(Second in a Three Part Series)
Contributed by Eileen Zollinger
A quick Google search of migraine diets comes up with 523,000 hits. With those kinds of numbers, where exactly is a person to start and in which ones are you supposed to put your faith and trust? Without the help of my headache specialist (HAS) to guide me, I think I would have been where most people are, lost and overwhelmed. He gave me a place to start and I took it from there. What I realized pretty quickly is that there is some good information out in the world of Google and some not so reliable information as well. Trial and error in the world of chronic migraine and elimination diets is very painful.
The idea is low -amine diet, as in low tyramine as well as several other -amines, that can cause havoc with your already over sensitized brain. That seemed easy enough. Until I realized that I had been eating a pretty steady diet of all of these -amines. This meant a significant overhaul of my diet. At this point I stood on a precipice. I could continue to eat the foods that gave me comfort, but also contributed to my migraines, or I could decide to commit to a three to four month program of trying to get my life back and see if the diet really worked. I really had nothing to lose. My migraines had caused at least one stroke that we knew about and they were continually disrupting my life and the lives of my husband, children and other family members and friends. I wanted my life back. This seemed like my best chance…I went for it…all in.
Even after understanding what was required with the elimination diet, I looked at the diet and couldn’t really wrap my head around what to eat or not eat. I needed specificity and simplicity. I needed to have two lists that were simple and straightforward. Foods that were ok to eat and foods that I needed to avoid. This was what my broken brain needed to be able to take to a grocery store to shop. Individualized sheets like these made it easier for me to know what to shop for and what I could eat when I was dining out in a restaurant.
Four to Six weeks after going ‘all in’ on the diet, I had an amazing 22 days without a migraine. I thought I was cured!! My HAS assured me I was not. That I would continue to have migraines, but that if I stuck with the diet, I would have more control over how often they disrupted my life. He was correct, as always. I did get a migraine shortly thereafter and I didn’t really understand why. I had done everything right. I hadn’t cheated. I was sleeping right, exercising and not doing anything ‘off plan’. I’m embarrassed to say almost gave up. It was hard to make these changes and if I was still going to have these migraines, what was the point. Luckily, my husband was there and reminded me that I had made a time commitment to stick with the plan. Four months was going to pass regardless. I could potentially be better, or back where I was…what was there to lose? So, in essence, he talked me off the ledge of giving up. I stuck with it. And for 18 months, my migraines continued to get better and better. I was averaging 2-4 migraines a month with no daily head pain. Towards the end of the 18 months, I was down to 1-3 migraines a month.
Ever the scientist at heart, I presented a theory to my HAS that maybe the diet was controlling my migraines and we didn’t need the Topamax anymore. So we planned an experiment to wean off the Topamax and test the efficacy of the diet alone…that was not a success. By the time we got to no Topamax, my migraines were building in force and frequency. We added the Topamax back to the mix, but it was a confirmation to me that as great as the diet worked for me, I most definitely needed a preventive as well. At least for now. Don’t miss Part 3 where I discuss the next part of my diet experiment…the ketogenic diet.
What would you be willing to modify in your diet to achieve migraine remission? If you would like to have individualized safe lists to shop from and know which foods to enjoy and avoid, please contact us.