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Food Sensitivities: What I Miss and Crave

“I could never give up X.” That’s the response when I mention my diet to someone new.

And I think, “You could if it meant the difference between spending all your time in bed and getting to do the normal things of life.” At least that’s the case for me.

I was surprised to discover that I miss foods I never expected to miss and crave foods that I don’t particularly miss.

Toast is what I miss the very most. This is entirely unforeseen. I like toast, I don’t loooove toast. I won’t go so far as to say I could normally take it or leave it. Warm, slightly crispy bread with yumminess on top is hard to resist. But it’s not something I made frequently. I was more likely to let the last half of a loaf languish in the freezer than think to turn it into toast. Now I see a loaf of bread and immediately think of a perfectly toasted slice of bread topped with melty butter. The butter is absolute, the other toppings depend on the day: strawberry jam, honey, peanut butter. That’s another oddity — I don’t have a particular affinity for strawberry jam over any other kind, but it’s the only one that tops my imaginary toast. Despite missing toast so much, I only crave it when I see a loaf of sliced bread.

I crave Golden Grahams a lot. A lot. I have eaten them far less than toast in my lifetime, but I can’t shake the thought of Golden Grahams. This is definitely a craving, not a missing. I don’t think, wistfully, “Oh, how I miss Golden Grahams,” like I do with toast. Instead, I think about how delicious Golden Grahams would taste and the craving grows increasingly fierce. I finally gave in and got a box. They were as delicious as I expected.

At the grocery store, I crave graham crackers and animal crackers. I don’t think of either one any other time, but both call to me every time I’m food shopping. Again, neither have been staples in my diet, except for brief period when I worked late a lot and animal crackers were the most healthful option in the vending machine.

There are five restaurant dishes I crave, mostly from chain restaurants. That in itself is odd, since I used to choose local restaurants over chains almost all the time. The chain restaurant meals that I daydream about are Pei Wei’s honey seared chicken and crab wontons (my migraine comfort foods of choice), fish tacos from Rubio’s, and a burger and fries from Hillstone (formerly Houston’s). I’ve enjoyed all three of those a few times in the last year since the migraines that result from them respond very quickly to triptans. The two local foods I haven’t yet tested are the amazing tomato-mozzarella sandwich made with bread fresh from a wood-fired oven and the best waffle I’ve ever had. I suspect those will be indulgences soon.

There are many other things that I miss and/or crave with less regularity. Boston cream doughnuts have been high on the list recently, as have ginger scones. At first, I craved my homemade cookies a lot, particularly chocolate chip and shortbread. I’ve eaten them several times and they’ve been delicious, but no longer crave them as often anymore. I wish I could figure out how I stopped craving them.

Are you bored to tears by this foray into foodie blogging? If you haven’t given up reading yet, thanks for sticking with me. It’s been surprisingly cathartic to write about the food I wish I were eating. And I’ve realized that the one commonality of all these foods is wheat. Like there was any doubt I loved wheat.

I won’t lie and say I’m OK with the diet. I dislike having so little variety and not being able to cook with herbs or spices. I have to eat way more meat than I’d like. It takes an absurd amount of time to shop and prepare food. Sometimes I have to work really hard to finish the swiss chard, bok choi or fish (and other times I just give up, knowing that if I force myself to eat something I’m really not into, I’ll gag and it will be even harder to eat in the future). Day 2 of the rotation diet was unequivocally terrible until a couple weeks ago and day 3 is full of pungent food that’s hard to eat if I have a migraine. Still, the benefits continue to outweigh the frustrations. Most of the time.

 

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I’m Out of Cope Due to Depression

After posting Food and Migraine Frustrations: I’m All Out of Cope, I finally looked at all the pieces that were frustrating me (and how I was overreacting to everything and felt helpless) and realized they added up to depression. I was still waffling until the day I woke up and didn’t want to get out of bed. Then I knew it was time to increase my Wellbutrin.

I started feeling better almost immediately. It’s highly unlikely that the Wellbutrin made such a difference so fast, but recognizing what was happening and taking steps to change it was a big relief. I’m also seeing some improvement in my diet and pinpointing the foods (and possibly a supplement) that have been problematic. And one day out of every four is (usually) trigger-free.

Unfortunately, I’m not getting enough calories to support 300 mg of Wellbutrin without side effects. Like happened when I was on Tolerex in December, I get dizzy looking down or working at the computer. Once again, it’s keeping me from working much.

I’m still frustrated, but no longer feel helpless or overwhelmed. I’m taking each hour as it comes and trusting I’ll figure this out eventually. (That sounds so trite, but it’s totally true.) I’m not sure what “this” looks like, how long it will take or how many migraines a week (or day) it will mean. And that’s OK.

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Rotation Diet for Migraine or Headaches

The cauliflower debacle never really resolved. Even after I stopped eating cauliflower, I began reacting to other “safe” foods I’ve restricted my diet to the last six months. Despair was knocking, so I did what I always do when I need a sense of control — I began to research. Rotation diets were my target.

