Migraine Control: Fragrances

Several weeks ago, I had one of my worst migraines following a visit to a doctor’s office.  A Glade Plug-in was running in the waiting room, and I smelled it the instant I entered.  I requested to be taken back to a different waiting room with the hope that I could avoid the pain that these little tormentors have caused in the past.  This fast escape wasn’t fast enough or far enough though.  Even though I spent less than 5 minutes in the waiting room, I had a migraine that lasted for the next 5 days.  Evidently, people had smoked in the waiting room since I had last been there, and the doctor didn’t want the room to smell like smoke.  This thought just blows my mind!  Isn’t smoking inside a public place prohibited?  Why not deal with the root cause of the problem rather than just cover it up with neurotoxins and carcinogens.

Seriously, air fresheners contain formaldehyde (which is a known carcinogen), xylene (a neurotoxin), toluene (known to cause kidney and liver damage), etc.  In this article, manufacturers claim that the levels of chemicals that are emitted by air fresheners, laundry detergent, fabric softener are “not known to cause any problems.”  Well, let me testify – it’s a problem for me!  Other migraineurs also have this problem as reported on migraine.com.

Lavender growing in my garden

Lavender growing in my garden

Lavender wands

Lavender wands

There doesn’t seem to be much I can do about the world outside of my house with regard to fragrances, but here are 3 things that I do at my house.  First, I enjoy natural scents such as lavender.  I enjoy growing it in my garden and using it to make lavender wands to bring inside my house.

Secondly, I use shampoo, conditioner, and cream from National Allergy Supply.  These products have no fragrance or masking fragrance and have the double advantage of not causing allergic reactions or migraines for me.

Lastly, I make my own laundry detergent so that I’m not carrying a migraine-inducing fragrance around with me all day long.  The recipe for the laundry detergent included below does include borax which is noted to cause skin and respiratory irritation for some people, but I haven’t had these problems.  The amount used is so minimal per load, and it is washed out by the washing machine.  I also try to minimize the amount of time it is heated on the stove by making sure that the water is already simmering before I add it.  And – there’s rarely a perfect solution to a problem.  We just do the best we can.  Here’s the plus side:

In the same way that water tastes like nothing, my clothes smell like nothing:)

It Smells Like Nothing Laundry Detergent

1 cup water
1/4 bar grated Kirk’s Fragrance Free Castille soap
1/4 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda)
1/8 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

  1. Fill a 2.75 qt. (or so) container (like a pitcher) 3/4 full with hot water.
  2. Heat the water in a small saucepan until simmering.
  3. Add the castille soap and stir until completely dissolved.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until completely dissolved.
  5. Remove from the heat and add to the pitcher.
  6. Fill the container the rest of the way with tap water and allow to cool.
  7. Note that the detergent will thicken over the next few days, but not completely turn to get as with other similar recipes.  This is already thinned so that I pour from my pitcher into the machine.  I use 1 to 2 Tbsp. per load depending on the load size.
  8. When your clothes are finished, smell NOTHING:)

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Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower Soup light

I used to only have 3 soup recipes.  This new adventure of figuring out what to eat on a migraine diet has opened my eyes to so many more options.  My sister-in-law sent the original idea for this soup to me, but I have made several changes to accommodate our dietary needs.  We love this served as a side dish with chicken recipes.

The garlic scape that I have used for garnish in the picture is a delightful replacement for onions or mushrooms.  The difficulty is finding scapes, which are the stalks for the flower buds of the garlic plant (see one of mine here).  They are usually removed from a garlic plant to allow the bulbs to grow larger.  However, I usually let a few scapes grow so that the flowering buds develop for planting the next year.  I used to compost the others, but have recently begun using them in dishes such as this one.  This year, my plan is to freeze them for use all year long.  If garlic growing is something you would like me to include in a future post, please comment below.

Note that this recipe fits nicely in a blender.  However, if you want to make a larger batch using the entire cauliflower head, you could use a stick blender right in the stockpot.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Cauliflower Soup light

1/2 of a large cauliflower head (or 1 very small head), chopped
1 medium white or yellow potato, peeled and diced
2 cups broth
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/16 tsp. cayenne pepper
dash cumin
diced and sauteed garlic scapes for garnish (optional)

  1. Place the cauliflower, potato, and broth in a small stockpot and simmer until the vegetables are soft.
  2. Place vegetables, broth, and spices (except garlic scapes) into a blender and blend until creamy.
  3. Serve warm as a side dish with sauteed garlic scapes for garnish as desired.

