In this episode Dr. Meg Mill talks all about headaches and migraines and how to combat them. Like other functional medicine doctors, she is focused on finding the root cause of headaches to help get rid of them for good. She is offering a special eight week program in January to help you finally get the migraine relief you deserve and we also talk about migraines and nutrition.
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Cheryl McColgan: Hi, everyone. Welcome back to The Heal Nourish Grow Podcast. Today, I am joined by Dr. Meg Mill, and I’m really excited to share her knowledge with you because she focuses a lot on headaches, which is something I know a lot of people in this audience struggle with. So, welcome, Dr. Mill. Can you just give us some of your background, how you… Before you get to how you got into this work, you were originally, I believe, a pharmacist, so maybe you could kinda tell us about your progression of moving into functional medicine.
Dr. Meg Mill: Yes, absolutely, thank you so much for having me here. I spent almost 20 years actually practicing as a clinical pharmacist before I made my way into functional medicine, and I kind of have two tracks of how I ended up in this space, and one was a personal journey and the other one was just from experience with patients. So I just… Over the years of working with people, we’re seeing people, I would say, survive rather than thrive, I would see people coming in with more and more medications and just really still not feeling their best. And although there’s a really wonderful purpose for medications, it’s not the answer for everything. And when you’re not looking into some of the root causes, people were getting more and more sick while kind of piling up and getting side effects and other things from medications.
Dr. Meg Mill: And in the same vein, I actually had spent years with IBS and had been jumping around to different gastroenterologists and getting to them like, “Oh, you’re fine, but… ” And I did not feel fine by any means. And so I was looking for other answers and just found through that journey and my own personal experience, was able to find function medicine and heal myself and then go on to change career paths and go back and get certifications to practice. And I do see… It’s amazing the difference you can see for people when you’re looking into the root cause, so many things can be fixed and healed that way.
Cheryl McColgan: Yeah, that is a real frustration in western medicine, and it’s certainly something that in the… I’m very involved in the keto low-carb space and biohacking stuff, and it’s certainly a conversation that we have quite often in the community about, why don’t we address the root cause more often? So as you moved away from pharmacy into functional medicine, can you describe a little bit the training there, how it differs maybe from our traditional medical track and how it more focuses on this root cause? What sort of things did you learn about in order to help people discover that?
Finding the Root Cause of Headaches and Migraines
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah, so I’m gonna… I’ll use in this example, headaches because we’re gonna kind of get into that, and I think it’s a great place to use an example of this kind of difference in the way we approach. So when someone comes in, generally in the conventional medicine space, and we’d say, let’s use the example of headaches, and you’re gonna come in, and a headache would be a symptom, so you’re getting a… So in the conventional space, you would get medication, you’d be told to take Ibuprofen or Tylenol or even get a prescription to treat that symptom, so you wouldn’t experience the pain. And I had someone give me the analogy one time, which I like to use, of, if you took your car to a mechanic and you said “My car is making a noise,” and the mechanic gave you a pair of earmuffs, and then handed you back your keys, would you feel comfortable driving the car? [chuckle] And I liked it because I thought, “Oh, that’s a good… “
Dr. Meg Mill: We can all relate to that and we wouldn’t be all safe going back in our car, but we’re accepting of just like, “Oh here, take this for the pain and go on your way,” and we find that’s normal. So we’re going to then say, “Okay, a headache is a symptom, so what imbalances in your body are causing that symptom?” So we look into all of the root causes, and even things like, we’ll look at your nutrients and different food triggers, we’re gonna look at hormone levels, we’re gonna look at stress levels, we’re gonna look at gut imbalances, we’re gonna really dig into all the imbalances in the body that cause the symptom of headaches or of depression, or of autoimmunity or IBS, or all of these different things, and work from the imbalances going in your body so that the symptom goes away rather than putting the medication on to treat that symptom.
