LR12: Learn How to Conquer Headaches

Ten years ago my daughter began suffering from chronic headaches. That means for the past 10 years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, she has had a headache. This constant state of gnawing pain is only occasionally interrupted by something even worse, a debilitating migraine. When the migraines come, it’s hard for her to function at all. Instead she is relegated to lying down in a silent, dark room until the pain, nausea and heightened sensitivity subsides.

We’ve tried everything including pharmaceuticals, massage therapy, yoga, meditation, Eastern herbal remedies, glasses, TMJ mouth pieces, acupuncture, and even Indian tongue reading. Although her current medications brought the chronic pain down from a 7 to a 3, they don’t come without side effects.

Heal Your HeadacheYears ago one of our neurologists suggested a book called “Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Control of Your Pain” by David Buchholz, M.D. He’d said one of his patients had a similar experience to my daughter’s, where nothing but powerful meds helped, and she hated what they were doing to her. She followed the program and within 8 weeks was experiencing whole days without any pain at all. She was able to wean herself off the meds and although she still gets the occasional headache, she now knows a) what triggered it and b) how to control it. Back then, I read the book and created a one page summary of what it proposes. The problem is, the program requires incredible discipline for anyone to follow it, but particularly for a teenager. My daughter rejected it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when during a business meeting with a local investor, I noticed that she asked the waiter whether a certain dish had aged cheese in it. I’d never heard anyone ask that question, but aged cheeses are a known trigger for migraines according to the Buchholz book. I asked her if she suffered from headaches and for most of the remainder of the meal we spoke about her chronic headaches, how she conquered them, my daughter’s experience, etc. Turns out, she is the woman who had followed the Buchholz program, cured herself and brought the book to our neurologist’s attention.

I ran home to tell my wife and called my daughter at college. She was of course lying in bed in the middle of the day, fighting through yet another powerful migraine. The news was  encouraging and she decided then and there that she was ready to do whatever it took to overcome this. She wanted to take medical leave from college and focus solely on taking control of her life, to get rid of the medications and rediscover the woman hidden beneath them. I flew out immediately to pack her up and bring her home.

My new friend, “the investor”, agreed to meet us for lunch to explain what we should expect from the program and how it changed her life. We left that meeting inspired.

My part in the plan is to learn all I can about the program, the science behind it, set expectations, work with the neurologist to make for a smooth transition and most of all, coach her through this.

WHAT IS THE PROGRAM

Step 1: Avoid Quick Fixes That Cause Rebound. This means she has to stop taking all the medications migraine sufferers turn to at the moment of peak pain. She cannot take decongestants, caffeine, excedrin, fiorinal or tylenol with codeine.

Step 2: Reduce Triggers

Dietary Triggers include caffeine, chocolate, MSG, nuts, vinegar, citrus fruits, dried/preserved fruits, ripened fruits, onions, fresh bread, aspartame, miso and alcohol although white wine and vodka are tolerated in small quantities.

Non-Dietary Triggers include perfumes, smoke, bright lights, dehydration, stress, sleep deprivation and hormonal birth control.

Step 3: Raise Threshold with Preventive Medications (if necessary)

HeadachesThe idea is that headaches are a function of 2 things; the accumulation of triggers relative to the threshold of a particular person. The triggers listed above are triggers for everyone, but for chronic headache and migraine sufferers, the threshold is much lower than for most of us.

Today is Day 1 of the program.

