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Reintroducing Foods, Reintroducing Migraines

After reading The Post I Never Thought I’d Get to Write, you may think I’ve been gallivanting around town, throwing parties, and having a grand old time this week. I wish. I’ve been testing foods… and having migraines.

There’s no way I was going to waste all the work to eliminate food chemicals from my diet without reintroducing them slowly and methodically. Testing was going great until the day I stopped drinking the elemental formula completely. So now I’m playing around.

“Playing” sounds like fun. It’s actually tedious and frustrating. Here are some of the variables I’m investigating:

  • Do I need more DAO than I’ve been taking?
  • Would I feel better if I took one Histamine Block before eating a small meal, rather than taking two and eating a larger meal?
  • Are the foods I’m eating too difficult to digest?
  • Would juicing fruits and vegetables ease digestion and, thus, not trigger migraines?
  • Am I sensitive to salicylates (the food chemical I was testing)?
  • Am I reacting some other food chemical that I wasn’t on the lookout for?
  • Do I need to rotate foods? (If so, how in the world can I do this with only a few sources of protein and mostly vegetables, which won’t meet my caloric needs for a day?)
  • Is just one food in the group I reintroduced problematic?
  • Does overall sugar content matter?
  • Does not drinking water with a meal reduce the possibility of a migraine? What if I drink a lot of water with a meal?

The food details are even more complicated because I no longer have reliable indicators for when a migraine is coming on. Tooth sensitivity can come on part way through a meal, last for two hours, then stop without a migraine ever developing. Fatigue can come on and then abate after an hour. I don’t want to waste a triptan or drug myself up unnecessarily, so I don’t take anything.

So, I’ve had a migraine every day for the last week (I had one when I was writing last Thursday, I just didn’t realize it), but the pain has only reached a level 5 once. When a migraine hits a level 4, it doesn’t stay that high for long. Much of my days are still spent with pain levels at a 2 or 3. Fatigue is generally short-lived and brain fog is not severe. For me, this is Disneyland.

I am not discouraged. I knew reintroducing foods would increase the migraine attacks and that sorting out all the dietary variables would be messy. I still believe DAO and histamine are valuable pieces of my puzzle. Exactly how they fit into the picture is still unclear, but you can be sure I’m going to find out.

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Progress is Not Linear: Arrrgggh!

I fall for it every time. One good week and I assume every week thereafter will be exactly the same: low pain, little fatigue, high energy. Two weeks ago I went to four yoga classes, cleaned, ran errands, and wrote like crazy. The next week was only two yoga classes, a little writing, and one massively productive day around the house. This week? Nada. Well, I made it to yoga Monday, but have otherwise done very little. My mind, in its unhelpful negative self-talk mode, says I’m being lazy. My body, with its bone-deep fatigue, nausea, and aching head, says I need to rest.

Not only do I assume each week will be the same as (or better than) previous weeks, but if it isn’t, my default belief is that I’m doing something wrong. I’m not sleeping at the right times or eating the right food or doing the right amount of exercise. With the amount of emotional energy I spend trying to do everything right or following up on all the “shoulds,” you’d be hard-pressed to know that I’m rather a free spirit. Attempting to keep migraine at bay has turned me into a rule follower. That there’s an infinite number of rules, none of which apply all the time or to everyone with migraine, makes me exert even more effort toward perfection.

I cannot think that the diet isn’t working wonders. I won’t let myself believe that I’m not making continual progress. Which is totally absurd. I have had chronic daily headache for 25 years and debilitating chronic migraine for more than a decade. Assuming that improvement will be linear is illogical. There will be ups and downs, steps forward and steps back. I know all this. Now how do I believe it?

Time to back off, breathe deeply, and just be. Be without scrutinizing, judging, or attempting to change. These are the big lessons in life that I embrace in theory. Applying them is the challenge.

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Getting Back on Track

It’s easy to beat yourself up after you do something your body doesn’t like. You think you should know better than to have wine with dinner or sleep in or skip the gym to go to a movie. Don’t be so hard on yourself. As ChronicBabe Editrix Jenni reminds us, progress is not linear.

After recent setbacks added up to frustration, stress and depression, Jenni’s figuring out how to get her self-care back on track. She’s got some great insight and a list of pledges that may help you when you slip. And, perhaps more important, she reminds us that berating ourselves does more harm than good.