Transcript EP 293 – How to Say Goodbye to Headaches and Migraines Naturally with Dr. Meg Mill
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Dr. Taz: Welcome back, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Super Woman Wellness, where we are determined to bring you back to your super-powered self. And joining me today is Dr. Meg Mill. Now, who’s ruined a day because of a bad headache? A migraine? Keeps you in bed, makes you call out of work. No one’s got time for that. We’ve got things to do. So we’ve brought Dr. Mill in to help us break down all things migraines and also tell us a little bit about her story.
Dr. Taz: She is actually a functional medicine practitioner, a bestselling author, podcast host and speaker. In her virtual functional medicine practice, she works with patients worldwide to heal the root cause of their health struggles through advanced diagnostic testing and personalized support. She’s been seen on Fox News Channel, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and in Reader’s Digest, and has appeared on many podcasts.
Dr. Taz: She’s particularly passionate about helping people end headaches and migraines, increase energy, and restore mental clarity without drugs or overwhelming protocols with her proven EAT method, which you’re going to have to tell us about. Welcome to the show, Dr. Mill.
Dr. Meg Mill: Hello. Thank you for having me.
Dr. Taz: Oh my gosh, we’re thrilled to have you here. Well, we’ll definitely get into headaches. We’ll definitely get into migraines, but we always want the backstory on how you got into functional medicine to begin with, and also why headaches became your area of expertise.
Dr. Meg Mill: Absolutely. So I was on the conventional side. I graduated with a PharmD, and then went on to do a residency in ambulatory care clinical pharmacy. So I was seeing patients in outpatient clinics, and I had been doing this for years and really just kept seeing people really survive rather than thrive. I knew the protocols. I knew why they were getting put on the medications, but we’re building medication after medication and really not seeing that change that you really want to see. In the same vein, I was having my own health struggles, where here I am going to specialists and saying, “Okay, I’m having these issues,” and being told, “You’re fine.” I hate those.
Dr. Taz: I know.
Dr. Meg Mill: “You’re fine. You’re the picture of health,” and I didn’t feel it. And I got to a point where it’s like I didn’t even know what I could eat. I remember my mother at Christmas saying, “I don’t even know what to make you.” And I’m like, “I don’t even know what I can eat either.” And it was just where I was dealing with these struggles and it made me want to make a change. So I started looking into more natural approaches, and I found functional medicine and I love to learn. So I’m like, okay, what’s this new approach? I really felt like that can kind of be a balance between really some holistic approaches and not going too far to the other side, but really looking at it for a functional approach.
Dr. Meg Mill: And so I dug in and then I was like, wow, this seems like my path and my passion. So then I went back and got the certifications in functional medicine and open practice. And now I really love it. I’m able to see those real transformations and people and the way they feel and what they really want to feel in that optimal way.
Dr. Meg Mill: So when I opened my practice, I started noticing that people come to me for all different reasons, and I do a really detailed and intake questionnaire and symptom questionnaire when they come. And particularly with women, I was noticing this pattern, and I was seeing either they were coming to me because they were suffering from migraines that were debilitating and they were wiping their days out and they weren’t able to, missing work or missing events with children. Or another thing that was happening was, or they answer, they’re not even coming to me for headaches, but when I’m doing these questionnaires, they’re filling out that they’re having regular headaches. They’re having regular migraines, they’re taking Advil regularly or Tylenol or some sort of medication to treat them. But it’s so normal for them that they’re not even actually evaluating that as one of their top health priorities.
Dr. Taz: Oh wow.
Dr. Meg Mill: And it was just the same pattern that I kept seeing over and over. And then we’d work together and they would say, “Oh my gosh, my headaches are gone. I never thought this was possible. I never thought I could get to a place without headaches.” And I just kept seeing this pattern repeat over and over. And I thought, wow, we’re just normalizing. And particularly in the conventional space, you’re banding the treatment rather than really getting the root cause. And we’re also sometimes normalizing headaches and thinking, okay, it’s normal to just be someone who suffers with headaches. So I really became passionate to make that known that you don’t have to.
Dr. Taz: Wow. So are most of your clients women? Is it females only?
Dr. Meg Mill: Mostly women. I do see men, but mostly, especially in the headache space, I think it unfortunately affects women a lot more often than men.
