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Ask The Expert: Weight Loss Programs with Chronic Migraine

QUESTION:
I gained a lot of weight after my two pregnancies and I want to get healthier in 2021, but I live with chronic migraine. Can you tell me the best diet and exercise program for someone who has migraine?

ANSWER:
Being a busy mother with two little ones and chronic migraine yet interested in working on diet and exercise! My hat is off to you!
One of the best overall diet plans to review is the South Beach Diet. The first weeks can be fairly restrictive, so you might order the book in paperback, and start by reading the book. Then decide whether you want to start with the beginning weeks or simply start on their maintenance plan.

This approach allows for healthy eating without resorting to complicated strategies or using a high protein/super low carb diet that often makes chronic migraine worse and is virtually impossible to sustain in the long run. But overall, calories really do matter, so counting calories or at least keeping track of them is important. Plenty of fruits, vegetables, healthy grains, and less red meat is important.

As for exercise, starting with a regular walking program, adding in stretching exercises, then squats/planks/crunches. Or regular walking, and combining with a class, now likely online, perhaps yoga. Short bursts of exercise have been shown to be effective in increasing strength and may be all the time you have. If, however, you have access and time, bicycling, swimming, Pilates, or even running can be great for physical and mental health.

Make sure that your blood pressure is normal, and your physician okays an exercise program for you. And keep hydrated, stretch before starting exercise and avoid carbonated beverages, sweetened and unsweetened. Caffeinated coffee in the morning may help to reduce appetite and give you an energy boost!

But if you are limited in terms of space or without much access to the outdoors because of COVID-19 restrictions, put on fun dance music and dance with your little ones for an hour or so a day! That can be quite a workout!
And lastly, make sure that your chronic migraine preventive medications are not aggravating weight gain or appetite. Some of the newer medications, the CGRP monoclonal antibodies now used for migraine prevention, have no impact on appetite or weight gain, important when you are trying to get healthier! And congratulations on your determination!

Jan Lewis Brandes, MS, MD
Nashville Neuroscience Group
NHF Board Member

 

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