Category Archives: hemiplegic migraines

Why Getting a Medical ID for Hemiplegic Migraine Made Me Feel More Vulnerable

“You’re getting a migraine, aren’t you?” said my physician last year during one of my regular visits. “If you were pulled over, a policeman would think you were drunk or on drugs. If you were taken to a hospital, they would think you were having a stroke. Time for you to get a medical ID bracelet.”

I was so shocked that I just sat there staring at him, and not just because he’d said I sounded impaired. I was first diagnosed with migraines at age five and have suffered from the throbbing head pain, vision changes, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells all my life, as have many of the women in my family.

When I was 9, a doctor realized that I was having seizures when I had a migraine attack, though he did not give the headaches I was experiencing a different name. In my mid-thirties, a migraine specialist determined that I suffer not only from complex-complicated migraines but also from familial hemiplegic migraines, which are rare.

Hemiplegic migraines mimic strokes by causing temporary paralysis or numbness on one side of the body, loss of balance or coordination, and confusion or an inability to understand speech. Hemiplegic migraines can also cause speech difficulties such as slurring, dysphasia (words get mixed up or switched around in sentences), or aphasia (an inability to speak).

Most frightening, this type of migraine can cause changes in consciousness including seizures or coma. No one in my family who suffered from migraines ever carried anything other than pain medication, and though migraines with aura significantly increase the risk for stroke, no one in my family ever wore a medical alert. Now, however, medical ID bracelets are being recommended for people diagnosed with hemiplegic migraines since so few physicians are familiar with the symptoms.

Once I got over my initial shock at my doctor’s suggestion that I wear a medical ID bracelet, I welcomed the idea of the bracelet, if only because I thought I would feel safer wearing a medal with “Hemiplegic Migraines, Aphasia & Seizures” inscribed under my name and emergency contact numbers. To my surprise, I was terribly depressed upon receiving the bracelet. For months, I was so depressed that I found myself constantly “forgetting” to put the medical alert bracelet on. Because my doctor insisted I wear it, I had to figure out why the medical ID bracelet depressed me. This is what I came up with.

My medical condition was no longer private.

Many people describe migraines as an “invisible illness” because the suffering can’t be seen, and I suppose I felt more comfortable having a condition that most people didn’t know about. With the medical ID bracelet, instead of my life partner and close friends being the only ones who know I have migraines, everyone who sees me now knows something’s wrong with me. I’m wearing a bracelet that says so. Even though the bracelet is for my safety, it felt like an intrusion into my privacy.

I felt like a failure.

I take care of myself by getting plenty of sleep, avoiding dietary and situational triggers, and by walking, doing yoga, and meditating almost every day. I’ve tried every anti-depressant and anti-seizure medication on the market to get my migraines under control, but wearing a medical bracelet listing my condition made me feel as if I hadn’t done enough. The bracelet didn’t change the frequency or severity of my migraines, but it made me feel I have somehow failed to prevent them.

I felt like my migraines were my fault.

Migraines are neurological conditions, and researchers are still investigating whether all types of migraines may be inherited. Both sporadic (not inherited) and familial (inherited) hemiplegic migraines definitely involve genetic defects or mutations that upset neurochemicals in the brain, causing the symptoms of the aura and the pain of the migraine. Despite knowing all that on a conscious level, having to wear the medical ID bracelet made it somehow seem as if the migraines were my fault, which I had never felt before.

I felt like I was wearing a sign on my forehead.

I readily admit that I’ve had to make a lot of lifestyle changes and adjustments because of my migraines. I can’t go to concerts or movie theatres because the high volume triggers a migraine. I avoid grocery aisles with humming or flickering fluorescent lights that can instantly cause both a severe migraine and its associated seizures. I use only unscented lotions, soaps, or shampoos, nor can I be around anyone who’s wearing perfume because it causes migraines. I have to know every ingredient of every dish I eat that I don’t make myself to avoid food triggers like artificial sweeteners or additives (e.g., MSG): those things can cause migraines, and hemiplegic migraines can cause seizures which can lead to coma.

