How I manage my migraines

I remember my first migraine attack so vividly.

I was about 9 years old and it was a hot summer day. My mother took us to go swimming in the neighborhood pool and I remember I was having the time of my life when I suddenly got this stabbing pain on my right temple and it just kept throbbing.

The pain was so unfamiliar to me that I didn’t know how to classify it. Was it pain? Is my head going to explode? What is going on? Is my brain just bouncing against my skull back and forth? Is this normal? You know, typical questions drawn by a 9 year child’s imagination. Nonetheless, I continued to play and did my best to ignore the pain.

I remember feeling nauseated as well but I wasn’t going to let that get in the way of my swimming pool time. As we were walking back home, I remember the sun being so bright and with every step I took, it felt like my brain was literally bouncing back and forth in my cranium.

Looking back at it, “ignoring” the pain was probably the strongest thing I’ve ever done because when I get a migraine today, my whole life practically stops until I find the best way to get rid of it.

So, what is the best way to get rid of a migraine? Before we get into that, let’s discuss what exactly is a migraine and what are the causes of a migraine?

Migraines are NOT just a bad headache. A migraine it is a manifestation of neurological symptoms. This means that a chronic migraine or just any migraine involves nerves and brain chemicals or hormones.

There are so many different types of migraines and some actually occur outside of the brain. For instance, an abdominal migraine is one that affects infants and children and their abdomen is where the pain is located. And there are also specific types of migraines such as basilar migraines which we know affect specific structures in the bottom of the brain called the brainstem.

Migraines can be associated with auras, meaning they have a sign that tells you “hey, you have a migraine coming.” But just like there are aural migraines, there are migraines without auras and actually some people don’t even experience aura’s before migraines.

A typical migraine attack for me either starts as soon as I wake up or I suddenly get it in the afternoon. I’ve always had them like this. I rarely get a headache before I go to sleep or in the evening. If I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, I almost always end up with a migraine the next morning.

This past month I’ve actually had a bad migraine almost every day. Luckily, I am much better now. When someone gets migraines for over half of a month, those migraines are referred to as “chronic migraines”.

Triggers

The first step in getting migraine relief is figuring out what triggers your migraines and working toward minimizing though triggers to prevent migraine episodes. A trigger is anything that can cause or induce a migraine episode.

The older I get, the more I learn about my migraine triggers, what they are, and how to deal with them so that I can avoid a migraine. Here are a few triggers for me and can very well be yours:

Hormones

Ladies, those of you who get migraines associated with your menstrual cycle, you know how these migraines are. THEY ARE THE WORST. I hate these migraine attacks…not that I have a particularly favorite migraine attack but I mean these are just horrible.

To me, they are the most debilitating out of the migraines I get. These definitely are a 10/10 on the pain scale for me. I get constant, throbbing pain that does not go away until I finally fall asleep. And unfortunately, there isn’t anything that I have tried that seems to make them go away or to prevent them from recurring every cycle. Of course, I am always open to suggestions!

Caffeine withdrawal

Because I am Sudanese, tea is basically a component of my bloodstream lol. I drink at least 2 cups of tea every day, especially in the morning and when I don’t, I have a migraine to look forward to that day.

Some people drink tea but I always drink tea in the morning but there are times when I’ve run out of milk and couldn’t make my tea (yes, we drink tea with milk and it’s delicious!!) so I end up suffering the whole day.

The first week of Ramadan is usually the toughest for me because I stay away from tea so I have a migraine almost every day that week and then my body adjusts to the no caffeine and I no longer get migraines.

I also drink green tea throughout the day and the week before exams, I drink a cup of coffee a day for the extra energy boost. Now to think of it, I think I may have a slight caffeine addiction but that’s another story lol

Stress

Stress literally destroys the body in all aspects.  STRESS LITERALLY DESTROYS THE BODY IN ALL ASPECTS. I had to repeat that and capitalize it to make sure it is getting the proper emphasis.

Around exam time, I get severe migraines and I also get them after exams because I get so anxious about finding out my grades for the exams. Final times is really stressful, I would get migraines all the way until finals and the day of my exams, are really intense. I’ve noticed this trend about my body and stress definitely comes in all forms.

If you are prone to getting headaches, I’m almost positive that stress makes them worse.

A little bit of relief

Because migraines have an unknown cause, this makes treatment difficult. When I was younger and before medical school, I’ve done my best to avoid prescription medications for migraines.

I didn’t want to get into the habit of taking medications regularly but what I didn’t realize was that the more I tried to avoid medications, the more and more migraines I started to get.

I even stopped taking over the counter meds for migraines because I was scared I would damage my liver since I got migraines so frequently. It seemed that my migraines were getting worse.

