From almost daily migraines to migraine free
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Client name and identifying information changed
When Josephine first came to my clinic she had cancelled three previous appointments because she was getting migraines nearly every day. Most of her migraines were in the afternoon, although she could get them at any time.
Her migraines left her feeling exhausted and then she would be ravenously hungry which made things worse, as she chose to eat food that was quick and easy to ‘grab ‘n eat’ such as cheese and crackers, sandwiches with salami or a take away bacon and egg roll.
I quickly saw that most of her food choices were high histamine foods, so this was the first thing to look at. I asked her to eliminate all high histamine foods, including meat, chicken and fish for the first two weeks, just to give her body a break from any potential triggers. For those two weeks, her diet was to consist of fresh cooked vegetables with some low histamine fruits and plain water.
Yet after only three days into the diet she was migraine free.
We then gradually re-introduced the meat, chicken and fish, making sure they were as fresh as possible. Fish that had been snap frozen at the boat (to be safe) was her first choice. After a week (and sick of eating fish) she then re-introduced fresh chicken and later, red meat. She asked her butcher what day the meat came in fresh and bought it on the same day. Any meat she was not going to eat that day was immediately frozen to avoid histamine build-up.
Incidentally, one day I purchased a rack of lamb at one of the large national supermarkets. When I opened the cryovac seal I felt it was not very fresh (smelly and slimy too). This occurred again a couple of weeks later, so I complained. I was told that they packed the meat in a warehouse a few hundred kilometres away. The meat was cyrovaced with gas to preserve its ‘freshness’ because it could take a few days to reach the shelf (and then sit there for a few more days). They gave me a refund and I was told that they would review their packing systems – but I never went back to find out.
Anyhow, back to Josephine. Josephine’s diet was working well until the day she re-introduced cheese, which she really missed. The result: a massive migraine. The upside was that it dramatically showed her that histamine was an issue.
Over a period of months Josephine experimented with some other foods and found that some were ok and others not so good. She developed a list of foods to avoid. With her ‘safe foods’ list, I encouraged her to not have any more than one at a time, because combining two or more could cross the threshold with a very painful result.
She found out for herself later when she went to a party and ate a few of the high histamine foods together that were on her safe list and bam, another migraine. It was a learning experience, but eventually Josephine was completely migraine free.
She also learnt that pre-period was a time to have no histamine foods as the combination of hormonal shifts and the trigger foods would send her to bed with a massive migraine.
This taught me as a practitioner that even when clients say that they get menstrual migraines, if they go histamine free during that week, they often don’t get a migraine.