Kristin Chenoweth reduced her migraines by cutting back on caffeine and sugar

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Kristin Chenoweth and NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Davis took place in a conference called the Migraine World Summit. It’s an online summit sponsored by several pharmaceutical companies and other companies treating migraines meant to raise awareness. Both Kristen and Terrell are migraine sufferers, and they described how debilitating and awful it can be. I thankfully don’t get migraines but I have friends who do and it sounds like the worst. Kristin described her first migraine, at the age of 25, and Terrell said that the migraines were so painful when he was a child that he considered suicide. At times he had several migraines a week but he’s been careful and hasn’t had a migraine in a year. Kristen said that she’s also been able to reduce the frequency of her migraines but cutting back on sugar and caffeine. A lack of sleep can still trigger them for her.

When she was 25 years old, Chenoweth experienced her first migraine while rehearsing for a show in a room with fluorescent lights in New York.

“I started getting what I call ‘kaleidoscope eyes,’ ” Chenoweth said during her presentation to the crowd. “Then, I started getting really nauseous and a pounding headache.”

Four months after her first migraine, Chenoweth was diagnosed. Though she admits migraines have caused her “to lose some time” in her life, dealing with them now has become easier as she has learned what triggers her.

“[Doctors] told me to avoid sugar and caffeine,” she said. “The past two years, I really have cut way, way back in that department and I have noticed a difference. The dragon that I keep chasing is sleep. I’m always in a different time zone or on a plane. None of these things are conducive to a person who has a migraine. That’s been my biggest challenge, sleep.”

On top of avoiding sugar and caffeine, Chenoweth says her faith helps.

“Everybody has their own belief, and I encourage and want that,” she said. “I do take pause and I say, ‘Dear God, help me get through this.’
Davis got his first migraine when he was only 9 years old. After finishing football practice, he realized he was having trouble seeing.

“It was staring into the sun and then trying to focus on something,” he explained during the event. “I remember my heart started pounding because I thought, at the time, I was going to go blind.”

Davis’ mom picked him up from practice and as soon as he got home, he started getting a pounding headache.

That headache was so different than any headache I’ve ever had at the time,” he said. “It was so debilitating, so intense. I didn’t know what had happened at the time or if we would come back or if that was a one time deal.”

The pain at the time was so bad that Davis, 46, remembers having suicidal thoughts.

“I didn’t want to live through that period,” he said. “Suicide crossed my mind. I didn’t plan it but the only thing I could think of was just ending it. That was my first experience and, subsequently, after that it came back a few weeks later. Sometimes it was weekly, sometimes it was two times a week, three times a week. It was tough to deal with.”

Davis told PEOPLE that he hasn’t had a migraine in the past year.

“Over the years, we started to dial things in and tried to really hone in and we started to be really efficient in how we dealt with this thing,” he said.

[From People]

I can’t imagine what that’s like to randomly have a splitting migraine and not be able to function. One of my friends gets them and all she can do it lay down in a dark room until it passes. Also I’m not a believer but I’ve still prayed like that in dark times for help. Kristin has been open about her faith and that must be a comfort to her. It seems like a lot of things would be helped by cutting out caffeine and sugar. My mom is always telling me to do that but I feel like I have to have some vices. I’m so sorry to those of you who have migraines and hope you can get some relief.

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photos credit: WENN and via Instagram

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49 Responses to “Kristin Chenoweth reduced her migraines by cutting back on caffeine and sugar”

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  1. Alissa says:

    I’ve gotten migraines since I was kindergarten age (although they think that my colic as a baby and cyclic vomiting syndrome as a toddler were actually my body expressing migraines!), and they are the WORST. I just had to leave work on Friday because I had one that felt like I had gotten got in the head with a baseball bat and it was making me puke. Awful.

    I have medication for it, but lack of sleep is my biggest trigger and I of course also suffer from insomnia lol. I don’t seem to have a lot of food triggers though, except for certain orange dyes.

    • Erinn says:

      Sleep is probably my biggest trigger too. If I get REALLY worked up and sobbing over something that’s pretty much a guarantee I’ll have a massive one as well. And the weather/barometric pressure seems to factor in for me too.

      And the worst part is when you get the medication overuse headaches. That is such a betrayal. I love my triptans because they’re a lifesaver, but I have to be really mindful of when I’m taking them and how often.

