Thursday, January 14, 2010

Common Diet Mistakes:

Not Avoiding Processed and Aged Foods:
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make on this diet is forgetting to avoid processed and aged foods. Remember, even though a food may only contain a few ingredients which seem harmless, if that food is highly processed, our body will not know what to do with it. Fast food burgers are a great example of this. In their ingredients, they may only contain salt, meat, and a preservative (within the burger itself). However, the burgers are highly processed which by nature means they contain MSG. Burgers and burger substitutes bought at the supermarket pose the same problem.

Fermenting fruits and vegetables, and even meats, starts a process which creates more tyramine within that food. On the other hand, canning (without fermenting), freezing, and drying these items slows the aging process down. So, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables (as long as they aren't on the avoid list) should be fine as long as they are not flavored or fermented.

Not Eating Meals Prepared at Home:

I see many people try this diet who continue to eat out all the time. You may continue to eat out if you wish, but you have to be particular in what foods you order and what restaurants you choose. This can make the diet quite limiting. You cannot continue to eat fast food for sure, and many restaurants are not much better. Sauces and gravies are not prepared from scratch, but rather from a base containing MSG, and forget about soups or casseroles. While eating out, you are limited to simply prepared meals with no sauces or gravies, and very limited seasonings if any at all. So, your mouth may get bored. Plus, it's not easy to tell what is in your food, so you may not always know what you are getting. It's better to make a lifestyle change and learn to cook at home. You can make your own gravies, sauces, seasonings and spices, casseroles, burgers, condiments, etcetera, and it is not as difficult or time consuming as you may think. Another plus to eating at home is that it is much less expensive.

Not Following Step 1 of the Program:

For this program to work, all steps must be followed. Step 1 of Dr. Buchholz's program involves eliminating rebound causing medication. Every diet and every preventive measure and medicine in the world won't help you if rebound is still getting in the way. It's only painful for a short while. Yes, I went through it too, so I do know the pain involved. It was well worth it, believe me. I'm much happier now than I was when I was dependent on caffeine and medication. I hear people say to me often "I get headaches every day, so it can't be rebound." If you are taking medication to abort your headache every time or nearly every time you get one, and they are happening often, you probably have rebound headaches.

Not Avoiding Caffeine:

Caffeine can help a headache in process, but it is a rebound causing medication. That's right, caffeine is a drug. That's why many headache medicines on the drug market (prescription and non-prescription) contain caffeine. Caffeine not only makes effective headache medications work faster, but it constricts dilated blood vessels, which is what is causing your painful headache in the first place (there are other factors involved as well). However, once the caffeine wears off, your blood vessels dilate back to a degree greater than they were previously. This is, essentially, rebound headache. You've heard people talk about caffeine headaches, or needing caffeine early in the morning in order to get rid of the stuffy, full, or groggy feeling in their head. It takes more and more caffeine to keep the blood vessels constricted to a comfortable degree. So, to assume that caffeine is not a trigger for you, may not be completely accurate.

Trying to Avoid Gluten:

While following a gluten-free diet can be helpful for many people, it is not the best diet for migraine sufferers. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, then the gluten-free diet is the one you should be following. If not, then by following a gluten-free diet you are eliminating some unnecessary foods which can provide you needed nutrients, and you are not eliminating foods which should be eliminated. A great example of this is tyramine. Tyramine can be found in citrus fruits, nuts, onions, and other foods which are perfectly fine on a gluten-free diet. It also allows for chocolate, which is a well-known migraine trigger because it contains caffeine, theobromine, phenylethylamine, and possibly tyramine as well. You may find some relief by following a gluten-free diet, and some people will have full relief, because by following the diet you are essentially eliminating many sources of MSG. However, for those of you with more triggers, the migraine-free diet is the better one to follow. You'll be eliminating all possible headache triggers at once, then adding them back in later one by one to find your personal triggers, which I'll talk about more below.

Free glutamate (not the same as gluten from wheat protein), found in tomatoes, mushrooms and peas can be a trigger for some, but it is not high on the trigger list. Feel free to leave these in your diet unless you strongly suspect them. If so, eliminate them for two to four weeks. Then, if you see no improvement, add them back in. Remember, pre-made tomato sauces contain onion and/or onion powder and possibly other triggers which can start a headache. It is best to make these from scratch in your own kitchen.

True, Not Every Trigger is a Problem for Everyone, But...

Did you start a food diary to keep track of everything you were eating, but nothing seemed to add up? Part of the reason for this may be due to rebound headache, as mentioned above. The more likely reason, though, is that triggers are extremely hard to pinpoint. Triggers do not have to cause a headache every time they are eaten. It's possible that you can eat chocolate one day and be just fine, but on another day there is a huge storm brewing overhead, you're stressed at school or work, and you have other dietary triggers stacked up in your system as well, causing the chocolate to be the last straw. It all depends on how many triggers and what amount of those triggers are causing you problems at once. Also, a trigger does not have to cause a headache the same day it is eaten. It can wait to strike for up to two days later. So, with the many unavoidable triggers constantly around you, including lack of sleep as well, dietary triggers are extremely hard to pinpoint. All triggers must be eliminated at once, then added back in one at a time for several days at full force to find out if the trigger is a culprit. Nothing can be added back in, though, until you feel fully healed. By eliminating dietary triggers, you are lowering the trigger level in your body which makes unavoidable triggers (even hormones) less likely to cause a headache for you.

Some of this information comes from information I have learned through the process of writing my cookbook entitled Migraine-Free Cooking!, and some of it comes from Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain by David Buchholz, M.D.