Spring has finally arrived in the Southern Hemisphere. I mark the beginning of spring by the blooming of my Wisteria. The start of the purple rain, as the Jacarandas are not far behind. It’s nature showing us that it’s a time for out with the old and in with the new. It’s a tidying up of the environment.
Change can be tough for migraineurs. Anything that’s new has the potential to have hidden migraine triggers. A tried and true food, personal hygiene item, cleaning supply or workplace might suddenly be the root cause of some cluster migraines because something about them has changed.
The change can originate from two sources, either a;
- change in the formulation of the product, or
- change along the supply chain.
A change in formulation is easy to determine. A red flag is a change in packaging and in most cases signals a change in the ingredients. A quick read through the ingredients will let you know if any migraine triggers have been added. Ingredients you want to look out for are:
- Added glutamates in the form of yeast extract, natural flavourings and malted/malto anything.
- Added preservatives especially the “natural” preservatives rosemary and celery extract.
- A change in the country of origin or manufacturer. This indicates a change in the supply chain.
A change in the supply chain is much more difficult to determine yet they can have devastating consequences for migraineurs. We recently went through this with tea.
Stuart drinks three cups of tea a day. Since I’ve known him he’s been devoted to one brand, the same tea that has supplied the British monarchy since Queen Victoria. Convenient because it meant that wherever we were we could find the tea at pretty much any grocery store. We mixed it up with different blends; English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Australian Afternoon and sometimes Russian Caravan.
I always bought them in boxes of 100 tea bags and we would work our way through a blend before opening a new box.
Then suddenly out of the blue Stuart fell into a pattern of cluster migraines. Careful reverse engineering of his lifestyle and diet could not elucidate any triggers. As we were about a week into a brand new box of Irish Breakfast I decided to change up the tea. And sure enough, after 24 hours the cluster migraines broke.
Nothing outward on the packaging or ingredient list had changed. So we chalked it up to a change in the supply chain. It could have been any step along the manufacturing process like:
- a new tea supplier that contaminated the tea in some way,
- a change in the manufacturing process, and/or
- moving manufacturing to a place with fewer regulations and/or more pollution.
We’ll never know, and to be honest we didn’t care, we just stopped drinking that blend.
Then a month later the same thing with a new box of English Breakfast. But this time it was associated with a change in packaging. The boxes of tea now came with 80 bags, not 100, and the price was still the same.
As well, the tea was now being manufactured in China. So we can’t be sure if the tea itself was grown in a contaminated environment or if during the processing it became contaminated from the environment. Either way the long standing brand of tea was now a migraine trigger.
It didn’t take very long to find a tea that is migraine trigger free. I was armed with the information that the supply chain needed to be very short, in addition to being manufactured in a country with good regulations and little air pollution. After about 15 minutes of reading labels in the grocery store I decided on single source teas, manufactured on their plantations and preferable organic. I was pleasantly surprised that the organic teas at the grocery store are the same price as the major brands of tea.
Stuart still drinks three cups of tea a day. But we had to toss out the old tried and true brand and bring in something new. Not because he changed but because they changed.
Change is hard for migraineurs. Next week I’ll continue with this theme and explore how migraineurs might add something new into their diet.
Enjoy my friends.
As always, whenever making lifestyle changes be sure and consult your healthcare team. Under no circumstances should you stop or start taking medication or supplements without their consent.