      I limit my caffeine for the most part, and only drink it up until mid afternoon at the latest. But even when I’d quit caffeine it didn’t seem to make much difference in my headaches, so I’m back on a limited amount.

      • Alissa says:

        yes, before I switched my meds I got into a cycle because of them and it was terrible. I also cry a lot when I get really bad ones! both because it hurts, and because I’m emotional and vulnerable I guess haha. I almost cried asking my boss to leave, and then cried on the way home because I was embarrassed about almost crying lol.

      • Who ARE These People? says:

        I think we’re migraine twins. It used to be “menstrual migraines.” Now, post-menopause, it’s also a lot of bright sunlight, excess chocolate, not enough water, too much time under fluorescents…it’s hard to go about one’s life feeling like anything can make it happen. Tryptans have changed my life though. A friend with even worse migraines is trying the new injectable and thinks it may be helping.

        Recently had a death in the family and yet could not let myself just have a good cry or two because it would cause a headache. It’s hard to be holding back.

      • Steph says:

        Salt is my biggest trigger. Followed by fluorescent lights. I just posted a funny pic to FB yesterday wearing a migraine cap and ice face mask. I look like a crazy person.

      • Erinn says:

        My mom wanted me to order one of those, Steph ahah. I have some soft ice packs that i use though.

        Triptans are life savers. I don’t get menstrual migraines because I’m on depo – but I’ve been waiting for the injections to get more used and for my insurance to consider covering them. It sounds promising!

        I work in an office under flourescents all day… staring at tiny code on a computer screen. It’s rough working some days – but they did give me a light filter thing that looks like sky to cut the glare.

      • Haapa says:

        Weather changes (low to high pressure) is my biggest trigger, followed by lack of sleep and dehydration. If I catch it very early ibuprofen helps, if I don’t the only thing that works is silence, darkness, and sleep. I know I’m headed from normal headache into migraine territory when I start getting nauseous, sensitive to light and noise, and I get weird body temperature issues. Oh, and the pain gets so bad that my teeth start to hurt.

    • minx says:

      I generally get the “silent” migraines, triggered by stress, where I get only the vision disturbance. Maybe a dull headache. But it’s scary to be driving and have that shimmering arc go across your vision so that everything looks collapsed. It made me somewhat agoraphobic for years, where I didn’t mind taking buses, trains, planes, etc. because someone else was at the wheel if a migraine came on, but I’m couldn’t go by myself. If I was a passenger in a car, that was okay. The migraines paired up with panic attacks and really limited my horizons. It took a long, long time for me to drive out of a certain radius—nearby cities or neighborhoods eventually became okay because I felt that I could get help if I got a migraine/panic attack. Very slowly I’ve simply trained myself to travel and drive by myself, just by sheer grit and mental gymnastics—and having cell phones now is a great help. Tomorrow I’m driving alone 200 miles round trip, via highway, to visit our daughter in college. This would have been unimaginable 10 years ago.

      • Dee says:

        Me too! They are called Optical Migraines which don’t hurt at all (thank god!) but do have what she called “kaleidoscope eyes” and I call “shimmers” which are these very pretty starry circles I see. They get more and more until they really obscure my vision. They are 100% stress induced for me. If pain accompanied them, I’d never take caffeine or sugar again. Scary!

        Minx, have you tried SSRIs for general stress/anxiety?

      • Erinn says:

        Keep an eye on those headaches. My migraines don’t really have an aura – but the ones that do seem to be more linked to stroke.

      • minx says:

        Dee, yes I have and they have helped enormously with panic attacks. I think that is why I’ve been able to make strides with travel.

  2. snappledietpeach says:

    I stopped getting migraines after my doctor suggested eliminating all processed foods, which in my case were wheat and sugar

  3. Sojaschnitzel says:

    Some friends of mine have migraines and when they get them, they sometimes break down crying because of the pain. Such a horrible sickness. Heartbreaking.

  4. Brunswickstoval says:

    Chocolate used to trigger migraines for me. Thankfully I seemed to grow out of it

    • Jamie says:

      I thought chocolate was a trigger for me for a long time. But I tried some Belgian dark chocolate on a vacation to Bruges and didn’t get a migraine. So, I bought some and took them home. Nothing. Now I think that it has something to do with some sort of additive most companies add to chocolate to make it shelf stable, because the Belgian chocolate I bought had a two week expiration date.

