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

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Got the Flu? Feeling Sick? Think twice before you reach for Orange Juice.

It’s pretty common practice to drink Orange Juice when feeling a little under the weather, right?

OJ

Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, increases iron absorption, and is well-regarded for its role in supporting and protecting the immune system.  There are countless foods that are chalked full of Vitamin C (check here for a comprehensive list) and it’s true that Orange Juice is high up on the chart – so why should OJ actually be avoided when sick?

Sick Young Woman Lying in Bed

Vitamin C is absorbed into the blood stream via a receptor called GLUT-1 which is also a major receptor for glucose (sugar).  Since Orange Juice is quite high in sugar when you drink a glass of OJ, both the sugar and Vitamin C end up competing to be taken into the blood stream via the GLUT-1 receptor and therefore less will be received.  By removing the fiber from fruit, the sugar is quickly absorbed and causes the absorption of Vitamin C to be compromised.

Vitamin C Fruits

With the fiber in tact, the sugar absorption will be slow and steady making room for more Vitamin C to find its way into your blood stream through the GLUT-1 receptor.  If you’re looking to increase your intake of Vitamin C, try going for whole food based choices like bell peppers, kiwis, broccoli, strawberries, papaya, kale, cantaloupe, pineapple, and of course…oranges!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” 

– Spanish Proverb

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Getting Jiggy With Kale

Kale is delightful.  Its deep, dark, and earthy green colour is complemented by varying textures.  The stems are strong and as the leaves move outwards they turn from supportive and firm to curly and playful.  Just as versatile as its colour and texture is the taste of kale which ranges from bitter and tart when prepared raw to subtle and gentle when steamed.

Before I started studying nutrition I always though kale was an exotic intangible vegetable that only hippies ate.  I’ve come to realise it’s really a vegetable for the masses because there isn’t one of us out there that wouldn’t benefit from a serving or two of kale each day.

AA051054

I’m not kidding around about kale.  These days, I eat two cups of this beautiful leafy green most days of the week.  What’s the big deal?  The nutritional profile of kale is quite remarkable:

kale

NOTE: try steaming your kale instead of boiling it to retain more nutrients

  • 1 cup of kale will give you over 1300% percent of your daily Vitamin K requirements.  Vitamin K is involved in blood clotting and helps protect against post-menopausal bone deterioration.
  • 1 cup of kale has over 350% of your daily Vitamin A requirements.  Vitamin A is needed for healthy eyes, reduces inflammation, boosts the immune system, and is necessary for your cells to grow in a healthy and productive manner.
  • Kale has a compound called glucosinolates which forms isothiocyanates (ICTs).  The presence of ICTs has been linked to a reduction in risk for 5 types of cancers; ovarian, prostate, colon, breast, and bladder.
  • Kale has 45 different kinds of flavanoids.  Check out this past post for the benefits of flavanoids.
  • 1 cup of kale also provides 88% of your daily Vitamin C requirements.  So, in one cup of kale you have basically done all the work you need to get your Vitamin C, K, and A.

You’re impressed, admit it.

How can you invite kale into your home?  If you’re a morning smoothie person, why not throw in a cup of kale?  For lunch, a  side salad with a couple of cups of lightly steamed kale mixed with other veggies and tasty dressing might be nice.  It’s possible to steam kale, puree it, and then add it into pasta sauces, chili’s or other casserole type dishes (even Mac and Cheese for the mums out there reading).

Here are a couple of delicious recipes to get your started from a book called “The Book of Kale” by Sharon Hana which was kindly lent to me by my classmate Lisa V.  Enjoy!

Savoury Kale & Pumpkin Scones

Kale Scones

Ingredients:  2 cups kale leaves, loosely packed 2 cups unbleached flour 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp baking powder 1 tbsp sugar 1/3 cup cold butter 1 egg 3/4 cup buttermilk 1/4 cup cooked squash or pumpkin in small dice 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions: Preheat oven to 375°F. Set oven rack in the middle.  Steam kale for a minute and then chop finely – try to squeeze out as much water as possible.  Blend flour, salt, soda, baking powder and sugar together. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or your fingers.  In a small bowl, beat the egg, then add the buttermilk, continuing to beat until well combined. Add egg/buttermilk mixture, along with squash, kale and cheese to dry ingredients, mixing with a fork just enough to combine.  Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet. Bake about 20 minutes until lightly browned.
Kale Cottage Cheese Muffins
Kale Cottage Cheese Muffins

Ingredients:  2 eggs, 1 cup low fat cottage cheese, 2 tsp dried dillweed, 3 Tbsp minced onion or chives, 3 cups kale leaves, loosely packed, 1 ½ cups flour (I used quinoa flour), 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp sea salt.

