Orlando Family Vacation!

The last week in February, Shane, myself, the kids, my parents and my brother took a family vacation to Orlando! We had been planning the trip for nearly a year. It was a celebration of both my parents’ 60th birthdays and their 40th anniversary. 

We had a great time, hitting up Universal Studios (The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!!), soaking up some sunshine, and getting to relax while spending time with family. 

When my brother and I met outside of our hotel rooms one morning, we just happened to both be wearing our Raygun shirts, proclaiming the awesomeness of Iowa. Seriously – it was a coincidence. 

Proud Iowans
Proud Iowans

I was so excited to go to Harry Potter World. I’m basically like a 12-year-old when it comes to Harry Potter. It did not disappoint! The first day we went to Islands of Adventure which has Hogsmeade. It was so cool to see the little shops with snow covered roofs. Unfortunately, a lot of the store fronts are fake, and the real stores are very narrow! But it was cool nonetheless. Butterbeer is delicious. As are chocolate frogs 🙂 

We stopped in Honeydukes and got some candies. We bought lots of overpriced merchandise! One of my favorite stores was Weaselys Wizard Wheezes. If you’re a HP fan, visiting Universal Studios is a MUST!! 

At Islands of Adventure, there is a Dr. Seuss World too. It was a great stop for Norah to burn off some energy and see some of her favorite characters. She’s still too small for most rides, but she did get to go on the carousel! 

Riding the carousel at Dr. Seuss World
Riding the carousel at Dr. Seuss World
Norah playing in the stream at Dr. Seuss World.
Norah playing in the stream at Dr. Seuss World.

We also spent a day at Universal Studios, hitting up Diagon Alley. I liked this park more than the other. It was bigger and there was more to see. I even liked Diagon Alley more than Hogsmeade! Shane is not a Harry Potter fan, so he took Norah to the Curious George Playground and Fivel Goes West Playground while the rest of us explored Diagon Alley. 

I knew staying on my diet would be tricky. I managed pretty well though! I ate a lot of rice and steamed broccoli – luckily most restaurants have this. One of my favorite meals was the half rotisserie chicken from Wolfgang Pucks at Downtown Disney. It was a plateful of awesome, soaked in butter. Mmmmm, butter. 

I ended up getting two migraines on the trip. The first one was on the first day. My guess is because we flew over lunchtime and I basically skipped a meal. Big no-no! The second was on the fourth day. I don’t know why. It just happened. I took my meds, and dealt with it.

Also you may remember from my Thanksgiving post that my brother has Celiac Disease aka he can’t eat gluten or he will be a hurtin’ unit. 

My dad turned 61 while we were there. We celebrated with a great lunch at Lombard’s in Universal Studios. 

Happy Birthday Dad!
Happy Birthday Dad!

The girls were AMAZING on the trip. Seriously! Based on Cece’s last hotel stay, we assumed we would be getting zero sleep. But she slept all night, almost every night! I may have had to feed her during the night twice. Norah was also awesome, as usual 🙂 She just rolls with whatever we were doing. 

We also did some non-theme park stuff. Our hotel had a waterpark attached to it, so we spent the first day (the warmest day) doing that. It was Cece’s first time swimming, and she seemed to like it! Norah loves swimming. She’s basically a fish. 

Enjoying the Florida sunshine!
Enjoying the Florida sunshine!

There was a billboard right outside of our hotel advertising M&M World. After seeing it several times a day, the ad worked and we all ventured to said M&M World. It was awesome! Expensive, but awesome.

M&M World, aka Norah's idea of heaven.
M&M World, aka Norah’s idea of heaven.

 My favorite picture of the trip? Cece threatening my brother with a five-finger death punch:

Cece fist

 

My second favorite picture? My parent’s getting photobombed in front of the Universal Studios Globe:

Photobomb 

That was our vacation in a big nutshell. It was unbelievably helpful to outnumber the kids 5-2. I could not – and would not – have done it without all those extra hands! 

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5 Tips for surviving the Holidays on a migraine-free diet

The tree is up, the stockings are hung, and my oldest has met Santa twice. Tis the season! For holiday parties, potlucks, cookie exchanges and get-togethers with friends and family. 

