Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Seeds, Nuts, and Migraines

As you probably know, nuts contain tyramine which can be a very powerful migraine trigger for many people. Seeds, however, are permitted as long as there are no harmful preservatives added, and can be a healthy and delicious substitute. Seeds contain magnesium, which is great for muscle development and repair. They also contain folic acid which is wonderful for your mood. Not only that, they are high in healthy fats which help the circulatory system and the nervous system, something that migraine sufferers can definitely use. So next time you feel the need for a snack, eat 1/4 cup of seeds and some fruit (not citrus or raisins) to tide you over until the next meal. The combination together will help you feel full. Any other great snack ideas?

32 comments:

  1. Milk! It means an instant headache for me! I had to switch to soy milk so that I could eat cereal. That also means no dairy. Also seeds and sugar! If I have a sugar cookie, I will get a head ache for the rest of the day. Diabetes runs in my family and it may be that sugar just runs my BS up and causes a headache- either way, I had to give up white sugar almost entirely. I use honey and stevia now.

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  2. I am not denying that milk poses a problem for you, but overall, milk is not a common migraine trigger. Maybe for you it is, and if so, then avoid it. However, for most, it is not. See my comments about milk, salt, and sugar. Soy, however, does pose a problem for many migraineurs, so it probably shouldn't be tried as a substitute in the beginning stages of the diet. If a migraineur has a problem with lactose intolerance for instance, there are lactose free milks available on the market. If soy is not found to be a trigger in the later stages of the diet, then soy milk is fine (always check ingredients). Milk products containing tyramine are cheese, yogurt, sour cream, and buttermilk, and should be avoided. Nuts trigger migraines, again due to tyramine, but seeds do not contain tyramine, and are not triggers. Sugar is found everywhere. If you eat anything that is not made from scratch, chances are you are eating sugar in one form or another. Sugar is also not a common migraine trigger. The sugar cookies you are eating probably contain a trigger preservative, or sour cream, or something else that is triggering your headaches. Or, it is possible that something else is triggering your headaches but you associate it with the sugar cookies. It can take up to two days for a migraine trigger to cause havoc, which makes triggers hard to pinpoint. Also, a trigger does not have to cause a headache every time it is eaten, which can also make it hard to recognize. Finding personal triggers, I've found, is one of the hardest tasks for a migraineur. If you have not read "Heal Your Headache" yet, it is most helpful in finding your personal triggers, and I can't recommend it enough. It is the book this website is based on. I hope this has been helpful. Best wishes on your migraine-free journey.

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    1. Milk is definately a trigger, it has cassein, which is natural. Cassein is a major trigger for me, I can't even have it in coffee, I was getting migraines and lightening bolts every morning until I uliminated it. You also have to watch protein drinks, whey especially will be a trigger too.

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  3. One thing I was gleeful to discover is that Pine Nuts are actually seeds!

    So pumpkin kernels, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and pine nuts are all OK. These give me a range that's varied and great for cooking with too. :)

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  4. Thanks Ricky! I'll have to look for some pine nuts.

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  5. Heidi,
    What do you recommend for a migraineur who is also pregnant & mostly vegan! There seem to be so many limitations on food for the stuff I am dealing with. I just want to make sure my baby gets all the nutrients it needs!

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  6. I have some ideas for you, but I am in the process of talking to some vegan friends who also suffer from headaches. I'd like to gather more ideas before responding to your post, if you don't mind. Several minds are sometimes better than one. It IS very possible to follow this diet as a vegan. This probably goes without saying, but don't forget to take your prenatal vitamins. I'll answer soon. :)

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  7. Thanks! Still taking the prenatals. No worries, just answer when you are able to! :)

