My biggest migraine breakthrough came when I finally decided to lose weight once and for all. I had been about 50 pounds overweight for years, and failed numerous times with the starvation approach to dieting, which always made my migraines worse.
In August of 2014 I started a strict, Paleo-style diet recommended by a friend. Within a few weeks I was actually losing weight, noticing the changes in my body and vast improvements in my energy. By Christmas that year I had dropped 25 pounds and felt better than I had in years. I was actually eating more food than I normally would and still losing weight. Better still, dieting cured my migraines: after 3 months, my regular weekly migraines completely stopped.
A Radical Diet Creates Radical Change
If you are not yet familiar with a Paleo diet, the basic idea is to eat the foods available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors, eliminating cultivated and processed foods. It is a radical shift from the “SAD” Standard American Diet that is loaded with sugar, wheat, and processed oils. Fruits and vegetables become the staples of your diet, along with protein-rich foods like meat, fish, and eggs.
As I said, the diet plan I use is Paleo “style”: it uses the basic concept of the Paleo diet and adds a lot of flexibility to make the radical changes more manageable. Still, I found myself so hungry during the first week that I had to make a few adjustments so I could stay on track.
I was quite successful by sticking with the essential features of the diet:
- Eliminate sugar
- Eliminate wheat and minimize other cereal grains
- Eliminate processed and chemically manipulated foods
- Increase the amount and variety of vegetables
- Eat protein consistently throughout the day
- Include good fats such as nuts, avocado, and coconut oil
I became so excited about my results I just had to learn more about why this diet was working. I started studying everything I could find about dieting and nutrition. I learned about the effects of different nutrients and what role they play in body function. I studied the digestive process and how the internal organs work together to convert food into energy and growth. All this new knowledge let me back to analyzing my migraines and understanding how this new diet could stop them after nearly 20 years of suffering.
Essential Diet Changes for Curing Migraines
As it turns out, dieting cured my migraines because every one of the six features listed above plays a important part. This is too much information to cover in one article, so I am going to give you a brief overview here. There will be future posts to cover each one in detail.
Most importantly, consider whether you can make these changes in your own diet if you are suffering from chronic migraines.
This is truly the most difficult change of the list, and it is the most important. On average, Americans eat over 66 pounds of added sugar per year. That is nearly 120,000 empty calories that can easily turn into 30 pounds of body weight. Sugar has absolutely no benefit in the body and causes disease. Excess sugar not only causes obesity and diabetes, it is now believed to be responsible for heart disease, liver disease, and some forms of cancer. For migraineurs, the important fact is that excess sugar creates toxins in your body and changes your internal chemistry.
Eliminate Wheat and Cereal Grains
Whether you have Celiac disease or not, the Gluten in wheat damages your small intestine and makes it harder to effectively digest your food. The small intestine plays a huge role in the immune system, so damage to the small intestine increases your odds of getting sick. In a very real way, eating wheat causes disease.
All cereal grains contain anti-nutrient factors, which are chemicals that evolved to prevent the grains from being digested when they are consumed. From an evolutionary perspective this makes sense: cereal grains are seeds, and seeds need to survive in order to grow the next generation of plants. From a nutritional perspective, cereal grains are designed by nature to be un-digestible. They steal nutrients from the food you eat. For migraineurs, missing nutrients in your diet make migraines more likely.
Eliminate Processed and Chemically Manipulated Foods
It should go without saying, if you are suffering from excess toxins in your body, you shouldn’t keep adding more toxins to your body. Chemicals added to foods are the kind easiest toxins to avoid: just stop eating foods loaded with chemicals. Processed foods have had all their nutritional value removed and then fortified with chemicals to make them nutritious again. The longer the list of ingredients on the package, the more toxins it is going to contain.
Increase the Amount and Variety of Vegetables
If you are eliminating wheat and processed foods, you are going to want something to eat! Luckily, nature provides a wide variety of pre-packaged foods in a whole rainbow of colorful packages. Vegetables are the most nutritious food available on the planet. They are colorful because each color comes from different types of nutrients. Here’s a simple rule to follow:
Natural food + Colors = Nutrition
Artificial food + Colors = Toxins
Eat Protein Consistently Throughout the Day
Protein provides the building blocks for your cells. With the trends toward low-fat and low-carb diets, there is a big focus on getting a larger portion of your calories from protein. This can be a mistake. A diet too high in protein stresses your kidneys and can ultimately lead to kidney damage. Eating too much protein at one time creates metabolic waste in your bloodstream. For migraineurs this reads: metabolic waste = toxins.
Include Good Fats
We’ve really got to stop thinking that fat is bad. Some fats are bad, and some are good. In general, vegetable-based oils of any kind are bad, while oils extracted from seeds and fruits are good for you. Coconut oil, Palm oil, and Olive oil are beneficial to your body. For migraineurs, sufficient fat is especially important because normal functioning of the nervous system depends on fat. On the other hand, bad fats contain toxins that are going to make migraines worse. Good fats will actually improve your health and they won’t make you fat.
If you want to learn more about these important diet factors that can have a huge impact on your migraines, please consider signing up for the MigraineCure community.