I’ve been called “neurotic” by more than one person in my life, including doctors who dismissed my symptoms as “all in my head” when they didn’t know anything about hemiplegic migraines. I guess I never minded being considered “neurotic” because I knew that I was taking care of myself. Though I’m unable to work when I have a migraine, I never considered myself to have a chronic illness let alone a disability. Wearing the medical ID bracelet made me feel like I was chronically ill as well as disabled. Further, the medical alert made me feel like I was wearing some shameful Disabled sign on my forehead for everyone to see.

To my surprise, my life partner was very pleased when I got the ID bracelet. He admitted, for the first time in almost 25 years together, that he has always been concerned about my having a migraine-induced seizure: he worried that he would be unable to adequately explain hemiplegic migraines to medical personnel. The instructors in my T’ai Chi and Kundalini Yoga classes looked so relieved when I showed them the bracelet that I felt quite guilty for not having gotten it sooner. When I went to a new dentist and then to an oral surgeon to have a dying tooth extracted, both doctors immediately asked about the medical alert and were then pleased to know that my medical condition, which neither had ever heard of before, was clearly indicated on the bracelet.

One day when I went to the grocery last month, I actually forgot to put my bracelet on. After I realized that I’d left it at home, I became anxious that I might experience an aura and have difficulty speaking while I was among strangers. That was when I understood that my initial depression over wearing the medical ID bracelet had completely disappeared.

After wearing my medical ID bracelet for almost a year, I can honestly say that I am happy to have it. I wear it every day, even at home, and have it on 24-hours a day when I have a migraine in case of seizure. I feel only safety wearing the medical alert bracelet now, and I encourage anyone who has a severe, chronic, or rare medical condition to wear one.

Related Posts

For more of my migraine articles,
see my Migraine & Chronic Pain page.

This article, in a slightly altered form, was first published
on  The Mighty and reprinted on MigraineMantras.

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Filed under health, hemiplegic migraines, migraine, migraine self-care, Migraine with Aura, Migraine Without Aura, migraines

This Is Your Brain on Migraine

Impacting not just the head but the entire body, migraine is the most common neurological disorder, affecting 10-15% of the adult population. For comparison, epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder (after migraine, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease). Unfortunately, few people completely understand the mechanism of migraine. Even doctors, neurologists, and scientists who specialize in migraine research do not necessarily understand everything about this disorder, if only because few of them have ever suffered its agonizing pain.

To make the process of migraine clearer for everyone, let’s imagine your body as a house run entirely by electricity. When the power supply works well and is uninterrupted, you have all the modern conveniences: light, heat, air-conditioning, refrigeration, computers, and Internet. The brain’s 100 billion nerve cells (neurons) are your body’s power system: its wiring and its electricity. Neurons enable you to breathe, move, and think. The neurons in the brain’s outermost layer — the cortex — process information from the senses, regulate body temperature, initiate movement, and enable such complex processes as memory, attention, speech, analytical thinking, and problem-solving. Electrical power makes your house and your body run more efficiently.

Now, imagine your house during an electrical brownout. Too little voltage, as in a dip, and lights noticeably dim, fans slow, and electronic devices sound a warning. Too much voltage, as in a surge, and appliances and electronics can be damaged. This is your brain during an aura. Cortical neurons fire abnormally, in dips and surges, causing symptoms which can include visual disturbances, nausea, clumsiness, or vertigo. Strange tastes, unusual smells, rapid fluctuations in body temperature, and speech difficulties are relatively common. The irregularities in your brain’s electrical system during an aura’s brownout can cause insomnia, depression, irritability, anxiety, brain-fog, and fatigue.

Of course, if you aren’t home during an electrical brownout, or if you’re asleep during an aura, you won’t notice the electrical havoc. Only 20-25% of those with migraines report aura, though some researchers suspect that migraine sufferers may not always notice aura symptoms or associate them with subsequent head pain. Some people with migraine may not associate fleeting irritability, occasional insomnia, or mild depression with an aura because, just as electrical brownouts are not always followed by a complete power outage, auras are not always followed by the crippling pain of a migraine.