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  8. I assume since you are vegan you don't eat eggs, fish, dairy, meat, or anything derived from animal products. That leaves vegetables, fruits, seeds and grains. You can gain quite a bit of nutrition from these foods. And, don't forget about beans. Beans are a great source of fiber, protein and other nutrients. Just avoid lima, fava, and navy beans, as well as lentils. There is a helpful chart describing triggers on pages 74 and 75 in Dr. Buchholz's book. As far as vegetables go, avoid onions and pea pods, but you may still flavor foods with leeks, shallots, and green onion varieties. Garlic is also safe. Fruits are a bit more restrictive because you can't have any citrus, but remember foods with citric acid are okay because they don't contain tyramine. You may still enjoy apples, pears, peaches, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, and many other fruits. Cranberries are in season right now, and can be cooked along with apples to make a lovely spread or relish. Fresh fruit is best, but if you enjoy dried fruit, be sure not to try raisins or dried bananas. Blueberries, cherries and cranberries are safer. Nuts should be avoided, but seeds are fine and will still provide omegas. Cook with olive oil for even more omegas. Grains are perfectly safe, as long as you don't eat fresh baked yeast goods within 24 hours of their creation. And, make sure they are not preserved with sulfites or other additives. Homemade bread or from a fresh bakery is best, but wait one day to enjoy it. Some migraine sufferers are bothered by tomatoes and soy, but it is not as common as with other triggers. And, soy oil is perfectly safe. So, in your case it may be best to keep unflavored tofu (cook and flavor it yourself) and soy milk in your diet. Just avoid soy that is processed or flavored. Eat vegetables and fruits with many color varieties (orange, red, green, etcetera) and types (broccoli, peppers, etcetera) for different types of nutrients. I know many of the recipes in cookbooks which contain vegetables are not migraine-friendly, but see what you can do to alter them to fit your diet. It's difficult at first, but the more you do it the easier it will become. Thank you for your post, and I wish you well.

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  9. Thank you! That is so much helpful info! I have actually had to turn the corner & eat eggs, salmon, elk, or deer, as my body seems to need it right now & I won't deny it what it wants (it just has to be high quality eggs or meat)! My big favorites are fruits right now, just whole raw fruit and no juice because it gives me heartburn. I don't miss tomatoes because those also give me heartburn! These suggestions are so helpful! The great thing is that I have not had one migraine since I got pregnant, just a nagging headache most days that tends to arrive on cue in the afternoon & sometimes sticks around all night. I will use all of these suggstions, thank you sooo much! :)

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  10. That all sounds great! Be sure to avoid fresh game, as it also contains tyramine. It's funny how pregnancy affects different women in varying ways. For me, the hormones triggered migraines. For you, they seem to help. That's good to hear! Yes, the acidic quality of tomatoes can certainly cause heartburn during pregnancy. Best wishes, and I hope your headaches stay mild for the remainder of your pregnancy.
    -Heidi

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  11. I do not see any information about tannins as triggers on your blog or website. Do you believe that tannins are common migraine & headache triggers?

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  12. Not according to the 1-2-3 program. The real culprits are basically tyramine, fermentation, and processed foods. The ways in which these affect us and the foods that should be avoided are all explained very well in Dr. Buchholz's book "Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain."

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  13. I just read that cashews are a seed and not a nut... have you tried them? What do you think?

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  14. I was also thinking of using the spice sumac as a way to reintroduce a lemon flavor to some meals. Have you heard of this particular spice (made from a type of berry I think) as being a trigger?

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  15. Hello,
    I know it's disappointing, but all nuts are essentially seeds. From what I know, cashews can be a trigger, so they should be avoided. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news. As far as I know, sumac spice should be okay. I haven't heard that it is a trigger, but I haven't heard that it specifically isn't either. It is a spice, so by itself it is probably okay, like other spices. I'll have to try that myself! Hope that helps. Thanks for posting!

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  16. Thank you for this amazing blog. It is informative and easy to read.

    Would you please list some seeds that okay to eat? For example, I have the following at home: flax, sesame, sunflower, pepita (pumpkin). Does toasting them make a difference? Can I cook with them? Eat them raw? Are there any other seeds that you can recommend? I miss textures in food.

    Also, could you list some nuts that are not good to eat? I have at home: pine nuts, cashews, hazelnuts/filberts, pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and almonds. Are they all contraindicated?

