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In this month's issue:
The Personal Migraine Fighter Plan!
The Personal Migraine Fighter Plan!
If you're celebrating the coming of the new year in a few days, you may be wondering if it will be a better year for your health. You might be asking yourself what you can do to make 2010 a better year - maybe the best year you've had in a long time.
We've been focusing on diet - one of many ways you can aim for an improvement in your health. Today we're going to look at a couple of the common approaches to minimizing your (especially migraine) attacks with changes to what you eat. Then I'm going to suggest a new method that you might want to consider.
Because of the importance of this, we'll just have the one topic in this month's email.
Common Method #1: Eliminating common triggers, a few at a time
This may be the most common method out there, and it's the one that was first recommended to me when I was diagnosed with migraine, many years ago.
It goes like this: You keep a careful headache/migraine diary, and then eliminate one or two or more of the most common triggers. I believe my doctor started me off eliminating bananas and chocolate for two weeks.
I'm not actually going to condemn any of the methods we're talking about today. This one has some advantages: (1) It usually doesn't require drastic changes to your diet. (2) There do seem to be certain foods that cause the majority of migraine attacks in a large number of people. In other words, there is a significant chance that it might actually work (although I would suggest a trial of more than two weeks).
The cons? Migraine triggers tend to be a complex web of things. You may find improvement for a while, then have more problems. And if you see no improvement, it can be pretty frustrating.
Common Method #2: The Special Diet
Often a specialist will suggest a more drastic change in your diet. For migraine, a common one is the low tyramine diet. More and more people are considering gluten-free diets for migraine, or dairy-free. Many doctors have their own special diets that they recommend, based (hopefully) on the research and their own experience with their patients.
In many cases a more total-diet approach is the only thing that seems to work. Though it may not eliminate all of your triggers (many of which are probably not food related), it may eliminate enough triggers that the others won't be enough to actually trigger an attack.
There are some cons though. For one, this may end up being overkill - what if you eliminate 45 foods, and only 11 are the problem? One solution would be to gradually add those foods back in your diet, although this takes careful work, likely over a number of years (note: any diet solution may take a number of years anyway, partly because your body changes - what once worked may stop working).
Also, it's usually very hard to stick to. This means keeping to your diet every time you're a guest at someone's house, every time you go to a restaurant, every special occasion. That's not easy! But it may be your solution. Let me tell you, if carrying around my own food everywhere would mean no migraine attacks, I would do it - period.
Here's a diet idea you probably haven't tried. Basically, it's a diet that does impact what you eat every day. But it does have some advantages over the other options above. First, it's a more total solution than just eliminate one or two things, and can encourage you to eat better overall for better health.
The Personal Migraine Fighter Plan (PMGP)
Also, it's more positive than the other diets. Not only does it contain a lit of things you should avoid, it also contains a list of things that are especially healthy for you.
Third, it is something that is personalized to you, and can be adjusted as the months go by.
But finally, perhaps the biggest advantage is that it's not intended to be a strict diet. That means that you generally aim to eat more of the good foods, and less of the bad. But there are very few things you totally eliminate.
The idea with this approach is that it usually is not one food that's triggering your attacks. It's a number of things adding up. If you are eating healthy overall, you may find you can get away with cheating a little once in a while.
How it works...
I've included here a sample plan you can use as a template. The sample diet is based on, first, what various research has shown us are foods likely to trigger or not trigger migraine attacks, and foods that are especially good for migraineurs. Also, it includes foods that many have significant health concerns about.
Items in bold are particularly bad or good.
Another thing you may notice is that the bad column is a lot longer than the good column. Don't let that bother you. Remember, there are a lot of foods not listed at all, because there's no reason we know of that they're particularly good or bad.
In other words, the vast majority of foods in the world are not in the bad column. Of course, if you're used to eating canned and pre-prepared foods from the supermarket, you may be disappointed - these usually have something or other in them that you ought to avoid.
Personalize your PMFP
Finally, it is personalized. For example, eating oats may trigger migraine in some, however, oats are in the especially good column, in bold, because for most people, or for the user of this particular example, they are an excellent migraine-fighter.
So when you make your own PMFP, you may, for example, want to put oats in the especially bad column. If you're a vegetarian, take the meats out of the good column and add them to the bad. Or, you might want to take the bold off of bananas, because you want to avoid them but you've never specifically found them to trigger a migraine attack.
Be careful, though, about actually taking something out of the especially bad column. Remember, migraine triggers are often a combination of things, not just one. You may feed that a banana has never triggered a migraine for you, however it's a very common trigger. It may be that, for you, a banana plus something else (ie nuts) are what does it.
If you can go say 3-6 months eating bananas on a regular basis without problems, you might want to take a chance and take them off the bad list. Otherwise, leave these as they are.
Using your PMFP
Now, print out a copy of your plan and put one in your kitchen, and put another somewhere handy for travel, like in your wallet, purse, or backpack.
The next step is to make smart decisions, and plan ahead. Look for recipes and foods that avoid the bad column and, if possible, emphasize the good. Make note of these foods and recipes, and use them again. What are some healthy snack choices? Breakfast ideas? Main courses?
And what about dishes at your favourite restaurant? Ask for a list of ingredients for dishes you think would be good. Tell them it's a health issue, and speak to the manager or head office if necessary. You don't need to know their secrets - don't ask for an exact recipe with quantities, simply a list of ingredients.
Make up a list that emphasizes the good - quick foods, especially.
Now, consider other foods and recipes that at least avoid the bad, even though they don't have much of the good column in them.
If you're cooking, remember you can very often make substitutes. Check online for ideas if you're not sure. Often you can just leave out the ingredient.
The main idea is be prepared, and try to avoid as much as possible the bad (eliminate as much as possible the items in bold), and add more of the good to your diet.
Don't feel like you always must avoid all bad (except perhaps those you've put in bold) and always and only eat from the good column. The point is to change the direction of your diet. If you try to become a diet control freak, there's more chance you will fail. Aim to emphasize the positive, and eliminate the negative.
As time goes by, you may want to make slight changes to your list. Don't rush and change a bunch at once! Take it slow over several months, and change one or two things at a time. And always keep track with your migraine/headache diary.
One final note. The PMFP is designed to improve your health no matter what, over the long term, because you should be avoiding some unhealthy foods, focusing on the healthy, and becoming more aware of what you're eating.
That doesn't mean instant, perfect and permanent elimination of all your migraine attacks. But that's no reason to stop eating healthy.
If this method is doing very little for you, and you still have significant attacks, don't be discouraged. It may be that a more drastic strict diet will help you (method #2 above). Or, it may be that there are other factors that have a strong influence on your attacks. Take a look at this migraine triggers article to continue your investigation.
Changing what you eat is not the only migraine solution - but it is a powerful one. And if you're conscious of what you eat, you may find not only that your attacks are weaker and less frequent, you may find your overall health improving. This is not a one-week cure, this is a long term solution aimed at making you a healthier person in 2010 and beyond. All the best in 2010!
Thanks for reading! Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom. Your password is nomoache.