Now, imagine your house during a complete power outage. Though the house is still standing, nothing in it that depends on electricity will work. That means no light, no washers and dryers, no television or computers. Without electricity, almost all modern conveniences are unavailable or inoperable. This is your brain on migraine. Instead of firing abnormally, in dips and surges, the cortical neurons across the brain begin to shut down completely. In a wave called Cortical Spreading Depression (CSD), the neurons in the brain’s cortex — the nerve cells that process sensory input, control movement, and enable both speech and thinking — go into “electrical silence” and don’t fire at all. It’s a power outage in your brain.

Why is this neural blackout in the brain so painful? Research indicates that migraine pain is likely due to inflammation of the trigeminal nerve — the largest nerve in the head — responsible for motor control, touch sensation, and pain perception in the scalp, face, eyes, nose, sinuses, cheeks, jaw, teeth, and gums. This inflammation of the trigeminal nerve appears to be directly triggered by the brain’s electrical blackout during Cortical Spreading Depression. When deliberately induced in the brain of a rat, a CSD neural blackout activated the pain-transmitting trigeminal nerve system in the meninges: the sensitive membranes covering the brain. Trigeminal nerve pain, as anyone who has ever experienced a migraine knows, is excruciating and debilitating.

Usually, after a blackout in a residential area, electrical power is restored, and life in your home returns to normal. Since people rarely die during power outages, they are usually not life-threatening. You don’t suffer physical pain during a power outage either, so it’s merely an inconvenience. This is where the analogy ends.

People with migraine suffer incapacitating pain during CSD’s neural blackout. Even after a migraine, when the neurons start firing relatively normally again, it’s highly probable that another wave of CSD and its associated pain will strike. Despite taking medication, effecting lifestyle changes, and avoiding as many triggers as possible, people with migraine cannot entirely eliminate the auras or the pain. Unlike the electrical system of a house, which can be upgraded to reduce brownouts and power outages, our brains cannot be upgraded to reduce abnormal neuron-firing, Cortical Spreading Depression, or CSD-triggered migraine pain.

There is some good news, however. In 2017, an international team of researchers discovered a “genetic particularity” that is more common in those who have migraine, with or without aura. This is the “first irrefutable genetic link” regarding the most frequent forms of migraine. Perhaps, one day soon, researchers will be able to determine ways to adjust and regulate the brain’s complex electrical system, reducing or even eliminating the neural brownouts that are thought to cause aura, as well as the CSD neural blackouts that trigger the incapacitating pain of migraines.

Related Posts

see my Migraine & Chronic Pain page

[Illustration of trigeminal nerve branches credit:
Trigeminal Nerve Branches, by John Charles Boileu Grant,
An Atlas of Anatomy, by Regions, 1962. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia]
(A version of this article was originally published on MigraineMantras.)

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Filed under chronic pain, hemiplegic migraines, migraine, Migraine with Aura, Migraine Without Aura, migraines

What Is Hemiplegic Migraine?

The smell of smoke woke me in the middle of the night. I got out of bed fast, prepared to evacuate my apartment. I heard people talking and assumed that others were already leaving the building. When I got to the hallway, however, it was empty: there was no smoke, and there were no people.

Cautiously, I went to the floors above and below mine, where I could still smell something burning and hear the hum of voices. I went to the parking lot, thinking people were congregating outside. No one was around, and all the apartments in the building were dark. I went back to my place, firmly convinced that there was an electrical fire in one of my outlets.

After an hour of crawling around smelling each outlet, I was more confused than ever. No smell seemed to be coming directly from any of the outlets, yet when I stood back up, I could most definitely smell electrical fire. I could still hear people talking, too, though no one seemed to be close enough for me to hear them clearly: I couldn’t make out the actual words of the conversation. I was up most of the night, crying and waiting for disaster to strike. The next day, when I smelled gasoline and still heard several voices faintly talking to each other, despite my being at home alone all day, I thought I was losing my mind.

