Are Your Migraines Under Control?

What a strange question to ask.  Whenever a doctor or friend asks, “Are your migraines under control?”, I really never know how to respond.  To me, a “yes” answer to this question means that I don’t have migraines anymore, because I feel out of control when I do have them.  Therefore, to be able to answer “yes” would mean the following:

  • I never leave my house.
  • I never breathe air coming from my neighbors dryer that is venting perfumes from dryer sheets.
  • No one enters my house unless they talk quietly, avoid wearing fluorescent yellow/pink/green clothes or clothes with patterns that my brain can’t figure out, and remove all scents from clothes/hair/skin/armpits/etc.
  • I never consume anything outside my diet.
  • No city water treated with chlorine (see an upcoming post) runs through my faucets, showers, or clothes washer/dryer.
  • I never open the window shades to let in sunlight or light reflecting off of snow.
  • I never look at a computer screen, swipe across my phone, or watch the news with all of the banners moving different directions and cameras zooming in and out.  Watching the news is not really desirable anymore anyway, but that’s another story.
  • Never travel more than 60 mph so that my brain can keep up with all of the movement around me.
  • Never travel more than 1 hour from my home so that I can return easily if a migraine starts coming on.
  • Drink enough water.
  • Eat and take supplements on a precise schedule regardless of other commitments in my life.
  • Eliminate insomnia completely.

Since this is obviously not possible to achieve completely, I have decided that I have to look at the question “Are your migraines under control?” differently.  To me it means:

  • Am I doing what I can to minimize them as much as possible?
  • When I do get one, am I able to keep it from progressing into a multi-day ordeal?

To keep a migraine from progressing beyond 1 hour, I do the following:

  • I maintain a rigid diet which is under my control (also see here).
  • Increase vitamin C intake when the city is increasing its chlorine use in the water (see an upcoming post).
  • Allow myself plenty of time to sleep and pray that I will be able to do so.
  • Stop taking synthetic hormones.
  • Avoid going to places that I know cause problems for me (lighting, air fresheners, loud noise etc.)
  • Choose where I sit in large gatherings so that there is maximum airflow and ease of leaving if necessary.
  • When I do leave the house, I wear my visor and clips, take plenty of snacks in case I get stuck somewhere for a while, take earplugs which I put in at the first sign of excessive noise, and pack magnesium and ginger in my purse.
  • Immediately, take 25 to 50 mg magnesium glycinate and 550 mg of ginger when I feel the twinges of a migraine beginning.  Put in my earplugs. Head home.  Eat chicken nuggets drowned in yellow mustard (try searching “yellow mustard for headaches”).  Put an ice pack on my head and rest.
  • 1 hour – DONE – move on

Obviously, this still means that I don’t go very far from my home.  I haven’t figured that one out yet, and I haven’t successfully travelled without getting migraines yet.  However, I do have something that I can do for my migraines to keep them from being multi-day events.  Therefore, I feel that they are “under control” by my definition, and that is progress from where I was just a year and a half ago.

It’s Chemistry!

It’s been a while since I posted, but I do have some updates that I hope are helpful to someone.

I am still on the diet that I have been following while posting here with the following exceptions:

  • I have successfully added almonds back into my diet as indicated by some of my later posts.
  • I have eliminated Craisins because I was finding that my migraines became more frequent when I ate them (see modification of this granola recipe).

As I’ve noted previously, my migraines decreased in frequency and intensity with my diet changes, but they were still debilitating enough to make a major impact on my life.  So, I kept trying to figure out what else to do.  Some of my attempts are noted under the “Thoughts” portion of this blog.  None of these was a complete solution though.

My research indicated that more women have migraines than men, and that women on synthetic hormones (hrt and birth control) tend to have problems in this regard.  I have been on synthetic estrogen for 15 years and decided that it was time to stop.  Getting off of hrt is not an easy task, and the withdrawal can actually induce migraines if it is done too quickly.  While it was difficult, I noticed a gradual reduction in migraine episodes while I was decreasing.  In fact, even though I didn’t take my last dose until the first week of December, I hadn’t had a migraine since the first week of November.  And I still hadn’t had one until the last 3 days…….

Both of these last 2 migraines were caused by exposure to chemicals in the air.  The November one was due to a Glade air freshener, and this second one was due to a very strong cream someone near me was wearing.  By eliminating the food triggers and the hormones, at least I was able to tell that fragrances seem to be my remaining issue.  I have had no migraines associated with weather changes as I had previously considered.  I have also been able to tolerate more light than I had been, but I still do use my clip and visor at times.

My conclusion is that chemicals that get into my brain are the cause of my migraines.  The tyramine in foods, synthetic hormones, and fragrances (or associated tag-along chemicals) are the culprits. Eliminating exposure to these has been helpful for me, but it is not always possible.  In fact, my life is becoming lonelier as I am having to refrain from being around people with fragranced cream, laundry detergent, shampoo, hairspray, etc..  Unfortunately, this includes most people unless they make their own or use products that are TRULY fragrance free.

I have found magnesium supplementation to be helpful when I do start having head pain.  However, it works best if the exposure to the fragrance is limited to a short time.  Once a migraine is full blown, magnesium dulls the pain, but doesn’t completely halt the migraine with all of its other symptoms.  My main course of action in these cases is to clear my schedule for a couple of days, hunker down with ice packs and ear plugs, and trust God.

I have not found stimulating the daith region of my ears to be of much help, and I’m glad I was able to determine this before having the piercings.  I get temporary minor relief by massage of the area, but it is not significant and does not consistently work for me.

I don’t plan any diet changes as this point.  Someday, I may be able to add more foods back in, but I simply want to enjoy having more pain-free days for now.  My hope is that, over the next few months, my body will adjust to the lack of estrogen and the migraine days will be far between.  I’ll post updates as I find out!