Cheryl McColgan: Right, and I would say based on my previous experience with different kinds of, whether it’s psychology or medicine or whatever, the interview process in more traditional… Well psychology is different, beause pretty much all you do is talk about the… But in traditional medicine, the interview process is kind of missing because doctors typically now only have seven to 10 minutes to spend with a patient, so getting some of that history and background is quite difficult. So I’m assuming in your practice, you probably have maybe a little bit more freedom to utilize that interview practice, but then are there also any types of testing that are different than traditional medicine that you utilize to get to that root cause?
Functional Medicine Approach to Headaches
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah, so we have a whole different set of tests in functional medicine. So we would look into your food sensitivities. We have gut tests that look at your whole microbiome and we can see everything that’s going on, so rather we can actually treat things that you have right there, like if you would have a parasite or if you have H. Pylori or things that maybe aren’t even being looked into, that can be at the root cause of some of these problems or intestinal variability, and then we have detailed hormone tests that we can check your imbalances. Because hormones are all about balance, so we wanna make sure we have that balance, we have no cortisol stress tests, and then we can even actually get into things like mold and environmental toxins and things that people may not even realized that they’re… I just did one yesterday that showed up with all of these chemicals that this person was carrying around with them that they weren’t even aware of. So if you’re not aware of it, you can never clear it because you’re not even… You don’t even know how you have it in there, so you’re not trying… So some of those when we dig deep and we can… And it’s kind of like a detective, where do you need to go in order… The path leads you to some of the testing that you need to do too.
Cheryl McColgan: Well, now, based on your experience of working with multiple people over time, is there any sort of pattern that you’re seeing, or a couple of patterns that are maybe more prevalent than others, whether it’s some, like you mentioned, some environmental toxins or mold or food imbalances, or is it just kind of everything or… But I’m just wondering if there’s one that sticks out in your mind.
Migraines and Gut Health
Dr. Meg Mill: I would say to prioritize the gut. So in functional medicine, sometimes we say all disease begins in the gut because that is how you have to absorb and digest and absorb your nutrients. So if you have a gut imbalance, then you’re not… You could be eating the perfect diet, and if you’re not absorbing those nutrients, your body may not be getting the value that you intend for it to get from all the healthy choices and lifestyle choices that you’re making. If you’re not absorbing those nutrients, you’re not getting the full value. So that in relation to also gut imbalances can lead to underlying inflammation. And so sometimes people are living with that chronic low-grade inflammation all the time. So if you’re gonna start, that’s a really good place to start. It’s interconnected with so many other things in our body.
Cheryl McColgan: And having said that, are there any kind of… Of course, we’re trying to get to the root cause, and if it’s in the microbiome, eventually you’re gonna dig down to that. But are there certain kinds of symptoms that people might be experiencing due to these sorts of imbalances? So for example, I’m sure headaches is probably one of them, but are there also other things that you’re seeing as far as symptoms that people might have?
Dr. Meg Mill: And I think this is really tricky. It’s a good question because a lot of people are expecting to have gut symptoms, and if they don’t have… I do see a lot of people with bloating and reflux and things like that that are constant GI problems, but then I think a step further is sometimes people don’t associate that they could be having gut imbalances from other symptoms. For example, I just had someone who had been itching for years and he just had this chronic itching and he had been taking all these medicines and we couldn’t get… He had in his journey for years and years, not been able to get rid of the itching, and here it was from a gut, we finally figured it out, and it was from a gut imbalance once he got to me, and now he doesn’t have to take that medication. So when you’re looking at eczema or itching or headaches or even just chronic fatigue and things, even sometimes like depression and anxiety, because a good amount of our serotonin is made in the gut, all of those can actually be stemmed from gut imbalances that you’re not necessarily directly associating with that problem.
Migraines, Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities
Dr. Meg Mill: So the other thing that is tricky is sometimes when we’re dealing with sensitivities versus allergies, an allergy is going to happen directly after you eat a food and you’re gonna have that response right away, but food sensitivities can be like four to 48 hours after you’ve eaten that food. So something that you ate yesterday or even possibly like the day before that could still be affecting you a few days later, so it’s just a little bit harder to pinpoint. And I think that’s why people struggle from not being able to identify exactly what foods are triggering them.
