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:

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.

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 … 


Revamped Play Table

I can’t write about migraines all the time. That’d get boring. Real fast. 

So, I’ll show you the latest project we finished in our house instead!

A month or so ago I bought this awesome play table at a consignment store. It was begging to come home with me.

Original table

Norah actually wouldn’t leave the table the entire time we were at the store. It’s a BRIO table. I’m sure your doctor/dentist/chiropractor has one in the office. They retail anywhere from $150-200. This cost me $15. Score!

We set it up in our basement and Norah loved it! 

I bought it with the idea of painting it with chalkboard paint. Luckily, I happened to have a can laying around from a previous project. 

Shane loves a good project – anything that will let him spend time in the garage. 

First he painted it with two coats of bonding primer. This stuff is awesome. It’s as thick as sour cream and one can lasts forever. I can’t even count how many things we’ve painted with it! 

Primed table

 There it is – primed and ready!

 Next up was the chalkboard paint. Two more coats. 

Painting table

Such a happy little worker 😉

And finally, the finished product:

Norah chalking

 I love it! Norah loves it! Shane loves it! Someday, Cece will love it too! 

Now Norah keeps asking if we can “go chalk.” Heck yes, we can!


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


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!


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!