Roasted Vegetables with Quinoa Rice

Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Rice pic

This is one that my kids ask for every week!  I had a hard time getting a picture that does this dish justice, but it is definitely a “go-to” recipe for migraine avoidance in our family.  We love it served by itself or as a side to steak.

Note: I freeze zucchini and yellow squash cubes during the summer when it is plentiful to use through the winter for this dish.  Squash will be soft after freezing, but it works well in this dish.  Our favorite is the yellow squash, but the zucchini just keeps on coming all summer long, so we end up using it more often.

Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Rice

Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Rice pic

2 sweet potatoes
3 small gold or white potatoes
4 large carrots
1 small to medium zucchini or yellow squash
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed
olive oil
garlic cloves or powder
basil
sea salt
1/2 cup wild rice
1/2 cup quinoa
2 cups broth

  1. Cut all vegetables into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  2. Drizzle olive oil lightly over the vegetables and toss.
  3. Sprinkle with garlic powder, basil, and sea salt.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until tender.  Sometimes, we remove the aluminum foil halfway through the baking cycle if we desire the vegetables to brown.  Check for tenderness with a fork.
  5. Once the vegetables are in the oven, cook the rice and quinoa in the broth in a medium saucepan.  Leave the lid on after it finishes cooking until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Serve vegetables on top of the quinoa rice.

 

 

Barbecue Sauce for Chicken

barbecue-sauce

I always thought tomato sauce and onions were essential in any recipe for barbecue sauce, but here is a recipe that we have worked out without these migraine triggers.  We enjoy it with this potato recipe.

Barbecue Sauce

Makes 1 cup sauce, just right for shredded chicken from 2 breasts

barbecue-sauce

1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup molases
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 cup distilled white vinegar
1/6 cup honey
1/8 tsp. oregano
1/8 tsp. thyme
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

  1. Blend all ingredients together and pour over shredded chicken from 2 breasts.
  2. Stir to evenly coat and serve warm.

Spicy Chicken with Mango Salad and Coconut Rice

Spicy Chicken with Mango and Rice

I have a new favorite dish!  I found this one here and modified it to remove migraine triggers.  I also turned down the heat so that each family member would be satisfied.  Anyone wanting more spice can simply add more cayenne pepper to the chicken.  My favorite part of the recipe is how all three parts work together like it is all one dish.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:)

Spicy Chicken with Mango Salad and Coconut Rice

Spicy Chicken with Mango and Rice

Marinade
2 chicken breasts|
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more as desired)
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garam masala
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Rice
1 cup brown or wild rice
2 cups coconut milk
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Salad
1 large mango, peeled and chopped
¼ cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup corn|
¼ tsp. cilantro
¼ tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

  1. Combine salad ingredients and cool in the refrigerator.
  2. Combine marinade ingredients and pour over thawed chicken breasts in a glass baking dish.  Cover and allow to sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours.
  3. Bake chicken until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees (about 1 hour).
  4. Cook rice and coconut in the coconut milk until liquid has been absorbed (30 to 45 minutes).

Zucchini Patties

Zucchini Quinoa Patties

It’s that time of year when zucchini is plentiful, and I have several recipes to share which will use it all.  This first one is a twist on a traditional recipe.  The twist is that quinoa is included to add a protein boost.  This recipe is best with fresh zucchini, but the others are great with fresh or frozen zucchini.  I will explain how I freeze it with the next zucchini post.

The original inspiration for these patties included several migraine triggers which I have removed/replaced.  We like these patties best when served as a side dish.

UPDATE:  When I posted this on Friday, I included the wrong amounts for the quinoa and water.  It is now correct.  I hope this didn’t create a problem for anyone trying the recipe!

Zucchini Patties

Zucchini Quinoa Patties

1/4c. quinoa, rinsed
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. grated zucchini
1/4 c. rice flour
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. oregano
1/8 t. garlic powder
black pepper
2 to 4 Tbsp. coconut oil

  1. Cook quinoa in the water.
  2. Squeeze the zucchini to remove excess water.
  3. Stir all ingredients (except for the coconut oil) together in a bowl.
  4. Mold a spoonful of mix into a ball and flatten into a patty.
  5. Fry in a skillet with heated coconut oil until each side is browned.  I use 1 to 2 Tbsp. oil at a time and add as necessary.
  6. Serve warm.

Pesto Stuffed Chicken

Spinach Stuffed Chicken 1I really wanted to post this week, but I have been struggling to get through and recover from a migraine.  July 4th was definitely not the day to have a migraine in the United States.  However,  that was the day that a storm moved through.  Explosions were going off in my head as they went off throughout the city.  The storm didn’t slow down the fireworks, but it slowed me down!

This post was almost ready to go, but I had hoped to get a better picture before publishing it.  So, please forgive the picture and trust that this is a good one.  My whole family enjoys it.

I used to love making a dish similar to this with loads of Parmesan cheese.  My cravings for cheese are actually starting to diminish since I haven’t been able to eat it for several months now.  However, I wasn’t initially sure about how to modify my original recipe to replace the flavor of Parmesan.  It really didn’t end up being that hard to simply substitute some other tasty herbs and add a little salt to create a dish that is just as good as the original.  I hope you enjoy it:)

Pesto Stuffed Chicken

Spinach Stuffed Chicken 1

2 chicken breasts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. basil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

  1. In a small bowl, stir olive oil and spices together.
  2. Add spinach and red bell pepper and stir.
  3. Slice chicken breasts in half lengthwise to create pockets.
  4. Place spice and vegetable mix in the pockets and place breasts in a baking dish.
  5. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until no pink remains.
  6. Slice and serve warm.