Cheryl McColgan: Yeah, I think that is very tricky. I think one thing that helps, when I’m helping people, usually this is focused on weight loss or diet obviously, but keeping just a simple food log, and over time, it might take longer than if you got some testing, but over time, you might start to identify patterns like, “Oh, I ate that one thing two days ago, and then I got a headache.” I started noticing several years ago when I went lower carb and then keto, I would notice that… I finally identified that it was a certain alternative sweetener that I had been using that would give me headaches because I, knock on wood, very rarely get headaches. [chuckle] And so when that’s already coming up, I was thinking, “Wow, what’s going on? There has to be something new here.” So do you… Outside of just keeping a simple food log, any other tips for people, how they can monitor things to start to, outside of testing, get a little bit of better handle so that when they come to you, they have a little bit more information to give?
Identifying Which Foods Cause Migraines and Headaches
Dr. Meg Mill: I actually do what you’re saying. I do think I tell people that if they have the symptom, then to write down everything they ate that day and the day before, and start to try to look for patterns. I mean, you can just… We know that probably the biggest food sensitivities out there are gluten and dairy, so you could just do a trial period of lemonade and gluten and dairy. I think you need to give it at least four weeks though. I think that’s where people will be like, “Well, I tried no gluten and it didn’t make a difference,” and sometimes they didn’t try it long enough to actually get the body to calm down. So the half-life of a IgG antibody, and that would be the antibody we’re getting from that food sensitivity, is 23 days, so you need to give it up at least 23 days in order to get half of those antibodies down, and then every 23 days, another half goes down and down.
Dr. Meg Mill: So really, I generally recommend trying 90 days to really see… To get the antibodies cleared out and see if you notice a difference. So if there’s a food that you feel like, “Could this be something?” or “I just wanna start trying some things on my own,” that’s a way to go to try to just avoid some of those foods and cut them out of your diet for 90 days, and then add them back in and see if you can tell a difference. Once your body calms down, you’ll often then be able to identify that difference.
Antibodies Have a Half Life, 90 Day Elimination Diet
Cheryl McColgan: And I just wanna thank you for that comment and highlight it because I’ve listened to many interviews like this in the past, and I’ve never heard someone explain… I mean, it’s kind of common sense that you need to cut it out for a period of time, but I’ve never heard someone explain the half-life from the antibodies thing, so that’s pretty amazing. And I think when people more understand why they really need to do this for a longer time, I think it makes it a little easier, because otherwise, giving up dairy for 90 days would definitely not be my favorite thing, but if I had a good reason why and I had some symptoms that were related, then I would definitely try. [chuckle] So now, we’ve gone into some more of your background and how you’ve been working with people and practicing with people lately. How did you come to sort of settle on headaches as being one of the things that you really specialize in and that you’re really focused on?
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah, so actually it started that every… Everybody. Not exactly everyone but a lot, like so many women that were coming to me particularly, no matter what they were coming for me, were actually also, when I do, as you said, we do a very detailed intake form and we go through all of their health history, and when we were doing that, I started noticing that they were… Many people were having chronic headaches, and whether or not, as I said, that was their main chief complaint or whether that was just something that came up, so many of these people just had been having these chronic headaches, living with them, and I started to realize that this is something that’s really not being discussed a lot. People just accept the fact that they’re having this chronic pain and they’re taking Advil or Tylenol or sometimes even prescription medications just to cover up the pain, but they just feel like this is a part of who they are, and they’re being told that they just… It’s something that they have to just kind of cover up or suffer through.
Dr. Meg Mill: And so then once I was working with them, they would say, “Oh my gosh, I’ve had headaches my whole life, or since I was a teen, and I don’t have headaches anymore.” So it started to be the shift of… I just kept seeing the same pattern over and over again with, men too, but particularly women, that we would see these dramatic changes in their suffering. So I just thought I’d like to bring more awareness to this because I think it is something that isn’t really discussed that people don’t have to take those medications, and that, in fact, those medications are contributing to other things, like if you’re taking Advil or Ibuprofen on a regular basis, then you are, we were talking about the importance of the microbiome, that you’re actually setting yourself up for a problem with your gut, or if you’re taking Tylenol all the time, that you have to be careful of your liver. And so you’re actually causing some other health issues by taking these medications when you don’t necessarily have to and can be pain-free without it.
