Weekly migraines were beyond a joke. Where could I turn to for support? To find relief and help, my first port of call was to my General Practitioner who was most unsympathetic, implying that three young children, moving house and working were bound to have a detrimental effect on my health and the combination of stresses had 'chosen' to manifest in the form of migraine.
When I asked for suggestions for relief, anti-depressants were offered as the 'best course of action'. The GP also intimated that in time the migraines would probably disappear; if not a hysterectomy may be the answer!
I wasn't asked if any other family members had similar problems. Nor was I warned about the possible side-effects of the anti-depressants, including the potential of becoming addicted. The whole visit was over within five minutes, I left the surgery reluctantly clutching a prescription. Hopefully this was an atypical experience, and GPs these days are more sympathetic.
I decided to carry out research into the side effects these anti-depressant drugs could induce.
I was horrified to find that the symptoms I suffered, headache, nausea, difficulty concentrating etc. could be further aggravated, and there were other potential side effects such as sexual dysfunction, hair loss and abdominal pain. My immediate instinct was to throw the prescription away; in no way did I want all those chemicals inside me, potentially doing untold long term damage to my body. Neither did I want a hysterectomy, as my migraines did not coincide with monthly hormonal changes.
After alternative advice from family and friends to change my diet, cut out all known triggers such as cheese, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol and have more sleep, I decided to look into complementary therapies and a friend recommended me to try homeopathy. The use of homeopaths was not as widely known as it is today and many people inferred that their practices were somewhat dubious.
Unperturbed and determined to find someone to help me I used the local telephone directory to seek out registered homeopaths, finally arranging an initial consultation with the one who seemed the most genuinely interested and concerned with my plight during our introductory telephone conversation.
When I arrived, the homeopath began explaining in detail the 'like-for-like' principles of homeopathy.
She was not at all offended or alarmed by my questions about her training and qualifications, the answers to which were most reassuring.
We had a full discussion of my family and medical history. During this, I confided my fears that these migraines could be a precursor to developing epilepsy, like my sister. We also discussed my present and past emotional states and the holistic approach to finding suitable relief.
During the consultation I explained that my migraine usually started at the back of the head and spread predominantly to the right temple, accompanied by a pounding, throbbing pain and was worsened by light, noise, jarring and cold hands and feet. From this and careful questioning about other life and family factors, the homeopath concluded that Belladonna would be beneficial for me.
She told me that Belladonna is also known as Deadly Nightshade.
I was somewhat alarmed by this and expressed my concerns over using such a toxic and sometimes fatal plant. The homeopath understood my concerns, and agreed that it would be dangerous to use Belladonna for self-help, without the supervision of a qualified practitioner, who would know the correct dilution to use.
As an aside, Belladonna means 'beautiful eyes' in Italian and preparations of it were used in days gone-by to dilate the pupils and make women appear more alluring and sexy.
Although that was a fascinating snippet of information, I was even more interested to hear that Belladonna has been a beneficial remedy for over 500 years. I was relieved to learn that atropine, derived from Belladonna, is an ingredient of some over-the-counter cough medicines.
My homeopath explained that should Belladonna not be beneficial there were other homeopathic remedies such as Sanguinarine, which is used to treat migraines with similar symptoms but accompanied by vomiting, which rarely happened in my case. Therefore it was agreed that Belladonna be prescribed initially.
The recommended dose, for me, was 3 tablets each morning and 3 at night for 5 days. She then asked me to come back for assessment within a week. She also advised me to exclude cheese, chocolate, caffeine and alcohol for the time being, while keeping a headache diary to enable triggers to be identified and discussed during future consultations.
I continued visiting the homeopath on a weekly basis for several months, all the while continuing to take daily doses of Belladonna which were gradually reduced. The homeopath always made the visits productive and as she found out more and more about me, my life-style and triggers, she noticed that I have a tendency to clench my jaw and grind my back teeth when subjected to topics of discussion that were upsetting or made me angry. She advised me always to sleep with my mouth slightly ajar to prevent muscle tension. I still try to remember to do this, if I feel stressed, and even as I go to sleep. The improvements in the severity, intensity and frequency of my migraines were astounding and gradually they disappeared.
I strongly recommend that anyone who suffers from migraine attacks should consult with a homeopath as I'm sure they will find the experience and their professionalism as 'life-changing' as I have.
To repeat: Belladonna is another name for deadly night-shade, and should NEVER be self-administered. Use it ONLY under the supervision of a registered and qualified practitioner.
Joy Healey qualified as a nutritionist in 2000, at the prestigious Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London. Her dissertation topic was migraines.
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