We sat down with Alicia Wolf of The Dizzy Cook to learn a little more about her diagnosis with Vestibular Migraine and how she manages her symptoms today. Between a migraine diet, natural treatments and medication, Alicia feels 100% like herself these days.
What type of migraine do you suffer from?
I have Vestibular Migraine, which is a type of migraine that can come with or without a headache. My symptoms consist of weird sensations such as dizziness, vertigo, unsteadiness, light and sound sensitivity and brain fog. For me, this all occurs without head pain.
When were you diagnosed?
It was actually really difficult for me to be diagnosed, probably because I didn’t have head pain. I came down with these symptoms in March of 2016 and it took me seeing seven doctors in 6 months before one said it was Vestibular Migraine. I didn’t believe him at first, but after meeting with a second doctor I trusted who confirmed the diagnosis, I accepted it.
Now it’s becoming more well known, that you can have migraine without “headaches”.
Tell us about the Dizzy Cook
I was looking to have a family soon and was researching natural treatments to try along with the meds I was taking since you’re kind of limited when trying to conceive. That’s where I came across the migraine diet, called “Heal Your Headache.” This diet plan is by Dr. Buchholz from Johns Hopkins and is based on the migraine triggers of msg, nitrites, histamine, and tyramine.
When searching online, I realized the recipes out there either weren’t very appealing or there weren’t many to choose from. There also wasn’t a lot about Vestibular Migraine from a patient’s perspective either. The thought then crossed my mind that it would be nice if there was a fun food blog that focused on these recipes and talked about life with Vestibular Migraine. I had just lost my career in watch design because of VM, so I was looking for something that gave me a sense of purpose.
I combined them both and created The Dizzy Cook. Since then, I have published a cookbook, “The Dizzy Cook: Managing Migraine with More Than 90 Comforting Recipes and Lifestyle Tips.”
When having an attack, what are your worst symptoms?
In the beginning, my symptoms were 24/7, but now it’s gotten so much better. My symptoms were rocking or swaying, the feeling of “walking on marshmallows,” unsteady ground, spinning vertigo and dropping sensations, brain fog, and of course, light and sound sensitivity. Sometimes my eyes would feel super tired and strained, or I’d see things that weren’t there, like my surroundings moving while I was still.
What’s in your toolkit when having an attack?
I rely heavily on magnesium to this day. If I was having an attack I would either take a magnesium bath or extra magnesium glycinate. If it was brain fog, I’d usually be missing my dose of threonate. I would also try to fit ginger into my diet, like in smoothies, and use my Migraine Shields when I am experiencing light sensitivity. I also use acupressure bands for motion sensitivity.
Exercise is another big one for me. I practice restorative yoga and workout at a local Dallas studio called The Ballet Burn. It’s helped to improve my balance a lot, along with vestibular therapy. Lastly, I would say CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) techniques and mindfulness are definitely a part of my toolkit as well. If things get bad enough, I’ll reach for my prescribed acute medication.
What treatments have got you to the point of feeling 100% like yourself?
For me, I rely on the Heal Your Headache diet, my medications, the right supplements, and natural treatments. I’m doing much better today than I did when I first got sick and definitely consider myself 100%, although I do still have attacks here and there. My attacks now aren’t nearly as severe or as scary as they used to be. But I do have to work at it every day - it’s truly a lifestyle change.
When do you wear your Migraine Shields? Do you use them to help during an attack or prevent?
My Migraine Shields are a great preventative tool for me. I am on the computer all day working on thedizzycook.com, answering emails, and editing photography. It’s really hard on my eyes, especially as someone who has to continue to manage a migraine disorder. What I love most about Migraine Shields is I can still work on photos without the tint affecting the editing process – it’s still easy to see the computer while preventing future migraine attacks. I definitely notice a difference if I get distracted and work too long without wearing them. My eyes get fatigued much more quickly and I start to feel head tension.
Alicia is wearing the Neville frames in the Everyday Lens. To receive 20% off your purchase, use the code: THEDIZZYCOOK at checkout.