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  17. Hi Sarah. Thank you for posting on the blog. I'm sorry it took me so long to respond. I have been away on a trip. The seeds you mention are fine to eat: flax, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin. They can be eaten raw or toasted (as long as you toast them yourself). Make sure they are not flavored in any way, and are only processed with oil and salt if processed. Avoid all tree nuts. You will notice some websites call some of these nuts seeds, and they are technically seeds, as are all nuts, but they are tree nuts for our purposes and should be avoided due to higher tyramine levels. At one time I thought pine nuts might be okay, but I have changed my mind. I hope that helps.

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  18. Thank you for this!! I lived on nuts -- especially peanuts and peanut butter in a time of my life in which I could not afford much more, and began to get severe migraines which I chalked up to hormone fluctuations, blood sugar fluctuations and so on.....(and I know that it could all be related!). Finally I thought: maybe it is the nuts? And looked this up on the Internet. So glad to hear about the tyramine since I read these really frightening articles about the glutamate in foods (which nearly every protein has) being converted to MSG in certain pre-disposed people, and causing lesions in the brain as expressed as migraines. Even if that is true, I am going to stick to the tyramine explanation!!
    For what it is worth, I can eat nuts without migraines - as long as I do not eat them on an empty stomach or the first thing I eat. And/or as long as I do not eat too many (which I still do on occasion). I love cashews, hazelnuts and so on.... and I still add them to salads, and will occasionally eat them on their own as a snack -- just not too many nor the first thing. Same for garbanzo beans, by the way (for me, at least)
    All the best!

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  19. I have done elimination diets 2 other times in my years of migraines, so I thought I knew what caused my migraines. My headaches come on almost exactly 24 hrs after eating the offending food. I love a lot of what is stated in the books, and would love some reasons for the other foods causing my headaches. If you can help explain, I would love it. Previously I had read to avoid seeds, and they all seem to cause problems for me, although not the oil (canola, sunflower, etc). So if you say seeds are okay, why do I still have problems with them? Comments? What about these things: if red wine has tyramine, what about grapes? I have trouble with all fruits with a pit, including olives, peaches, avocado, plums. I heard it was tannins, but I see you say that is not it. What could be the problem? Here are some weird ones - I can't tolerate any whole grains. White bread and white rice are fine, but a headache with whole wheat, brown rice, oatmeal, cornmeal. Reasons? How about pectin or other reason jelly is a problem? Is Carob bean gum allowed? Are bay leaves allowed? I also have trouble with onions, chicken, eggs, coconut (which is in lots of things), and typical things like wines, cheeses, vinegar, nitrates, nitrites, pepper. Do you have any explanation for these other things? Thanks. I really appreciate what you are doing to explain and educate us.

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  20. I know it is taking me awhile to get to posts lately, and I sincerely do apologize. Let me try to answer both posts. To the anonymous poster, there is all kinds of mis-inoformation that can be read about, watched on TV, or learned about through other outlets. To both posters, my information comes from a doctor at Johns Hopkins who spent many years in the headache clinic working with patients who "couldn't be helped" to figure out what would help them. He has written a book titled "Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain," and his name is Dr. David Buchholz. It is published by Workman Publishing. It will help explain many things you have questions about. To Mary, finding triggers can seem quite difficult. Headaches can change over time, which means that your triggers may change too. However, there is an easier way to find triggers, as long as you understand a little more about the foods we eat, and also a little more about how triggers work. You can have a headache minutes after eating a trigger food, or 48 hours or so after eating a trigger food. So, it may be that you are blaming a headache on one food, when actually it is something you ate two days ago. Because of this, triggers are hard to pinpoint. Also, food triggers do not have to cause a headache every time they are eaten. It depends on how many triggers are affecting you at one time. They are cumulative, basically. If you had chocolate, soup ladled with MSG, are stressed at work, and there is a storm brewing, you are more likely to have a headache. However, if you only eat the soup and no other triggers are bothering you at the time, you may just avoid a headache. Avoid trigger foods for the next two days however, or that stacks triggers. Seeds are okay, unless they're flavored, because they don't contain enough tyramine to trigger a headache. Grapes are fine as long as they are not extra ripe, and therefore too aged. Wine also contains sulfites, which is a problem. Whether the fruit has a pit or not makes no difference. Black olives present a problem, but green olives are okay in small amounts. Peaches are fine, but avocados contain a very high amount of tyramine. Some whole grains contain extra additives, especially breads. Oatmeal and cornmeal are usually okay, but if they pose a problem for you, then avoid them. However, don't eat them flavored. That may be the problem. You can buy plain oatmeal and flavor it with brown sugar and syrup. Cook cornbread yourself. Citrus flavored jellies and jams are a problem because of the fruits used to make them. Avoid citrus fruits and blackberry and raspberry. Carob bean gum is basically MSG in many cases. Bay leaves and many other spices are fine. Avoid mixed spices like seasoned salt. Onions have tyramine, as well as onion powder. Chicken may be a problem depending on how it is cooked, but the chicken itself should be fine. Eggs pose problems for a very few. Coconut has tyramine, as well as coconut milk. Distilled vinegar is okay in small amounts. Pepper is fine. Read Dr. Buchholz's book. It will clear things up. It might help also to watch Food, Inc. or some other documentaries about the Food Industry. Hope that helps.

