Best Practices in the Kitchen to Prevent Migraine

As a general rule, eating to prevent migraine involves avoiding fermented and high histamine and foods in favor of freshly prepared, PREbiotic, and mineral-rich foods – as outlined in the SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol.

I want this article to be about what you can eat, not what you can’t.  But because migraine is essentially an issue of lymphatic congestion caused by compromised gut flora and environmental toxicity exposures that our bodies are too overwhelmed to handle, the issue of food sourcing and food quality is also important to mention – so please pay attention to the last two sections of this article to stay mindful of ways to avoid adding to the chemical overload.

Please note that the practices outlined below do not take into consideration every single food sensitivity that every migraineur may have (that diet would be breatharianism).  The list below emphasizes healing foods that support gut health and electrolyte balance and generally prevent histamine overload.  Sensitivities to oxalates, salycylates, sulfites, benzoates, etc. are not addressed here.

Prebiotic Foods

I’ve written about prebiotic foods and why I adore them so much already, but want to do another quick overview here.  Prebiotic foods are foods that contain soluble fiber which is resistant to breakdown in the small intestine and preferentially feeds the healthy bacteria in our guts. They are very different from probiotic foods and priobiotic supplements in that they support the growth of healthy bacterial populations already present rather than trying to introduce new bacteria.  Many strains of PRObiotics are histamine-producing (which is why kim-chi can give you a migraine), whereas PREbiotics contain no histamine and reduce histamine load.  There are different types of prebiotics, including arabinogalactans, resistant starch, inulin, galacto-oligosacharides, pectins, and gums.

It’s essential we eat a lot of these foods to maintain a diverse microbiome.  Many people are averse to foods high in prebiotic fibers because they can initially cause gas and bloating.  In many cases this is just a temporary discomfort – and a sign that the pathogenic bacteria are being replaced with healthy bacteria.  Gas and bloating is an expected “side-effect” that occurs as your body’s gut flora recalibrate.  However you do want to go slow on introducing prebiotic foods into your diet (as outlined in the SimplyWell Protocol). I have many prebiotic-rich recipes in my recipe section.  The easiest foods to incorporate into your diet to get sufficient prebiotics are:

  • raw carrots
  • cold bean dips like hummus
  • potato salad (with lemon juice instead of vinegar!)
  • raw jicama (use it in salads or drizzled with lime juice)
  • raw radishes (eaten alone or in salads)
  • cold rice (I make a lovely tabouleh using rice instead of bulgur wheat)
  • anything made with fresh or dried shredded coconut
  • cold lentil salads or Dosa wraps

Cautions: those with SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth will not do well on prebiotics and will need to address SIBO first.

Selenium-rich Foods

Selenium is needed to make glutathione, the body’s most important antioxidant (which is usually low in those with migraine, because the high inflammation levels mean that this antioxidant is in constant demand and therefore depleted.  Interestingly, triptan medications used to treat migraine also deplete glutathione).  Selenium is also essential for thyroid health.

It is commonly said that Brazil nuts contain the most selenium of any food. But according to Chris Masterjohn, PhD, the amount of selenium in Brazil nuts is highly variable, and entirely dependent on quantities of selenium in the soil the trees are growing in (since Brazil nut trees do not utilize selenium for their own needs).  Due to this, you may want to eat other foods that are high in selenium as well, such as blue corn and fish skin (so if you eat fish, be sure to eat the skin – this will also help to detoxify any heavy metals in the fish).

Cautions: Selenium is a sulfur-based molecule, and those with sensitivities to sulfur-rich food will not do well on selenium supplements or foods high in selenium until they address their sulfur issues.  See Dr. Greg Nigh’s protocol for more info.

Sulfur-rich Foods

It’s true that some people with migraine can’t tolerate sulfur-rich foods.  This is a sign of a compromised phase 2 sulfation detoxification pathway in the liver and should be addressed with your holistic health provider or in a migraine relief coaching session.  For those who can tolerate sulfur-rich foods, they are very beneficial for cleaning the liver among other functions.  It’s interesting to note that glutathione, the most important antioxidant in the body which is normally low in those with migraine, is a sulfur-based compound.  The best sulfur-rich foods are:

  • radishes, horseradish, mustard
  • bok choy, cabbage, mustard greens
  • protein-bound sulfur in meats
  • onions and garlic

Cautions: Those with SIBO may have high sulfur and will need to address their sulfur sensitivities before eating sulfur-rich foods.  See Dr. Greg Nigh’s protocol for more info.