Cheryl McColgan: And before we move on to the headache stuff, there’s one point I wanted to clarify, because maybe not everybody is familiar with this. So when you mentioned about long-term Ibuprofen or Advil use and the microbiome, so I think what I’ve read about it, and I’ve never done a deep dive into this, but basically it can possibly damage your stomach lining, which over time could contribute to gut permeability, which lets things leak out in your bloodstream and causes any number of problems. So can you maybe give a more detailed explanation of how that affects your gut?
Leaky Gut, Migraines and Headaches
Dr. Meg Mill: Sure, yes. Yes, absolutely. So we get that, and the term that people are hearing a lot is leaky gut. So once you’re taking that medication for a long time, you can get this leaky gut syndrome, and then that actually can lead to further health problems which include autoimmunity, so people that are getting into that Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune dynamics. And once we said that the gut health affects so many other aspects of your general health, so you’re just getting that disruption in your gut, and then that can… It’s a revolving door because that can actually then create more food sensitivities because once you get those little tears in the gut lining, that’s when those, the IgG antibodies that I was talking about earlier, start coming… They’re able to permeate through the food… Your food is able to permeate through that gut lining because of the tiny tears, and then those IgG antibodies are creating an immune response to foods that you eat very often. So sometimes you get in this cycle where the food that you eat regularly is the food that you’re creating this immune response to. So that’s why we take it out of your diet to get those antibodies down in order to calm that immune response, and then usually… And then we need to also heal that lining so you can get out of that cycle and tolerate things better.
Cheryl McColgan: Yeah, that makes sense. And thanks for that further explanation. Because I know sometimes people that are in this space, we just are like, “Oh yeah, leaky gut, I know about that.” [chuckle] But if somebody’s hearing it for the first time, they might be thinking… And I remember years ago thinking, when I first would hear that term, I thought, “That that’s not even thing,” because regular doctors would say… But now they’re starting to… Now that we’re learning more about the microbiome, most of this stuff is really proven out, and I think even now, more traditional doctors really accepted this sort of disease process that’s harming the gut lining is actually happening and causing a lot of these kinds of issues. So I’m glad you got to that point. So for the headache stuff, I guess, so you mentioned that you were seeing a pattern in the people that you’re working with, you weren’t specifically working on headaches at that point yet, but that they were having relief from symptoms from what you guys were working on. So can you talk a little bit more about sort of the protocols that you are using with your patients before we get to the more specifics of the headache, just protocols that you’re using with your patients, whether it’s dietary changes or lifestyle or whatever it is where you started to see those positive changes in sort of a more broader spectrum of their health?