Rotation diets have come up frequently in my reading on dietary histamine. The idea, as I was introduced to it, is that you don’t eat the same food more than every four days. That’s the preschool version of rotation diets. A true rotation diet involves rotating food “families” every four days. Food families are either botanical families (for fruit, vegetables, grains, oils and herbs) or animal families (fish, bovines, swine, etc.).

The quickest way to understand how this works is this four-day rotation guide (page 7 of the PDF). The belief is that it takes four days for a food to completely clear your system, so that’s why you need to wait. Also, if someone reacts to multiple foods in the same family, they should consider eliminating the whole group (no goosefoot for me). The science behind rotation diets is slim, but I know what’s working for me.

I started it 10 days ago and am thrilled with the progress so far. My migraines are far less frequent and disabling than they’ve been the last couple months (and they’re easy to abort with triptans and/or Midrin). My diet is way more varied than it has been in the last 18 months. I have’t thrown caution to the wind — I reference lists of foods that contain histamine, tyramine and benzoates (the best lists I’ve found are in Dealing with Food Allergies by Janice Joneja). Instead of avoiding those foods completely, I choose carefully which ones I test.

The rotation diet is allowing me to eat foods that were never a regular part of my diet (mangoes, dandelion greens, persimmons, pomegranates). It’s helping me identify more definite migraine triggers (nuts, cabbage, quinoa, beets). I’m also figuring out how frequently I can eat a food and in what quantity without a reaction.

Wondering why I’m so excited about this strict diet? Here’s a recap of the past 18 months: Failsafe; chicken, white rice and oatmeal; feeding tube formula; six to 10 fruit and veg that I ate every single day. I don’t know how many different foods I’m able to eat now — that’s major progress!

Some people are on rotation diets indefinitely. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to figure out what my thresholds are for certain foods and not have to follow the diet rigidly for long. It doesn’t feel like a permanent change to me, more like another part of the diagnostic process. I’m more optimistic about this diet than I have been since I started my current migraine diet journey in January 2012.

Want to learn more? Here are the resources I’ve found most helpful:

I included migraine and headaches in the title because I’m using it for migraine, but I’ve read that it can help with chronic non-migraine headaches as well.

7/17/14: If you have true food allergies, please seek the guidance of a health professional before reintroducing foods in a rotation diet! I only have food intolerances/sensitivities (not allergies) and am not at risk of a life-threatening food reaction.

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A Cold? Nope, Migraine.

You know that cold that gave me brain fog and fatigue as bad as with my worst migraine attacks? It was migraine. While the mild cold lasted only a few days, I simultaneously developed a reaction to one of my “safe” foods (likely cauliflower). It was triggering migraines that were lower on the pain scale than usual since I’d restarted Ritalin as a preventive. Since I ate cauliflower daily, sometimes multiple times a day, I was in a pretty much perpetual migraine.

I’m getting it sorted out, but am also pushing to introduce new foods to my diet so this doesn’t happen again (it has also happened with coconut and butternut squash). That means more migraines as I find out what’s OK and what’s not and what rotation schedule my foods need to be on. It’s annoying and frustrating, but I’ve got a good plan in place and trust that if I’ve figured this out before, I can do it again.

I’ll probably be quieter than usual for a bit, since my mind isn’t cooperating with this writing thing right now. I am reading a ton, including lots of health-related non-fiction that I’m eager to tell you about. Take care of yourselves. I’ll be back soon.

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Diamine Oxidase (DAO) is Why I’m Doing Better

The Amazing Feat of a Normal Life prompted a lot of questions about why I’m feeling so much better. It’s still the digestive enzyme, diamine oxidase (DAO), that I started in January. (To learn more, read The Post I Never Thought I’d Get to Write and follow the links at the end for more details. If you want to try DAO yourself, you can get it through Amazon. Even though it’s called Histamine Block, it isn’t an antihistamine and doesn’t block histamine.)

I continue to follow a restricted diet, though that’s more about wanting to reintroduce foods slowly and methodically rather than any particular food being a problem. As long as I take DAO, I’m doing great with nearly every food I try (even dairy and wheat). I’ve even tried a few high-histamine foods (with a little extra DAO) and have done fine.

The other dietary change is that I’m eating most foods on a rotating schedule, leaving two or three days between each time I eat a particular food. I began this when I developed an intolerance to coconut after eating it multiple times a day for months without a problem. This has been a very effective way to vary my diet.

It’s a slow process, but I’m getting almost complete nutrition from the foods I eat (I’m still a little low on calcium). I eat mostly vegetables, though I have salmon a couple times a week and am currently testing eggs and milk.

That’s it. I’m past the three-month placebo window and continue to feel better than I ever thought possible. I know DAO is an unconventional migraine treatment. I know the science behind it is weak. I also know it’s working better for me than anything else I’ve ever tried.

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