Gasoline, cigarette smoke, electrical fire, propane gas – I’ve smelled all of them for no reason in my life, and it took years before I was brave enough to admit it to anyone. Even then, I only told my doctor because I was also experiencing such dreadful tingling and weakness in my left hand that I kept dropping things, and because my left foot was numb so often that I limped and stumbled along, unable to feel my foot.

When I finally admitted smelling strange, non-existent odors, along with hearing “voices” without understanding the words, my doctor began to question me about other possible symptoms. She mentioned strange tastes, temporary mental confusion, an infrequent inability to speak, instances of my words coming out jumbled and mixed up, or my losing consciousness without warning.

I’d been having non-convulsive seizures during the migraine attacks at least since the age of 9, when a doctor noticed that I sometimes lost consciousness during migraine. Because I was diagnosed with migraine at age 5, and because virtually all the women in my family also had migraine, the doctor said she thought she knew what was causing all those frightening neurological symptoms.

After sending me for multiple medical tests to ensure that I was not developing multiple sclerosis and that I had not had a stroke, the doctor diagnosed Familial Hemiplegic Migraine, a rare form of migraine disorder.

Hemiplegic Migraine

Hemiplegic Migraine (HM) is caused by mutations in one of at least 4 genes, preventing the neurons from firing normally, causing partial numbness, tingling, or paralysis on one side of the body (hemiparesis) along with the other migraine aura symptoms such as visual disturbances or speech difficulties. HM can also cause impaired consciousness, ranging from confusion to profound coma. Familial HM is inherited: other family members with migraine have similar neurological symptoms. Though Sporadic HM can occur after head trauma, and though he same genetic mutations are involved, Sporadic HM is not inherited, so it does not run in families.

The pronounced neurological symptoms of Hemiplegic Migraine make it a subdivision of Migraine with Aura, which can cause heightened sensitivity to smells and to light, as well as nausea and vomiting during the migraine itself. Although the debilitating pain of migraine does not always follow the aura symptoms of light sensitivity or nausea in other forms of migraine, virtually everyone who experiences the one-sided neurological symptoms of Hemiplegic Migraine, whether familial or sporadic, has the excruciating one-sided head pain after the aura.

Though it’s uncommon for the neurological symptoms to remain after the pain of the migraine has passed, HM can cause prolonged weakness, extended memory problems, or mild but permanent difficulties with movement and coordination. A few doctors and researchers seem to believe that Hemiplegic Migraine “disappears” after age 50, but most people do not get miraculous relief from these migraine attacks as they age. Unfortunately, triptans and ergotamines, which are sometimes used to prevent or treat other forms of migraine, are contraindicated in those with Hemiplegic Migraine because those prophylactic medications often trigger strokes.

Despite the worrying symptoms, a diagnosis of Hemiplegic Migraine can actually be a relief for migraine sufferers. Their strange neurological symptoms are part of a rare migraine disorder that not only has a name, but is a recognized illness and disability.

(This post is an excerpt of my post originally published on MigraineMantras.)

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Filed under health, hemiplegic migraines, migraine, Migraine Treatment, Migraine with Aura, Migraine Without Aura, migraines

SurfCity Apps: The Best Free Self-Hypnosis Meditation Apps for Migraine and Chronic Pain Relief

If you’re not familiar with self-hypnosis, let me assure you that it is nothing like what’s shown in horror films. No matter how skilled the therapist, meditation leader, or professional hypnotist, hypnosis meditations cannot make you do anything you do not wish to. I’ve heard of self-hypnosis for many things — weight loss, quitting smoking, reducing anxiety — and I’ve used self-hypnosis CDs for increasing creativity and maintaining an exercise program. It wasn’t until the advent of smartphones, however, that I found self-hypnosis meditations which actually reduced my chronic migraine pain. Two of the finest self-hypnosis meditation apps for pain relief which I use regularly are Migraine & Headache Relief  and Chronic Pain Relief, both by Surf City Apps. These two apps are the best I’ve found for reducing chronic pain.

