Dr. JoAnn Yanez, AANMC executive director, joins KCAA’s NBC LA affiliate On the Brink to discuss naturopathic approaches to headaches and migraines.
Full Transcript of Interview Below.
- Statistics on headache and migraine prevalence
- The various causes of migraines and headaches
- Headache and migraine triggers
- Natural approaches to headache and migraine relief
Erin Brinker: Welcome back, I’m Erin Brinker.
Todd Brinker: And I’m Todd Brinker.
Erin Brinker: And we are On the Brink, on KCAA. I’m super excited to welcome to the show Dr. JoAnn Yanez. She is the Executive Director for the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, and she is also the past chair of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health. She serves on the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium Education Committee and weaves a passion for illness prevention into her professional life. Her career has spanned advocacy, academia, patient care, and public health. As AANMC Executive Director, Dr. JoAnn Yanez oversees research, advocacy efforts in the joint academic endeavors of the accredited colleges of naturopathic medicine. Additionally, she helps spread awareness of naturopathic medicine as a viable and satisfying career path. Dr. Yanez, welcome to the show.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Dang, that bio is enough to give me a headache.
Erin Brinker: Oh, I am one of those who gets migraines and they are awful.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: I’m so sorry to hear that. They are awful. I don’t know if you knew this, but every 10 seconds somebody goes to the emergency room with a headache.
Erin Brinker: Seriously? No, I did not know that.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: It is the most common form of pain. I think just about everybody has probably experienced a headache at some point in their life, right?
Erin Brinker: Oh yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: 1.2 million patient visits are due to acute migraines. So, you’re not alone. I don’t know if that makes you feel any better. But one of the things in naturopathic medicine that we look at, in regards to headaches and really any condition, is understanding the cause. And so, in the conventional model, and I’ve had migraines and headaches over the course of my life too, and in the conventional model, what’s the treatment? Well, you get Imitrex or you get pain medications and so on. But in the naturopathic model, we really, really work to identify triggers and the root of the headaches.
Erin Brinker: Because it doesn’t seem like in conventional medicine that they’re focused on the cause, they’re just focused on the treatment. And I say this, being someone who’s dealt with migraines for years, they don’t quite know what to do with it. And so, walk us down the path of what, in the naturopathic side of things, what is being done to kind of uncover what causes these brutal headaches?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: You bet. So the first differentiation with a naturopathic visit, you’re going to spend on that first office visit, at least an hour, if not an hour and a half, in some cases, two hours, with your doctor. They are going to usually provide you a pretty extensive, written form to fill out, to really understand you as a patient and all of the factors in your life. And then there’s going to be a very detailed intake, physical examination, maybe laboratory tests as indicated, to rule in or out any conditions. And then the naturopathic doctor is going to talk with you and come up with a treatment plan based on the issues that they’re seeing. So like in the case of migraine triggers, headache and migraine triggers, some of the most common ones are stress, emotions, hormones, foods and food allergies, environmental exposures, blood pressure issues, drugs and alcohol, fatigue, eye strain, ergonomics, dehydration.
So, the ND is going to be looking at your whole picture to really understand what’s going on with you. Why is this showing up in your life? Has something changed recently? Are there hormonal issues at play? And they may very well say. “Stay on the Imitrex so that you’re not incapacitated. Stay on the pain medication, just stay on that, or let me prescribe you some, in the meantime until we get this handled. But let’s understand the root cause and address that.” And so if it’s hormones, if it’s dehydration, if it’s ergonomics, if it’s stress, the ND is going to work with you to better understand and manage the cause. Does that make sense?
Erin Brinker: Oh yeah, it makes total sense. So what I’m hearing is that, what we’re calling migraines could be caused by a whole lot of things and they may not even be the same headache, meaning something different may be happening physiologically that’s causing that pain. Is that true?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: It could be and it could just be a manifestation of excess inflammation from food allergies or sensitivities. And so, again, the ND is going to really walk that patient through any common triggers, understanding what brings them on, what makes them better and worse, and all of the different facets of that patient’s life to really try and get to the cause of why. A headache is a symptom, it’s a sign. Pain is a symptom. It’s a sign that something’s wrong and your body is trying to say, “Hey, look at me. We have a problem.”