Headaches and Hydration
Dr. Meg Mill: Sure, yes. So two things I think that people can start to do right away that are just simple, easy and free, are to drink more water to stay hydrated. We do wanna drink half of our body weight in water a day, and it’s really important for headaches and just general hydration that you actually sip your water throughout the day rather than chugging it at meals. Because when you drink, if… Sometimes we’re like, “Oh, we drink our water.” We grab that bottle because we’re thirsty, we chug it down and then we move on. But then you’re actually passing… Can pass some of that water right through you where when you drink it slowly throughout the day and have sort of a glass that may be by your desk that you can sip on, you’re actually getting more cellular hydration. And then in addition to that, when we drink, have a large amount of water at meal time, then we also can change the consistency of the food, and that actually can affect the absorption of our food and the breakdown. So it’s just important to make sure you’re really drinking water, try to actually track it if you can to make…
Dr. Meg Mill: Because sometimes I think we think we’re drinking more than we are, and so we have that and just drink that slowly throughout the day. So that’s kind of just an easy place to start, and then the next thing I think that you can do that’s really fairly simple, is just really prioritizing sleep. We do know that migraines particularly, are… There are studies showing that a lower REM sleep is a direct correlation to migraine, so sometimes I think people don’t even realize maybe how much they’re sleeping. I had someone come in, she was like, “I’m getting good sleep,” and then when we go into her sleep cycle, she thought she was sleeping about once a week, she was almost staying up all night to catch up on everything. And when you’re doing that once a week, even if you’re sleeping the other nights, it’s just getting your circadian rhythm off, it can get…
Headaches, Migraines and Sleep
Dr. Meg Mill: Our melatonin needs to go up at night, so there’s physiological purpose to sleep that we need for healing, and so just doing those things like keeping your room cool, dark and quiet, so that you have a comfortable space to sleep, turning off all electronics, even thinking about keeping your phone outside your room. [chuckle] I know that’s a hard thing, but we are attached to those devices so that you’re not seeing the the blue light overnight, just having that maybe a quieting ritual at night. And then the other thing would be to avoid caffeine after 2:00 PM, we all metabolize caffeine differently, so sometimes even if you’re, even… People are thinking about coffee, but even eating a piece of chocolate after dinner can actually… The foods have caffeine too, so you can stimulate your body in those ways that may disrupt that good sleep. So really just trying to focus on getting a good night sleep and prioritizing, that’s another thing you can do lifestyle-wise right away.
Cheryl McColgan: Yeah. And that’s, it’s so good for many things, because also with weight losses, again, it just happens to be a big part of my focus, but it’s… Sleep is so underrated for so many things, and so much so that I’ll make sure that I put this in the show notes for people that are listening to this right now, is that I have a whole big article about sleep and it mentions all of those things that you said, plus a few more. And there’s a couple of tools, that I found really to be helpful, and you might share this with your patients, but one of them being, almost 50-year-old myself, hot flashes, perimenopausal stuff… Is that a cooling pad that you actually put on the bed so it maintains that cool temperature in the room no matter what your external environment happens to be.
Cheryl McColgan: And then a really good eye mask that really blocks out all those, in addition to blue blocking glasses, but even just in our room, for example, we have an air filter that’s got some weird little light on, and then we’ve got the house alarm that’s got a light on, and all those things add up to sort of disrupt sleep over time, and so it’s like every little thing that you do, I think contributes to a better night sleep, so… I love that tip. There is one thing that you mentioned, I just wanted not to totally belabor, but just quickly ask a question, is you mentioned hydration on the cellular level, so from a physiological level besides just getting enough water, is there anything else that affects the hydration of the cellular level?
Migraines and Electrolytes
Dr. Meg Mill: Well, we would just wanna make sure that we’re getting the right electrolytes to make sure because your electrolytes will affect how water is absorbed into the cells, so just making sure… And there are actually even some people, especially if you’re not a big water drinker, that some people struggle just with even the taste, and so there are some electrolyte even packets that you can put in your water to enhance that too.
Cheryl McColgan: Yeah. And all of us in a low carb space are very focused on that. Because that is more of a problem, the lower carb that you go is the electrolyte balance, so thanks for that too. So let’s finally get into the headache stuff. [chuckle] This is pretty exciting because not only is it the focus of your work, but you’re also in January going to be offering a special group thing, I think, where you’re doing maybe some education and some education, I guess. So if you can maybe talk a little bit more first about your work with people and headaches and how you really… After you’ve noticed that this was happening, you started to focus on that and then about your program that you’re offering in January.
Dr. Meg Mill: Sure. Yes. So I think that one of the things that… Another aspect that we don’t realize with headaches is that food can cause your headaches, so there is that component of… We’re talking about the triggers that are going on in your body and what’s happening, and there are certain foods we know for sure that can trigger headaches, and then sometimes people with food sensitivities can also have that immune response that’s triggering their headaches from them, so we work through a lot of different food. Some things that you can look at are tyramine, sulfites, some MSG, aspartame, or other triggers that we were in histamine-related foods. So we look at foods, we know that from the data that are foods that likely trigger headaches and we work on eliminating those from our diets, increasing the foods that have the nutrients that we want to be getting from the headache to support people that are commonly low when they have headaches and build up those nutrient levels and then clear out the food sensitivities.