Methylating Foods

You don’t have to take methylfolate or methylcobalamin to methylate properly (these may actually cause problems for those with migraine).  Foods high in choline and trimethylglyceine can also lend methyl groups, help your liver to detoxify, and prevent migraine.  The best source of choline is egg yolks.  Poultry, rice, and peanuts are also good sources, as is sunflower lecithin.  It’s best not to overcook egg yolks so that you preserve some of the sulfur as well.  Choline is also important for improving levels of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter which regulates the vagus nerve, improves vagal tone, and reduces inflammation.

For trimethylglyceine, eat foods from the amaranth family – quinoa. I personally love incorporating organic quinoa orzo into my dishes. The trimethylglyceine in quinoa and beets will also help your liver to detoxify excess xenoestrogens, so go slow and gentle on these – especially on the beets. Eating organic liver sourced from healthy animals is also a good way to support methylation (and will also provide you with balanced levels of copper and zinc, as well as B vitamins).

Cautions: Overmethylation can also cause headaches, so avoid methylated B vitamins. Beets are also a good source of trimethylglycine but because they are a migraine trigger they are best avoided (they are high in arginine, nitrates, and oxalates).

Healthy Fats

Because migraine is caused in part by lymphatic congestion, and the lymphatic system is a lipid-based system (ie, a fat-based system), consuming healthy fats is essential to support your body’s ability to detoxify. Fats are also a superb form of energy that are easily utilized by the body and do not (contrary to popular belief) lead to weight gain.

Saturated fats are preferable because they don’t go rancid/get oxidzed as easily as unsaturated fats.  Saturated fats also have many other beneficial properties.

  • The most important fat to implement into your diet is olive oil.  The oleic acid in olive oil increases the diamine oxidase enzyme responsible for the breakdown of histamine.  Olive oil also has analgesic (pain relieving) qualities similar to Ibuprofen.  Another benefit is that it is not processed with the use of solvents such as hexane as many other vegetable oils are.  It’s important not to cook olive oil at high heat, however.  Drizzle it onto food once it has been cooked, or use it in salad dressing.  The olive oil you purchase must be virgin unrefined organic olive oil.
  • Coconut oil is a superb oil for supporting gut health.  The fatty acids in coconut oil increase butyric acid (butyrate) in the colon (prebiotic foods, once digested, also produce butyrate). Butyrate increases GABA, the calming neurotransmitter in the brain, which also puts the brakes on glutatmate toxicity. Butyrate also increases ketones in the liver, thereby optimizing blood sugar regulation and even ATP energy generation on a neuronal level.  Butyrate also helps to maintain the integrity of the gut lining. People who are sensitive to the sulfur in coconut meat are usually not sensitive to the oil.  Always buy organic virgin unrefined oil.
  • Ghee (clarified butter) and butter are both excellent fats to incorporate into the diet liberally, with ghee being even better than butter because it contains no casein and can withstand high temperatures.  Ghee should be your high heat cooking oil (you can learn to make your own here).  Both ghee and butter contain 3-4% butyric acid, the highest source for any food. However, unlike coconut oil, butter and ghee contain omega-3 fatty acids which are needed to balance other Omega-6 vegetable oils. Omega-3’s have been shown to decrease inflammation and mediate pain.  It’s very important to buy only grassfed, pastured, or organic ghee or butter to avoid contaminants which tend to bio-accumulate in the fat of animals raised for butter.
  • Red Palm Oil is an amazing oil which contains tocotrienols, a rare and important form of vitamin E, as well as squalene, a potent antioxidant which aids the body’s ability to eliminate environmental toxins, including radiation. Red palm oil is beneficial for arthritis, gastrointestinal upset, and gout.  It boosts energy and improves circulation. It helps to improve absorption of vitamin D and build important hormones such as progesterone (a glutamate scavenger). This amazing oil in unrefined red form is has also been shown to help with lead detoxification in rats, and to decrease blood platelet aggregation (ie, makes blood cells less sticky).  To top it off, red palm oil is also one of the highest plant-based sources of CoQ10.  Red palm oil is a medium-heat oil.  It is important that it be sourced in a way that doesn’t destroy ecosystems.  I use Nutiva Organic Red Palm Oil, which is grown in Ecuador rather than SE Asia so does not negatively affect Orangutang habitat.
  • Lard and tallow are both excellent fats and also contain omega-3 fatty acids. Because lard and tallow are both rendered down from the entire animal, the issue of purity is crucial.  This is not a type of fat that I personally use often because it is challenging to find quality sources of grassfed, pastured, or organic lard and tallow.  (Unfortunately, I am not convinced that all pastured animal products are pure. I live in Oregon where I regularly see cattle grazing in open fields directly next to roundup-ready corn fields, which are sprayed with glyphosate.)