Founded in 2012, Surf City Apps produces professionally scripted hypnosis apps with professional background audio. Each script is read by a certified clinical hypnotherapist and hypnotherapy instructor; the same person narrates both the Migraine Relief and the Chronic Pain Relief meditations: I find her voice and delivery calming and relaxing. I often fall asleep when listening to these meditations, but even when I cannot sleep because of insomnia, either as a symptom of the migraine itself or from its accompanying pain, I play these apps on a low volume continuously, and they help significantly reduce the pain level.

The meditations in these apps are not hidden by music, are clearly audible, and the free versions contain the exact same narration as the Pro versions. That means you can listen to the free versions and hear absolutely everything that is said in the paid versions. Since you can listen to the entire self-hypnosis narration-free, I advise you to listen to both Migraine Relief and Chronic Pain Relief as long as you want to determine which best helps reduce your pain. These are only a few differences between the free and the paid versions of these apps, and none of those differences concerns the actual content of the self-hypnosis meditation itself.

*Please note that because these are self-hypnosis meditations which may make you fall asleep, you should never listen to these apps while driving or operating dangerous machinery.*

Migraine & Headache Relief
Self-Hypnosis & Meditation
by Surf City Apps

After guiding your through some imagery and breathing exercises to induce relaxation, the Migraine & Headache Relief self-hypnosis meditation tells you to image the pain in your head as a color, which you choose yourself. Then, you image a faucet at your ear closest to the pain, and the meditation guides you through turning on the faucet and letting the pain drain safely out through the faucet. You are then given some suggestions for safely “disposing” of the pain and encouraged to replace the now-empty space previously occupied by the pain with the color you image from another body part that does not give you pain.

Download Migraine & Headache Relief free from Surf City Apps for iOS or Android devices, from Amazon for Kindle, from the App Store for iOS devices, or from GooglePlay for Android devices. Though I’ve never used Migraine & Headache Relief on an ordinary headache, I always use it during a migraine attack. It significantly reduces the pain, especially when I combine it with Surf City Apps’ Chronic Pain Relief.

Chronic Pain Relief
Self-Hypnosis & Meditation
by Surf City Apps

After guiding your through some imagery and breathing exercises to encourage relaxation, the Chronic Pain Relief self-hypnosis meditation instructs you to image a pain-relieving liquid, which acts like novocaine, coming from a faucet. You are instructed to determine the color, viscosity, and temperature of the liquid. You are guided through the steps of placing your hand under the running faucet and feeling the numbness and relief caused by the liquid. You are then told to put your hand on any part of your body that is in pain. You image that liquid penetrating all the tissues of your body in order to relieve pain and promote healing. Afterward, you image the liquid returning to your hand so that you can return it to the basin below the faucet where you “release” it. If you experience pain in large areas of your body, you are guided through imagery where you bathe or shower in the pain-relieving liquid and are thereby comforted.

Download Chronic Pain Relief free from Surf City Apps for iOS or Android devices, from Amazon for Kindle, from the App Store for iOS devices, and from GooglePlay for Android devices. The Chronic Pain app relieves a great deal of chronic pain, and it definitely helps with the severe pain of migraine attacks as well, which is why I alternate the apps when I’m in severe pain.

SurfCity App Controls

The controls are identical in all versions (free and paid, across all app topics) of the Surf City apps and are very easy to use. The settings are relatively self-explanatory, though some brief descriptions are sometimes included, as in the definition of what Hypnotic Booster does.

 

The Differences Between the Free and Pro App
There are ads in the free version as well as limitations to the app controls. The Pro (paid) version costs a one-time fee ($1.99-3.99, depending on the particular app), and the paid version allows you to turn off the audio instructions (which help you relax your body but do not specifically have anything to do with relieving pain) at the beginning of the narration, to disable Awaken at End (allowing you to stay asleep if you are using it at night and happen to fall asleep), and to repeat the narration 1-3 times or to loop it so it continues until you shut the app down. These controls alone are certainly worth the money if you want to play the narration all night long or during a migraine attack to keep the pain level down. The paid version also includes a variety of background sounds, (rain, water on the beach, etc) and lets you continue listening to your background of choice after the meditation narration ends by delaying the ending of the app’s shut-off. You can choose from 5, 10, 20, or 30-minute delays, or hourly delays from 1-8 hours: during these delays, the self-hypnosis meditation is not playing but the soothing background sounds are, and this might be helpful for promoting sleep and rest during a migraine attack or pain flare-up).