Dr. Meg Mill: So we’re getting a more bound nutrition and not getting any aggravation of headaches from food. So that’s one focus that we look at. We also know that stress can be a component of the headaches, and some people get in that chain of pain because whenever people have headaches, that actually is a stress on your body, so it’s again, so you’re getting the headache and the pain from the headache causes the stress, which increases the cortisol, which can make you more likely once your cortisol is elevated, you can have more stress… That’s your stress hormones makes it more likely to get a headache, so we work on how to break that chain of pain with a stress response. And then we also will look at often hormone imbalances are another thing, many people… You might hear women saying, “Okay, two days before my period, every month I get that headache.”
Migraines and Hormones
Dr. Meg Mill: And so that’s often at that time of the month, because the week before we get our period, our progesterone drops rapidly and our estrogen does too, but our progesterone often drops more rapidly than the estrogen, so you can end up with somewhat of an estrogen dominance, particularly right in that PMS window. So just really looking into hormones and people’s hormone balance and helping that, we also look at your environment, and if you have any environmental triggers, we know certain toxins such as lead and cadmium can be things that trigger headaches, but also environmental things in your house that can be causing that and triggering, so cleaning up your environment, then even possibly looking into things like mold and different things that you could be experiencing.
Dr. Meg Mill: So we just take it, we look at them, instead of all the things that you have going on in your life and balance each area, to help support you and get rid of the triggers for the headaches. And so that’s why in January 24th, I’m starting a group program called Headstrong Happiness Beyond Headaches, and taking people in that group to be able to reach more people through the same process that I use… I call it My Eat Method, it’s enlighten, align, thrive. So we enlighten about all the things that can be triggering your headaches, then we align your body in the way we need to, and then set you up to thrive so that you don’t have the headache. So that will be a nine-week program that people will get a food sensitivity test actually as part of that, so they can identify what foods are unique to them that can be triggers, and then we go through that process and do education and group sessions on each one of those modules. There’s nine modules that we go through. Yes, and that you can get information about that at, it’s happinessbeyondheadaches.com.
Cheryl McColgan: Okay, great, and I’ll definitely have that in the show notes, but I’m also interested because it’s such a good timing because quite often at the beginning of the year, people start to focus on creating new healthy habits, as you know, [chuckle] and I think that obviously, getting a life that’s more pain-free should be at the top of everyone’s list, so I’m really happy that you’re offering that. To go back to, I think a lot of the things that you mentioned as far as triggers for headaches were pretty obvious, but since a lot of people that are listening to this show in particular are pretty focused on how they eat, can you maybe… You mentioned, I think, did you say tyrosine or something with a T?
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah.
Cheryl McColgan: You named a few things that I’m not as familiar with, so maybe examples of what kind of foods might contain those might be useful for people or just foods that really commonly trigger headaches.
Migraines, Headaches, Histamines
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah. So one of the things that people should look at are histamine foods, so that would be things like HGs, fermented food, shellfish, and often sometimes if you’re someone particularly that has regular congestion and headaches, you may be getting triggered from histamine, so you want to… Actually you can even Google foods that are high in histamine, because it’s a pretty long list to read through, but some of those, like I said, the HGs, the fermented food, the shellfish, look through those foods and just try to cut back on histamine, it can be filling a bucket where you were getting his… So you want to look at foods that have histamine in them, and then there are certain foods that actually release your body’s trigger of histamine, because if you’re also someone who has allergies, you could be getting histamine reactions from your environment.
Dr. Meg Mill: And so once you get this level of histamine that builds up, that can actually be one of the triggers for headaches. And a little tip there that’s tricky with that food in particular, is that you can get a build-up in histamine foods from leftovers too. So you actually… If you’re someone who has a histamine sensitivity, you don’t want to eat leftovers after 24 hours, you don’t wanna be someone that like brings your food home it’s there for a few days, and then you pull it back out because histamines can actually grow in leftovers.