Cautions: Oxidized oils can seriously disrupt enzyme function, so making sure your oils are of top quality is key.  Also, overall people with migraines have poor liver and gallbladder function – therefore, while healthy fats are important, it is still valuable to not go overboard with fat or oil consumption even when they are of quality. For more information on fats and oils read the book “Deep Nutrition”.

Meat and Seafood

As always, the most immediate issues here as meat consumption pertains to migraine are freshness and quality (that means canned fish and salami are not supportive of migraine).  Unfortunately, most meat that we purchase, even that which we consider fresh, is actually somewhat aged.  Beef and lamb are usually cured/aged, and fresh fish such as salmon can be on the shelf for as long as 18 days prior to sale.  The presence of bacteria in these less-than-fresh meat products may not be a huge problem for people who only get migraines once in awhile.  However for those who are stuck in chronic migraine, it’s important that much fresher meat be consumed, such as meats and seafoods that were frozen at slaughter.

If you are highly sensitive to histamine, then the meats need to be eaten fresh and right away after you prepare them.  Leftover meats and especially canned fish like tuna have been known to trigger migraines.

Quality is also important, so opt for meats from the healthiest animals you can find, raised without the use of antibiotics or genetically engineered grain.  Buy organic meats whenever possible or better yet, buy localy-produced meats.  However, it appears that often times smaller-scale farmers raising local meat still use genetically engineered grains or may not be able to afford organic grain. There is also one issue to consider which is that animals raised by organic standards have probably still been vaccinated using genetically-engineered vaccines.

Another glaring problem is that of industrial feedlots and the enormous cost to the environment in the production of mainstream meat products and the inhumane treatment of animals raised for food.

Image by Mishka Henner

Because of these problems, I feel that eating less meat is better when it comes to eating healthy and consequently, reducing migraine.  I don’t see how we can eat sick animals that are destroying the environment, and expect to get better on that.

As with any food, individual preferences and tolerance will play a role here.  It is valuable to consider also whether or not you have sufficient stomach acid to break down the meat that you are eating, since undigested meat can ferment in the colon.  Therefore, eating smaller portions of meat (2-3 ounces per meal) for optimal digestion, and eating it less frequently, are options to consider.  It appears inevitable that the more meat is consumed, the less vegetables and fiber-rich food are consumed, because meat is so filling.

I want to mention one other potential problem with meat consumption.  Although the amino acids in meat are very valuable as building blocks for enzymes and building tissue, the breakdown of animal protein also results in nitrogen in the body.  This nitrogen converts into ammonia, and under normal circumstances, the body is able to convert the ammonia into urea and excrete it in the urine via the urea cycle.

However, due to certain genetic polymorphisms, as much as 30-40% of the population may be compromised in their ability to effectively eliminate ammonia as urea.  For this group of people, eating less meat is important as one way to reduce ammonia.  It is also possible that there are other ways that ammonia builds up in the body even in the presence of intact urea pathways.  This is something I am currently researching.  It is clear that a buildup of ammonia in the body leads to leaky gut syndrome and, in combination with the presence of glutamate in the system, contributes to encephalopathy (brain inflammation) and therefore is probably a contributing factor in migraine. For an excellent podcast on this topic, please listen to Chris Masterjohn on “Are We All Evolved to Eat a High Protein Diet?

(Incidentally, the alternate pathway for urea elimination in those with compromised urea cycles is via arginine.  As it turns out, lysine will block arginine since it shares the same receptor site, and lysine rich foods just so happen to be foods like parmesan that we recognize as migraine triggers.  Intriguing.)