    • H says:

      I don’t eat chocolate, red wine, smoked meats and bananas. I kept a migraine food diary and found most of my triggers. I’m just back today from getting a occipital nerve blocker in my head. So far the only thing working for me post menopause. I’ve tried Botox and meds, but nothing was helping lately until my doctor suggested this. I lost a job because of them.

      The first time I got the nerve blocker in December, I was migraine free for 7 weeks and it was blissful. They gave me a little bit more medicine this time hoping to push that out to 10 weeks.

  5. LadyMTL says:

    I don’t get migraines regularly (I think I’ve had maybe 3 or 4 my whole life) but I do have chronic headaches and strangely, one of the things that does help when I have a bad headache is caffeine. I can’t remember exactly why, something about constricting blood vessels or whatnot. One thing that I know will trigger a migraine is dry roasted peanuts…something about the roasting doesn’t agree with me.

    Otherwise, I find taking off my glasses helps too, though then the issue is that I can’t see, hahaha.

    • paranormalgirl says:

      Caffeine is a double edged sword. It can trigger migraines in some people, but it helps once the migraine is actually occurring. I have migraines, though not often, and have found that cutting out processed sugar and caffeine has helped prevent them from occurring, but once one is here, a regular coke is the best thing for me to prevent it from being prolonged (and I HATE soda). Everyone is different though, and everyone has a different combination of triggers.

      • R says:

        I have to maintain my caffeine level (high I drink a lot) or I will get one. Yes it effects people differently since I love coffee I am happy I need the caffeine to keep my headaches at bay.

      • paranormalgirl says:

        You’re lucky! Caffeine doesn’t trigger for me, but I’m not that caffeinated these days.

    • Gigi says:

      Agreed. I have frequent headaches too and I am mildly addicted to caffeine (3 cups a day max usually 2) and lack of coffee is a guarantee for a headache. My massage therapist told me the biggest trigger on my case is my very tight muscles on my head and shoulders.

    • H says:

      Caffeine can cause something my doctor calls the “boomerang effect.” if you suffer from more than 2 to 3 migraines a week, if you have too much caffeine it can triple your migraines. I’m allowed 1/4 cup of iced coffee in the morning otherwise I have no caffeine. If I go over that amount I pay for it.

  6. Gaily says:

    They’re the worst. Lack of sleep and barometric pressure changes are triggers for me.

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      When I had to take a very deep subway, just going down and up with that tunnel could do it.

  7. Millenial says:

    I’ve gotten them more and more since I’ve had my second child. I don’t know if it’s lack of sleep or what, but I used to never get anything like this. I’d get headaches, sure, but these are like can’t do anything but enclose myself in a dark quiet room and try to sleep it off.

  8. Dee says:

    Lack of sleep, certain foods (tannins, tyramines, MSG, anything aged/fermented, cucurbitacin, onions, garlic, nuts, seeds, etc.), bright lights, blue light on electronic devices, barometric pressure, high altitude, hormonal fluctuations (menstrual migraine), caffeine, alcohol, and stress all cause or aggravate my headaches. After years of no relief from pharmaceutical intervention to include medication rebound, and keeping a very strict preventive diet, I’ve been prescribed Botox and it has helped me so much, but it’s not a 100% cure. Migraine runs in my family, as well.

    • Gigi says:

      Yes to that too. I get both insomnia and headaches as part of my PMS drill.

    • Josephine says:

      with you on barometric pressure, pms/drop in hormones, and msg, adding in exercise to the list. the latter is really, really killing me. moderate exercise and staying in shape can be really important for people with migraines, so i have to take it really, really slowly and it’s so hard. i’ve had friends have success with the botox but haven’t tried it myself. one thing that has helped is plain old age. i think most people get some relief with age, probably the ones with pms as a trigger.

    • PunkyMomma says:

      I’ve been on the Botox treatment for over a year. It’s reduced the amount of days per month lost to blinding migraines from fifteen to two.

      Treatment days are pretty much a loss, as the thirty-one injections in the neck, shoulders and head are horrific in themselves. But I’m living proof they work wonders.