Dr. Taz: Yeah. So let’s break down the headache piece of this conversation. So all headaches are the same, treat them all similarly? Break down maybe the different types of headaches and what we need to be thinking about when we’re experiencing one, and maybe asking the right questions to our doctors so we get the solutions that actually work.
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah. So there are definitely different types of headaches. So we’re looking at the most common type of headache people have is a tension headache. And that’s when you’re going to get that dull band across your forehead most often. There’s not really a pattern to that. They generally don’t last a long time. When we’re looking at the migraine headaches, we’re looking at the more of the pattern, where you can have the aura, you can have nausea and vomiting, you have the light sensitivity, the noise sensitivity. You want to get in a really dark place where you’re not moving much. And then we can even look at the opposite and look at a cluster headache, which is a really intense, short period where sometimes movement can actually relieve pain of a cluster headache. And then we can get into hypoglycemic headaches where you’re getting that because you have low blood sugar.
Dr. Meg Mill: So there’s variations in patterns, but really ultimately, no matter what type of headache, we want to look at the root cause and the connection to other things going on in your body. So whether you suffer from migraines, or whether you just regularly get tension headaches, or whether you have cluster headaches, there’s still underlying things that are going on that are common for people that have all of the different types of headaches that we really need to dive into and look and really fix. And once we kind of get those figured out, then we see the headaches decrease dramatically with both incidence and severity.
Dr. Taz: Well, you may already know that I’m super passionate about Chinese medicine, and the acupuncture points for migraines and for headaches are often digestive points. So for example, large intestine, which is right here, kind of by the nose, the gall water points that we often use in acupuncture for headaches, which is kind of set up here, the stomach meridian points, Chinese medicine already knew about the connection between gut and diet and headaches. What are you using in practice? What are people missing when it comes to that very important player and headaches?
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah. So when we’re looking at the gut health, we look at it kind of in two prongs. So we’re going to look at it in the microbes, in what’s going on in your microbiome and if you have this dysbiosis, if you have bacteria that are causing different changes in your body, and that can lead particularly with headaches sometimes to food sensitivities. So when we start to get the food sensitivity, we get that immune response, that inflammation, that then will cause the headache. So sometimes we’re looking at fixing the gut imbalances, fixing the microbiome, but then we also want to take that a step further and look at the diet. So we want to individually look at food sensitivities and what food sensitivities are happening for individuals. And that’s unique to each person.
Dr. Meg Mill: And I do a lot of food sensitivity testing, but you can also even start with looking up elimination diets, and just really cutting out… Big culprits can be gluten and dairy. They can be big potentiators. So if you’re just like, “Okay, I want to do a trial.” You just have to make sure if you’re doing that trial, you’re doing it long enough because I think sometimes people are like, “Oh, I tried it. It didn’t work.”
Dr. Taz: Right, right.
Dr. Meg Mill: “Well, we tried it for a week or two. We haven’t seen a difference yet.” But then we also, with the diet aspect, have another bucket. And we know there’s data supporting certain food groups and headaches. Where it can get confusing is it’s not the same for every person, and it can also be about a threshold when it comes to the food.
Dr. Meg Mill: So we know some of the common food groups are foods with tyramine, histamine-related foods, MSG foods that have MSG solicitates. Even caffeine because it has those rebound headache effects. But sometimes people will say, “Well, I had a glass…” We’ll use wine. Like, “I had a glass of wine and I didn’t have a headache. But then I had it again and I did. But it must not be the wine because I’ve had that and I don’t get a headache every time I drink it.” But it can also be about that threshold. So maybe you had some wine with some aged cheese, and that was just the threshold that it took your body to get the headaches.
Dr. Meg Mill: So I say we become sort of detectives and we really look at all these foods and sometimes actually track them. So I sometimes will have people print out a blank calendar and then write down what you ate that day or the day before when you got the headache. It’s a little bit more challenging for people that have chronic headaches. But when it’s particularly ones that you’re getting like, “Okay, I’m getting a headache today. What did I eat that day and the day before?” And then start looking at some connections.