Last of all, I do want to mention the value of organ meats for healing.  Of all meat, organ meats are the highest in fat-soluble vitamins crucial for bodily repair.  Therefore if you have access to quality organ meats and are not offended by their flavor, making fresh pate or eating liver or heart may be hugely supportive to your health, especially the health of your liver and heart.

Vegan Diets

To what extent are vegan diets supportive of migraine or detrimental to healing?  My personal view is that vegan diets are a great cleansing diet for a limited amount of time.  They are especially valuable as a way to get a huge amount of plant matter into your body, and reset your relationship to meat.  If you go back to eating meat after having been vegan, like I have, you will notice just how dense and hard to process meat is compared to other foods.  On the other hand, this density is valuable for grounding and also seasonally may be more appropriate at some times than at others (in winter, for example).

The vegans I know all eat very differently, so having the absence of meat or dairy be the defining characteristic of veganism is not actually a description of how each vegan will eat.

Historically, there are no examples of vegan societies (that I am aware of).  This does not mean that it is not an evolutionary step that more and more people are choosing to eat vegan given the environmental and ethical issues that arise with our problematic culture of meat production.  Just because wide-scale veganism has never been seen before doesn’t meant that it’s not worthwhile to try it.  But, it appears from my research that it is extremely difficult to get the same quality and amount of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, and E which are crucial to healing and especially important for lymphatic and brain health while on a vegan diet.  (One workaround for vitamin A as a vegan is red palm oil, since the beta carotenes in red palm oil convert more readily into vitamin A in this fat-based substance than eating beta carotenes from other plant sources).

Whether or not being vegan in general is healthy or not, I am not convinced that it is healthy for a sick person who is trying to heal to try to do so while vegan.  People with migraine may be less efficient at converting plant-based nutrients into similar forms found already in animal products than vegans without chronic illness. One of the most important vitamins for healing migraine is vitamin A in the form of retinol, which is needed to make ceruloplasm so that copper can be bioavailable for DAO and MAO to break down histamine and tyramine.

Teas and Coffee

As I mentioned in a previous blog post on the benefits and drawbacks of coffee, tannins in both coffee and some teas are problematic because they bind to and deplete essential B vitamins.  Therefore if you consume coffee or tea it’s essential to take a B vitamin complex to replace these (however, B vitamin supplementation can also be a migraine trigger itself – stay tuned for more blog posts on this topic and how to deal with it.)  For a healthy herbal coffee recipe alternative, click here.  The healthiest caffeinated teas are green tea and guayusa.  Guayusa is an Amazonian tea in the holly family (a relative of Mate), but does not contain tannins so will not deplete your body of B vitamins.

The noncaffeinated teas most supportive or gentle for those wanting to prevent migraine are listed below.  They are all delicious and many are also medicinal. My current favorite hot beverage is chamomile tea with honey and coconut cream (also a prebiotic). The last three in the list here are bitter and therefore supportive of liver health.

  • ginger
  • chamomile
  • holy basil
  • dandelion root
  • passionflower
  • lemon balm
  • black seed (nigella sativa)
  • chicory
  • peppermint
  • chaga
  • lemon balm
  • moringa
  • nettle
  • neem leaf
  • feverfew
  • butterbur

Herbs, Spices, and Flavorings

  • Liberally salt your food.  Sodium increases the uptake of Diamine Oxidase enzyme in the cell (thereby reducing histamine). It also helps cells to stay hydrated by bringing water into the cell.  Additionally, it helps to increase blood volume, meaning more blood will get to the head, preventing migraine.  Salt can raise blood pressure, which for most people with migraine is good (since migraineurs generally have low blood pressure). Unfortunately, most sea salt has been shown to be contaminated with plastic estrogens.  Therefore, use Himalayan pink salt or any other salt mined from ancient stores.
  • The most supportive spices are ginger, garlic, onion, chive, parsley, cardamom, oregano, pepper, thyme, rosemary, mint, black pepper, black seed (nigella sativa, roasted), mustard, and basil.  Many of these spices have anti-inflammatory and medicinal compounds.
  • You can also get creative adding flavor to foods with lemon zest, orange zest, lavender water, or rose water.
  • Absolutely remember to avoid the top high-histamine spices: cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, chilli. Also watch out for turmeric (curcumin), which is high in salycilates and reduces DAO.