Norah with Santa

I love a get-together with friends as much as the next gal, but when you’re on a special diet, it can actually cause some anxiety. “What am I going to eat?” is a common question my husband and I discuss whenever we’re headed out to eat or to a friend’s house. 

Here are five tips that I use to make sure I stay on my diet – and stay migraine-free throughout the holidays:

1 – For a potluck, it’s simple – just bring something you know you can eat! My go-to is a veggie tray with hummus. You could also get more involved and bring a casserole or other main entree. 

2 – When a friend is throwing a dinner party, it’s okay to just ask, “What’s on the menu?” Chances are, there’s going to be at least one thing you can eat. If there’s not, eat before you go. You’ll still get to spend time with friends, and that’s the best part anyway! 

3 – Because I’m gluten-free, I opt out of cookie exchanges. If you want to participate, just give the cookies you receive to your husband and children 🙂 

4 – When I go out to a restaurant, I generally order either a steak or chicken breast – with no seasonings, and a side of steamed veggies or rice. We don’t get out a ton, mostly because it’s hard with a baby! (She’s always fine until our food comes. Then she must be held/rocked/fed/walked around the restaurant. She has excellent timing.) So when we do go out, I stick to this plan and typically come out migraine-free. 

5 – And if you’re really into the Holiday Spirit, you could always throw your own dinner party! Cook a big migraine-free meal for your nearest and dearest. Show them it’s delicious while still being healthy – and not as difficult as they might think! 

Thanksgiving
Dishing up my Thanksgiving feast!

Remember, alcohol is a migraine trigger. If you’re going to be drinking, do so in moderation. Make sure you’re also drinking water to stay hydrated. For the better part of three years, I’ve either been pregnant or breastfeeding, so I just don’t drink much! Red wine is one of the biggest alcoholic migraine triggers. If I do have a drink, I’ll have a hard cider or gin and tonic (both are naturally gluten free), followed by a lot of water! 

What did I miss? Do you have tips on staying on your migraine-free diet during the holidays?

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Thanksgiving! Gluten and migraine-free style

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that my brother is coming home for Thanksgiving! I don’t even remember the last Thanksgiving we spent together. It’s been at least seven years! 

He has Celiac Disease, so we’re doing a gluten and migraine free Thanksgiving. My mom and I have been looking at recipes and planning our meal for awhile, so I thought I’d share it with you in case you need some inspiration for the quickly approaching day.

Veggie tray with hummus. I buy Sabra Roasted Red Pepper hummus. I keep trying to make my own hummus, and it’s never as good.

Turkey – we’re going to do a brine and then bake it. My brother-in-law did it this way a few years ago and it was the best turkey I’ve ever had. I bought this brine kit from World Market. 

GF Cornbread muffins – this recipe technically isn’t migraine free because there’s yogurt in it, but I eat them anyway. We make these in a muffin pan instead of a skillet. They only need to bake for about 12 minutes. I’ve used this recipe many times. It’s so good! The muffins only last about 3 days in our house. 

My little helper, making cornbread muffins
My little helper, making cornbread muffins

Homemade applesauce – My parents made a batch of applesauce and froze it, so we’ll be eating that. 

Sweet corn – My parents also cooked and froze some good ol’ Iowa sweet corn this fall, so we get to eat that. Mmmm, Iowa sweet corn!

Roasted butternut squash – I made this recipe last week to test it out. It is nothing short of amazing. Also, peeling and cubing a butternut squash is not fun! But your tastebuds will be greatly rewarded for your effort. I put my brother in charge of this dish 🙂 

Roasted butternut squash
Cubed butternut squash, ready for roasting!

Cranberry chutney – I’ve never made my own cranberry sauce, but I’m going to give it a whirl! I’ll be making a few changes to this recipe, since citrus is a no-no for migraineurs. I’ll be replacing the orange juice with peach juice and omitting the orange zest. 

Garlic mashed sweet potatoes – I’ll omit the sour cream, since that’s a migraine trigger. Maybe put in some cream cheese instead? Yeah, cream cheese! 

Stuffing – We call stuffing “dressing,” and it drives my husband crazy. “Dressing goes on salads!” Whatever you call it, I’ve never been a big fan. Probably because there’s onion and celery in it. My grandma is making the stuffing this year, so it probably won’t be GF/MF. But, if you want to make your own, this recipe doesn’t look too tough! Just leave out the onion to make it MF. 

