It was a day like any other day. The hospital was abuzz with the sounds of fast moving productivity and distant beeps. My scheduled patient load for the day was pretty light. It was going to be an average day…or so I thought.
The morning was pretty uneventful. All of my exams went as expected. I prepared to take a lunch break. Oddly, the back of my neck was starting to get a little tight. It was probably from looking down at the computer. Or, perhaps I lifted a patient wrong. Who knows? I always look forward to lunch because it is my opportunity to mingle with my colleagues. I’m not a huge fan of hospital cafeteria food, so I typically bring my own lunch.
As I headed towards our break room, I broke out into a sudden sweat. The tightness in my neck was spreading to the left side of my head. I sat down on a nearby chair for a moment. My left eyeball started throbbing with pain.
That’s when the nausea hit.
Thankfully, there was a restroom nearby. I vomited what felt like the entire contents of my soul. About 5 minutes later, I splashed my face with cold water, and I felt the nausea subside. The throbbing on the left side of my head was still there. Maybe I need some water, I thought. I exited the restroom to go fetch my Yeti tumbler. I only made it about halfway down the hallway before the nausea reared its ugly head again. With an immediate about face, I raced back to the restroom. The bile burned my throat as it shot up. Each hurl seemed to put additional pressure on my left eye.
What on Earth was happening?
I washed my face again and took a deep breath. Being pregnant was physically impossible for me at this time in my life. So, I quickly ruled that out. Maybe my morning oatmeal didn’t agree with me. I didn’t know what was happening. I hoped that whatever offended my body was now out. Slowly, I made my way over to the break room and attempted to eat my lunch. But my appetite was gone and my headache was even worse.
My colleague told me I looked like doo-doo and asked me what was wrong. I mumbled that I probably ate something that my stomach didn’t agree with for breakfast. I smiled weakly and assured her that I was okay.
Lunch came and went faster that I anticipated. I headed back to my department to get ready for my next patient. As I was setting up, the nausea came back. I rushed to the nearest restroom and upchucked all of my lunch. I was so upset on so many levels. My head felt like it was splitting. This vomiting was really getting out of hand. It was putting a major kink in my workflow. Additionally, I was upset at the fact that I just wasted a perfectly good meal.
I sat on the floor feeling 100% defeated.
I pressed my hand onto my throbbing left eye to relieve some of the pressure. It felt like my eye was going to pop out of my head. This was the worst day of my life. When I went to wash my face (again), I hardly recognized myself. My face was pale and sickly. It was clear that I could not continue to see patients today. What if I was contagious? When I returned to my department, my ever-so-gracious colleague volunteered to take care of the remainder of my patients for the day.
Quickly, I grabbed my belongings and hurried out of the hospital. As soon as I stumbled out of the main doors, the bright midday sun blinded me and sent a piercing stab thru my left eye into my brain. The muggy Georgia heat made my stomach tense up and I immediately felt dizzy. Something was not right. I covered my eye and winced as I made my way to my vehicle. Falling into my car, I contemplated if I needed to call my husband to come get me. With spots floating around me, I knew there was no way I was driving.
This was my first migraine.
That hellish day took place six years ago. Since then, I made it a habit to stash Excedrin Migraine Strength at my house as well as stash some at my workplace. My migraines were pretty sporadic, but the Excedrin worked fairly well for me. I thought that I had the situation under control.
One day, I was at home with my three children. I felt a dreaded migraine coming. However, this one felt different.
I frantically searched for my migraine medicine, but I could not find it. Out of nowhere, my left eye went blurry. This was new. It was as if my left eye had just been submerged in a murky cup of water. I kept saying, “I can’t see, I can’t see!” I’m sure my kids thought I was losing it. I waited thirty minutes to see if the blurriness would subside.
I called my husband and told him that I needed to go see a doctor.
Later that afternoon, my physician told me that temporary loss of vision was a common migraine symptom. My vision was blurry for a total of 58 minutes. I did not want that commonality to be my normal.
My physician offered to prescribe a migraine medication. When I asked him about the side effects, he paused and listed a plethora of ailments including the possibility of a heart attack. I declined. I told him that I would continue with the Excedrin.
As a bit of a health nut, the thought of depending on a pharmaceutical long term didn’t sit well with me. A few days after my doctor visit, I came across an article about the effects of dark chocolate on migraines.
Let me preface this by mentioning that I don’t like chocolate. I know, I know…what kind of animal am I? A woman who doesn’t like chocolate?! What an abomination! Well, here I am. If I was going to have to eat chocolate (ugh), I wanted to make sure that I get the biggest bang for my buck.
I learned that dark chocolate had several health benefits.
I was intrigued to learn that dark chocolate could be helpful for my migraines. In order for the chocolate to be beneficial, the cacao content should be 70% or more. The magic of dark chocolate on migraines lies in these cool little guys called flavonols. The higher the cacao percentage, the more flavonols are present. Studies have shown that cacao content of at least 70% proved to be the most helpful in migraine situations.
A common question for migraine sufferers is “What is my trigger?”
For some, it may be stress. For others, it may be excessive caffeine. I believe that my trigger is stress. As all mamas know, there is no getting away from stress. There will still be ER trips for noses lodged with Legos. There will still be temper tantrums. For the working mamas, there will still be workplace drama. Toss in this pandemic on top of everything. Mamas deal with with a lot of stress!
As I began to learn my trigger warnings, I knew that a migraine is coming when I felt the back of my neck gets tense. Shortly thereafter, the left side of my head would begin to throb. From there, that’s where the skull splitting agony and the awful eye pain took over.
In an effort to remedy this, I decided to give dark chocolate a go. As soon as my neck started to hurt, I would grab a square of dark chocolate.
I was amazed to find that not only did the neck pain subside pretty quickly, any additional symptoms were stopped in their tracks! I didn’t need to take any Excedrin. No sharp headaches. No blurry visions. A simple block of chocolate was all that I needed. Mind blown.
I experimented with a few different chocolate bars.
They all had their pros and cons. I picked up some tips. When looking for a high quality dark chocolate bar, this is what you want to look for:
- 70% cacao content or more
- Low sugar
- Low Temperature Processing
- Avoid chocolate with alkali – this ingredient significantly reduces flavonols
- Avoid added preservatives
After sampling several various bars, I found Lindt 85% Extra Dark to be my dark chocolate of choice. I would even venture to say that it’s actually pretty yummy. I think that I may have been converted.
If you suffer from migraines, come on over to the dark side – the dark chocolate side that is.