Sauces & Dressings

It’s true that eating low histamine can be pretty dire in the sauces department.  Many sauces contain MSG, soy sauce, vinegar, or some kind of “umami” (Japanese for “goodness”) flavor.  Without these high histamine flavor options, it’s true that food will be a bit more bland. Below are a few options

  • Homemade tomato relish instead of catsup (use fresh tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, and maple syrup and blend).  Tomato does have some naturally-occuring MSG in it but fresh tomato should not be a problem for those who do not have chronic migraine – wheareas tomato paste and sauce is more potent and problematic.
  • Cheese-free pesto
  • Nut-based creamy sauces, like this creamy ranch dressing
  • Cream-based sauces like this lemon cream sauce are fine as long as they don’t contain additional cheese or wine.

Dairy

Because most dairy consumed is in cultured or fermented form (yoghurt, cheese, etc), eating low-histamine means cutting out most dairy. On the other hand, dairy contains prebiotic galactooligosaccharides as well as riboflavin and balanced electrolytes.  I have had clients report getting temporary alleviation from raw milk fasts! (Although unfortunately, the results weren’t repeatable).

Caution around dairy consumption is important, though, because dairy is mucous-forming as well as acidifying.  Many people can’t handle the casein, lactose, or milk proteins as they change after pasteurization (as compared to raw dairy).

The safest dairy to eat is butter, ghee, cream and milk (ideally in raw form).  The safest form of cheese is fresh mozarella cheese (but eating this won’t help you prevent migraine, it will just add a smaller load to your histamine than, say, parmesan cheese will). Opt for the freshest, most local organic unpasteurized milk if it is available.  Raw milk contains valuable enzymes for digesting milk.  Unfortunately many local producers of raw milk can’t afford organic grain so it can be challenging to find both local and organic milk.

Grains

These days, with the dominant trend in Paleo cooking, grains are being avoided by more and more people.  Grains are carbohydrates, and carbs are also being demonized.  I will never be able to demonize carbs, because it is through consumption of prebiotic starches found in carbohydrate foods that I got well. I have seen mixed evidence as to how bad the presence of phytates in grains really are. Phytates contain inositol, which is an essential compound for improving receptivity in neurons to important neurotransmitters. I believe that grains are an important part of a healthy diet, eaten in moderation. On the other hand there is evidence that relying on too many grains, especially whole grains with the bran intact (where the phytic acid is) can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

  • For migraine, quinoa is the most supportive grain, for reasons already mentioned (helps detoxify the liver of xenoestrogens and also methylate).
  • Rice is an important grain for those with migraine as it is a prebiotic when served cold (though rice grown in the deep South of the United States is often contaminated with arsenic – YUM).
  • Corn can be problematic because culturally, we don’t usually process it in the way that traditional cultures did through use of wood ash lye (this is known as nixtamalization).  Consuming polenta and corn chips not processed through nixtamalization can lead to niacin deficiencies – so if you eat corn, opt for tortillas, tamales, hominy, or other corn products properly processed with lye.
  • Millet is the most alkaline grain, though it is very high in oxalates and can interfere with thyroid function as well as contribute to pellagra (niacin deficiency), so avoid millet.
  • Wheat contributes to glutamate load. A very small amount of organic wheat, if tolerated, is fine.I believe that the majority of problems people are having with grains (and especially wheat) has to do with:
  • the presence of herbicides and pesticides sprayed on conventional grains, especially the presence of glyphosate/roundup on conventional wheat
  • inability to properly process carbs due to gut flora imbalances and subsequent vitamin B depletion necessary for proper carbohydrate metabolism
  • rancidity in grains, especially grains that are milled
  • oxalates in grains, which people are intolerant to due to the presence of pesticides and herbicides in their diet, from which the body makes oxalates. (For a great podcast on oxalates, click here).
  • the presence of vitamins used to fortify grains, such as folic acid in wheat, which is not well tolerated by those with migraine due to the fact that it contributes to glutamate overload
  • the presence of potassium bromate and other flour treatments, especially in wheat, which may interfere with thyroid function
  • the fact that many grains like wheat are specially bred now to contain higher amounts of gluten than those in the wheat strains we evolved eating
  • genetic engineering of grains: while wheat is technically not an approved genetically engineered product, large test plots of GMO wheat have contaminated the food supply.
  • Cross-contamination of GMO corn grown for feed has also infiltrated the corn supply.  (Blue corn is the safest corn to eat and also high in selenium).