Cheryl McColgan: I had heard that one before, that’s very interesting, and I sometimes wonder, you mentioned the congestion factor, which I… Like I mentioned, I don’t have headaches very often, but I do quite often have congestion and seasonal allergies, so I’m wondering if I should maybe start looking at histamines a little bit more myself.
Dr. Meg Mill: Yes, I think it’s something that is affecting a lot of people that you might not even be realizing, and there is a genetic variant, if you’re someone who… Another test we do actually, is we test for genetic snips because everyone has different snips that to their genes that help them to process things differently, and if you’re someone who has a genetic snip for the DAO enzyme, it’s an enzyme where you may not be breaking down histamine as well as other people, so that’s another piece of an investigation in the testing is we can see… Like if you’re someone who doesn’t have that, who has a snip that doesn’t… DAO is an enzyme that helps break down that histamine. So you could be someone who just genetically has a higher level. And there’s a supplement you can take actually to block that, so if you do something with histamine and you don’t break it down, well, you can take a supplement with your meal to help you through that.
Cheryl McColgan: Interesting. And I actually have one of those snip tests, I’ll have to look at my DAO status.
Dr. Meg Mill: Oh, yeah, look at it, yeah, look at your DAO. Yes, yeah. That’s something you should look at. Yeah, because especially if you have that congestion, these allergies, and see if you do, if there’s any snip there that is inhibiting you from breaking down the histamine as well as you could be. And then the other thing I mentioned was tyramine-containing foods. So those would be aged or cured foods often, and we know that tyramine is produced in foods from the breakdown of the amino acid tyrosine, so certain amines, particular tyramine, are known to trigger migraines by triggering the release of hormones that constrict the blood vessels. So we wanna be careful, particularly in people with migraines, because those can also be a trigger.
Dr. Meg Mill: And then salicylates can be found in citrus foods, we also have nitrates, which are found in hot dogs, bacon… Some people have sensitivity to sulfites, which are generally found in wines and dry fruits, and then MSG usually is found in processed foods, boxed foods, can soups, so you wanna read that from the labels on your foods, often foods that are processed have that MSG in there, and then aspartame is from diet sodas. And then you also wanna be careful of any artificial coloring or dye you see in your food on the labels because that can trigger headaches for some. And then actually the last one is kind of controversial because it’s actually used to treat headaches, but caffeine… Caffeine can cause rebound headache, so if you look at some of the medication that treat headaches, there is caffeine in there because it can actually help with the pain of a headache, but if you’re a heavy caffeine consumer, then you actually can then start to get headaches, rebound headaches from caffeine withdrawal. So that can actually be a cycle that some people can get into that can be fairly common, unfortunately.
Caffeine and Migraines
Cheryl McColgan: Yeah, that’s interesting, I never thought about… Obviously, caffeine is pretty dose-dependent, there’s been a lot of over the years like, “Caffeine is good for you, caffeine is bad for you,” much like eggs, much like many other things, [chuckle] but one of the most recent ones I saw was within the last month, and it was I think in New York Times headline something about, “Finally we know that caffeine is definitely good for you… ” And I’m thinking, “But it’s still dose-dependent.” You can really think of it as a cognitive aid, nootropic kind of thing. It’s pretty well-known in the bio-hacking community, the enhancements it offers, but I think, again, that doesn’t mean… It’s like many things like, what’s good, does it mean go more and more more… [chuckle]
Dr. Meg Mill: Yes, exactly, so I’m not saying that… I totally agree with you. So I’m not saying that that morning cup of coffee has to go, it’s more of that person who has that regular caffeine intake that is then going through withdrawal. And the other aspect, again, going back to genetics, is everybody metabolizes caffeine different, so we can genetically… And that’s why you could have a couple of coffee potentially at 8:00 PM and be fine, and maybe I can’t have a cup of coffee after 10:00 AM, or I’m not able to fall asleep because we all have our own unique ability to process it, and so there’s also that variability within each person.