      Expensive as f*ck, but so worth it.

    • H says:

      I wish the botox had worked for me. I tried it but nothing.

  9. Lucy2 says:

    A friend of mine is going through this right now, nothing seems to be helping. I have a feeling she doesn’t get enough sleep too, which doesn’t help.

    I’ve been lucky and only had one or two true migraines my whole life, and they are brutal. I can’t imagine dealing with it frequently.

    Kristin is one of my favorite performers, I’ve seen her live a few times, her voice is amazing.

  10. Michelle says:

    My sister suffers terribly with Migraines. She can’t see & it physically paralyses one side of her body. It’s terrifying when i know she is out by herself. I’m her Emergency contact, the amount of calls i’ve had to come get her because she’s collapsed. She’s had every test done & they still can’t find a cause, although they likely think it goes back to her birth where she was without oxygen & had to be put in an incubator. She’s says it’s so debilitating.

  11. Inara says:

    Lack of sleep, sudden weather changes, hormones, stress and bright flashing lights are my triggers. I went for years being told I was being lazy and my headache wasn’t a migraine, wasn’t until I went to my childhood doctor and described the pain that I got told it was indeed a migraine.

    In a drawer next to my bed I have my emergency kit – electrolyte/sports water, magnesium tablets, different pain meds and protein bites (so I don’t get barfy when I take the pain meds). I also keep a kit stashed in my bag and get made fun of for it. I limit my sugar and caffeine and meditate but sometimes they’re just unavoidable.

    • Liz version 700 says:

      We could be twins. Weather and hormones are my migraine triggers and for years I was told my headaches were because I needed to manage my stress better. WTH migraines are not a hard diagnosis . I finally went to an urgent care, walked in and started throwing up. Vomit get much better medical care. There is soooo much ignorance about this disease. I tell people. Ow how about I go get a hammer and smash it into your head every 15 minutes with an alarm going off and see if you feel “lazy”

  12. Esmom says:

    “Over the years, we started to dial things in and tried to really hone in and we started to be really efficient in how we dealt with this thing,” he said.”

    This has to be the vaguest description of a treatment plan I’ve ever heard, lol. I’m curious about what works for him.

    I’ve only had two migraines, when I was in my mid-20s, and decades later I can still remember the pain and the circumstances of each one so vividly. I know I’m lucky it was just those two times, so random. I cannot imagine how people deal with getting them on a regular basis.

    I’m one of those people who gets headaches from lack of caffeine. I’ve quit it for years at a time but I just enjoy (caffeienated) tea and coffee too much, I guess.

  13. Emily says:

    I’ve had migraines since puberty. They were awful when I was pregnant the second time, and my doctor told me to go ahead and drink more coffee because NOT having caffeine was a major trigger (#addicted). After my third they got really bad again. I definitely have food triggers like too much sugar or salt, not enough water. Now I’m on a low-dose anti-depressant that also works as migraine prevention, and it’s awesome. I used to get one every other week that would take me out for two days.

  14. Liz version 700 says:

    I have had horrible migraines since I was 8. I would have 10 – 15 migraine days a month which was brutal. I just started on a once a month injection which has cut them down to 2-3 a month. It is so maddening you never know if you will have a normal day or be out for the count in agony. My trigger is changes in the barometric pressure which I can’t do anything about. But if you have chrinic migraines, there is hope the newer medications are so much more effective.

  15. R says:

    I have gotten debilitating migraines since I was a child- like three days dark room. I have a regular appointment with a neurologist because I am what they call highly susceptible to migraines so smells (I actually hate all people who wear perfume and believe spraying it in stores should be illegal), chocolate, nitrates and change in weather will take me down. I have started botox an have emergency medicine too. But I know what food and beverages to avoid as well. I feel for anyone that has them (and I get annoyed with people that say a headache they thing is bad is one because like no its not)

  16. Sarah says:

    Mine are primarily triggered by weather changes. There’s very little I can do about that, so it’s frustrating to read stories about people who made dietary changes or got more sleep or whatever. That remedy may not work for everyone. Migraine is so individual, and treatments change over time. I take 4 prescription medications a day plus I just started taking Aimovig (a monthly injection), and Aimovig has made a huge difference for me. There was a time I had 4-5 migraines a week. People don’t believe that, because (for the most part), I was up and at work…I had no other choice. The Rx took the edge off but I was still in extreme pain and vomiting each day from the nausea…I just couldn’t stay home and in bed every time I had a migraine or I’d get fired from my job.

