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Relief for women suffering migraines

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Women suffer with migraines three times as much as men. And while there are many triggers, hormones can play a leading role. 

It's why a neurologist and gynecologist are teaming up to help area women tackle what's too often tackling them.

With some guidance, these experts say it is possible to find migraine relief, even without a prescription. 

Six months ago, Stephanie Hillner would have found that hard to believe.  After the birth of her second child last spring, she suffered migraines almost weekly.

"I was in bed two days, pretty much every week, while I was on maternity leave" Hillner said.  She'd tried numerous prescription medications with no relief, then she turned to a new Neurologist at Norton Neuroscience Institute in Louisville, Kentucky.

Dr. Brian Plato specializes in headache pain.  He estimates 85 percent of his practice is headache patients.  He says anyone who's suffering debilitating headaches and either not getting relief through prescription medications or wanting relief without prescription medications can likely benefit from working with a headache specialist.

While there is a genetic component to migraines, for women, hormones are a common trigger along with other factors like weather, scents, foods and stress.

He will first rule out anything serious causing the pain through an MRI scan of the brain.  After that's clear, he said "many times I will begin with my patients just looking at diet changes."

When needed, he'll work with gynecologists for patient care. 

"It's not uncommon for me to recommend the use or disuse of birth control pills" said Dr. Plato. 

Stories like Stephanie's aren't uncommon, with migraines getting worse after a delivery.  But Stephanie had tried the birth control treatment in the past and it made her headaches worse, so this round she started eliminating foods, some of the main food triggers, like aged cheeses, red wine and anything with MSG or nitrates found in processed foods.

Since she started, she's only had one migraine and she blames that on cheating and eating cheese at Thanksgiving.

She also credits more recommendations from Dr. Plato.  A combination treatment of magnesium and Vitamin B2.

"Magnesium is one vitamin that certainly has good data to support its use in the prevention of migraine," said Dr. Plato.  

Butterbur and feverfew are also on Dr. Plato's safe-alternatives for migraine prevention-list.

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