Below is the full list of “Things to Avoid”

CAFFEINE
Coffee, tea, iced tea and cola. Even decaf coffee and tea which contain other chemical triggers. Try caffeine free herb tea without citrus and other trigger flavors.
CHOCOLATE
White chocolate (no cocoa) is ok
MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE (MSG)
Chinese & other restaurant food;
soups and boullions;
Accent & seasoned salt,
flavored, salty snacks;
croutons and bread crumbs;
ready-to-eat meals;
cheap buffets;
veggie burgers;
protein concentrates;
low fat, low calorie foods.
Look for these words and those that sound like them…
Hydrolyzed protein
(including vegetable/soy/plant/rice protein)
Yeast extract and autolyzed yeast
Natural flavors/flavorings
Broth, stock or bouillon
Soy protein concentrate/isolate
Textured protein
Whey protein
Protein-fortified items
Malt extract
Malted barley
Maltodextrin
Carrageenan
Kombu (seaweed extract)
Sodium or calium caseinate
Glutamic acid
Gelatin
Fermented or cultured items
Ultra-pasteurized items
Enzyme-modified items
Be suspicious of “natural flavors (or flavorings)”
CHEESE AND OTHER DAIRY PRODUCTS
The more aged, the worse.
Beware cheese-containing foods including pizza.
Yogurt (including frozen), sour cream and buttermilk are also triggers.
Cheeses that are ok: ricotta, cream cheese, and good quality American cheese.
NUTS
Avoid all kinds, as well as nut butters. Peanuts and peanut butter. Seeds are okay.
ALCOHOL and VINEGAR
Especially red wine, champagne and dark or heavy drinks. Vodka is best tolerated in limited quantities. Too much alcohol at once leads to accumulation of acetaldehydes, a trigger.
Clear, ideally distilled, vinegar is allowable.
Don’t overdo condiments made with vinegar incl ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.
CERTAIN FRUITS AND JUICES
Citrus fruits incl oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, tangerines, clementines and pineapples & their juices. Bananas, raspberries, red plums, papayas, passion fruit, figs, dates and avocados.
Raisins and other dried fruits if preserved with sulfites.
Fruits in general accumulate tyramine as they ripen, choose young, fresh fruits whenever possible.
CERTAIN VEGETABLES, ESPECIALLY ONIONS
Plus sauerkraut, pea pods, and certain beans (broad Italian, lima, fava, navy and lentils).
Allowed: leeks, scallions, shallots, spring onions and garlic.
FRESH YEAST RISEN BAKED GOODS
Less than one day old; homemade (or restaurant-baked) breads, especially sour dough, as well as bagels, donuts, pizza dough, soft pretzels and coffee cake.
ASPARTAME (NUTRASWEET)
Saccharin (Sweet n Low)
OTHERS
Cultured Soy (Miso)
Fermented Soy (Tempeh)
Soy Sauce containing MSG
Hormonal birth control
Regularity is key: you should sleep, eat and exercise on a regular basis. Get enough sleep each night, seven to eight hours or more, and don’t oversleep sporadically, as on weekends. Skipping meals is a common trigger for migraine. Stay on schedule for three meals a day, no more than six to eight hours apart. Snack in between if you wish—but only on nonrestricted items!
Exercise also enhances endorphin production in the brain and is a natural way to help raise your migraine threshold, which otherwise requires preventive medication. Aim for a half-hour or more of aerobic exercise three to four times a week.
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Halfway There

12for2012 Ballroom DancingI’m at the halfway point in my quest to learn 12 new things and do 12 charitable things this year.

Unicycling, slack lining, jumping stilts, yarn bombing, and drumming have now been checked off, with ballroom dancing and eating right being works in progress on the learning side. That leaves 5 more to be accomplished. (Paragliding has been tentatively scheduled to begin at the end of July.)

SugarOn the giving side, I’ve built homes, fostered a puppy, volunteered to donate bone marrow, did graphic design work for a mitzvah and next Sunday will donate 400 square feet of knitting to Warm Up America, while having my blood, sperm and hair rejected. That leaves 7 more to be accomplished. (I become eligible again to donate blood on December 25th so that will likely be GR12.)

Duneier SlackliningThis is where you come in. I need suggestions for the remaining 12. Is there something you have been wanting to learn, but aren’t ready to take the leap? Is there something you would like to try, but worried it will be too difficult or time consuming? Use me as your guinea pig. Let me pave the way. Is there something you’ve learned that you think others should try too? Is there a charity you know of that could use a hand? Tell me how I can help.