Making Migraine and Chronic Pain Relief
Self-Hypnosis & Meditation Playlists

If you have the Pro (paid) versions of either of these apps, you can Loop them so that they play all night long, although you can only play one meditation at a time. On iOS devices, at least, these two pain relief apps are also available as MP3 versions so you can make playlists. That way you can queue up two different versions and alternate them all night long. Once you’ve downloaded one of the free apps, go to More at the bottom, then scroll past the Pro versions of the self-hypnosis apps down to Our Apps in MP3 Format.

This will then open in the iTunes Store, where you can purchase the MP3 version of what you’re already listening to. For $2.99-4.99 you can buy an “album” which will have the self-hypnosis meditation session in two versions: + Awake instructs you to wake up after listening to the session, the other does not. Both Awake and Sleep versions have the same background music.

The album includes both versions of the self-hypnosis: the daytime, when you are instructed to awaken at the end of the meditation, and the nighttime, where you are not instructed to awaken. When you make a daytime playlist, make sure you put the + Awake versions in the same playlist; for nighttime or nap listening, put the Sleep versions (the ones without + Awake) in the same playlist.

I have the Migraine Relief and the Chronic Pain Relief sleep versions in one playlist, alternating one with the other until I have about 10 hours of playing time, to make sure I don’t get woken up by the hypnosis-meditation shutting off. The day version of this playlist, which alternates Migraine Relief + Awaken with Chronic Pain Relief + Awaken, is only about 5 or 6 hours long, but that’s because I’m awake already and playing it at a very low volume so that I hear it subliminally. Once you’ve listened to the session a few times, you don’t have to actively concentrate on the meditation-hypnosis for it to reduce your pain.

Note: These are self-hypnosis meditations, even in their MP3 versions, and they can make you fall asleep, so don’t listen to these while driving or operating dangerous machinery.

The only thing I don’t like about the MP3 versions of Surf City Apps is that both the Migraine Relief and Chronic Pain Relief have the same, rather repetitive music in the background. Mostly it doesn’t bother me, but sometimes when the pain is really severe, it makes me feel worse: that’s when I turn off the playlist and switch to the app itself; then I listen to one or the other (you can play only than one app at a time), but since I bought the Pro version, I can loop the self-hypnosis meditation to play continuously until I shut it off.

You can check out all Surf City’s free apps on its website. Their apps have been downloaded over 5 million times and average 4+ stars out of 5 for these particular apps. In addition to in-app Support –under Interact > Feedback and Support, where you can read FAQs or send them a message — Surf City is on Twitter and Facebook: they are very responsive to customer questions.

These pain relief self-hypnosis meditation apps may not take away your migraine or other chronic pain completely, but they do significantly reduce pain for most of their listeners. Even better, since the full meditation is available on the free versions of their apps, you can see which you prefer or simply listen to them both. Either way, you’re bound to feel some relief.

If you have any questions about these apps, or can provide information about these apps on Android devices, you can reach me on Twitter at Alexandria_SZ. If your question won’t fit in a tweet, you can contact me by email.

Related Posts

For more of my migraine articles,
see my Migraine & Chronic Pain page.

(A slightly different version of this post was
originally published on MigraineMantras.)

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Filed under App Review, chronic pain, Chronic Pain Treatment, healing, health, Health and Wellness, hemiplegic migraines, Meditation and MIndfulness, Memoir, migraine, migraine self-care, Migraine Treatment, Migraine with Aura, Migraine Without Aura, migraines, Review, Self-Hypnosis Apps, Self-Hypnosis Meditation Apps, SurfCity Apps

