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My Migraine Story, By Rachel Alderson

19 July 2018

TV and radio journalist, adventurer, management consultant, and now Registered Nutritional Therapist. Why did that happen?

Because I’m a long-term migraine sufferer, that’s why.

But here’s the good news – improving how I  nourished my body changed my life.

This is my story.

The first migraine I remember was when I was revising for my O levels and I’d eaten a big bar of chocolate. Like many of you experiencing a migraine for the first time, I didn’t know what had hit me when this intense pain, together with many more unfamiliar and unpleasant symptoms, came out of the blue. I saw the doctor, was diagnosed and given tablets and the migraines kept coming. I spent years trying to work out how to lessen them, manage them, or even just make life liveable. By the time I was 22, I was having three migraines a week with no idea what was triggering them – there seemed no consistency.

Eventually, my doctor told me about the National Migraine Centre. I was delighted by the straightforward, helpful advice, including positive actions I could take to avoid different migraine triggers. I went through a programme to stop my addiction to the painkillers which were causing medication-overuse headaches and we got my migraines under control, to a degree.

In a constant bid to improve them, glimmers of hope came and went. I was screened for a research study to help migraine sufferers. Yes, I had the condition they were looking for but no, mine wasn’t bad enough so I didn’t qualify to take part. More frustration. How was I going to make life manageable with this pain, nausea, sensitivity to light, sound and smells, tingling, numbness and a general feeling that I’d been steamrollered like a cartoon character?

Fast-forward five years and I found myself visiting an aunt, indulging in the amazing cheeses in her fridge every day for over a week. I also spent the best part of that time sleeping in a darkened room, taking more and more migraine medication, wondering why I was in such pain. Despite knowing cheese can be a food migraine trigger for me, I had forgotten that I needed to avoid it. Memory can be a short-term thing.

Right then, I decided I had to get to grips with my migraines. I had to understand them so I could manage them more successfully. I had to stop them controlling me.

I found my way to a Nutrition Practitioner. She asked for details about how I felt, my symptoms, my sleep and energy levels and what I was eating. Her questions were not just about my migraines, everything was important to her. I was delighted someone was looking at my whole body for the first time, considering the root cause rather than the individual symptom.

After analysing my situation and sending me for some lab tests, she came back with a number of things she thought needed attention. I was surprised by the findings. Blood sugar imbalance, insulin resistance, underactive thyroid, adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalance, food intolerances linked to a permeable gut, as well as my migraines. No wonder I’d been feeling so dreadful. I was also relieved – now I had something to work on.

My Nutrition Practitioner talked with me a lot about what I was eating, explained changes she recommended and suggested some supplements. Together we drew up a nutrition and lifestyle plan which was workable for me. She helped me change the way I looked at food and realise how what I ate may affect the way I felt. I began to feel better, sleep better, lose weight and have more energy and yes, fewer, less intense migraines. I was over the moon – I was managing them at last.

I was so impressed with the way my Nutrition Practitioner had helped me that I decided to study and become a Registered Nutritional Therapist myself. Knowing the pain of migraines and how destructive they can be to daily life made me determined to arm myself with the knowledge and understanding which would help me even more in the future.

Managing your migraines can get easier. The more you get to know and understand them, the less they control you and the more you can live, and enjoy life to the full.


If you would like to contact Rachel please email her at rachel@rachelaldersonnutrition.com

If you have any comments regarding this article please contact Charlotte at charlotte.burr@nationalmigrainecentre.org.uk


Please note that these stories are not the views of the National Migraine Centre. Migraine is unique and what may work for one person will not always work for the other. If you have any queries or concerns about your headaches please discuss them with your GP or with one of the headache specialist doctors at the National Migraine Centre.

Click here to book a consultation with a headache specialist doctor.