Nonfiction (Misc)

The “Heal Your Headache” Diet: My Month 3 Update

headacheI’ve been on the Dr. Buchholz’ Migraine Diet for close to three months now. In short, it works – when I can stick to it, that is.

I started in early November, and in the whole month of November I had one migraine, and that was (a) very early in the diet; and (b) while I was traveling and having a lot of trouble following the plan. Travel makes things nearly impossible – you try ordering something off a restaurant menu that doesn’t include, bread, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, nuts, or chocolate. I blame that first migraine on the doughnuts from the Fractured Prune (and they were kind of worth it).

Once I got home, the diet worked amazingly well, until about mid-December. If you’re counting, that’s one migraine in a five week period. I had a lot of small headaches, but it’s a great thing when a small headache goes away by itself and doesn’t require medication.   The book warned about recurring headaches due to giving up caffeine, and those gradually went away. But with the holidays, cheating occurred, especially when it comes to wine.

Then I got sick in mid-December. The coughing alone gave me a headache – add lack of sleep and increased sinus pressure, and I’m pretty sure no diet is going to help. I got about three migraines in a three week period. Not good, but about what I was getting before.

In January, I’ve had two migraines, so that’s pretty good. Unfortunately wine seems to be a major trigger. I was really hoping that wouldn’t be the case. I think maybe I can have a glass of wine but not more than that. Or maybe wine as long as I don’t cheat on any other foods. I’m not sure.

I hoped this diet would get easier as I adjusted to it. In some ways, it has, because I’ve learned some good substitutes for things I can’t have. Chocolate isn’t that hard to give up; I snack on ginger snaps and molasses cookies, and white chocolate is okay although I much prefer dark. Decaf coffee—not a problem. And giving up most packaged foods just means I have to work a little harder to prepare my meals. Fresh bread also isn’t that hard to avoid (although I love it). As a yogurt substitute, I’ve discovered quark – don’t ask me what it is, but it’s closer to ricotta cheese than yogurt and I guess because it isn’t fermented it doesn’t have the migraine effect that yogurt and sour cream have. I miss soda but I’ve found a caffeine-free, aspartame-free cola I like called Zevia.

Giving up MSG is really hard but I feel okay if I avoid it most of the time. Unfortunately giving up MSG means giving up a lot of the “diet” foods I liked. If it’s low-fat or high-protein, it has MSG.

What do I really miss? At the moment, cheese. Everything that tastes good has cheese. I thought avoiding cheese wouldn’t be that hard, and better for my diet. But try eating a salad without a little feta or blue cheese, or try an omelet with no cheese. I’m surprised how much blander things are without cheese.

Dr. B says ideally you should be stable on the diet for four months before you start reintroducing things. That’s so the diet becomes more routine and your body adjusts to not having migraines. That means one more month for me.  I didn’t think I’d get this far, to be honest.

Dr. B also says you should get yourself down to 1-2 migraine pills per month. I took 1 in November, 3-4 in December and 2 in January. He also says to tough it out and not take the drugs. I haven’t found I’m able to do that. But if I can reduce the number of migraines and take a few pills a month, I’m good with that.

So that’s my update. What does it all mean? I’m starting to get a better idea of what might be triggers, I’ve discovered some interesting new foods like quark, I make more of my own meals, and I’m taking way fewer pills than when I started. On the other hand, it’s taken a lot of the pleasure of eating and drinking away.  But it’s a learning process.

6 thoughts on “The “Heal Your Headache” Diet: My Month 3 Update

  1. Quark is actually fermented but it’s a different culture than yogurt (similar to buttermilk culture). That is weird that it doesn’t cause headaches but yogurt does … but it’s good that you can still eat something yummy. Great job sticking to the diet, I know it so hard giving up things you love to eat.

    • You’re right, I don’t know too much about these things! I’m probably completely confusing the cause and effect here. Anyway, my brief research on quark suggested I could treat it more like ricotta cheese than yogurt for migraine purposes. It’s an experiment. But considering how many recipes call for something like yogurt, having a substitute is really helpful.

    • I’ve cheated in really small doses with chocolate, and it hasn’t been a problem. I thought it would be harder than it has been, because I can find sweet things that aren’t chocolate.

  2. Giving up cheese IS really hard, but the pain after eating it has finally convinced me that giving it up is worth it. I’ve been on the diet for about the same time as you have and am having some great results. I’ve worked out some good recipes, but I still haven’t been able to figure out what to do about cheese. Thanks for the ideas. If you want to check out my blog, I am starting to post my migraine recipes and related thoughts.

    • Thanks for visiting, I’ll definitely keep an eye on your blog. I use Laughing Cow cheese — although it has MSG in it, I don’t think MSG bothers me. Spreadable cheese works okay on sandwiches and mixed into eggs but it doesn’t work for most things.

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