Coping, Diet, Treatment, Triggers

Dietary Ups & Downs

I promised myself my next post would be about something other than the diet. But diet is all I think about right now. It is exhausting. You’d think whittling down my food selection would be a reprieve, except that I’m either in a migraine, recovering from a migraine, or planning the next food I’m going to try that will likely start the cycle over again.

It took six days to recover from cheating on the diet, then I triggered another migraine Thursday night with iceberg lettuce. When I recovered Friday, I cooked up some chicken and rice. To add flavor, I poached the chicken, then boiled the poaching liquid for 30 minutes to reduce it and added the liquid to the mix. Apparently, that was long enough to develop sufficient amines to trigger a migraine.

If I read this on another person’s blog, I’d probably think they were being paranoid and attributing too much to foods as migraine triggers. That was my attitude toward food triggers until eight weeks ago. Here’s the thing: I know my body and I know what my migraines and headaches feel like — I know these things better than I know anything else in the world. On my “baseline” days, which are migraine-free and the headache is of low to moderate pain, my head feels different — better — than it has in a decade.  I still have a headache all the time, but the pain is higher on my skull and it has a different quality than usual, though I haven’t found the words to describe it. I’m also very aware of how my body responds to triggers. Now that my diet is so simple and the headache pain has changed, I can tell when a migraine is triggered by food. I’m more than willing to stick to chicken and rice if it means I can stay at my baseline.

For a couple more days, at least. I see a dietician Thursday and hope she can provide me with good direction and advice. I know what I’m eating is not nutritious and not a long-term solution. But I hope there’s a way to get adequate nutrition and stick with the diet long enough to sort out what my food triggers are.

Because much of the RPAH/Failsafe diet information is anecdotal, I don’t know how much stock to put in this, but there are a couple factors that make me think I just need to keep at it. Some people report being on the diet six months to a year before they can test foods without exacerbating their symptoms. No one uses this word, but I think of it as a detox — it takes a certain amount of time to reduce the buildup of food chemicals in the body enough to introduce them again without causing a flareup. Also, some people, especially those with chronic fatigue symptoms or chronic pain according to the Failsafe WordPress blog, are “super-responders” and have to eliminate all vegetables. Though migraine and headaches are my primary symptom, fatigue has actually been more limiting in the last year.

From your comments and emails, I know many of you find this useful. I hope I’m not boring the rest of you to tears. Maybe my next post will be about something other than diet. I’d certainly appreciate thinking about something else.

6 thoughts on “Dietary Ups & Downs”

  1. Good description! I am doing the Low Histamine elimination diet and, when the headaches come, the pain feels thinner. The only way I can describe it. I feel a heck of a lot better ALL the time. I don’t miss the foods I can’t have, but it is rough at times planning meals. Good luck!

  2. I’m very interested in diet and migraine, thank you for writing about your experience. I think it often gets over simplified and then over looked in treatment. My chronic migraines are pretty intractable, but figuring out that I was sensitive to glutamate has been really important in reducing the severity of the headaches. Its so hard to be strict about diet, in part inconsistency of the trigger effect so the causal relationship isn’t always strong. If there are few other triggers in 24 hours then maybe the soy sauce is okay… but maybe not… my husband once yelled loudly at me after I admitted to eating onion/sour cream flavored chex mix (eg a msg bomb) at a party “There is no safe chex mix!!” which I try to remember as a mantra when I am tempted to fall off the wagon with a possible trigger food. Anyway- good luck with your dietary changes and I hope that your migraine situation improves.

  3. Wow, sorry to hear about the continued headache, especially as it started with something so seemingly mild as iceberg lettuce!!! I’ve been suspicious of romaine lettuce; haven’t tried iceberg. May just give up all lettuces for the time being.
    By the way, I’m delighted when you write about diet as I’m similarly determined (obsessed) with getting to the root of my migraines and am convinced that leaky gut/intolerances are a huge factor.


  4. Good luck! I did a different elimination diet and it took six weeks for my system to be clear enough to challenge anything successfully because doing so required 3 headache-free days. It’s been really worth it. Also, over the six months I’ve been on this diet I’ve grown less sensitive to all of my triggers, so now even foods that appeared to be triggers in the early months can now be consumed without a problem.

    I hope you find similar success!

  5. When I removed dairy from my diet, I had to supplement with some sort of calcium. Low calcium/magnesium are a trigger for me. Not all supplements are created equal by any means. I use “Bone Strength” by New Chapter which is sourced from algae, not limestone. Also, it has a natural ratio of magnesium to calcium. They add D3 and K2 for proper absorption. Without sufficient K2, the calcium doesn’t deposit in the right places. It is expensive but worth it. I use very little by cutting a tablet in half and having one half in the AM and one in the PM. I drink Green Vibrance every morning and follow my “green rule” that is to have veggies at every meal pretty much without fail. Even so, I found that the veggies were not enough to give me the cal/mg that I needed.

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