Nuts and Seeds

The crucial thing to keep in mind when consuming nuts and seeds is their rancidity.  Nuts and seeds can be preserved and stored in the freezer for a few months to prevent this.  Nuts and seeds are amazing healing foods because they contain many important minerals like copper and zinc, vitamin E, as well as selenium and tryptophan needed for proper neurotransmitter functioning.  However, nuts are also a known migraine trigger.  I believe this is because they are generally high in arginine, which feeds latent herpes viruses living on the cranial nerves and in the brain, as explained here.

Brazil nuts are well known to be high in selenium so many people eat a few of these daily to get sufficient selenium.  Unfortunately because Brazil nut trees do not require selenium themselves, their uptake of selenium is entirely dependent on the soil the tree is growing in and is highly variable.  They also go rancid easily.

With all of these considerations, eating very small portions of fresh, unroasted and unsalted nuts according to tolerance is healthy. One way to do this is to buy your nuts with the shell on, as this keeps them fresh and prevents overeating.

Beans and Pulses

As mentioned in the section on prebiotic foods, beans and pulses are a very valuable source of nutrition for those battling migraine – they are full of prebiotics and protein as well as important B vitamins.  If you tolerate them, they should be eaten liberally. Many people who think they don’t do well with beans may want to try waiting a few weeks before ruling them out – it could be that the prebiotics are causing increased gas as they change the gut flora for the better.  Gas is a normal and expected side-effect of eating prebiotic foods initially, but this dies down after a few weeks of consistent consumption. If you are sensitive to the lectins in beans you will need to address that before being able to reap the benefits of beans. However, I am not convinced that lectins are necessarily a huge problem especially as they are disabled by heat.  It could be the presence of other things such as sulfur in beans that give people issues when they have an underlying sulfur sensitivity.

Sweets

Many migraineurs have trouble with sweets and carbs.  This is due in part to depleted gut flora and the subsequent low B vitamin levels needed to process carbs.  For those who do tolerate some sweets, the best sweeteners are small amounts of maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar. Honey is actually a prebiotic (though it also contains sulfur).

Some foods, such as carob and coconut meat, provide less concentrated sweet flavor.  Feel free to peruse my recipe section for safer sweet treats, such as my “Lower Histamine Carob Almond Fudge Recipe” and others.  When in doubt, eat seasonal fresh organic fruit for a sugar fix if you tolerate it. Absolutely avoid all dried fruit including dates and raisins as these are major migraine triggers.

Avoid these Obvious (but Unfortunately Ubiquitous) “Foods” – if You Don’t Already

It should go without saying that in addition to avoiding fermented and high histamine foods, it is important not to consume “food-like” substances (aka, highly processed “foods”), genetically-engineered foods, foods sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, and animal products from animals raised on genetically-engineered grains or foods sprayed heavily with herbicides and pesticides.  In other words, in addition to eating low histamine, eat organic and local as much as possible if you really want to prevent migraine.

Best Food Storage – Canned, Tetrapack, or Frozen?

For those times when you are unable to eat completely fresh food, opt for frozen food over canned food.  Even BPA-free cans contain harmful chemicals.  Anything that is shelf stable is probably not supportive of migraine and will contain histamine, tyramine, putrescine or cadaverine.  Any food that is shelf-stable could be a potential migraine trigger, whether from the way that food changed on the shelf or because of the packaging they sit in.  Foods that you normally would buy in tetrapacks, such as nutmilks, broths, etc should be discarded and made from scratch.

Finally, Perform a Fridge and Cabinet Audit if You Really Want to Prevent Migraine

Many of the problematic foods will be in your cabinets in the form of condiments and canned foods. Also the doors of your fridge will contain many histamine-triggering foods as well. Refer to the list of high-histamine foods and systematically rid your kitchen of them – or designate them to a separate shelf if you live with people who eat histamine-rich foods. It’s hard to resist temptation and prevent migraine when these foods are scattered througout your kitchen.