The Best Natural Nausea Relief

We’ve all been nauseous. Whether from pregnancy’s morning-sickness or medication side-effects, from the annual flu bug or a migraine attack, from anxiety or dehydration, or from eating a bit too much of that delicious holiday dinner, we can find nausea an unwelcome companion. Prescription anti-emetics can do an excellent job of preventing vomiting, but they can also make you dizzy or incontinent. Worse, since these powerful medications are to prevent vomiting, they don’t necessarily eliminate nausea. Over the last several years, I’ve come to rely more on natural remedies to relieve nausea, no matter its cause, and I’ve learned to keep many of these items in my pantry year round. Ginger is the best natural nausea antidote, and it’s generally regarded as safe to eat regularly.* I always have plenty of ginger in the house, whether as fresh root, crystallized, or as a major ingredient in some very yummy products. Fresh ginger root or crystallized ginger, which is made from the root, more effectively relieves nausea than culinary powdered ginger or herbal capsules containing powdered ginger.

Though I always have plenty of fresh ginger root (sliced, then frozen to maintain freshness) for baking and stir-fry dishes, crystallized ginger is now one of my kitchen staples. Years ago, I saw ginger listed in an herbal anti-nausea supplement, so I bought some crystallized ginger at a health food store. The next time I got nauseous, I opened the bag and popped a slice into my mouth. It was delicious. Even better, two slices later, my nausea had completely disappeared. Since that time, I keep an airtight glass container on the counter filled with crystallized ginger. When I have the flu, am getting a migraine, or have nausea for any reason, I eat a few slices of crystallized ginger. It immediately relieves nausea, and if the upset stomach returns later, I simply eat another piece.

Once we moved to Big Rock Candy Mountain, however, I couldn’t find crystallized ginger in the local grocery, and the closest health food stores are over two hours away. At first, I decided to make my own. It’s not difficult: you just slice fresh, firm, dry ginger root, add sugar and water, and boil until the ginger is tender and the water turns into syrup. Then you strain and cool the ginger slices before rolling them in sugar. Time-consuming, but, honestly, easy-peasy. In addition to eating the crystallized ginger, I put a couple slices into my iced tea, water, seltzer, carbonated water, lemonade, smoothies, and even iced coffee. I love the taste, but when I’m nauseous, I’m usually also dehydrated or having a migraine attack, so putting the crystallized ginger into my beverages helps all the nasty symptoms I may be experiencing. At the rate I was eating my homemade crystallized ginger, I soon found it more convenient to purchase it online rather than drive to the big city every week.

Since I have severe allergies and migraine whose attacks can be triggered by many different foods additives or preservatives, I have to be very careful about which ginger products I buy. I can only have ginger root that has not been exposed to sulfites, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, or preservatives. I also prefer non-GMO and organic ginger. All of these products meet my stringent migraine and allergy requirements. I’ve listed each product’s ingredients based on its packaging in the most recent version I’ve bought rather than on any online listings since item’s actual ingredient list sometimes contain known allergens or migraine triggers. Here are a few of my favorite crystallized ginger products to relieve nausea.**

Caveat
Eating crystallized ginger or adding it to your beverages takes away your appetite along with your nausea. In fact, ginger root is such a strong appetite suppressant that it’s almost always one of the ingredients in herbal diet supplements. Fresh or crystallized ginger is a more powerful anorectic than any herbal diet pills, so if you have difficulty keeping weight on, you may want to monitor your intake of ginger.

Best Crystallized Ginger

Best Ginger For Beverages
No matter what kind of tea I having — black, green, rooibos, or herbal — I drop a couple slices of crystallized ginger into the bottom of the cup before I add the boiling water. If I have cold tea, I drop some slices into my glass before adding the ice. I don’t like too much sugar in my tea, and 2-4 crystallized ginger slices make it sweet enough for me. For my tea, whether hot or cold, I prefer NOW Foods Crystallized Ginger Slices, which contains ginger root, evaporated cane syrup, and cane sugar. NOW ginger is certified organic and verified non-GMO. NOW Foods brand is not dried out to the point of being hard, and it’s not too sugary. These slices give Perrier a very slight ginger ale flavor and are also excellent added to lemonade, limeade, or orange juice.