I Absolutely Know

I absolutely know how many of you feel.  You may think that because my focus is posting recipes and encouraging messages about how well my migraine diet has worked that I don’t still experience migraines.  Sometimes some of them are still pretty bad.  The past couple of weeks have been particularly challenging for me.  Many things besides foods still trigger my pain.  Many of them I cannot control.  That is why I am so glad that I am able to control my diet, which has reduced the severity of most of my migraines.  However, there isn’t much else I can do that really makes the pain go away.  Many of you experience exactly the same thing.  We’ve been to many doctors and tried many treatments to no avail.

I’m writing this post in the midst of much pain, because I want to testify for you how I make it through.  This pain (and the dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and the superpowers of severe sensitivity to sounds, smells, lights, touch, and some tastes) bring me to a point of utter helplessness – in myself.  The fact that there isn’t much that I can do to relieve the pain is very humbling.  This is exactly where God wants us to be so that we realize that we need something bigger than ourselves.  Sometimes, I feel that I need a parent’s lap to crawl into like I did when I was a child.  I need that lap and the enfolding arms to just make it all better.  This is what God provides through faith in Jesus Christ.  He just wants us to accept this gift He offers.

God absolutely knows how we feel.  He does not take delight in our physical or emotional pain, but He does use it for something good.  He promises that He will do this.  It’s just that His definition of good is very often different from our definition of good.  This is similar to a child who might think that eating 30 cookies would be good for him, but the parent knows better.  I’ve wondered what good could possibly come from feeling so much physical pain.  While I now trust that I don’t need to know, it is still helpful to me to reflect on how I have seen Him work and consider what He might still have in store.  I admit that this reflection is probably not something that I would have done if I wasn’t going through this trial.  He knows that, so He allowed the trial.  Awareness of God’s care and His promises to do so in the future is what helps me persevere.

Here are some of the ways that I have seen good come from this trial.  There are probably 10,000 other good things of which I am unaware.

  • My pain helps me to understand the pain of others.  If I wasn’t going through it myself, my testimony above would be harder for you to accept.  Also, the depth of pain and the relative relief I have found through diet changes is what inspired me to start this blog with the hope that something might be helpful to others.
  • Feeling so physically awful has caused me to think about death and trusting God to care for my family whenever my day comes.  I’m learning to accept that I can’t hold onto my kids forever.  I have loved being with them so much that I didn’t think that I could bear to let them become independent.  However, as I have become less able to do things, I am learning to be glad that they are increasingly able to do so.
  • These physical ailments are like little tastes of Hell that make me appreciate that I will some day go to Heaven instead.  I absolutely know this because of my faith in Jesus Christ.  The suffering makes me increasingly aware of the value of Christ’s sacrifice which is exactly what God wants me to focus on.  The glorified body that I will have for all eternity far outweighs the painful body that I have now.  I can wait for this comparatively short time to experience what is yet to come.

Ginger Chicken with Carrot Noodles and Broccoli

Ginger Chicken with Spiralized Carrots and Broccoli

I am learning to embrace new herbs and spices since I can no longer add onions for flavoring.  It does seem that so many recipes include onions, but they don’t have to.  I have found that garlic fills much of this gap.  However, I don’t want garlic to be the primary flavor in everything.  So, I am learning to cook more with other spices such as ginger.  The last time that I had leftover Honey Mustard Salad Dressing, I wondered what it would taste like baked on chicken.  The flavor that seemed to be missing in my first try was what I sense when I smell ginger, so I tried it!

Ginger is reported to have benefits for migraineurs.  I have no idea if it is playing a role in my reduced pain or not, but it isn’t hurting either.  I had not used it much previously except as an ingredient in gingerbread cookies.  Initially, I started adding 1/4 tsp. to a glass of water 2 times a day.  Since then, I have also ventured into an increased use of it in other recipes, including this one.  I recognize that it may appear as if there is too much ginger called for in this recipe.  However, I have tried 1/2 to 3 teaspoons as I have worked out this recipe.  Since the chicken is turned over part way through the baking time, the sauce acts like a marinade.  In the end, the amount of ginger included in the recipe is just right to flavor the dish without an overwhelming ginger taste.  It is so good, that we even take the juices at the bottom of the pan and ladle them over the carrots!

