Is food giving you a migraine?

For those of us who have had migraines, we know it’s not just a really bad headache.

migraine-headache

It’s mind numbingly painful and can completely destroy your day or even week depending on how long lasts.  I first started getting migraines in elementary school – my mum often received calls from the office asking her to come pick me up.

migraine infographic

She tells me I described seeing “stars” before the headache set in and was able to piece together the visual problems, headaches, and nausea as a probable migraine.  Having a migraine isn’t really about the pain as much as it is a total disruption of life.  Often, during bouts of frequent migraines, I’m afraid to make plans and fear that one will strike me at work.  I remember worrying on my wedding day that I would get one…thankfully, I didn’t!

Migraine Aura:  partial loss of vision

Migraine Aura: partial loss of vision

The way a migraine starts is pretty interesting.  Something triggers our prostaglandins (a type of hormone) to initiate platelets to cluster together which in turn signals our body in increase the levels of serotonin in the blood stream.  This increase in serotonin then causes our blood vessels to constrict meaning less blood flows to the brain.  The decrease in blood to the brain creates a sort of acidic environment which then results in the vessels dilating which causes pain.  The aura I mentioned previously (vision problems) is caused by the changes in nerve cells and blood flow.  Aside from visual auras, other warnings that a migraine may be on the way include numbness, weakening, dizziness, vertigo, speech and hearing problems, and issues with memory.

mechnismmigraine

Migraines are a very complex neurological disorder with many contributing factors (genetics, environment, etc) but we do know that they are instigated by triggers such as:

  • skipping meals
  • stress
  • hormonal changes
  • caffeine or withdrawal from caffeine
  • over sleeping or not getting enough sleep
  • exercise
  • travel
  • weather changes
  • menstrual cycle
  • certain medications
  • constipation (see this post and this one as well for ways of reducing this problem)
  • food

The thing with migraines is that they can almost be a response to too many things going on at once.  If you’re tired, stressed, and the barometric pressure is low and then you eat food that is aggravating to your system, it can be that last thing to send you over the edge.

migraine

On my lifetime journey to healing myself or at least reducing the frequency of migraines I know that it’s crucial for me to eat regular meals, keep my stress levels under control, get enough sleep, an also to avoid food triggers.  Here are some common dietary contributors:

  • diary (especially cheese) – contains histamine
  • wheat
  • corn
  • soy
  • sugar
  • coffee
  • chocolate – contains histamine
  • citrus fruit
  • nuts
  • strawberries
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • shellfish
  • MSG
  • food colouring – contains histamine
  • Alcohol (red wine and beer especially which contains histamine)

When we eat something that we’re allergic to, our immune system releases histamines which trigger an inflammatory response (migraines!) so if you suffer from migraines it may help to take Vitamin C everyday since it helps breakdown histamine.  Other natural sources that help the body to break down histamine include Vitamin B and Quercetin.

Vit CVit B6Quercetin

Other natural remedies worth trying out include Magnesium (minimum of 300 mg/day) and Feverfew which comes from Feverfew leaves and is helpful as a preventative mechanism (50-100 mg/day).

For more information on migraines and nutrition, contact thehealthjunction@mail.com.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“A migraine is like a tornado.  It attacks fast, usually without warning, and wreaks havoc regardless of what’s going on in your life at that moment.”

–  Stephen Silverstein, M.D., Director of the Jefferson Headache Clinic in Philadelphia

**DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE THAT ANY ADVERTISEMENTS THAT APPEAR ON THIS PAGE DO NOT REFLECT THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS OF THE HEALTH JUNCTION**

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A mint chocolate “nib” smoothie fit for Gwyneth Paltrow

I don’t know why, but I hear a lot of people have beef with Gwyneth Paltrow.

GOOP

Not sure why, but Gwyneth really bothers people.  My hippie vegetarian sister who hasn’t washed her hair in 15 years is about as holistic as they come…and even she thinks Gwyn is a smug jerk.

Sister Sharon
Sister Sharon

I quite enjoy Gwyn and her natural foods/lifestyle blog, http://www.goop.com.  While her cookbook yields some pretty delicious food, I agree some of the ingredients are a bit tough to find.  I have to say, that even though it can be annoying to find some of the obscure ingredients, the payoff with Gwyn is always big.

gwyneth-paltrow-sticks-to-her-diet-while-family-eats-pizza-and-pasta__oPt

I saw a recipe for a mint chocolate chip smoothie on GOOP.com that required something called raw cacao nibs and I was stumped but determined to make this smoothie happen.  Lucky for me, I happened to pass by the  ChocoSol food stand this past weekend at the Evergreen Brick Works which is my favourite place in all of Toronto.  ChocoSol makes and sells chocolate products here in Toronto using ingredients from indigenous communities in the Lacondon Jungle of Chiapas and the Oaxacan mountains of Southern Mexico…part of their product line includes raw cacao nibs.

Photo Credit:  The Torontoist
Photo Credit: The Torontoist

Raw cacao nibs, by the way, are cocoa beans that have been roasted, separated from their husks and broken into smaller pieces.  Raw cacao is high in zinc, iron, magnesium and antioxidants.

Raw Cacao Nibs

With my ChocoSol raw cacao nibs in arm, I attempted Gwyn’s smoothie with my own modification and the results were…spectacular.