Send me your suggestions. Share your thoughts.

Thanks!

LR7: 3 Vegan Weeks & Not Really Counting

Recall I decided to become a vegan not because I want to live forever, but because I want to enjoy every minute that I am here. To do that requires as much energy as I can muster. Therefore, what I was hoping to gain from becoming a vegan was more energy. It’s inevitable, whenever I say that to someone who knows me, they always ask incredulously, “YOU need more energy?” Yes, I need and want more energy. I want to learn, try, discover and fail at many more things in my life. I want to hike further and faster, read more books, launch more charities and generally be a more interesting person. To do that, I need more energy for many years to come.

After 3 weeks of following a vegan diet, I can emphatically pronounce I have substantially more energy now than when I started. I haven’t suffered from a single headache and I get a better nights rest as well.

If you are contemplating improving your life by becoming a vegan listen to just one piece of advice. Do not try to replicate your current diet. Don’t buy soy meatballs, veggie burgers, or fake cheese. Make a clean break from your old habits regarding flavors and textures. The longer you do this, the less likely you will experience cravings or resort back to old habits if they are close at hand while vegan options are not. Think of it like this. If you didn’t have any food immediately accessible to you right now would you substitute dirt or a light bulb for your usual burger? No, you would simply wait until you had access to actual food.

Vegan PancakesThis means you must be all-in in order for you to succeed. (I underlined succeed because if you can become a true vegan you will have succeeded at freeing yourself from weight problems, so many health issues and given yourself the gift of energy.) Try every vegetable put in front of you, even the ones you “know” you hate. Go to a restaurant and say, “I noticed you don’t have any vegan options on the menu. Could you have your chef make me a plate of vegetables, quinoa, grains and whatever else he sees fit to include, prepared however he/she likes so long as it doesn’t have any meat or dairy in it?” A good chef is an artist and will love the challenge to create something on the fly. You win by having a great new experience.

Vegan LunchTry doing the same for yourself. Here’s a lunch I threw together at home. It’s simply peas, corn, garbanzo beans and grape tomatos. I’m not sure how many calories it has or how much protein, but to be honest I’ll bet it’s far better for me than the Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza I would normally have resorted to in the past, and it tasted far better too.

Finally, I need to share two great sources of information and inspiration that I have discovered so far on my journey. I’m thankful that people who know so much are so willing to share with the those of us who don’t.

Vegan Sparkles – I love this blog for the density of information Rebecca delivers in a witty, fun way. Her blog’s title intrigued me and the content didn’t disappoint. It’s also chock full of great links that have been extremely helpful as well.

My Plant Based Family – Holly’s recipes and guidance for a vegan newbie is incredibly valuable and her enthusiasm is infectious. Her blog is incredibly organized, solving one of my pet peeves about blogs in general and making her wealth of knowledge readily available.

LR7: Popular Misconceptions about Veganism

Duneier @ AdamaFiction: Vegans are so limited in what they can eat.

Fact: Truth is, most people have very limited diets with very little variety. It’s not until you cut out the staples of your diet that you open yourself up to the thousands of far more interesting flavors and textures offered in vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and nuts, that you’ve yet to experience. As they say, “necessity is the mother of all invention.” Well, you need to eat and if you remove  the fatty and processed staples of your current diet, you will be forced to find alternatives or you will die. You will be forced to be creative and discover meals that are far healthier for you. There are thousands of them to choose from.

Fiction: You can’t get the protein your body needs without eating meat.

Fact: Vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds can easily supply your body with the amino acids (that’s what your body really needs, not protein) it requires. It’s much harder to get them from sugars, fats and alcohol. I’d be much more concerned about meat eaters getting enough of the essential vitamins and minerals their bodies need than a vegan getting enough protein.

Fiction: My kids would never eat if I only made vegan dishes.