Green bean casserole – My husband really wants to make a green bean casserole. He said he’s just going to make up his own recipe as he goes. This recipe looks pretty tasty though! The onions and cheese are migraine triggers, so I’ll probably pass, but everyone else can enjoy it!

Pumpkin pie – My grandma is in charge of the pies. But I want to make one pumpkin pie just to be sure it’s GF and MF. I bought some Bob’s Red Mill GF Baking Flour (affiliate link – Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour Gluten Free — 22 oz), so I’ll be testing my GF baking chops! Here’s the crust recipe I’ll be using. 

Have you planned out your Thanksgiving meal yet? Do you have to modify for any food allergies? Think you’ll try out any of these recipes? Let me know in the comments!

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My Altered Migraine Diet

At the end of July, we were visiting my in-laws in the Black Hills. To make a really long story short, my appendix ruptured the day we were going to come home. 

I had surgery that afternoon and was told I would be in the hospital about 3 days. 

Well, it was a little more than 3. The poison from my appendix aggravated my intestines and they decided to stop working. So I had to wait, and wait, and wait for my intestines to wake up and work again. Which ended up being 8 days! 

It was a miserable experience I don’t wish upon anyone. Luckily my doctor and (most of the) nurses were awesome. 

Just for fun, here’s a picture of me in the hospital, with my awful NG tube:

IMG_1679
That tube went up my nose and into my stomach. And it stayed for 5 days.

Because my intestines were in a fragile state, my doctor recommended I be on a gluten free diet. He actually believes in a grain free diet. I’m not ready to jump into that yet, but I can do the gluten free thing. 

When I left the hospital, I figured I’d go GF for a few weeks until I was feeling better. 

Well, it’s now 2 months later and I’m still GF. Not because I don’t feel better. It’s because I do! 

When I was pregnant, I didn’t have to stay on my migraine diet. I got used to eating EVERYTHING without any consequences. After having Cecilia, it was hard to go back on the diet. So I decided, rather than cutting out all the triggers, I would just avoid monosodium glutamate (MSG). 

So far, not eating MSG or gluten has been a perfect combination. After having Norah, my first migraine came 4 weeks postpartum. According to my neurologist, that was right on time. (There’s a whole science behind it that would take too long to explain here.)

However, with Cecilia, I have yet to have a migraine! It’s like a magical combination for me! It makes eating out and having other people cook for me a little tricky, but I find ways to make it work. 

I actually ate MSG the other day – I blame Shane for not reading the label in the store 😉 I did feel a little funky afterward, but never got a migraine, thankfully! 

Have you found a magical combination of triggers to keep your migraines at bay? Have you ever tried to avoid eating MSG?

IMG_1700 (1)
The happy family, back together again after my surgery and hospital stay.
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Traveling on the Migraine Diet

My in-laws live 8 hours away. We drive out to visit them a few times a year. Every single time we drive out, I have a migraine by the time we get there. Eating fast food and gas station pizza the whole way really takes a toll on me.

The first time we drove out there after I started my migraine diet, I packed a big cooler full of foods I could eat: strawberries, grapes, sliced apples, carrots and hummus, bagels with cream cheese, etc. Amazingly – no migraine!

I’m driving out there this week, by myself with the two girls, and here is what I am packing:

Traveling food

Grapes, carrots and hummus, sliced apples, kettle corn, cornbread muffins, diced peaches, Annie’s cookies, and granola. And water! Staying hydrated is a must; dehydration can lead to headaches.

I try to pack foods that Norah will eat also. She’s pretty easy to please, luckily! I’ll bring some milk, her beloved animal crackers, and probably a PB&J. 

It’s a lot of food. It’s also an 8 hour drive, and Norah and I are kind of bottomless pits. These are all migraine-free foods (Well, the granola is iffy, but delish! It has chocolate and soy protein isolate in it, and most protein fortified foods are no-nos.) I’m going to steam the carrots and slice the apples before we go so they are easier for Norah to eat. 

See that big purple bag? This one??