Erin Brinker: Yeah.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: And taking a pain medication, and I’ve always given this example, it’s like if the check engine light comes on in your car. What’s that telling you? It’s telling you, check the engine, take the car in, something’s wrong. And oftentimes, just taking a pain medicine is unplugging the check engine light. So, would you continue to just unplug your check engine light and drive around in your car and not expect something eventually to go really wrong?
Erin Brinker: No. Not if I want to keep my car.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Not if you want to keep your car and your life.
Erin Brinker: Exactly.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: So, I see pain medicine, and sometimes it’s very necessary, but it’s unplugging that check engine light. And so as long as we recognize that, and we’re still trying to figure out why the check engine light is going on in the first place. ND’s don’t have an issue with medication, but it’s getting to that root of the issue to really understand the cause so that we can then make the changes necessary to hopefully identify what brings them on and get rid of those and not have to have the headache in the first place.
Erin Brinker: So, it’s interesting because when I was diagnosed, I was having headaches. It’s usually on the left side, it’s usually right behind the eye. And for years I was getting prescriptions for antibiotics, thinking that they were sinus infections. And finally, after a couple of years of this, I asked my doctor to see a neurologist. And she said, “You don’t have any scarring or anything. Your sinuses are fine. You’re having migraines.” And the headaches would sometimes have an aura and sometimes not have an aura. So the ones that were really bad did and they are just murder. All I can do is sit in a dark room. And I find that when I have one of those headaches, I’m more sensitive to sound than I am to light. And it’s like, I just want to sit in the dark and everybody needs to be quiet. Well, that’s not realistic with a family, right? So, yeah.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: And that’s the point. It can be quite debilitating. And so understanding how to manage that so that you get that quality of life back is really the key. Now I talked about getting to the root cause, but there also may very well be other ways of managing some of that with supplements and botanical medicine and diet, acupuncture is another component, checking out things in the environment. Are you sensitive to, some people it may be, smells or odors or exposure to certain types of chemicals in their environment that can bring it on. So there’s so many different ways of addressing headaches. With some people especially, if there’s a stress component, biofeedback and mindfulness may be a way of kind of helping them manage their emotional response and their stress response. And so, they are all different ways to treat it, depending on that cause.
Erin Brinker: So how do you go about finding a good naturopathic doctor?
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: So, there are databases in the U.S. and Canada from the professional associations that represent NDs, so the AANP and the Canadian Association. And then there are state associations. So like in California here, you could go and search the California Association of Naturopathic Doctors and they maintain a list of NDs. And then you call them and you interview because NDs have different focuses and different specializations and areas. And so if you’re looking for somebody who really addresses this just as you would not go to a gynecologist for a throat infection.
Erin Brinker: Right, right.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: You would want to make sure that you’re getting the right doctor with the right areas of focus who can address your issues.
Todd Brinker: You can go to the AANP, which is the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website, and you can search within a radius of your zip code and you can do it by a practice focus or treatment modalities and accepts insurance. So there’s lots of different ways to narrow down your search as well, which is really nice.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Thank you. Yes. Thank you for that plug. There are lots of ways Erin, and I think that ultimately, finding someone who is a good fit for you, just like any profession, there are some doctors that you’re just going to really vibe with. And so, I always tell folks, it’s a relationship because you’re spending that amount of time with a doctor. You want to make sure that they understand you and they provide the skillset that you’re looking for.
Erin Brinker: So really quickly, we’re about out of time, tell people about the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges and your upcoming web series or webinar.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: You got it. So AANMC represents all of the accredited schools in North America. And next week, actually, in light of all of the events that have been going on across the country, we are hosting a webinar on PTSD and how to manage. With all of the trauma and events going on, it’s bringing up emotions for a lot of people, especially communities of color. And so with physicians and our patients, we’re hosting this webinar with two doctors, one a veteran, and one who works with the VA on PTSD, to help us better understand how to identify it in ourselves and our patients.
Erin Brinker: Well, Dr. JoAnn Yanez, as always, it’s been a treat having you on the air with us today. Thank you so much for joining us.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Thank you as well, and I hope that you guys stay safe and healthy and sane.
Erin Brinker: Thank you. Yeah, to you too.
Dr. JoAnn Yanez: You bet. Have a great day guys.
Erin Brinker: Thank you. You too. So with that, it’s time for a break. I’m Erin Brinker.
Todd Brinker: And I’m Todd Brinker.
Erin Brinker: And we are On the Brink, the morning show on KCAA. We will be right back.