Photo Credit:  GOOP.com
Photo Credit: GOOP.com

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp Manitoba Harvest Pro 70 Hemp Protein Powder (15 grams of vegan protein!)
  • large handful of spinach
  • 5 oz water
  • 5 oz unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3rd avocado
  • 1/8th tsp pure peppermint extract
  • 1 tsp raw honey (in Toronto, try Bees’ Universe unpasteurized Wildflower Honey available at the Evergreen Brickworks Farmers’ Market)
  • 1 tbsp raw Cacao Nibs (try ChocoSol’s as it is DELISH!)

Blend well and serve for an invigorating morning smoothie or afternoon pick-me-up snack.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“I’d rather smoke crack than eat cheese from a tin.”

–  Gwyneth Paltrow

**DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE THAT ANY ADVERTISEMENTS THAT APPEAR ON THIS PAGE DO NOT REFLECT THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS OF THE HEALTH JUNCTION**

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Breaking the Fast

Eating breakfast is the way to feel energized, balanced, and vibrant.  Check out the latest article from The Health Junction in the Fall 2013 edition of Fusia Magazine (see page 98).

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THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

““Whatever you are, be a good one”.”

–  Abraham Lincoln

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***follow The Health Junction by entering your email here in the “Follow Blog via Email” box***

Want to live like a centenarian?

Want to live until 100?  Check out the latest article from The Health Junction in the Fall 2013 (page 26) edition of Fusia Magazine!

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THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

–  Mahatma Gandhi

**DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE THAT ANY ADVERTISEMENTS THAT APPEAR ON THIS PAGE DO NOT REFLECT THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS OF THE HEALTH JUNCTION**

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Get your probiotic on with DIY sauerkraut!

One of my favourite times of the week is visiting the Evergreen Brickworks Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings with my friend Emily S.  It’s so fun, I can’t handle it!  We move from vendor to vendor picking up most of our weekly fresh produce and sampling the goodies on display.  This past week, I walked past the Pyramid Farm & Ferments table and sampled some dill and garlic sauerkraut.

Pyramid

Woah.  It was mind-blowing.  Delicious.

Mind Blowing

The only sauerkraut I had ever had up to this weekend was from a jar of Bicks and the taste doesn’t even come close to Pyramid Farms & Ferments.  Sauerkraut is made when shredded cabbage is massaged so that some of the juices come out of the shreds.  The shredded cabbage bits and the water that is pulled out via massaging is then stored in a container where it’s left to ferment.  The benefit of fermentation is that it makes nutrients more bioavailable.  Cabbage is high in Vitamin K, C, and Folate which become even more available to us once fermented.

Cabbage

Fermentation works when naturally occurring lactobacilli bacteria digest the sugar in cabbage which creates lactic acid.  The presence of the lactic acid makes the environment (ie: shredded cabbage sitting in a mason jar) too acidic so that it’s impossible for “bad” bacteria to overgrow and therefore the food doesn’t rot.  So you end up getting a lot of “good” lactobacilli bacteria without dealing with the pathogens that often result from spoiled food.

sauerkraut fermentation

What makes Pyramid Farms’ sauerkraut different is that not only is it fermented (like all store-bought versions) but it’s also unpasteurized which means that the lactobacilli bacteria, a strain of probiotic, are able to survive.  Having a gut that is populated with a healthy amount of probiotics  supports the health of our intestines and GI tract, improve digestion, and boosts the immune system.  Eating unpasteurized sauerkraut means that you’ll be getting a truckload of Vitamin C, K, Folate as well as a LOT of probiotics (30 x what you would get in a serving of yogurt!), fiber, and next to zero calories.

word_amazing

You can actually make sauerkraut at home, and yesterday, that’s exactly what Emily S and I did.  Check out this site by Fermentation Fanatic Mr. Sandor Katz and become a sauerkraut makin’ yahoo with a strong immune system, vitamin infused body, and enviable digestive system.

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THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Fermentation is the exhalation of a substance through the admixture of a ferment which, by virtue of its spirit, penetrates the mass and transforms it into its own nature.”

– Andreas Libavius

A DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte you can get behind…

I love a good Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte, which to me, signifies the beginning of fall and the transition of seasons.  The warm, deep, and delicious blend of fall inspired spices melts perfectly into piping hot milk and a shot of good old espresso.  A tall pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks comes in at 210 calories and 8 grams of fat…and the espresso, while nice, causes a surge and then drop in blood glucose levels which can leave us feeling hypoglycemic and crabby.

PSL

Since I love the taste of this drink so much, I wanted to figure out how to make it at home with more nutritious ingredients and less caffeine.  Today, I think I got it right and wanted to share the recipe with you – this recipe has an estimated 84 calories, less than a gram of fat and all the Vitamin A you need for the day.

DIY PSL

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

3 tbsp pumpkin puree (not pie filling!)

1 heaping tbsp decaffeinated instant coffee

1 tbsp raw honey

1.5 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp all spice

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Instructions:  heat the almond milk in a small pot until boiling.  Throw in the instant coffee and honey until dissolved.  Throw the almond mix mixture into a blender along with the spices and vanilla and pumpkin puree.  Pulse a few times until well combined.  Serve!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Pumpkin Spice Lattes are to college girls; what mini-shooters of whiskey are to alcoholics.”

–  Author Unknown