Boom Chicka Pop

It’s Annies Boom Chicka Pop Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn, and it’s amazing!! I got a bag on a whim last week and almost devoured it in one sitting. Norah made me share. Plus it’s made in Mankato, Minnesota, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from here! There are a couple other flavors, but I just keep getting this one because I love it. I have found it in the gluten free section and the chip section of my grocery stores. Go get some. Then come back and thank me for introducing you to it.

So, that’s how I travel on the migraine diet – at least the driving portion of it. Eating out can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. 

I know my food won’t give me a migraine. Driving 8 hours by myself with two kids, however … 

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Managing Migraines Without Medication

During the first four months of the 1-2-3 program, I didn’t take any medications for my migraines. Not one Tylenol, Aleve or Ibuprofen.

I stuck to the diet like glue. Like white on rice. Like stink on a skunk. 

But I was still having migraines – just not quite as many. So I needed ways to cope.

When I started the program, I worked part-time, sat at my desk and stared at a computer. If I came home with a migraine, Shane wouldn’t let me look at any screens. No phone, iPad or television. 

I’m sensitive to light when I have a migraine, so that was okay with me. I just wanted to shut my eyes anyway.

My sister-in-law gave me a TENS unit for Christmas one year. I didn’t even know what it was when I opened it. Turns out, a TENS unit is my best friend.

I’d put it on my shoulders, turn it on and instantly relax. A TENS unit sends electrical pulses to your body through small sticky pads. You control the intensity and pattern of pulses. It’s magic in a box.

I also used BioFreeze all the time. I constantly had a menthol smell to me, but it was working, so I didn’t care.

BioFreeze is safe to use while pregnant. The bottle says to use no more than four times a day. I asked my chiropractor and he said I could use it as much as I wanted.

Speaking of which, if you have migraines, get yourself to a chiropractor! I have so much tension in my right shoulder, where my migraine pain starts. As soon as I get adjusted, my shoulder relaxes and I feel so much better.

I also looked up some yoga poses to help with migraines. Here are the ones I found most helpful. The Grounded Tipover Tuck looks ridiculous, but probably helped me the most!

When I was pregnant with Norah, I got massages about every three weeks. Probably every two weeks during the first trimester, when the migraines were debilitating. I would walk in with my head pounding, and walk out relaxed and with much more manageable pain, sometimes no pain at all. 

After the first trimester I didn’t have migraines anymore, but I kept up with the regular massages. All pregnant women deserve some pampering!

What non-medicinal ways have you found to cope with migraines?

Here are some links to the products I mentioned above (affiliate links):

truMedic TENS Unit Electronic Pulse Massager

Bio Freeze Cold Therapy Pain Relieving Roll-On, 3 Ounce

Heal Your Headache – The book that taught me how to control my migraines

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From 10 to 2

I’m not talking about hands on a wheel or working hours.

I’m talking about migraines! Before my migraine intervention, I easily had 10 migraines a month.

The pain would start in my right shoulder, radiate up and sit behind my right eye. I would take my meds, drink a cup of coffee and wait for the medication to kick in, which it eventually did. I might have had to take a second round of meds the next day, but this response generally worked.

I don’t exactly remember what made me decide to take control over my migraines. But 20+ years of suffering was enough!

Step one of David Buchholz program is to eliminate all dietary triggers. The list is long and slightly daunting, but I was committed.

The dietary triggers are monosodium glutamate (MSG), citrus fruits, bananas, avocados, cheese, fresh baked goods with yeast, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, nuts and nut butters, processed meats, onions, and dried fruits. Aged foods, like sour cream and yogurt, and fermented foods are also triggers. This list by the National Headache Foundation is handy to keep around. The book includes a few more foods, such as lentils, to avoid as well.

There are some exceptions to the list. For instance, cheese is a trigger. But cream cheese, ricotta and high quality American cheeses are not. Just make sure to read your labels to make sure there isn’t any MSG in the product.

Tomatoes and mushrooms can be a trigger for some people. I kept them in my diet and never had an issue. Buchholz recommends keeping them in, and if you’re still having migraines, then take them out and see if it makes a difference.

Growing up my doctor had always told me to avoid MSG. I knew it was common in Chinese food, but that was it. Turns out there are over 40 names for MSG, and it is in tons of processed foods.

