Migraine & Inflammatory Foods

 By Sarina & Wanda – 

What are Inflammatory Foods?Sarina

If you have a chronic illness, you have probably heard countless suggestions and unwarranted advice on what will “cure you” or give you relief. Most of the time, these unwanted — and sometimes downright ridiculous — recommendations are not even worth the attempt. (Do any other migraineurs remember the strongly scented body wash recommendation that went around about a year ago?)

A lot of the suggestions I have been given are diet-based. And if I am being honest, practicing some of the suggestions have in fact helped me find some migraine triggers, but not all. That being said, why do so many migraine diets suggest eliminating things like gluten, dairy, nightshades, and certain spices? The answer is inflammation.

Certain foods and food groups have been proven to cause inflammation in the body, and inflammation is a common trigger for chronic migraineurs. For me personally, grains, dairy, some fruits, and nightshades can easily trigger a migraine. Avoiding these foods is not always easy, but I have found relief avoiding them when I can.

A few of the most common nightshades are: tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplants. Tomatoes really have the tendency to mess me up, both migraine and GI symptom wise. Because of this, I avoid tomatoes and tomato products like the plague. I used to eat ketchup as an entire meal (okay, not really, but I used to eat a lot of ketchup), and eliminating it from my diet has made a huge difference. The same goes for peppers. If I have a “spicy” meal I end up with an almost immediate migraine and ridiculous amounts of bloating.

My migraine attacks and GI symptoms are very much intertwined. If I eat a “bad” food the migraine symptoms and GI symptoms gang up on me and give me a very hard time. Times like this, Benadryl becomes my best friend. The antihistamine helps stop the inflammatory attack as well as help reduce the migraine attack.

How to Eat an Anti-Inflammatory DietWanda

I stumbled upon a basic anti-inflammatory diet while researching lupus for a family member. In the last decade or so it’s been part of my ongoing life changes toward a healthier body and mind. It’s easier than I thought it would be, and has really made a difference in how I feel.

One thing you can be sure of is noticing when you aren’t eating well once you’ve begun to change your diet. Sarina started us with a great list of nightshades, which are definitely things to avoid or minimize, to which I’m going to add some of the good parts of an anti-inflammatory diet.

1. First there are berries: one of my absolute favorite summer treats. If you can’t get fresh berries, look for frozen ones. Even better, you can grow strawberries and blackberries in most parts of the US right in your back yard. Fruit (raw) is an important part of any healthy diet, and berries contain anthocyanins which contain anti-inflammatory properties. Keeping some berries and other fruits in the freezer for smoothies is a great way to insure you get the 3 to 5 servings recommended daily.

2. Next comes oily fish; wild caught salmon or black cod have better Omega 3 fatty acid ratios than other fish. Ok, fine, sardines are pretty high up there as well, but SARDINES! I eat 2 to 4 servings of salmon a month, making nuts and seeds my main protein source. Almonds and walnuts are excellent sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. I drink nut or soy milk in place of cow’s’ milk which adds another layer of avoiding possible migraine triggers by avoiding dairy.

3. Cooking oil plays a large part in our oil consumption. Olive Oil contains oleocanthal which prevents the production of pro-inflammatory enzymes. Extra Virgin Olive Oil not only provides a good flavor, it helps your body as well. Remember to avoid Omega 6 oils like sunflower, peanut, safflower, corn, and soybean oil. Omega 6 oils actually promote inflammation.

4. Now we come to the fun stuff – herbs and spices. I love a well-seasoned meal. Spices don’t have to taste “spicy.” Just a pinch or shake can make all the difference to the taste of steamed vegetables, baked chicken, or fish. Garlic is good for your heart (and to ward off vampires.) Ginger is great for digestion and upset stomach. Turmeric, which contains curcumin, not only turns curry dishes that lovely yellow color, it also acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Cinnamon is the real heavy hitter when it comes to seasonings, as it can help regulate blood sugar, lower your cholesterol, is packed with antioxidants, and acts as nature’s anti-inflammatory. I have something with cinnamon in it daily.

The next time you go grocery shopping, or are meal planning, see where you can add these as well as other natural anti-inflammatories like tea, dark chocolate, red wine, and licorice to your menu. Mix up your recipes by trying new herbs and seasoning like mint (which is also a great tea), miso, pickled veggies, or cloves.

Every small change you make is one step closer to a healthier diet. It isn’t just people with migraines or older people who should be seeking these things out; children, students, and young adults will benefit by limiting nightshades and increasing anti-inflammatory foods.

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