After you’ve done the purge of histamine-rich foods, set the intention to eat organic whenever possible.  While organic standards do not ensure that foods are completely free from chemicals, eating them does lower our exposure by orders of magnitude – for some foods more than others.  If you cannot afford organic food (we all could if it was subsidized in the same way “conventional” food was), it is worthwhile to take the time to educate yourself about which foods are the most heavily sprayed.  Spinach, strawberries, and potatoes, for example, absolutely need to be eaten organic as these are some of the most pesticide-laden crops.  Click here to educate yourself about the Environmental Health Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen”, and other resources for eating clean, such as their “Clean Fifteen” list of conventional foods least sprayed.  EWG even has a Healthy Living App.

One food that absolutely must be eaten organic is wheat – if it is eaten at all – as well as barley, beans, and oats – all of which are often sprayed with roundup (Glyphosate) at harvest time to evenly dry and “ripen” them before going to market.

 

 

Low Histamine Rainbow Succotash Breakfast Recipe

I’ve found a delicious, healthy breakfast that my whole family loves eating.  It’s very easy to prepare and it gets me started off on the right foot because this dish offers lots of healthy fats to support my lymphatic system and loads me up with minerals and prebiotics (resistant starch in the beans, arabinogalactans in the carrots).  The sulfur in the cabbage supports sulfation detoxification pathways, and the potassium and magnesium in the kale support electrolyte balance.

What makes this dish more than just healthy but boring steamed vegetables is the corn and the fat.  The corn adds a lovely sweet flavor that balances our the greens – and the ghee, olive oil, seasonings and the beans make this meal very filling, flavorful, and satisfying.

If you prepare the kale, carrots, corn, and cabbage ahead of time – chopping and grating them finely as pictured below, then spinning them in a salad spinner – this meal can be made very quickly. I make large amounts of this mixture and keep them in a big bag in the fridge.  Then I just sautee the garlic in ghee, throw in the veggie mixture, add the black beans for reheating in the side of the pan, and dish up in a matter of minutes.

I also like to sprinkle this dish with some mild New Mexico chile (since my histamine isn’t so high anymore).  If you are very sensitive to histamine, you could use paprika instead.  It’s the spicy capsaicin in the seeds of chillis that triggers migraine, not the sweet meat of mild chilli or peppers.  Alternately, if you cannot handle any chilli at all, use lots of black pepper, as this helps raise blood pressure.

I use both ghee and olive oil in this dish to get the benefits of both.  Fat helps the vitamins and minerals in cooked vegetables to become more bioavailable.  The butyric acid in the ghee will help feed healthy gut bacteria, and the Omega-3 fatty acids will help lower inflammation.  The olive oil drizzled on top afterwards will help to reduce histamine and raise diamine oxidase.

My husband likes to put a fried egg or two on top of his.  The choline in egg yolks is excellent for raising methylation. Remember to load on the salt, we need it!

Ingredients for 2 Meals of Succotash:

3 cloves of chopped fresh garlic, sauteed in
3 T of clarified butter/ghee
4 cups of prepared chopped cabbage, kale, grated carrot, and frozen or fresh corn
2 cups of black beans
chilli, pepper, paprika, and salt to taste
drizzle of olive oil
garnish with cilantro, avocado
2 fried eggs (optional)
Squeeze of lemon or lime (optional)

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.simplywell.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Marya.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Marya Gendron is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist, health coach, and wellness researcher. She specializes in chronic migraine headache relief and alleviation of brain fog, indigestion, and histamine intolerance through plant-based solutions.

The SimplyWell Protocol is available here, or you can book a consultation with Marya.
Learn more about Marya’s healing journey here.
[/author_info] [/author]

Does Niacin (B3) Contribute to Migraine and Histamine Intolerance?

niacin

Updated Oct. 26, 2017. Since writing this article I’m more and more convinced of the benefit of niacin to those with migraine, despite the fact that niacin is a methyl sponge.  Stay tuned for more blog posts on niacin.