I spoke to my neuroscience professor about this and I was told that the more I avoid the medication, the more my body becomes sensitized to triggers and getting migraines. This means that the more migraines I get that I don’t treat, the easier my body will react to a trigger and the easier I will get a migraine. This was completely new to me! I never knew this.

As of now, my professor has advised me to see my physician because he believes that I get chronic migraines. In the meantime, here are somethings that I have tried that have offered some relief in terms of migraines for me:

Over the counter medications

Over the years, I’ve tried so many different over the counter medications to help with pain relief. For example, Aleve, Excedrin, Extra strength Tylenol, Advil, Motrin (which by the way is the same thing as Advil) and they have all been great but eventually, they stopped working for me so I move on to the next one.
                                                                 

Currently, Midol and Goody’s extra strength powder are my go-to over the counter meds until I get home and see my physician to get placed on a prescription.

Black seed oil

Black seed oil is the apple cider vinegar for Sudanese people. Muscle aches? Black seed oil. Headache? Black seed oil. Sinus problems? Black seed oil.

According to my people, it cures numerous ailments. I’m not sure if there is research to back that up BUT I have definitely tried this before and I still do every time I get a migraine because honestly, I do get some relief when I apply black seed oil to my temples and forehead whenever I get a migraine attack. I also put it on my scalp and it helps.

Black seed oil has a strong smell and can stain clothes so be careful not to get it on your clothes. I find that the smell of it is what actually helps me with the migraines.

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This is the black seed oil I use. I get it from my local Halal Market. It’s imported and I have only been able to find it a Halal Market. You probably will not find it on Amazon or online.

Massage

When I used to live back home and would get a migraine attack my mom would massage my shoulders lol it was amazing and within 30 minutes I would get sooooo much relief and sometimes the migraine would go away.

I was surprised this worked and of course, but my mom was the one who told me to try it and moms are always right.

Vicks VapoRub

Okay, first, I didn’t know it was called Vicks VAPO-Rub. I’ve always called it “Vick’s Vapor Rub.” Smh you live and you learn lol

Anyways, most foreign moms and grandmas prescribe Vicks VapoRub for about 90% of all sicknesses and ailments. There isn’t a thing my mom would not prescribe Vicks VapoRub for. So, when she first told me about it, I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised.

As of yet, there isn’t a thing my mom has suggested that I have not tried so naturally I tried this, I mean…mom’s know everything after all, no matter how silly it may be sound.

Surprisingly, it really does reduce my pain I get with a migraine. When I get a migraine, I would apply it to my temples, and just lay in the dark for a little bit and would get a lot of relief afterward. I’m not sure if this is a placebo effect or we are on to something here.

Long term prevention

Now that we have talked about migraine triggers and some tips for pain relief, how do we prevent the frequency of migraines long term? Here are some long term strategies that I am implementing to help me cope with migraines. Try them and see how much of a difference they make for you:

Reducing and coping with stress

This will not just reduce the frequency of your migraines but I strongly believe that it will improve your quality of life. Like I’ve said before, stress is inevitable so we are bound to get stressed by something. What’s important is how to deal with that stress.

Whether it’s yoga and meditation or sprinting and lifting weights, whatever makes you feel better is ultimately reducing your stress. The more you do the things that make you forget about how hectic life is for a moment, the better off you will be.

Get more sleep

How many times have you heard that 8 hours a day are beneficial? Sleep, or lack thereof, has been implicated in so many health issues. I try my best to sleep at least 7 hours a night because I know from experience what lack of sleep does to my body.

If you get frequent migraines, try looking into your sleeping habits first. Let me know how that goes!

Consistency and balance are key

You don’t have to suffer from migraines. Yes, they can be extremely debilitating, annoying, and overall just frustrating to have because they can slow you down. Trust me I know. I used to blame my headaches for everything.

Educate yourselves and get in tune with your body. Know your triggers. This is what made such a huge difference for me. Once I started to become proactive in my health, I have noticed my episodes don’t last as long and I get them less frequently.

Read up on migraines because science is constantly changing. Get help and get treated.

As always, I’m happy to answer any questions via email at contactnilechild@gmail.com

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I’m sure that somehow, somewhere, we’ve all heard about a prostate. Perhaps you know someone who had prostate cancer or you know that because you’re a male, you have a prostate. Or, if you’re like me and my sister, you had to do your own extensive research about what “benign prostatic hypertrophy” is so that you could explain it a loved one. But what exactly is this mysterious thing and why is there so much fuss about getting it checked at age 50?

When you google the word “prostate” you get the general definition of the prostate being a walnut sized gland that is found ONLY in males and it secretes something that helps nourish the sperm. This definition pretty much sums it up. Having dissected the prostate in Anatomy Lab during my first year of med school, I would say that it is a li than a walnut but then again, my person could have had an enlarged prostate because he was elderly. If you have an Iphone, look at the port of your charger. The prostate is just a little bit bigger than that. It looks like a ball. It looks so harmless.

