How Gluten Free Eating Banished My Migraines

by Jenny Hansen

food, food diagram

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Last week, I talked about the funny side of food allergies. This week, I’ll talk about the other side. My nutritionist pal, August McLaughlin, talks about the importance of a good diet but I didn’t realize until my 40s that my lifetime migraines were my own big red dietary flags.

I keep a garden and eat mostly organic. I limit my sugar…blah-blah-blah. Even when I was pregnant, I felt fantastic. I lost a bunch of body fat in the process – seriously, my hubby gained more weight than I did.

Then I had my daughter. And I started gaining weight. And gaining… Then gaining some more.

After almost 40 unstoppable pounds, it felt like I’d completely lost control of my body. I woke up every day feeling poorly. And old. And creaky. I thought, “this is what happens when you have a baby at 41 years-old. I should just accept it.  Aren’t ALL new moms exhausted?

Prescriptions started to creep into my life – thyroid, heartburn…plus the daily doses of Aleve. And too much coffee, since I was freaking exhausted all the time. For the first time in my life, I started eating more sweets – what did it matter? I’d already thrown in the towel.

My big game-changing moment came last February during a phone conversation with Kristen Lamb. I was  crying on her shoulder about the scale jumping 5 pounds after a Sunday when I drank a beer. Not three…ONE.

Kristen was the one who asked me the question that turned out to be the missing puzzle piece to my health: Have you ever thought you might be gluten intolerant?

I’ve gotta confess, I didn’t even know what that meant. But after speaking with her that night, and reading the list of symptoms (I had 10 out of 15), I gave up gluten cold turkey for Lent. My withdrawals were wicked, and lasted for about 8 days.

My online pals answered my questions and directed me to cool resources to educate myself about gluten and how to avoid it.

Holy cowbell, that pesky gluten is in everything. 

Why the hell do you need to put a wheat protein in freaking soy sauce?

All of a sudden, I wasn’t so puffy. the number on the scale began going down. Suddenly I had more energy, and I stopped getting heartburn all the time. That crazy gas after meals was GONE. I stopped taking the half-dose of Prozac for the psychotic anxiety.

Fast forward 6 months…

I’d stopped all medication except vitamins.

  • No Glucosamine and ibuprofen for arthritis-like aches and pains
  • NO thyroid medication
  • No daily Pepcid AC
  • No Beano with every meal (it has gluten in it by the way)
  • No Vitamin D supplements
  • No mid-month Prozac
  • My cholesterol dropped 50 points
  • I had full-range of motion in both my arms

And I still haven’t told you the best part!

I know, I know. What could possibly be more amazing than all that? I’ve gotten migraines since I was 5 years old. In fact, my head was the main reason I’ve never eaten poorly.

One guess on my biggest migraine trigger…

Um, yeah. That would be GLUTEN. It was a shocker. In fact, I pooh-poohed Hubby when he put forth the idea. (I believe my exact words were, “You’re on crack!”) But we started experimenting and, son-of-a-blindfolded-crackerjack, Hubby was right!! 

Since then, I’ve engaged in tons of migraine-inducing behavior:

  • Drinking red wine without taking Claritin
  • Drinking alcohol of any type and eating chocolate.
  • Mixing types of alcohol (are you noticing a trend??)
  • Going a bit long without food
  • Eating sugar before a meal.
  • Not eating protein at lunch.
  • Eating aged cheese.
  • Having erratic sleep patterns.

It didn’t all make me feel fantastic, but none of it gave me the usual migraine. However, if I ingest even a smidge of gluten, the pain comes roaring in like a steel-toed step dancer on the back of my skull.

(Tip: the occipital ridge is an “inflammation area” for the human body…who knew?)

The simple answer is no gluten for me. Ever, ever again.

I cannot describe to you the shout-from-the-rooftops joy of discovering the secret to my migraines. It’s right up there with “we’re having a baby” or “I sold my book.” Truly.

To be at the mercy of migraines for 38 years and then get a reprieve? It’s incandescent.

Does this mean I think the world should go gluten free? Good God, no. Why give up restaurant bread if you don’t have to?

Do I recommend you run a test for food allergies if you suffer from vicious headaches or feel poorly over a long time period? Yes, yes, YES!!

This link is hugely helpful in terms of elimination diets: http://www.drcranton.com/elimination_diet.htm.

Most of all, I’m shaking my head that I accepted feeling poorly for more than a year  when there were steps I could have taken to feel better. I forgot that we’re each in charge of our own health.

You can bet I won’t forget again. The joy of my new able-to-control-headache existence is too amazing to give up.

What about you? Do you have any food issues or allergies? How have you treated them? Are there any links or resources you’d like to share? Continue the discussion at the #SocialIn hashtag on Twitter or SocialInDC on Facebook!

~ Jenny

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About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.

© 2015 Jenny Hansen. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact me.

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