When I started this diet, I would take my list of foods to avoid and my list of names for MSG to the grocery store with me. Those first trips took a long time. Reading every label, cross checking both lists. After a few trips I started to get it down. Mostly, if I couldn’t pronounce something on the label, I figured I shouldn’t be eating it.

After reading this list, you may feel like “What am I supposed to eat?!?”

Most fruits are fine – the fresher they are, the better they are. Vegetables are great, with the only exception being the pod on peas. Peas are fine though! Meats are great too – burgers, steak, chicken, turkey, pork. Just avoid the processed meats like bacon and most deli meats.

I was able to find deli meat at my local grocery store that was free of MSG, gluten, fillers and artificial colors. The brand is DiLusso, I found it at HyVee, and I never had issues from eating it.

Basically, you’re just eating clean with a few more exceptions.

I bought this Migraine Free Cookbook to get me started in the kitchen (affiliate link):

For four months I was very strict with the diet. I never wavered. And it worked!!

I went from 10 migraines a month to only two! Truly life changing. Soon I will start posting some of my favorite migraine-free recipes to help you on your journey to a migraine-free life.

If this is your first time learning about the migraine diet, I strongly recommend buying Buchholz book. I can’t say enough good things about his program.

(Affiliate link)

Have you changed your diet to help with migraines? Have you found any dietary triggers? Let me know in the comments below!

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My Migraine Story

Let’s start by saying migraines are not fun to talk about. Yet I find myself talking about them all the time. Because when you are a migraine sufferer, they are always on your mind — sometimes literally. Every migraine sufferer has their story. Here is mine.

I have had migraines since I was in first grade. Yes. You read that right. At the tender age of 6, I started having debilitating headaches.

Me, age 6.
Me, age 6.

Over the years, the causes of my migraines have changed. Changing sleep patterns (like slumber parties or late nights studying), certain foods, adult beverages, hormones, sitting at a computer too long and more.

Fast forward a few years. I earned a bachelor’s degree in English and worked various jobs. I’d also gone through my share of migraine medications. Daily meds to prevent migraines and pills to stop the ones that made it through. Pills, dissolvable tablets and nasal sprays. The nasals are the worst.

In 2011, I got married, and then pregnant. The migraines through the first trimester were debilitating. Mostly because I couldn’t take any medication. My doctor gave me hydrocodone — a narcotic — that made me so dizzy I threw up every time I got off the couch. Every few weeks I would miss 2 days of work due to migraines.

During the second trimester, the migraines disappeared! It was the best perk of pregnancy. Even above eating whatever I want and having other people do all the dirty work. (My grandma also has migraines. She didn’t have migraines during pregnancy either. She says that’s why she had 7 kids.)

A month after Norah was born I had my first postpartum migraine. I went back to my same old routine. Sumatriptan with two Aleve. Both safe while breastfeeding, but I took them right after feeding just to be safe.

While I was still pregnant, I met someone who introduced me to a book about a migraine diet. A migraine diet?! I didn’t know such things existed! Growing up, my doctor gave me a list of things that might cause a migraine, but I never really gave it much thought. Mostly because the first item on the list was chocolate. Not giving that up!

I bought the book and it sat on my shelf for over a year. I was a newlywed, working full-time and pregnant. I didn’t have time for reading! (Except Harry Potter. There’s always time for Harry.)

When Norah was about 8 months old I decided to take control of this migraine thing. I read the book and embraced the first step – changing your diet to eliminate migraine triggers. There are LOTS of migraine triggers in food. Not all of them are triggers for everyone, and not all of them are triggers all the time. But I cut out all of them discussed in the book.

The second part of the program is to stop all medication. The thought of no medications (again!) terrified me, but I did it.

I was strict with the diet for four months. And it worked. I was amazed. I went from 10 migraines per month, to two or less. And if I had any minor headaches, Aleve would make them go away.

Here’s the magical book (affiliate link):

So, to make a long story short-ish, this is where my blog comes in. I would love to help other migraine sufferers — there are something like 10 million of us in America — take control of their migraines. Don’t let the monster run your life! You can do this, just like I did.

Soon I’ll post about the basics of the migraine diet and how I got started, as well as some helpful tips on living with migraines. Do you suffer from migraines? What’s your story? Let me know in the comments below!

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