Instructions:  In a medium bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Add cottage cheese, dillweed, and onion, mixing only to combine.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place kale in a food processor. Pulse a few times until finely chopped. Squeeze excess moisture from the kale and add to cheese mixture.  In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir only enough to blend – a few lumps are acceptable.  Spoon mixture into greased non-stick muffin pan.  Bake about 20 minutes or until tops are lightly browned.  Makes 12 muffins.

 

Breakfast Kale Okonomiyaki

Food52

Ingredients:  1 large egg, 1/3 cups water, pinch of salt, dash of tamari, 2 tbsp flour (I used brown rice flour), 1/4 tsp baking powder, black pepper, heaping cup of kale, 1/2 cup bell peppers, 2 tsp olive oil.

Instructions:  Beat eggs and water and then add salt, tamari, flour, baking powder and black pepper.  Toss in kale and bell peppers and coat.  Heat skillet at medium heat and add the olive oil.  Pour in mixture make a flat circle.  Cook for 4 minutes on each side.  You may want to cover the skillet for the last few minutes if you like your peppers soft.  Serves 1.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

 “He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the skills of the physician.”

– Chinese proverb

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Can I overdose on vitamins?

Is there any harm in going to town with vitamin and mineral supplements?

Supplement Overload

The long of the short is yes.  Before you waste money and potentially harm yourself, it would be prudent to ask yourself the following questions:

1.)  Do I need to be taking this supplement?

2.)  How much should I take?

3.)  Is it possible for me to avoid a supplementation and get what I want through food?

So, do you need to be taking a supplement?  I will throw that question back at you.  Why are you interested in supplementation?  Sure, there are some great vitamins and minerals that are useful to take daily for prevention of illness.  For example, Vitamin C and Zinc in the winter are excellent at supporting the immune system.  Omega-3 Fish Oil is helpful for those who want to work on supporting cognitive function, healthy skin and nails, and even low mood.

Dr. Oz

Oh No You Didn’t!

But then we get to all kinds of weird supplements that people are taking because of segments viewed on the Dr. Oz Show.  Raspberry Ketones, Blueberry Supplements, and Forskolin for example.  You may want to do some research on what exactly these supplements are indicated for and re-evaluate accordingly.  I’m a big fan of finding scholarly journals to see if the research backs the use of supplementing with a specific nutrient.  Dr. Oz Dr. said Forskolin “explodes” fat right out of fat cells and assists with weight loss” but I have never heard of a supplement that is better for weight loss than activity.  You get the gist.

Multi V

This leads me to Multivitamins.  I’m not a huge fan for a few reasons.  First off, why take a slew of vitamins and minerals that you may or may not need in doses that may or may not be enough for what you?  Secondly, while many nutrients work synergistically, others compete thereby reducing the overall effectiveness of certain compounds.  Thirdly, I believe that many people will make less of an effort to prepare and eat healthy whole foods when they have a multivitamin crutch in their back pocket.

Okay, so now we have narrowed down our list of supplements to those we really need.  The Canadian Government has a handy little chart available online that details how much of each nutrient you should be consuming each day.  You will notice that each nutrient has three columns; EAR, RDA/AI, and UL.

EAR is the amount that would satisfy the needs of 50% of the population.  Don’t pay too much attention to this number.

RDA/AI is the Recommended Daily Allowance and is the number you should be aiming for.

UL just means Upper Limit.  Don’t go above this number without consulting with a health care practitioner.

I remember not feeling well once upon a time after taking a bunch of Vitamin B Complex…my fingers and arms felt like there were electrical currents running through them and it was not pleasant.  It’s best to stay below the UL if you want to avoid potential dangerous side effects.

Pay special attention to Vitamins A, D, E, and K as these are fat soluble and can be stored in your body.  Taking too much of any particular fat soluble vitamin can be toxic.  To find out how much of a specific supplement you should be taking for prevention or therapeutic treatment of a condition, check with your Naturopathic Doctor or Nutritionist.

Food vs. Supplement

Can you get the nutrients required for optimal health through your food?  I would argue it is definitely more advantageous to try through food first but perhaps this is not realistic for certain populations and some conditions where nutrients are being taken therapeutically.  For example, most vegetarian (women) need iron, folate, and B12 supplementation.  People who work with kids and thereby require a super strong immune system might want to consider Vitamin C and Zinc supplementation but that’s not to say you can’t get it from food.  You certainly can.

Health Challenge

Here is a challenge for you.  Check out how much calcium you should be consuming each day and see if you can get to your RDA before the end of the day (here is the clincher) without the use of dairy.  Email me if you achieve this totally doable goal and let me know how you did it:  thehealthjunction@mail.com

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

““My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” 

– Ellen DeGeneres

**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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