Oddly enough, what seems to work the best for me is ibuprofen and a cup of coffee or tea. Of course, it doesn't make it go away, it just takes the edge off. I generally just have to ride it out for a few days (my migraines are usually 2-3 day affairs.)

      Anyhow, I wonder if anyone has done any actual scientific research on the hunger thing, because clearly it's a real thing. Perhaps it's not the most common migraine symptom, but it sure seems to be real for at least some of us.

      Feel better!

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  12. I call it the "superhunger". I can't tell if it is the cause or a symptom of migraine, but I think it is a symptom, if only because it is so un-natural. The hunger does not respond to food! I find myself eating and eating my usual (healthy) diet to no avail. The only thing that helps is massive amounts of fatty foods like fries or ice cream, but even that only holds off the hunger for a short time. Yesterday I ate two pints of ice cream and three a huge servings of very cheesy Mac and cheese. I probably consumed three times my normal calories for the day, but the headache is proportionate to the hunger, so I don't feel like I have a choice. It is actually kind of alarming.

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    1. Your symptoms sound very similar to mine and I think you're probably right that it's a symptom rather than a cause. It makes sense since there is a neurological component to migraines. It's very interesting to me how many people are reporting the same thing. Maybe someday a researcher will stumble upon this post and decide to do some studies to give us answers. Until then, I'll keep the ice cream and mac 'n' cheese handy!

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