This is a topic near to my heart…. and my head.
About 4 years back my migraines reached a screaming crescendo.
1-3 migraines a week each lasting 6-12 hours. Ugh.
They were completely debilitating. Laying down made them worse so I would lean against the wall in our darkened bedroom, sometimes for hours, with my arms twitching and my nose so sensitive that the scent of dinner cooking downstairs would make me vomit.
Vomiting was actually a huge relief. All I could look forward to, in the middle of my head hell, was puking. After 6 or 7 heaves into the porcelain goddess, there was half a chance the pain level would hit “bearable” and I’d be able to sleep (Andrew says this language is too graphic… but the migraines were too graphic so it seems appropriate).
Really, any sane person would have lived at the E.R. Maybe they would have given that sane person a morphine drip.
I tried everything I could think of. On a whim one day I drank an entire pot of Uva Ursi tea. It worked. The headache went away…. that once. It never worked again. And Uva Ursi tastes horrid.
Sometimes I would put my feet into a really hot sage foot bath. If I caught the headache early enough, that could take it from a full-blown hurricane down to a tropical storm.
Using lavender, peppermint, and nutmeg essential oils on my temple and neck also helped…. when I could tolerate the scent.
Butterbur extract helped…. a smidge. Feverfew, not at all.
On what I thought was a side note, my ankles started to become extraordinarily stiff. So stiff that I had to brace myself between the stairwell walls so I could make it down the steps in the morning.
In the spring of 2009, the headaches let up a bit. I got down to once a week which was a huge relief. But then during, the summer, they came back with a vengeance.
What was the difference between spring and summer?
I had started growing them in my garden and was eating the luscious things at almost every meal. And the migraines were back up to crippling levels.
As an experiment, I stopped eating the tomatoes. The headaches backed off considerably but did not completely disappear.
Thus the research began! While I couldn’t find much in the medical literature, reading about the chemistry of plants in the Solanaceae family backed up what my body was telling me.
Here are the basics:
The Solanaceae family is also called the Nightshade family.
Its members include:
- peppers (bell, sweet, capsicum, chili, paprika, cayenne, etc but not black pepper which is from a different plant family)
- ground cherries
- lycium fruit (also called goji berries)
- also Belladonna, Datura, and Mandrake
These foods all contain compounds that are similar to nicotine although they have different names in different plants.
Without getting too technical, these chemical components can cause a back-up of sensation in the nerve endings. Kind of like a nervous system traffic jam. When you remember that the nervous system runs on electrical impulses, and then you picture a nervous system traffic jam, it gets kind of ugly.
This kind of ugly can lead to headaches or migraines, arthritic symptoms, GERD, twitching muscles or muscle contractions.
Nightshades take 12-24 hours to cause these types of reactions which makes it real tough to blame the tomato. When you get a migraine at noon, you really don’t stop to think about what you ate for dinner the night before!
But if you suffer from any of these types of Nightshade related symptoms, try a week or two being solanaceae-free and see how you feel.
For me, not eating nightshades has changed everything. I know I can take a road trip, or get on an airplane, or go to the movies… and not end up with a migraine.