Dr. Taz: I love that. That’s a great way to begin, for sure. I think people don’t realize it is not just, they wait for a test, and if the test says I’m allergic or I’m intolerant, then they’ll follow it. But the test sometimes doesn’t pick up the tipping point, whether it’s an allergy test or whether it’s a food intolerance test. So trying to understand what that tipping point is so important. So you mentioned tyramine. What are high tyramine foods? What are high histamine foods? What are the biggest offenders that might be triggering a headache?
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah. So tyramine foods can be things, like I said, like aged cheeses.
Dr. Taz: Okay.
Dr. Meg Mill: Wine would be another one. You think of cured and aged foods when you’re thinking of tyramine foods. Histamines, you think of fermented foods and shellfish can have histamines. Histamines are complicated because you have to be careful with histamine. Even if a food, like a meat, is cooked and how many days after, it’s not cooked that you eat it because the histamines can grow in food.
Dr. Taz: Oh wow.
Dr. Meg Mill: So even if a food that doesn’t have high histamines initially, if you’re eating it days later, it could actually grow those. So if you are someone that’s prone to headaches, it’s best to eat your food within 24 hours. It helps to not have as many leftovers. And then when we’re looking at solicitates, we’re looking at citrus foods. Nitrates would be like hot dogs and bacon and things like that. When we talk about MSG, you find that in a lot of processed and prepared foods. And then another one that can be common is aspartame, which would be like diet sodas and diet foods.
Dr. Taz: So that histamine accumulation is fascinating to me. So are there certain foods, when they’re left over, will accumulate more histamines than others? Because so many people meal prep, right? And they prep food for five days on Sunday. How do you handle that?
Dr. Meg Mill: I know. It’s tricky for people that suffer from headaches and migraines. So we do try to not do that for our… So what I actually do is we start out and we’re going to take a short window and we’ll try to eliminate some of these foods, because we just kind of have a clean slate, and then we work on adding back in. It’s not like a long elimination diet, but it’s just a short period to kind of get the clean slate, then we add them back in and see. So it’s sort of just that testing.
Dr. Meg Mill: But I agree, the meal prepping can be wonderful for a lot of people, but when you’re looking at histamines, we just want to be careful of that for a period of time while we’re investigating, just to make sure that you’re not getting any build up. So you could do it for like the beginning of the week, but I wouldn’t probably recommend doing that Sunday or freezing it. That could help too.
Dr. Taz: Got it. Okay. Interesting. our relatives in India that were older, and actually one of them came to visit recently, they were like, “You guys eat leftovers? That’s so bad for you. So they’re already kind of dialed dial into that idea there. What are some of the other causes of headaches and migraines that you see frequently and that sometimes might honestly just get missed?
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah. So another big one is stress. So I say people get stuck in a chain of pain. When we’re stressed and we’re living in this sympathetic nervous system a lot of the time, the parasympathetic is the rest and digest. The sympathetic is that fight or flight. And so we’re intended to live more in that parasympathetic nervous system, but a lot of us are in that sympathetic place a lot of times. And so when that happens, our cortisol levels start to go up. And when we start to get high cortisol, we can release another hormone called prolactin, which can increase pain sensitivity, which can lead you into this cycle of pain.
Dr. Meg Mill: And actually, another thing with people with headaches is we all think of stress as our to-do list, of what we have going on, but pain as a stressor. So we can have biological stress on our body, so we get stuck in this chain of pain. And so, really taking things that can bring you back into the parasympathetic. And I don’t know about you, I’m sure you’re giving the same advice, but I say you don’t have to climb a mountain. You can just take a few minutes out of your day and practice the deep breathing, find things that relate to you to bring yourself into a calm place. And if you do those more often, it’s more effective and you’re kind of building that muscle to be able to do it.
Dr. Taz: I love that. And you know what? In practice, we will actually measure prolactin levels, and they’re often high. So I assume they were an androgen, like a part of PCOS and that whole syndrome where those get overproduced when insulin’s high or when stress is high. But it’s interesting that you connect it to stress hormones and then to migraines. So do you see that as a pattern overall?
Dr. Meg Mill: It definitely can be. So what we’re trying to do is really dial in and detect for each individual where they’re… Actually putting all the pieces together.
Dr. Taz: Yeah.
