Monday, December 17, 2012

No Gluten, No Migraines

By Diana Hsieh

Since high school, I've suffered from periodic migraines. Mostly, they were manageable with pain medications, although quite unpleasant. However, I had certain periods in which they were so frequently and painful as to be debilitating. (In college, I had to drop two of my five classes one semester due to unbearable and frequent migraines.)

Happily, eating paleo largely eliminated my migraines. As a result, I could safely leave the house without my migraine medication for the first time in years. That was so liberating!

I still had migraines but only rarely -- perhaps just one per month. I noticed that I was particularly prone to get them when pre-menstrual, but I couldn't detect any pattern otherwise.

However, in the summer of 2011, I had two experiences that made me think that gluten might be the lingering culprit. While at the Ancestral Healthy Symposium, I ate some "brown eggs" made by my mother-in-law. They were made with regular soy sauce, which includes a tiny amount of wheat. Result? Days of migraines. Then, a month or two later, I ate some chicken wings at a restaurant that had been dusted in flour. Result? A sudden migraine in the middle of the night.

So I decided to experiment, to see if I could give myself a migraine by eating gluten even when I wasn't already feeling prone to a migraine. So I bought a loaf of bread. (Yes, that seemed very strange to me!) I ate a one slice with butter for lunch.



The next day -- just about 24 hours later -- I had a migraine. Since that experiment, I've been super-strict about avoiding gluten. I don't make assumptions about the menu when eating at a restaurant: I ask.

As a result, I've had just two migraines in the last six months -- and one was due to something "gluten-free" not being really gluten-free. (Yup, I knew better.) Hence, when someone tells me that paleo is just pseudo-science or a fad... well, you can imagine my reaction.

I don't think that gluten causes everyone's migraines. But I think that people with migraines would be smart to try a gluten-free diet -- or better yet, full-blown paleo. It might do a world of good!

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