Cheryl McColgan: Yeah, it’s funny, I actually looked that up one time because somebody didn’t believe me when I told them that I go cold turkey… First of all, for most of my adult years, I’ve only had one or two cups a day, but somebody didn’t believe me when I said if I go off caffeine, I never get headaches, I don’t, I don’t. But I looked it up and there actually is, it’s something with the genetic process, something in the way that your body processes it that some people, they’re highly sensitive to it, if it’s like a true withdrawal symptom and then some people… It’s kind of like nothing, which is also, I think the same reason why it doesn’t make me feel any kind of certain way really. [chuckle] That’s probably why I can easily have one cup a day and not worry, I have it, I like the taste or whatever, but I don’t feel like it amps me up a whole lot, or anything like that.
Dr. Meg Mill: Yes.
Cheryl McColgan: All very interesting. So if people want to, first of all, you gave the website for your program, but if people want to stay in touch with you, look at your work, find you online, what are the best places they can do that, whether it’s social or your websites or LinkedIn, what are your favorite channels for all that?
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah, sure. So I have… My website is just www.megmill.com, and I actually have a eight-step guide to get started eliminating your headache, so if you go to megmill.com/headache, you can download that guide, so that’s a place if you’re interested in getting started, that is a free guide. And then I’m also on Instagram, @drmegmill and on LinkedIn @DrMegMill. And I actually had started a Facebook group called the Headache Healing Club. And so if that’s something where the… Information I share on Instagram is general, more general overall functional medicine, but if you are interested, like I said, in headaches specifically, you could join that Headache Healing Club over on Facebook or look into the program at happinessbeyondheadaches.com.
Cheryl McColgan: Okay, awesome. And one final question for you before I let you go. After having switched the final functional medicine paradigm, that’s easy to say, was there anything that you learned or in working with patients that you’ve observed that has made you personally change either the way that you eat or certain things that you do in your life, what’s been the biggest influence out of all this new learning and working with people in this way?
Relationship with Food
Dr. Meg Mill: Well, I think once you work with people and they’re looking at lifestyle and food, you really look at your relationship with food, I think every… I’ve learned that everyone has a different relationship with food. And it’s very interesting because it’s so unique and some people use food for comfort and use food as their friend, and use food to fill the void, and so I’ve been in learning that in working with each individual, it’s made me more aware of how my relationship with food… There was one day I was so stressed and I grabbed a bag of… I had organic caramel popcorn or whatever that my kids had had, it wasn’t necessarily a bad food, but it wasn’t something I should be eating and I was just eating it quickly.
Dr. Meg Mill: And I was upset, and I had to step back and be like, “Woah! You’re upset about something, like you’re using food.” So I think it’s all… You’re talking about it all the time and working with people to use it in their life,” and so usually I try to use food for nutrients, I try to think of food as information, and choose what I eat based on that, but we’re all human and we all… [chuckle] But I think that has been interesting for me to really see that it’s very different for each person, and it needs to be incorporated in their lives in a way that works for them, but then also bringing that back like, “How am I using it in my life too?”
Cheryl McColgan: Yeah, no, it does… When you think about this stuff all the time, it definitely does bring a whole different way of… Not only a different way of eating, but a way of thinking about how you eat as well.
Dr. Meg Mill: Yes.
Cheryl McColgan: Well, thank you so much for your time today and for sharing all your wonderful knowledge. Again, Dr. Meg Mill, be sure to look for all her links in the show notes and that headache program, if you’re struggling with this and you wanna get in on it, contact her as soon as you hear this, and hopefully it’ll still be open, if not, it sounds like it’s what your focus is now, so you might run it again in the future, but again, thank you.
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah. We’ll just run it… I’m sorry, we’ll run it again in the spring so yeah…
Cheryl McColgan: Perfect. That’s even better. So if people miss it, you can still jump on board, get the free guide and check out our website. So thank you so much, Dr. Mill, it was great to meet you.Dr. Meg Mill: You too. Thank you so much.