Fact: This has to be the worst cop out a parent could use. There are a lot of things your kids would never do if you didn’t step in as their responsible parent and make sure they did. It’s your job as a parent to help your kids grow into happy, healthy adults. How many adults struggle with weight and health issues because their parents didn’t instill healthy eating habits in them when they were children. Just because they don’t like bland, poorly cooked broccoli thrown on the plate alongside a hamburger and creamy mashed potatoes, doesn’t mean there doesn’t exist a well prepared vegetable option your kids would like. It’s your job to find just a few of the thousands that exist.

LR7: My 1st Week as a Vegan

Becoming a vegan is not unlike joining a cult, or at least it evokes a very similar reaction from the people around you.

Fellow vegans welcome you, but it’s not a simple, “good for you”, it’s more about indoctrinating you and lecturing you on things that go way being simply switching to a plant-based diet. It brings diatribes about “cleansing” and “detox”. They seem to feel the need to bestow all of their wisdom and hokey science upon you and most will attempt to sell you on the benefits of higher energy levels.

Better breakfastMeat-eaters, or shall we say, the majority of people in this world, seem to be repulsed by the thought of living solely on plants. “You can’t even eat eggs?” They want to impart their wisdom, which by the way is almost exclusively based on the question, “where will you get your protein?” They all seem to have the same advice too. “Make sure you eat lots of beans and nuts.” They all attempt to sell you on the “fact” that all the vegans they know are always sick and are the unhealthiest people they know.

I have not joined a cult. I believe the prevalence of huge waistlines, double chins, cancers, heart problems, high cholesterol levels and diabetes among Americans is evidence enough that our eating habits need improvement. It’s amazing to me how many people select the high octane fuels for their cars, yet shovel low octane fuel into themselves, and even worse, their kids. When I eat a thick, juicy steak, it’s good, but the sluggish, bloated feeling that lingers long after is not good. It’s a fact, red meat does more harm than good. The same goes for refined foods and dairy products. And that is the essence of my argument for becoming a vegan. The cost / benefit analysis when it comes to food is simply nonexistent for most of us, yet there is no more important issue for our health.

Why did we switch from a healthy diet to such obviously poor eating habits? The answer is convenience. Question you have to answer is, “Is my health and the health of my family worth taking a little more time for food gathering and preparation?”

As for cravings, I haven’t experienced any yet. In fact, I am repulsed by the idea of meat and even for things that come in a box. I don’t eat much tofu because I’m not trying to replicate the texture of meat. I am reveling in the incredible flavors and textures I had been missing out on all my life. I’m not looking to convert anyone, but I hope I can inspire you to think about your choices.

Finally, I don’t anticipate posting recipes and nutritional advice in my blog, but I am thankful for those who do. Fruits and vegetables come in an extraordinary number of varieties and it can be overwhelming to a newbie. If you have any great blogs, websites or books you can recommend to those of us trying navigate these unchartered waters, please do share them here.

LR7: Learn How to Eat Right

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forks-over-knivesIt is so unlike me to jump on a bandwagon and I have avoided going down this path until now, solely on that basis. However, it’s also unlike me to do things that are counterintuitive and it has just dawned on me that by continuing to maintain the diet I’ve been following my entire life, my actions are in direct opposition to what I know intuitively to be right. If it took a documentary to give me the swift kick in the ass I needed to see what should have been obvious to me for a very long time, well so be it. In this case, that documentary is “Forks Over Knives” and it’s the trigger for choosing “Learn How to Eat Right” as LR7.

Since birth I have been an unabashed junk food junkie. I lived Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” for decades. When we moved out to Santa Barbara that changed a lot, but mostly because there aren’t many fast food chains here. Anyway, I don’t want to be one of those long winded bloggers so I’ll keep this simple. My goal is to convert to a plant based diet, otherwise known as a vegan, but here is the trick. LR7 will only be deemed a success if I figure out how to do it sustainably. By that I mean it won’t require willpower to adhere to it. If I have to fight cravings, if it is a hassle, or unsatisfying, I will have failed.

Now you know my goal, please help by sharing tasty, simple recipes, ideas, and thoughts.

LR 7: Eat Right (Vegan) Posts