Archive for May, 2018

Photo: Lauren Naefe

Migraines affect 40 percent of the population, and those living with migraines understand the feeling of living with fear and anxiety over the next attack. Since the age of 19, I have suffered with migraines and am very familiar with the aura, the pain, and the aftermath. I see many patients with frequent migraine attacks that can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Some are particularly hard to break, so I work with them to identify triggers, address nutrition, influence lifestyle choices, and guide them with treatments that would be most effective. Suffice it to say, migraine prevention can be a journey.

In addition to being a neurologist, I have taken that journey myself. I have worked hard over the years to not only learn the mystery of migraines but also to understand what my body and brain need to ensure fewer migraine attacks. Here is what has worked for me and for many of my patients:

1. I get regular sleep.

My family will tell you how rigid I am regarding my sleep. I go to sleep around the same time each night and wake the same time each morning. (Yes, even on the weekends.) Getting the same number of hours of sleep each night is important, but just as important is that those hours are on the same schedule. So eight hours of sleep between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. is not the same as eight hours of sleep between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m.

2. I avoid food triggers.

I ran some tests on myself and learned that I am sensitive to tyramines found in soy, aged cheeses, and fermented or pickled foods. I removed these foods completely from my diet. My testing proved I was completely tolerant to gluten. A plant-based diet works for me, and I make sure to include healthy fats like avocado and seeds, which make the brain happy. Find out what foods work best for your individual body with an elimination diet and/or food sensitivity testing.

3. I stay well-hydrated with water and electrolytes.

Healthy kidney function will allow you to excrete fluids to maintain a healthy salt and water balance in the body. To maintain good hydration, add electrolytes to your water. Luckily, it’s super easy because electrolyte tablets that you can just drop in your water bottle are available all over the place.

4. I regularly exercise.

I am super busy with family and work and used to use that as an excuse to exercise less often. But facing frequent migraines taught me that it cannot be an excuse. I wake up a little earlier four to five days a week to run or take a yoga class. It starts my day on a really positive note and keeps my headache frequency way down.

5. I juice each morning with turmeric and ginger.

These roots have some major antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power, helping to reduce chronic inflammation and keep me in tiptop shape. I add lemon, cucumber, and a pear for taste and extra hydration. Here’s the full recipe for the brain-boosting tonic I drink every morning.

6. I manage stress with meditation and deep breathing.

Meditation has been shown to reduce nervous system tension and response to internal or external stimuli. Deep breathing helps improve oxygen delivery everywhere, including the brain.

7. I take select supplements.

People with migraines are often deficient in nutrients like magnesium and riboflavin. I also add important herbal nervines for further nervous system support and stress management.

8. I have a migraine action plan.

When I feel a migraine coming on, I drink a large glass of ice cold lemon and ginger juice, drink a black cup of coffee, and may even take an ibuprofen.

These changes in my life have helped significantly to not only lower the frequency of my migraines but also shorten the duration and decrease the severity. I often share these recommendations with patients and, over time, the majority find these changes help them reduce their need for medications. And remember, please always speak to your doctor if you suffer from new or changing headaches!



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Immunizing girls against human papillomavirus (HPV) doesn’t increase their risk for autoimmune diseases, according to new research from Canada.

HPV is the world’s most common sexually transmitted disease, affecting up to 75 percent of sexually active people and is the main cause of cervical cancer. Gardisil, the quadrivalent HPV4 vaccine, protects against up to 90 percent of strains that cause cervical and rectal cancer.

“Despite demonstrated effectiveness in real-world settings, concerns continue to persist regarding the safety of the HPV4 vaccine,” said lead study author Dr. Jeffrey Kwong. He’s a senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto and at Public Health Ontario.

“In light of these concerns, we wanted to study the HPV4 vaccination since it was being offered free to all grade 8 girls in Ontario through school-based clinics,” Kwong added.

To see if the vaccine triggered autoimmune conditions such lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, Kwong’s team reviewed data on 210,000 girls aged 12 to 17 who were eligible for vaccination between 2007 and 2013.

Of nearly 181,000 girls who were vaccinated, about 680 were diagnosed with an autoimmune disease between one week and two months later.

The researchers said this rate is consistent with the rate of diagnosed cases among all girls in this age group.

The report was published May 28 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

“These findings add to the body of evidence on the safety of the HPV4 vaccine and should reassure parents and health care providers,” study co-author Linda Levesque said in a journal news release. Levesque is on the pharmacy faculty at the University of Toronto.

More information

Learn more about HPV vaccine from the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

SOURCE: Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 28, 2018


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Closing coal and oil plants may lead to fewer premature births and improved fertility in neighboring communities, according to two new studies.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley found that preterm deliveries dropped 20 percent to 25 percent in California after eight power plants closed down between 2001 and 2011.

“We were excited to do a good news story in environmental health,” said study lead author Joan Casey, a postdoctoral fellow.

“Most people look at air pollution and adverse health outcomes, but this is the flip side: We said, let’s look at what happens when we have this external shock that removes air pollution from a community and see if we can see any improvements in health,” Casey said in a university news release.

Researchers compared premature births and fertility rates in women two years before and one year after the closures. The facilities included San Francisco’s Hunters Point Power Plant, which was retired in 2006. The women’s age, socioeconomic status, education level and race were also taken into account.

Next, the researchers divided the neighboring areas into three rings that measured 3 miles wide. Then they analyzed state birth records to identify trends in premature births within each ring.

The most significant improvement occurred in the ring closest to the plant — within 3 miles, the researchers said.

Overall, the team found that preterm births — before 37 weeks of pregnancy — dropped from 7 percent to about 5 percent.

Among black and Asian women, premature deliveries fell more significantly — from about 14 percent to a just over 11 percent, the study showed.

Casey said the 20 to 25 percent drop in preterm birth rates was larger than expected, but in keeping with other research tying birth problems to air pollution around power plants.

“It would be good to look at this relationship in other states and see if we can apply a similar rationale to retirement of power plants in other places,” Casey said.

The researchers compared their findings to an analysis of eight power plants that were still operational and found preterm rates remained the same. They said this supports their conclusion.

The findings appear May 22 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

A separate study was published May 2 in Environmental Health. For that work, UC Berkeley researchers examined similar data and found that fertility improved around coal and oil power plants once they closed.

But as in the first study, only an association was seen between plant closings and birth outcomes.

“We believe that these papers have important implications for understanding the potential short-term community health benefits of climate and energy policy shifts and provide some very good news on that front,” said study co-author and professor Rachel Morello-Frosch.

“These studies indicate short-term beneficial impacts on preterm birth rates overall and particularly for women of color,” Morello-Frosch added.

More information

Columbia University has more on how fossil fuels affect children’s health.

SOURCE: University of California, Berkeley, news release, May 22, 2018


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