Chronic Migraine, Coping, Diet, Treatment

Cheating on My Diet and Suffering the Consequences

There’s only so much chicken and rice a person can eat. The RPAH/Failsafe diet I’ve been writing about? I totally blew it on Thursday… and again on Friday. And I’m out of triptans, so I wasn’t able to abort the resulting migraine. The resulting migraine that has lasted four days so far.

The great news is that I’m almost positive the migraine came from cheating on the diet, indicating that I’m on the right path with this whole diet thing. Determining if a food chemical is a culprit can be difficult because they accumulate in the system and reactions are sometimes delayed up to 48 hours. (This is why RPAH has a detailed food challenge guide, which I’m going to start as soon as re-establish my baseline pain levels.)

Thursday night I felt better enough to bake a batch of breakfast cookies* for Hart. They are full of delicious ingredients that have moderate or high amounts amines and/or salicylates, including peanut butter, peanuts, applesauce, pumpkin, spices and chocolate. A tiny taste turned into bites turned into spoonfuls. Then, since I’d already broken the diet, I licked the spoon after I made chocolate sauce for Hart. I took two Midrin at bedtime, which may have held the migraine off some. But it eventually came early the next afternoon.

“Chicago happened slowly, like a migraine,” a line from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, was running through my head Friday as I watched the migraine creep up. First the fatigue, then the mental fogginess, then the nausea, then the pain ratcheted up. This was possibly the first time the slow spread of a migraine has been apparent to me. It used to be that one migraine ran into the next and I couldn’t distinguish any of the symptoms. Noticing the symptoms sneaking in is excellent if you have a triptan on hand and can abort it. Instead, I have two triptan prescriptions sitting on my coffee table.

You’d think Thursday’s munching and Friday’s migraine would be enough for me to get back on the diet. But. I’d already blown the diet and I was meeting friends for dinner at my favorite restaurant. Since starting migraine diet craziness a year ago, I’ve eaten at restaurants maybe a dozen times and usually just eggs at brunch. This is my favorite restaurant and they had chicken and dumplings on the menu. And fried deviled eggs. I couldn’t resist. With Midrin and Zofran on board, I went for it.

As of Saturday morning, I’m back to a very limited version of the RPAH/Failsafe diet: chicken, rice, chayote squash, rutabaga, iceberg lettuce, and a tiny bit of sugar. I’ll keep on that for a couple days until the migraines let up again, then I’ll do a dairy challenge, followed by trying to get up to the full diet (minus beans, nuts and sulfurous veg). Reviewing the food challenge chart, I realized I’ll likely be starting and stopping challenges through the summer. This is a long time to eat a boring diet, but, as I’ve mentioned 37 times by now, I think I’m onto something. Not having a migraine every freakin’ day is so worth the frustration. I just had to push the boundaries a bit to prove that to myself.

*Whenever I mention breakfast cookies, someone asks for the recipe. Here you go.

Pumpkin & Peanut Butter Breakfast Cookies


  • 1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/3 cups applesauce
  • 1/2 cup whey powder
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1/2 cup chocolate or carob chips, optional


In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, peanut butter and applesauce until completely combined. Then add in the vanilla extract, protein powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Mix until completely combined. Add in the oatmeal, nuts and chocolate chips and mix to combine.

Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Heat oven to 350ºF.

Drop cookie dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and flatten cookies to about a 1/3″ thick.

Bake cookies approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown and done. Remove from oven and let rest on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then move to cooling rack.