Note that I did end up adding garlic to the dish, but ginger is the primary flavor.  The diced garlic scapes that are included in the picture and as an optional ingredient in the recipe do work nicely with this dish, but are primarily included for visual appeal.  I also have fun using scapes since I grow garlic in my garden.  I cannot find the scapes in a grocery store, so it is a treat to have them as my garlic grows.  If you are interested in having me post about how to grow garlic (and the scapes), please comment below and I will work on a post as this year’s garden develops.

Garlic Scape

Garlic Scape

Ginger Chicken with Carrot Noodles and Broccoli

Ginger Chicken with Spiralized Carrots and Broccoli

2 chicken breasts
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
6 large carrots, spiralized
1 bunch broccoli florets
garlic scapes, diced (optional)

  1. In a small bowl, stir the mustard, honey, olive oil, ginger, and garlic powder together.
  2. Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish, and pour the sauce over each.
  3. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until no pink remains.  Turn the breasts over at least once during the baking time to allow spices to bake into the chicken evenly.  Turning will also prevent a crust from forming.
  4. Serve over spiralized carrots with broccoli florets.
  5. Spoon remaining baking juices over the carrots.

Food Triggers

I never realized how easy it would be to discover which foods trigger my migraines.  I’m not referring to the process of figuring out what to eat instead, which has required a lot of time and hard work.  However, determining the scope of what I am dealing with has been so easy that I don’t know why a medical professional didn’t suggest it sometime during the 15 years that I have been struggling with migraines and looking for help.

For a really long time, I didn’t realize that foods were even an issue.  I just kept going to doctors and physical therapists thinking that the rabbit trails we were going down with exercises and medications must eventually work, because these people knew about this stuff I was paying them to know about – right?  I did have a doctor recommend that I stop eating wheat, which reduced my overall body pain, and for that I am thankful.

About 5 years ago, chocolate became something that I didn’t want after I had a hallucination within an hour of eating it.  Caffeine decided that it no longer even wanted to stay in my body – or maybe it was my body that didn’t want the caffeine in it anymore after 20 years.  I literally just couldn’t “stomach” it anymore.  The logical part of my brain reasoned that human-created substances added to food simply couldn’t be good for me since God designed my body and the food that that would fuel it.  So, I stopped eating processed foods.  While elimination of wheat, chocolate, caffeine, and additives helped with my overall health, I continued to have migraines, vertigo, heart palpitations, fatigue, periods of brain fog, and severe neck and upper back pain.  At this point I really didn’t think that other foods could trigger migraines since I was still having them after eliminating some foods; I don’t know why I considered chocolate, caffeine, and additives to be “foods,” but wheat certainly is:)  So, I mistakenly thought that foods were not a problem for me.

However, as I discussed here, last fall I remembered someone telling me a long time ago that she couldn’t eat tomatoes since her head always hurt after she ate them.  Internet searching revealed many lists of foods that have the potential to do this.  So, I made a list and eliminated 3 or 4 of the items – I still had migraines.  I eliminated another one – I still had migraines.  I had to conclude 1 of 2 things – either food was not the issue or I hadn’t found all (or any) of the triggers yet.  Since I had spent 15 years in the “food isn’t my trigger” camp, I decided that the other conclusion was worthy of consideration.  As Buchholz points out in Chapter 4 of his book, “Heal Your Headache,” it is very difficult to figure out which foods trigger migraines without eliminating everything on the list at first to gain pain control.  Once this has been achieved, one food item at a time can be attempted to see if it triggers a migraine.  In this way, if I have a migraine following a food trial, I’m not left wondering, “Was it the beans I had 2 nights ago, the banana I had for breakfast, or the cheese in my salad dressing?”  I know exactly what to target, because there is only 1 thing it could be at any given time.  Admittedly, weather changes and fragrances are also triggers for me, but I simply don’t try to reintroduce a food on a day that these things are also present.  Now, weather changes and fragrances are the only triggers I have, and the resulting migraines no longer include vertigo and heart palpitations:)

The detective work involved in figuring out triggers is neither quick nor pleasant.  However, it is quicker, less painful, and more conclusive when the potential triggers are eliminated all together and reintroduced one at a time.  Some people may even find that no foods are triggering their migraines!  However, if you’re still having migraines, wouldn’t it be great to know for sure?  What if there is a food trigger in there waiting to be rooted out so that you could feel better able to do what you are called to do each day?

I don’t know if the following information is helpful to anyone, but it is a list of where I currently stand with my food triggers.  My recipes reflect this list.