  17. Anastasia says:

    I get cluster headaches–said to be worse than migraines, and nicknamed the suicide headache. There’s nothing that truly helps–breathing in oxygen relieves it temporarily (as long as you’re sucking on the oxygen), some migraine meds reduce them, but really it’s just waiting it out. Mine almost always last exactly three days. They’re related to migraines in that you have an aversion to light, vision changes, and sometimes nausea, but it’s like the headache is in your EYE. I used to think they were just sinus headaches, but sinus headaches are not nearly as bad as these.

    One thing I found that helps a tiny bit is breathing in deeply then holding that breath for as long as possible, slightly increasing the oxygen in your bloodstream (temporarily). But then a minute later, it’s back. I just suffer. You want to die when you have one. I once asked a doctor if he could just hit me in the head with a rubber mallet, hard enough to kill me.

  18. CairinaCat says:

    I live on Excedrin migraine pills, I get migraines frequently or the beginning of them.
    The trick for me is to take 3 Excedrin the second I notice a low level headache. I also will suck down a Pepsi because the extra caffeine and sugar help for me.

    Triggers are the weather, poor sleep, clenching the left side of my jaw, my psych meds and my hormones.
    Luckily I’m in partial menopause now and the monthly migraines from that are getting better.

    Also thank f#ck my bipolar mania and depression are getting less due to menopause too. For me that’s definitely cycle driven.

  19. emy says:

    My 12 year old daughter started getting severe migraines this past year and it’s been heartbreaking to see her suffer. They are quite severe, with vomiting and visual auras, and she ends up coming home early from school and sleeping until the following morning. So she has literally been missing out on life. She had 13 migraines in the month of January so her neurologist was encouraging us to consider daily medication, which can have a lot of side effects, especially for kids. As one last effort to control the migraines before prescribing daily meds, the neurologist put my daughter on a vitamin regimen of daily magnesium and B2 (riboflavin). I wasn’t expecting much but she has responded tremendously well to these vitamins… only one migraine – and a mild one – since she started taking them six weeks ago. Lack of sleep and stress are also triggers for her but the response to the magnesium and B2 has been heartening. Wanted to share in case that could help any of you…

  20. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Chronic headaches here which can turn into migraines quite easily. My migraines last a minimum of three full days accompanied with all the symptoms…vomiting, auras and lots of crying which doesn’t help. My first migraine was teens during menstruation. I’ve had them ever since with a marked escalation during menopause. I’ve been exrayed, poked, prodded, spending fortunes for medical care and prescriptions which are exorbitant. Currently they occur, seemingly, with weather, bad night or letting the chronic headaches get away from me. Docs don’t like giving the ‘good’ pain meds anymore so I live on OTC crap. I’m certainly thankful people are talking about the horrors of migraines because there’s really nothing quite as debilitating as an exploding brain being chiseled with a sledgehammer.

  21. vegasschmegas says:

    I have had migraines for years. Tried everything. My neuro put me on Ajovy (shots – 1x per month) – and it has worked WONDERS. Thankfully, my insurance covers it. Haven’t had a major flareup since I started taking it. Miracle.

  22. Ms. says:

    Mine are piqued by stress, poor sleep, and lots of processed food. Nortryptilene has done wonders. I went from 1-2 a week to 1-2 every three months or so.

  23. Nancito says:

    I just am so comforted to see everyone talk about their migraines – it helps me so much to know that I’m not alone.

  24. Sparkly says:

    I appreciate everyone sharing their experiences. I’ve only recently learned that my life-long headaches are actually migraines. Because I can still mostly function and never saw auras, I never thought they were. My parents, teachers, and doctors refused to take me seriously as a child, usually said I was faking to get out of doing stuff, and I was forced to work through them anyway. But I recently had one last a week and get so bad that I literally couldn’t walk, and my husband, best friend, and now my NP have explained that they’re migraines and are trying to get me help for them. I don’t know what any triggers are. I’m just used to headaches almost every day, for as long as I can remember.