Dr. Meg Mill: So it’s like we have this piece of the puzzle and we have this piece of it. And I guess then that would lead us into the next piece of the puzzle, which would be hormone balance. So we want to see where hormones are and it kind of relates to that high cortisol, then seeing EST estrogen dominance can be another reason that people are getting headaches. Particularly, I see women with the cyclical migraines when you’re getting that migraine before your period or during your ovulation time. Then we’re seeing that estrogen dominance, low progesterone, that dynamic can also be another factor. So we’re kind of puzzle piecing all of these things together.
Dr. Taz: All of that together. Do you see estrogen dominance in migraines and headaches in menopausal women?
Dr. Meg Mill: Not as common in postmenopausal women.
Dr. Taz: Okay.
Dr. Meg Mill: But it would be more in that younger women and that perimenopause, because your progesterone’s going down before your estrogen. So sometimes I think women can start to get worse if they’re someone who has a propensity, when we’re going through that perimenopause, because we’re getting the lower progesterone first, then you’re in that more estrogen dominant state for a period, a good period of time for a lot of women.
Dr. Taz: Gotcha. Gotcha. And then, for younger women, and even other women that might be choosing a birth control pill, and then that in turn triggers maybe headaches or migraines, what would you tell them? What’s going on with that pill in particular?
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah. So I think there’s a lot of things. Then you’re taking the synthetic hormones, and then we’re also have nutrient deficiencies when we take the pill. So I think a lot of times the birth control pill is used for a bandaid that is, one, it’s really not fixing that underlying hormonal balance. And so, everybody has different reasons that they take birth control, but it’s not necessarily, I don’t think, an effective. I see people have been on that path and then we find a different way and it’s like, okay, this is more effective in the controlling of this particular thing, individually anyway.
Dr. Taz: Got it. Okay. And then you mentioned one more factor that we haven’t touched upon. We talked about diet, gut, stress, hormones. What about toxicity? Where does that fit into everything?
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah, so I see environment and toxicity a lot too. So we know there are heavy metals that can lead to headaches. So particularly cadmium and lead are two that are strongly associated. So we want to look at that. We want to look at mold, and mold can play a role in your headaches. And then just your environment in general. We’re bombarded by toxins all the time. So we’re really taking a look at your house, at your products, what you’re using on your skin. Our skin is a giant mouth. And I think we spend so much time thinking about what we eat, which is wonderful, but then we’re not necessarily always paying attention to what we’re putting on our skin, what we’re breathing, what we’re surrounded by. So just making some simple things, switches in your house.
Dr. Meg Mill: I do recommend.. often it’s common even to have a lot of congestion for people that have headaches. So getting an air filter for your bedroom can be very helpful just to… If you could pick one room, pick your bedroom. You’re in there a good amount of time. And so getting an air filter, doing some things that are just switching up your beauty products. Every time you finish a bottle, just get a new one that’s cleaner. Changing some cleaning products. Those all can play a big role in helping you relieve your headaches too.
Dr. Taz: Are there a couple of toxins that you find most frequently are directly linked to migraines?
Dr. Meg Mill: Well, a lot of times, we’re looking also when we’re talking about that toxin is estrogens because there’s the hormonal aspect to headaches too. So I always have people switch out their plastics right away. So if you can take your plastic containers that have, particularly I think it’s really people who are heating plastic. Unfortunately, whether you’re putting in the dishwasher, it can leach into your food, and to switch out your plastic containers for glass ones and just start doing some things like that, that can start to help.
Dr. Taz: Is there testing that you like to pick up on some of this toxicity and what’s happening there?
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah, I do a lot of heavy metal testing, so I use the RT a lot, labs for that. And so we do heavy metal testing. I do hormone testing to look at all the hormone imbalances that have all of the estrogen, progesterone and estrogens and the cortisol. And then, we can do gut testing. We can do food sensitivity testing. So it’s really sometimes about how far we need to get to really find that root cause. But the listeners can actually just start by looking at connections. So if they’re not able to get testing, I love data. I love supporting supportive data, but at the same time, what you’re saying, they can get started looking at patterns right away. The other two things you can do right away are stay hydrated because we want to make dehydration as an independent risk factor for headaches. And we also want to make sure we’re staying hydrated at really at that cellular level. So really sipping your water through the day and not chugging it.
Dr. Taz: Oh, wow.
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah. I think a lot of them’s like, “Okay, we’re thirsty. Oh, I need some water.” You chug it.