Wheat (not currently able to eat)
Chocolate (will never try to reintroduce!)
Caffeine (will never try to reintroduce!)
Additives (not currently eating any)
Dairy (not currently able to eat)
Nuts (eat a small portion of almonds 1x/week with this recipe – my treat:))
Eggs (1 migraineur in the family is able to eat, but the other is not)
Beans (will never try to reintroduce because this is a vicious trigger for me)
Onions (able to use broth that contains onions, but I don’t eat onion otherwise)
Citrus (not currently able to eat)
Raspberries (not currently able to eat)
Tomatoes (not currently able to eat)
Apples (not currently eating but plan to try again soon)
Bananas (not currently able to eat)
Yeast (let homemade yeast bread sit 24 hours before eating or freezing)
Vinegar (only able to eat distilled white vinegar)
Soy (not currently able to eat)
Avocados (not currently able to eat)
Alcohol (haven’t had in a long time and don’t plan to reintroduce)
Corn (successfully reintroduced:))

Chicken Nuggets

Chicken Nuggets 2

This recipe is great for a supper meal, but I have also found it to be particularly helpful at lunch.  If I don’t eat more than a salad at lunch, I start getting that “migraine coming on” feeling mid-afternoon.  I make a double batch for supper and freeze the leftovers to be warmed for lunches throughout the week.  The original inspiration for this recipe included several migraine triggers and a dipping sauce.  I’ve replaced the trigger ingredients and think these nuggets are great without a dipping sauce.  I frequently serve them with roasted cauliflower and steamed beets.

Chicken Nuggets

Chicken Nuggets 2

1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup rice flour
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 pound ground chicken
1 “egg” (1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G powder & 2 Tbsp. water)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
coconut oil

  1. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup rice flour and 1/4 cup coconut.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine ground chicken, 1/3 cup rice flour, Ener-G egg, and spices.
  3. Form desired nugget-sized patties and roll in flour/coconut blend.
  4. Fry in coconut oil in a hot skillet.  I keep the amount of coconut oil to 1 or 2 tablespoons, but you could use more if desired.
  5. Optional step – When fully cooked, place on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for a few minutes for a crispier crust.  Update on 8/15/17 – We have found that this step tends to dry out the nuggets.  We microwave instead if necessary.

Quinoa Bread

Quinoa Bread Slices

Per my doctor’s recommendation, I eliminated wheat from my diet several years ago in an attempt to reduce my overall body pain.  This definitely helped, so I have not reintroduced wheat or other grains that include gluten.  However, I have missed bread.  Since I have more recently eliminated so many other foods, I have been looking for something to eat!

My daughter found this recipe which has given me a tasty bread option:)  We like it so much that we make it every day or two.  Obviously, we eat quite a bit of it.  In fact, because of the volume we eat, we have had to eliminate the chia from our recipe because it introduces….well….too much fiber.  Evidently, chia can absorb up to 27 times its volume in water – enough said.  The recipe is great with or without the chia though, so I have included it as an optional ingredient.  I use distilled white vinegar instead of the lemon juice to eliminate this migraine trigger.  There is no vinegar taste to the bread; the small amount of vinegar is necessary to activate the baking soda.

Quinoa Bread

The final change I have made is to bake the bread as 3 mini loaves rather than 1 full-size loaf.  Since this bread is rather dense, a full-sized loaf ends up being flat for us.  We prefer having small but square-ish pieces rather than long rectangular pieces.  This is just a matter of personal preference, so I have included baking times for each version.

We like this bread warm or toasted in a skillet.  Since the pieces are small, it is difficult, but possible, to toast them in a vertical toaster.

Links to some of the ingredients that we use are included, but please contact companies to confirm for yourself that they will meet your food allergy needs.

Quinoa Bread

Quinoa Bread Slices

1 3/4 cups quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup water (if needed for batter consistency)

  1. Place the quinoa in a bowl and cover with water and a lid.  Soak overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. In the morning, drain and rinse the quinoa.
  3. Place the quinoa, olive oil, sea salt, baking soda, and vinegar in a food processor and blend until a batter forms.  If you need to add water to get the batter to form, do so gradually up to 1/2 cup.  Due to the size of our food processor, we do this step in 1/2 batches and transfer to a bowl.
  4. Blend for an additional 3 minutes.
  5. Spoon into 3 small (or 1 large) loaf pans lined with parchment.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes (45 minutes for the large pan) at 350 degrees.
  7. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before slicing.
  8. We like this bread warm or toasted in a skillet.  Since the pieces are small, it is difficult, but possible, to toast them in a vertical toaster.