So now that we have established what it looks like, what does it mean for the prostate to be a gland? A gland is “something” in the body that secretes these special chemicals called “hormones” which go to other places in your body and perform certain functions. Our bodies are FILLED with glands and we have MANY different hormones in our bodies. For instance, the PINEAL GLAND our brains secrete a hormone called MELATONIN that helps us fall asleep. With this being said, the prostate is a gland that secretes a special substance (a fluid) which nourishes the sperm. This fluid that the prostate secretes is what makes up semen. With all of this being said, it’s important to know that the prostate is not REQUIRED for life but it is only required for reproduction.

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I found this image on google to help illustrate where the prostate gland is located.

In terms of where it is located, the prostate sits right underneath the bladder. Think of the bladder as a bubble that holds the urine. There is a hose that that is connected to the bladder which takes the urine out of the bladder and eventually out of the body. That hose is called the “URETHRA.” This hose runs right through the middle of the prostate. Now, we can see why an enlarged prostate can cause some problems with urination but we will get to those in a later post.

It is important to note that the prostate normally gets larger as the male ages and it is also important to note that an enlarged prostate does not always mean cancer. The doctor usually performs SEVERAL tests before confirming a diagnosis of prostate cancer or benign prostatic hypertrophy. Younger males generally don’t have to worry about prostate cancer unless there is a family history of it.

There is a screening test at AGE 40 for males. Remember, screening tests are important because they help catch a disease early so that it can be treated earlier!

I’ll definitely go in depth about this gland in a later post but I hope that you found it helpful in understanding what exactly a prostate is. If you have any questions or need a more in depth understanding about prostate, don’t hesitate to email me at: Contact@nilechild.com

My skincare Do’s and Don’t’s

A lot people compliment my skin and ask me if I have some sort of secret product that I use in which I will recommend. My answer is always NO. Truthfully, I feel as though I neglect my skin and would like to change that. I do, however, have a lot of things that I abide by to maintain clear skin. Although these may seem generic, I have religiously followed these Do’s and Don’ts ever since I can remember. The important thing that I have realized when it comes to skincare is that consistency really does go a long way. Patience is also very important because clear skin does not happen over night. It takes time for cells to regenerate and marks to fade. Any of these things below have worked for me specifically and may or may not work for everyone; however, I do believe that they will help somehow.

DO: Drink water.
This is such an obvious one. You have probably seen this everywhere and on almost any website when you have searched for clear skin. I tend to drink about 3 liters of water a day. When I don’t drink a lot of water, not only do I have a headache but I notice that the skin on my face is dry and so are my lips. I definitely don’t recommend drinking gallons and gallons of water a day for clear skin but the standard 8 glasses a day is a really good start.
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DON’T: Pick pimples.
I am so guilty of this!! Every once in a while, I will have that one annoying pimple that is just so tempting to pop. I do everything in my power to avoid popping it but eventually, temptation gets the best of me and then I pop it, and I’m left with a dark mark and then I spend the following weeks angry at myself for creating a mark on my skin that could have easily been avoided! So, my point is please don’t pick or pop your pimples because the mark on the face will be more annoying than the pimple!

DO: Wear Sunscreen.
I have worn sunscreen ever since I was 16 years old. Now that I think about it, that is a really long time! I’m not sure what or who got me into wearing sunscreen because I’ve never been to a dermatologist for my face but ever since I was young, I’ve made the habit of wearing sunscreen every single day. Almost all of my friends were puzzled when I revealed to them that I have worn sunscreen for that long. They’re confused why I wear sunscreen because of the “do black people need to wear sunscreen?” mentality. My answer is yes. Simply put, the has UV rays which can damage your skin regardless of your color. Obviously the darker you are, the more protection you have; however, I believe that frequent sun exposure does increase wrinkles.
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DON’T: Over or Under moisturize
So this one really depends on your skin type. I know that for me, I rarely use moisturizers because as soon as I do, I start to notice more pimples on my face. This does not go for everyone though. For instance, my sister uses a moisturizer daily because if she doesn’t, her skin immediately starts to show dryness and she ends up with flakes of dry skin.

I’ve read a lot about dermatologists recommending a moisturizer for everyone; however, that really hasn’t worked out for me but it’s not to say it won’t work for you! Because wearing moisturizer has been recommended by so many dermatologists, I think my issue is finding the right moisturizer not just a problem with all moisturizers. Until then though, I think over moisturizing can be a bad thing because you’re putting more oils on the skin which clog up pores but also under moisturizing promotes skin dryness. So, find your balance!