Best Ginger For Baking and For Smoothies
I’ve heard of people eating gingersnaps for nausea, but store-bought brands, even those with a strong ginger flavor, simply don’t have enough ginger to alleviate the fierce nausea that accompanies a migraine attack. Sometimes I make my own gingersnaps, and for that, I prefer NOW Food Brands Crystallized Ginger Dices, also certified organic and verified non-GMO.

Because they’re made for baking, the dices are shaped like little gumdrops, but not as sweet as candy. The dices are a little chewier than the slices and have slightly less sugar, but the taste is the same, and so is their anti-emetic and anorectic properties. The dices knock out nausea just as quickly as the slices, but because they’re smaller, I have to eat a whole handful to quell nausea. When I have a migraine, I often drink homemade smoothies as meals, and if I want crystallized ginger in my smoothies, I use the NOW dices because they get chopped and blended more easily.

Best Ginger For Eating
My favorite crystallized ginger for eating straight from the bag, whether to prevent nausea during the flu or a migraine attack, or throughout the day to keep my appetite under control, is Gerbs Organic Crystallized Ginger, sourced from Thailand. Made with ginger and cane sugar, Gerbs ginger comes in 2- or 4-pound resealable bags. Because Gerbs is a bit more expensive, I don’t like to put it in smoothies, tea, Perrier, etc., because its texture gets lost. Although both NOW and Gerbs crystallized gingers come in hefty slices, and though both are great for eating, Gerbs Organic Crystallized Ginger is slightly thicker and a bit moister. I keep some slices in a candy dishes on my desk and nightstand, as well as in an airtight jar on the kitchen counter, so that I always have some around if the nausea of a migraine attack begins.

Australian Crystallized Ginger

Top-Rated Crystallized Ginger
Based on articles and reviews of crystallized ginger by bakers, chefs, and cookbook authors, I tried Australian Crystallized Ginger, which is said to be the best in the world, and Thai Crystallized Candied Ginger. Both of these brands contain only cane sugar and ginger, and are free of sulphur (sulfites). These two brands of crystallized ginger are divine — sweet, very plump, and extremely moist. Both come in multiple pound bags. The Thai Crystallized Candied Ginger is especially sweet — very candy-like — though it is more ginger root than sugar and so, technically, is probably not “candy.” Because it’s actual ginger root, it quells nausea better than any “ginger candies” on the market: ginger candies are much like prepackaged gingersnaps — they may taste good, but they don’t have enough ginger to relieve nausea.

Thai Crystallized Candied Ginger

 

I wish I could buy these two brands all the time, but I found myself devouring these gingers even when I wasn’t nauseous, i.e., like candy. I went through several pounds of the Australian and Thai crystallized gingers so quickly that I didn’t have enough the next time I was nauseous from a migraine. Even my guy liked these brands of crystallized ginger, and he is a confirmed ginger-hater. If you don’t love crystallized ginger (or actually hate ginger in any form), Australian or Thai Crystallized Ginger might be the type you’d want to keep around the house to relieve nausea.

Ginger is the best natural remedy I’ve ever found to quell nausea, whether it’s from migraine, medications, motion-sickness, flu, or holiday overindulgence. It has none of the side-effects of pharmaceutical anti-emetics (prescription or OTC) and can be added to liquids so you ensure that you remain hydrated. Even if you’re not fond of ginger, you’ll find that crystallized ginger, which is often made from baby ginger, has little of the heat of restaurant stir-fry gingers and none of the bitterness. The only thing you may have to worry about with crystallized ginger is that you’ll like it so much, you’ll find yourself eating it like candy, whether or not you’re nauseous.


*Safety*
It’s generally regarded as safe to eat ginger — up to 1000mg per day. if you eat too much in one day, you might get heartburn or diarrhea, so start slowly. Also, ginger may be an anti-coagulant: consult your physican if you are on prescription blood-thinners, and do not consume any ginger products for two weeks before scheduled surgical procedures. (back to article)

**Caution**
If you experience unrelenting nausea, it may be a sign of an ulcer or of something more serious. If nausea is accompanied by vomiting, it may be food poisoning or gastritis. Please check with your health care provider if you have daily nausea that is not relieved by ginger or OTC anti-emetics. (back to article)

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