Dr. Taz: Yeah, goals. It’s about goals. Right? Get through this, right? Yeah.
Dr. Meg Mill: So we chug it and we’re like, “Okay, we’re good.” But if we stay, if we sip it through the day, it gets more in our cells, at that cellular level. So I have people put a glass of water by your desk or something just to keep that hydration level up. And then another one that’s actually an independent risk factor of headaches is sleep. So something as simple as getting a good night’s sleep can actually be an effective way to get started too. And I think it is just putting a mirror up. How much do you prioritize? We all have different patterns. And sometimes until you really look at your pattern, you don’t realize, am I getting enough sleep? Am I actually going to bed to get that full, good quality sleep?
Dr. Taz: Okay. I’m about to step into a very loaded question. Does chronic lyme chronic EBV or chronic mold trigger migraines or headache?
Dr. Meg Mill: Yes. And so that would be another deeper step into it, especially if you’re someone who did not have headaches before. We can often trace histories like, “Oh, I’ve had these for years.” But if you’re someone who’s barely, like, “I wasn’t really suffering from headaches. I didn’t really have that as a part of my life,” and then all of a sudden you’re getting chronic headaches, then we will think, okay, is there lyme? Is there something underlying? Because that can definitely be, like mold. You’re saying mold. Is there something that precipitated this change in such a kind of a drastic way?
Dr. Taz: Wow. Do you see children also, or no?
Dr. Meg Mill: I do, yes. I do help children, yes. Yeah, because it’s the same dynamics, just at a younger spot. So sometimes-
Dr. Taz: Are they getting more headaches and migraines and stuff like that or not so much?
Dr. Meg Mill: Are they getting more?
Dr. Taz: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah, I don’t know the data on if that is something that, but I do think that people are becoming more proactive. So they’re actually searching out things for their kids where, again, we used to just say, “Oh, that was you genetic,” or that I’ve heard so many, “Oh, headaches run in our family.” So there’s not a headache gene. There’s SNPs that affect methylation and different processes of your body that may make it more difficult for you to potentially clear different toxins or process histamine or different things, and that may make people in your family more likely to get headaches because you have those genetic SNPs. But at the same time, we can overcome each one of those, so there’s not necessarily this headache gene that sort of was just established that people in your family have headaches.
Dr. Taz: Got it. So interesting. So yeah, someone out there suffering from headaches, they’ve got migraines, what would you tell them to do if we gave them five steps? What would you tell them?
Dr. Meg Mill: Yeah. So the first thing I would have them do is print that calendar. And I think it sounds silly. I know, sometimes people think, oh, tracking my food, but you don’t have to track your food all the time. Just if you have a headache. So write down on that calendar what you ate that day, what you ate the day before, where in your cycle it was, if there were any stressful events. If you were in a different environment too. Sometimes you can look at the environment saying, “Okay, I was on vacation and I got the headache,” or “When I’m on vacation, I don’t get headaches, but I get them in my house,” and things like that can play a role. So doing that.
Dr. Meg Mill: Then I would also, the next thing I would do would be stay hydrated. I would make sure that you’re getting a good amount of sleep. And then, start to kind of get a little bit deeper and start paying attention to kind of your food and your diet and food sensitivities and you can look at your hormones and just clean up your environment and switch out some of those products. It doesn’t have to be an overhaul, but if you just take one product at a time and start cleaning things up, it can make a big difference.
Dr. Taz: I love it. I love how, like many things, an integrative or holistic or functional approach is what ultimately works. Anything else you want to share with our audience before we let you go?
Dr. Meg Mill: Yes. Well, I actually have a program specifically for headaches and migraines, and I run that a few times a year live with just a small group where we are like a united group getting through this to make a difference. So that can be found at happinessbeyondheadaches.com.
Dr. Taz: Okay.
Dr. Meg Mill: And I actually have a free guide, so it’s a little more in depth on this and action work people can do to get started, and you can find that at www.headachefreedom.com. I’m also over on Instagram if you want to, @drmegmill over there too, so.
Dr. Taz: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for taking time out today to share all your headache knowledge with us and for doing the work you’re doing. We really appreciate it. And for everybody else watching and listening to this episode of Super Woman Wellness, remember you can rate and review it and share it with your friends. If you post a review, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you a free bottle of Goose. I will see you guys next time.