DO: Eat your fruits and veggies
I’m sure there is a saying somewhere out there about how it’s better to tackle a problem from the root rather than from the surface. I’m a huge believer in that saying. I truly believe that what we put into our bodies makes its way to the surface eventually. For instance, when I eat a lot of sugars and oily foods, I start to have pimples but when I eat all of my greens and fruits as well as drink plenty of water, I notice that my skin is clear with no problems. Remember, it starts from within!
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DON’T: Eat too many sweets
I don’t believe that eating sweets directly causes acne but I do believe that consuming too many sweets make the acne worse, if that makes sense. We all have different skin types, this means that we react differently to different things we ingest. I knew a friend who used to get acne break outs whenever he ate a lot of chocolate. I get acne breakouts on my face when I eat oily foods and I am sure a lot of people are like that as well. It all depends on our skin types.

Though it is extremely hard because I have a giant sweet tooth, I try to stay away from sweets because I believe too much sugar is bad for our overall health. I used to have dessert every single day after both lunch and dinner but diabetes runs in my family and genetics are strong so I try my best now to avoid them. I believe in eating in moderation so every once in a while, I demolish a slice of cheesecake or a brownie. I’m not perfect lol. Anyways, consuming a lot of sugars triggers all of these reactions in the body which may or may not provoke acne breakouts in some people. Just to be safe, I stay away!
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DO: Cleanse daily
So you know those days when you come home and you’re so exhausted that you practically collapse in bed only to wake up the next morning to find you did not remove your make-up the night before? Me neither. In fact, this has never happened to me because 1. I don’t wear make up and 2. I make sure that I wash my face every single night before I fall asleep. I make sure I remove all the bacteria and dried up sweat that I accumulated during the day. This is another habit that I have developed early on.

DO: Wash/Swap pillow cases regularly
Okay so this one doesn’t directly have to do with the face yet it does! I like to wash my pillow cases once a week sometimes twice a week. I do this because I moisturize my hair regularly and I know that the oils from my hair always end up on my pillow cases and ultimately, my face. And as I mentioned before, any additional oils on my face cause breakouts for me.

DON’T: Drink Soda
Oh man! I can write a 10 page paper on this but I’ll try not to. If you were to google “Reasons to avoid drinking soda” you will, without a doubt, get so many links that range from blogs to research articles to newspaper articles. I think this goes under the “don’t eat to many sweets” topic; however, soda is a category of itself. I know plenty of people who don’t eat a lot of sweets but it is an absolute requirement for them to have a soda at lunch or dinner or during the day. When I was younger, I used to drink soda plenty of times and drink I still drink a ginger ale once in a while (like once every 6 months) but for the most part, I don’t drink the typical sodas. Not only does the high sugar content scare me but so do the other ingredients.

As a general rule, I avoid things where I don’t understand the ingredients on the food label. The artificial ingredients, specifically aspartame, in diet sodas scare me. Since aspartame has been linked to so many chronic diseases and seizures, I know it must be bad for the skin. If you do drink soda, I urge you to educate yourselves about the effects of it and please please please try to avoid it. Normally, I don’t like to tell people what to do because I believe that everyone should live their lives; however, this is the exception. When something is bad for your entire body I am completely against it! soft-2262307_640

DO: Use a toner
So, this is a habit that I did not develop until my about my junior year of college. I use a toner everyday, twice a day now. I use this after I wash my face to remove excess oils and dirt from my face. It’s prefect for sensitive skin and its natural. I feel that it really cleanses my pores without drying my skin.

DO: SLEEP!!!!
Sleep 7-8 hours a night every night and watch your life change in so many ways. I don’t play with this one. Sleep is probably the most important thing for the body. When you sleep, your body gets stronger in a sense. It rests. It gets better at fighting things off. It gets better at repairing damage including things like acne scars.

DON’T: Buy into “quick fix” deals
Have you ever heard of the phrase, “If it’s too good to be true, then it is?” I believe that this applies to so many things in life. I can’t tell you how many times I have researched “how to remove dark marks” from my face and came across a post or a product that stated it could remove my acne marks in as little as 1 week. I never bought into those things because I know how long it takes for the skin cells to regenerate. I know how the body works and I try to stay away from anything that alters the natural functioning of the body so I figure that these products do just that! Knowledge is power.

I know that this list is pretty generic but those are mainly all of the rules that I abide by when it comes to my skin. I do notice that my skin is better when I am on a routine. We are all humans and aren’t perfect so there would be times when I completely forget to do these things but as result I notice the difference in my skin automatically.

Following a routine is a huge aspect of my skin care and I always stress this to my friends because it does take about a month for the skin cells to regenerate. So if we have a dark mark or pimple, the key is to let it run its course, naturally. If we are constantly switching products every week or two, we technically aren’t getting the complete benefit from that product. When I try a new product, as a rule I generally finish the product before I can can offer an opinion on it and that gives me plenty of time to figure out if that product or method works for me.

I would love to hear what you all think about these tips! Let me know if you have anymore tips to recommend!