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  21. Thanks! I had not been on the diet long enough when I wrote the post. Although I knew most of my problems, I had to leave out citrus and pineapple which I ate almost every day. I have tested seeds now successfully! So nice to add them to my diet even though I have to cut out oranges and pineapple. Am looking forward to grapes again and maybe even oatmeal.

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  22. Mary - I have just finished reading, "Heal Your Headache" and following the diet suggestions. Can you speak about tannins and its relationship to migraines? Sometimes I think I am reading too many different conflicting sources when trying to sort out my triggers!! It can be overwhelming to say the least! I read that cinnamon, cloves, cumin, tarragon, thyme and vanilla contain tannins and can cause problems. Also, what about broccoli and spinach in regards to tyramine? THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

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  23. Tannin is a known migraine trigger and so is dairy. I don't think anyone should be discounting a trigger because it is seldom heard of...this us why people suffer needlessly because they're told their perceived trigger is not legitimate. Dr. Bucholz lost credibility when he said Splenda is not a trigger. This is a horrible chemical marketed as an all natural sugar derivative! It's banned in some countries!

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  24. Does coconut oil contain tyramine? It is hard to find a healthy cooking fat that is not dairy.

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  25. What about coconut sugar?

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  26. I just ate pumpkin seeds for the first time and got a migraine an hour later so, unless proven otherwise, pumpkin seeds cause me migraines.

    The good news for me is, I fought back without using medication,by using my relaxation process (which also includes self accupressure), and then took a short nap with an ice pack on my forehead and felt much better upon arising.

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  27. I read the book and also would love to know if coconut oil contains tyramine!

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  28. Hi, I too am vegan (I am very intolerant to all dairy as are many family members) and on a gluten free diet as gluten causes me terrible backache. I have been on the 1-2-3 diet for two weeks now and already I am seeing an improvement in my thrice weekly migraines although I am still getting slight pain and daily fuzzy head. It is hard work to get the diet right but as I had already not consumed chocolate, coffee, cheese or colas for a long time, it wasn't as drastic a change as some people have to do. I have Dr Buchholz's book on my Kindle and it is very illuminating and I am following it very carefully. My problen is making a gravy that is edible without all the usual tasty stockcubes/vegan worcestershire sauce. I made my own vegetable stock but it tasted so sweet, not the usual savoury taste and had no depth of flavour . I am not sure about buying the cookbook as it seems to cater to omnivores and will contain many ingredients I don't eat but I would consider it if you thought it would help with the making food tasty part. Do you have a Kindle version?

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  29. For the person who said that milk gives an instant headache. In 1973 I started getting classical migraines at the end of spring. These occurred for the next 10 years on and off. Had some blood tests and they came back with allergy to grey grass (lollium perenium). Turns out that something in the grass was coming through in the cow's milk. A hairdresser girlfriend of mine worked it out in about 3 minutes. Never underestimate non health professionals. Stopped the milk in spring, migraines gone forever.

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  30. What do you mean that carob bean gum in basically MSG? It seems to be an ingredient in cream cheese and many other things that were said to be okay...

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  31. I was surprised that you are stating that seeds would be a safe alternative to nuts. I find that all seeds will give me migraine. Nuts will too but not as quickly.

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