Managing Chronic Migraines with Dr. Tanya Paynter

Feb 9, 2023 | Health & Wellness

A photo of a woman sitting on a bed, clutching her head looking like she's in pain

Managing Chronic Migraines with Dr. Tanya Paynter

According to the Migraine Institute, 43% of U.S. women will experience migraines at some point in their life. More than 4 million adults in the U.S. experience chronic migraine pain daily. An often debilitating and extremely painful form of headache, sufferers can experience symptoms from nausea to visual disturbances, which can leave you bed bound.

Dr. Tanya Paynter suffered from daily headaches and migraines for over a decade. Her doctors just wanted to give her medications, but she was tired of feeling like a walking medicine cabinet. Tanya wanted to get to the root cause of the issue, find out what was wrong with her body, and fix it.

Having lived migraine free for 8 years, Tanya has developed a successful process that works to identify and treat the biochemical imbalances at play in migraines. She understands how lonely a chronic and “invisible” illness can be and feels that no one should ever be left to battle that alone. She now works to share her expertise and guide other women through their migraine journey, so that they are now longer just living in survival mode, but able to get back to doing what they love.

Use of Medicine to manage Chronic Migraines

Medication should be looked at as a band aid. It can help initially but is not going to treat the problem. Medication can give you the relief to give you the energy for the things you need to do for self-healing, because you have to get to the point where you can move and function in order to care for yourself. Medication can certainly be helpful for that.

However, when that’s the only option offered by the doctor, then it becomes problematic because medications themselves can contribute to the migraine issue and even worsen symptoms.

Diet and lifestyle tips for migraines

Moving into an anti-inflammatory diet is the natural first step for any migraine sufferer. The AIP (autoimmune protocol) diet takes away a lot of the anti-inflammatory foods. AIP works to calm inflammation in the gut and also calm inflammation in the body. It eliminates foods with gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, grains, alcohol, sugar, nuts and seeds.


➝ An important caveat to this is that in a chronic migraine situation, grain restriction can be problematic in terms of serotonin production. Grains like teff and quinoa, for example, can be extremely nutrient dense, so it might be worth considering keeping these in your diet.

You also want to make sure that your sleep schedule, stress management, and hydration are all optimized. Although this is well known by many, it’s important to make sure it’s actually being practiced to have the desired effect.

In terms of nutritional supplements, magnesium, and specifically magnesium threonate and magnesium glycinate, are the two forms of magnesium that have both been studied to be the most beneficial supplements for migraines. B2 (riboflavin), cocuten and fish oil are also beneficial.

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Hormone Imbalances

High estrogen, really low testosterone, and low progesterone are all major issues. Dr. Tanya most commonly sees problems with the progesterone to estrogen ratio. This is the amount of progesterone we have in comparison to the amount of estrogen we have. This is extraordinarily important for migraine sufferers, or any hormone imbalance.

Estrogen is pro-inflammatory and pro-histamine. While it’s very important for a number of functions, it can be detrimental when we have too much of it. In comparison, progesterone is a neurosteroid so it reduces inflammation in the brain, helps us feel calm and helps us sleep. Our diet and our stress levels can all negatively impact progesterone.

When the progesterone to estrogen ratio is less than 200 to 1, symptoms of hormonal imbalance can quickly arise including fatigue and trouble sleeping.

To improve hormone balance, there are over the counter, low dose progesterone creams which can be effective. Dr.Tanya also recommends vaginal steam baths, seed cycling, or essential oil cycling. This is a great place to start on getting those hormones back in balance.

On top of this, you also need to be working on detox pathways to enable the breakdown of estrogen. Alongside that comes the adrenal support and stress management – if that’s not in check, you won’t be able to make the progesterone needed. If that’s not possible at that time for whatever reason, that’s where medications or bio identical hormones can be very appropriate to help you get through that season and still care for yourself.

The Gut-Migraine Connection

Everything in health, every chronic issue, comes down to two main things: what we’re feeding our body (our diet and our gut health) and our stress. If we can control those two things, then we’re 90% of the way there.

We now understand a lot more about the gut-brain connection scientifically and know that there is a direct connection between the gut and brain. The gut is even referred to as ‘the second brain’. When it comes to migraines, you cannot treat migraines without treating the gut, therefore it’s extremely important to address any ongoing infections. But even if you don’t have gut issues, if you have migraines, your gut still needs attention.

Most migraineurs understand that certain foods trigger them. Over time, they can end up eliminating a lot of trigger foods from their diet. What this leads to is significant restriction, which limits the nutritional diversity in your gut. This can be very detrimental to the healing process. Dietary swaps can be highly beneficial, e.g. switching out gluten and adding in teff and quinoa. You might switch away from dairy and add in all of the dairy alternatives.

Expanding your diet while eliminating inflammatory foods is a much healthier approach to using food as medicine, rather than overly restricting.

More about Dr. Tanya Paynter

Tanya graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology with a minor in inorganic chemistry before attending medical school at Bastyr University. She graduated in 2012 with her naturopathic medical degree and has been treating women with chronic migraines for almost a decade, having suffered from chronic headaches herself for nearly 20 years. She had a special calling to find a way to help women manage their migraines more effectively. She is the founder of migraine mastery, a 24 week online program designed to significantly reduce migraines and help women better manage their symptoms so they can move beyond just surviving and get back to doing what they love.

Download Tanya’s FREE migraine resources

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Related Podcast Episodes:

#80: Managing Chronic Migraines
Dr. Tanya Paynter reveals how she managed to reverse her chronic migraine condition and the strategies she uses to help other women manage their migraines.

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