I've put off writing this post because my route to health is somewhat confusing even to me, and I've had to severely restrict my diet to do it. I don't even like to tell people what I'm avoiding because the list is so long it's embarrassing. But it works. However, I've realized that food is not the only solution. As is often the case, I've had to attack the problem from a number of angles to get at the answer. I don't feel completely healed, as I still have to work hard to keep my symptoms at bay. But I thought since you've been here with me from the beginning of these challenges, it was only fair that I share what I've learned. Of course, I don't mean any of this to be prescriptive. What works for me will not necessarily work for you, and I would never have figured out most of this without my naturopathic doctors. So of course, I can only recommend that you read this all as a friend sharing her story, and take what you like from that.
An apple a day keeps the headaches away? Not necessarily, but I do eat a lot of them. Here's what I do to feel my best:
- Eat a gluten, tree nut, peanut, and sugar-free diet. For me, sugar-free unfortunately includes options such as molasses, honey, dates and agave nectar. I've found that they all have the same effect. Stevia has been the only sweetener I've been using, and I haven't had any issues with it. However, if I cave at all - such as eating molasses spice cookies - I find myself a mood-swinging, crying mess within days. Sadly, this limits a lot of the baking I can do, but I'm working on learning the ins and outs of baking with stevia.
- Avoid foods that are high in amines. This is a complicated one, but seems to be directly related to my headaches. I don't have to be 100% compliant with this all the time, but I do have to be pretty careful. I avoid everything that is high on this list. Sadly, that includes a lot of my healthy favorites, such as spinach, avocados, bananas, and pineapple. This may explain why my headaches originally seemed to coincide with starting to drink a daily green smoothie, which I filled with spinach, bananas, and pineapple. Like my other restrictions, this also limits the recipes I can make or test here, which is part of the reason I've been so slow with posting recipes lately.
- I stopped eating eggs about a month ago on the recommendation of my ND. I'm in the process of adding them back in, and I'm not sure yet how my body will respond, so eggs are a maybe for now.
- I take a tincture of Wood Betony, Jamaican Dogwood, and Willowbark after meals. If I've fallen off my eating plan at all, I need to take them after every meal, but otherwise I do fine with once or twice a day. These have been crucial in getting rid of my headaches.
- Sleep is key. My body needs a good 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Unfortunately, I often let other things (ahem...Facebook) get in the way of going to bed early. But as simple as this one sounds, it really makes a big difference.
- Kundalini yoga at least 3x/week. My housemate introduced me to kundalini yoga, and while I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, it has helped me tremendously. A 45 minute session in the morning leaves me feeling relaxed throughout the day, which has the added benefit of decreasing my food cravings. It also seems to help my digestion, which is always an issue for me.
- Finally, I use a netipot if I feel a headache coming on, and it seems to keep it from becoming stronger. I don't do this daily, but only if I feel like it's going to be a bad day.
If you've read through all this, thank you for listening, and I would love to hear what makes you feel your healthiest. If you didn't make it this far, then you won't see this anyway, but I hope to be back later this week with a fabulous gluten-free, sugar-free, peanut free, tree nut free, low-amine recipe. And if you just want something to do while you're supposed to be working, you can check out my new photo project on Flickr. My goal is to post a photo a day for the next year, so I'll be updating it regularly.