MIGRAINES: are More than Just a Headache
Jun 25, 2015 11:39PM
By Megy Karydes
Trupti Gokani, M.D.
Trupti Gokani, M.D., a board-certified neurologist and founder of Glenview-based Zira Mind and Body Center, states, “Whether we would like to believe it or not, a migraine doesn’t just happen. Rather this type of headache is an intervention that occurs from above, telling you that your body is out of balance, that your body is not in harmony and it needs to get into harmony.”
Gokani continues by explaining that according to ayurvedic principles, a migraine is a spiritual intervention designed to capture our attention with an attack of pain to evoke a re-evaluation of our life, looking within to discover imbalances. “Migraine occurs when we are disconnected,” she states.
Migraines affect between 36 and 40 million Americans, yet many never get a formal diagnosis nor proper treatment from a migraine specialist, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
Even more people suffer from ordinary headaches, according to Gokani. She explains the difference: “Migraine is a specific type of neurological condition that involves the brain, the blood vessels and inflammatory peptides. A true migraine attack generally is one-sided, moderate to severe in intensity and associated with nausea, vomiting, light, smell and/or sound sensitivity. These attacks generally stop people from doing their day-to-day tasks and often lead one to climb into bed and sleep to relieve the pain.” Other kinds of headaches are described by location, severity of pain and associated symptoms.
Gokani trained in family practice and psychiatry until finding her passion in the field of neurology. She is also a certified master clinical psychopharmacologist. After desiring to learn a more systems-based approach to healing, she then trained in ayurveda through two distinct programs, the Kerala Ayurveda Academy and the Ayurvedic Training for Health Professionals, which are offered in conjunction with Maharishi University and Scripps Integrative Medicine center, in La Jolla, California.
Her primary interest is in understanding the migraine condition and how to manage it, and Gokani has focused her practice on this for more than a decade. “During this time, I have also created protocols to help those with digestive issues, fatigue, insomnia, mood issues, difficulty focusing and more,” she notes. “I have taken a far more holistic approach to balancing the mind and body the more I have worked with patients, as many patients come in with a multitude of complaints during their initial consultation with me.”
Gokani uses both Eastern and Western medicine in her pain management approach. For headaches, and migraines specifically, she cites classic triggers as the most common culprits: stress (good or bad, such as getting married or getting a divorce), weather shifts, foods, hormone imbalances, lack of sleep and skipping meals. Managing those triggers brings relief, which she’s able to do by helping patients identify and balance their dosha, or mind/body type.
The holistic approach Gokani favors is ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old system of healing that many people believe was the first system of healing to classify headaches based on a person’s dosha. “The three types are Vata (wind type), Pitta (fire type) and Kapha (earth type),” Gokani explains. “Depending on which dosha is affected, head pain will occur in different locations and with different intensities. For example, if the Vata dosha is imbalanced, which can occur if you are eating too many cold, dry foods, traveling or not sleeping enough, your pain will likely be located in the back of the head and neck area. The Pitta type and Kapha type headaches have different triggers and different locations of presentation.”
“To me, the fundamental cause of migraine is not living in alignment with your mind-body type,” notes Gokani. “Stress is basically when the mind and body are not living in harmony with the world around us. If you go to a job that you hate or you feel is too high-pressured and constantly wish you could be spending time with your kids at home, you will always feel a sense of stress and anger with your work. This can in turn activate your nervous system to work against you, rather than in harmony with you, and thus lead to cycles of pain.”
Diet can be an important factor, as well. “If you eat foods that are heating, such as spicy foods, but have a Pitta-type ‘fire’ nature, you will be stressing your digestion by eating foods that activate, rather than balance your gut,” observes Gokani. “If you allow yourself to live a life for others and do not live authentically, you will create stress, and this will in turn imbalance you, and can lead to pain.”
During the course of studying integrative medicine, especially ayurveda, and treating patients, Gokani realized there are some important principles that apply to both her own migraine patients and those she wasn’t seeing. She began putting into writing the decade of experience and knowledge she has gleaned about the mind while attending conferences, reading books, speaking with practitioners and completing more advanced training in integrative medicine and ayurveda. Then, four years in the making, she wrote The Mysterious Mind, a practical guide for people looking for answers.
“The more I wrote, the more I realized that this book is not just for migraine patients, but for anyone who has a mind that is not optimal,” explains Gokani. The book is intended to help not only those struggling with headaches, but also conditions such as insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, irritability or difficulty focusing.
Find The Mysterious Mind exclusively at Amazon.com or her office. To schedule an appointment with Gokani at Zira Mind and Body Center, 1332 Waukegan Rd., in Glenview, call 224-521-1212. For more information, visit ZiraMindAndBody.com.
Megy Karydes is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Find her on Instagram at @megykarydes.