During my recent trip to the United States and the difficult run of migraines I experienced whilst away on my travels, I decided a visit to a chiropractor was in order due to the fact my neck had completely seized up. After finding a local clinic online which looked suitable, I attended my appointment in which all I required was an adjustment to relieve my neck stiffness and reduce my headache. As I settled into my chair the Dr set straight to work by gathering my medical history and details of how my migraines were impacting my life. I gave him the usual spiel of the therapies I had tried and tested over the years, in which he intervened with “Can I ask you what your diet’s like”? I explained that I considered my diet to be very healthy and that I avoid the various food triggers that cause me migraines. He then went on to ask if I drank milk and dairy products, ate white bread, pasta, crisps, crackers, cereals and grains? And finally, if I ate any sugar? To all of the above (as any normal person would) I answered “yes, all of them”! With a convincing look upon his face and whilst scribbling notes on his clipboard, he concluded that my diet may be half of my problem.
The doctor went on to explain that there are certain foods which cause inflammation and other foods that fight inflammation. The pro-inflammatory foods can create illness and disease in our bodies as most of the food we eat is not digestible or actually remotely healthy for our bodies at all. The list he then went on to read out was basically my diet down to a tee! Foods such as oats, cereals, various fruits, tortilla wraps, bread, milk and pasta. The list went on and on… What on earth was there left to eat I wondered? The Dr suggested I look into an ancestral diet and to read up on the matter in my spare time. So that’s exactly what I did…
Strewn across the sofa with my usual space age anti migraine head-gear firmly in place, I started to browse on my iPad which foods cause inflammation and reduce inflammation. I was surprised at the results!
So here we go! The best foods for reducing inflammation are as follows; celery, bok choy, beets, ginger, blueberries, pineapple, kale, broccoli, spinach, salmon, walnuts, coconut oil, chia seeds, flaxseed and turmeric. And now the foods that increase inflammation include; processed foods and meats, refined carbohydrates, sugar and omega 6 fats.
Now if you’re anything like me, I had no idea exactly what refined carbohydrates and omega 6 fats were? Whilst beginning to research this and after googling an ancestral diet for headaches, I stumbled across a book online that caught my eye. It was called “The Migraine Miracle” by Josh Turknett and it explained how, by altering his diet by reducing these pro-inflammatory foods, he managed to heal himself completely from migraines. This wasn’t intentional, instead his aim was initially to improve another health condition and as a results of this change he realised that over time his migraines had simply vanished! So after excitedly clicking “order book” on my kindle, I settled down on the sofa ready to learn more about this new diet.
I have to say I finished the book in just two days as I couldn’t put it down. It left me pondering if, after all this time had I only been making my headaches worse with the food I was eating? So the first half of the book talks about the different types of migraine, your trigger threshold and the usual suspects to avoid. All of this I have heard one hundred times before but Josh makes it an interesting read and shows you how easy it can be to “release the beast” (as he calls it!).
Now comes the interesting part.. the diet! He firstly explains that millions of years ago our ancestors simply only ate what they could kill and grow out of the ground. Over time due to agriculture and modern methods of food processing we have been introduced into eating many different forms of grains. Many of these grains are in fact toxic to our bodies and we shouldn’t be eating them. They are then made into refined carbohydrates which basically means a lot of sugar can be added to them in the process. This then makes up what we know today as white bread, crackers, pasta, cereals and so on. He then also explains how our bodies nowadays are using sugar as our main energy source rather than fat as in years gone by. This then causes your blood sugar levels to rocket and drop sharply throughout the day, this will occur several times a day due to the sugar in the foods we are eating. For migraineurs this is exactly what we don’t want, as a drop in blood sugar or fast rise can be a trigger. I know this has happened to me before. Of course the book explains all of the above in huge detail, so if you’re intrigued to know more, I suggest you get yourself a copy. Anyway, back to the diet. Josh breaks down the changes you will need to make in to six simple directives which are as follows:
- Eliminate Foods with Flour (Wheat, Barley and Rye) and added Sugar
I know what your thinking! No more delicious bowls of pasta or beautiful crusty baguettes! I had a mild panic when I read this first one, but if you start to think about it, so much of our daily diet includes foods with flour. Toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and then maybe a nice pasta dish for dinner! That’s without the crisps and crackers for snacking on! He explains that it is the flour from the gluten grains that you should be avoiding, however gluten-free grains could be used in moderation if you so wish. This one was going to be hard, that’s for sure!
- Eliminate Processed Foods (Or only eat Whole Foods)
In simple terms just ask yourself “Is it something that you could hunt and kill, or grow in the garden?” If you answered yes, then you can eat it! Anything that requires processing or being made into a food product is a no go. For example snack bars, crackers, cereal or fizzy drinks. I guess with this one it’s all about preparation and making the correct snacks rather than reaching for a cereal bar for convenience.
- Eat Mostly Animals and Plants
This one is pretty simple. Eat animals and plants! This includes fish, game and even the organs (if you can stomach it, but I know I can’t!). Our ancestors used to eat the high energy plants for obvious reasons but nowadays as long as we have a balanced diet we can afford to eat from the amazing array of vegetables in our supermarkets. Delve in to the leafy greens section and go crazy!
- Cook With Butter, Animal Fat, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil and Ghee (Clarified Butter)
Basically your task here is to avoid all seed or grain derived oils. For example Canola or vegetable oils. This goes back to those omega 6 fats I mentioned before. These create inflammation in our system which we are trying to avoid. Instead you now get to cook with lashings of butter or delicious coconut oil. I knew this one wouldn’t be a problem for me as I already adopt this rule due to previous migraines being triggered by these seed oils.
- When Eating Fruit, Favour Berries of Various Sorts over the Sweeter Stuff
Being honest I knew all fruits contained sugar but I didn’t know which ones contained the most. Basically If the fruit ends in “berry”, then you are allowed a small quantity of them. Otherwise fruits such as apples, grapes and bananas will shoot your blood sugar up followed by a sudden drop which could potentially induce a migraine. Josh explains that the higher sugar fruits are best to be eaten within the context of a meal so that the rise isn’t so substantial. No more mid morning bananas for me!
As we know, water can do you no harm so it’s our best friend to migraineurs. Unsweetened tea is allowed and coffee (with full cream only). Alcohol he advises to completely cut out for the first few weeks but once your migraines have disappeared you could introduce it again if you so wish. I know for me wine is a huge trigger so I think I will always stay clear of this one.
So that’s basically the diet in a nut shell! I know what you’re thinking, what the hell can I eat? Well now you can enjoy bacon, eggs and sausage for breakfast every day without a side order of guilt. Perhaps a salad for lunch with lashings of full fat cheese, chicken and avocado? And for dinner, how about a beautiful steak with a full fat creamy peppercorn sauce with vegetables? Once you start to look in to the possibilities, it’s actually very exciting. Knowing I would be allowed to snack on cheese, nuts and meat to my heart’s content sounded pretty good to me! Josh explains that all low-fat options will have sugars hidden in them, even milk. So instead you have to stick to the full fat rule. Fine by me!
I know you probably have a few questions at this stage such as “Won’t this raise my cholesterol?” and “Surely all this fat isn’t good for me”? Well Josh addresses every concern you may have in the book and will put your mind to rest. In fact this diet is proven to be much healthier for you than your average low fat diet that we are all told to live by. “Fats are bad for you” we hear so often, but maybe they are actually our friends? There’s only way to find out! So wish me luck and I’ll update you shortly with how I am getting on…
#TheMigraineMiracle #Diet #GoodFats #Health #Migraines #NoCarbs #Protein