Migraineurs generally have high histamine, high homocysteine, low blood sugar, dilated blood vessels and consequent low blood pressure, and liver and gallbladder problems – in addition to the splitting head pain! Niacin (nicotinic acid), as it turns out, is known to contribute to, cause, or exacerbate all of these problems.  On the other hand, niacin reduces glutamate and increases serotonin, which in and of itself is hugely relevant to those with migraine.

We need B vitamins, without a doubt.  Migraineurs especially benefit from B2 (riboflavin), B5 (pantothenic acid), and B6 (pyruvic acid).

If you have migraines, you probably have already been prescribed B vitamins, especially methylated B12 or methylfolate. The problem is that supplementation with either single or combined B complex vitamins can often trigger migraines. Clearly, we need (some or most) B vitamins, but it appears we often can’t tolerate them.  Why are we deficient and why can’t we tolerate supplementation?  How do we get out of this chicken-and-egg conundrum? And is niacin (nicotinic acid) one of the culprits in migraines triggered by B vitamins?

First, a Word about Forms of Niacin and Food Sources

Niacin is available in three forms – niacin (nicotinic acid), niacinamide (aka nicotinamide), and inositol nicotinate.  Niacin will cause a flush, while niacinamide and inositol nicotinate will not.  While all forms are good for their ability to heal schizophrenia, niacinomide is not as effective as niacin or inositol nicotinate for lowering cholesterol. It appears that niacinamide and inositol nicotinate may be more supportive of those with migraine if it is true that they don’t trigger mast cell degranulation in the same way that niacin does (this is discussed later in this article). Slow-release niacin capsules are also available (but not recommended, according to the research I’ve done).

Foods containing niacin include turkey, chicken, liver, mushrooms, peanuts, and tuna. Nutritional yeast also contains very high levels of niacin – and is a known migraine trigger (hmmmmm . . . ). Also, you can buy histamine-degrading probiotics which produce niacin. One of the histamine-reducing strains that produces niacin, b. infantis, can be purchased as a stand-alone probiotic (I found this brand, though I have never tried it so am not promoting it specifically). B infantis also produces the b vitamins folate, biotin, and thiamine.

The Benefits of Niacin

I don’t believe in demonizing any food or essential vitamin, especially not niacin.  Like all B vitamins, niacin has an important role to play in our health. Below are some of the properties of niacin, most of which are beneficial to those with migraine:

  • helps reduce nitric oxide
  • thins the blood
  • improves cholesterol levels
  • acts as a sleep aide
  • has been shown to be especially helpful in healing schizophrenia, alcoholism, and arthritis
  • increases serotonin levels by slowing the loss of tryptophan (a deficiency in niacinamide will
    drive breakdown of tryptophan. Reduced levels of tryptophan will result in decreased levels of serotonin). (Source)
  • acts as an important cofactor in glutamine synthetase enzyme, thus reducing glutamate levels (which get elevated in part due to methylfolate).
  • breaks down norepinephrine, epinephrine, and estrogen (as a cofactor for the COMT enzyme)
  • protects against both UVA and UVB damage (while sunscreen only protects against UVA.
  • helps stimulate production of hydrocholoric acid in the stomach (Source)

Potential Problems with Niacin for Migraineurs

Nevertheless, as mentioned, niacin is a “methyl sponge”.  It requires SAMe for its metabolism, and thereby contributes to a drop in methylation.  Bad reactions to niacin indicate deficiencies in SAMe.

Niacin also has a range of other effects that are known to be associated with migraine. According to the Mayo Clinic, niacin supplementation may also result in the following symptoms (I have reordered these in order of their relevance to this discussion):

  • migraine
  • headache
  • stomach upset
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • liver damage
  • nausea
  • hypothyroidism
  • increased homocysteine levels
  • insulin resistance
  • abnormal heart rhythms
  • heartburn

In addition, niacin also

  • Raises histamine (again, by way of mopping up methyl)
  • Contributes to a drop in methylation
  • Depletes/lowers B9 (folic acid)
  • Depletes/lowers B6 (which we need to produce the DAO enzyme among others)
  • Dilates blood vessels (and thereby lowers blood pressure)

One testament to niacin’s ability to raise histamine is the typical face flushing that accompanies it’s use.  It was previously assumed that the flushing is the result of a histamine response.  It is now understood that the flushing is a result of prostaglandins.  According to practitioners of Orthomolecular medicine, people with low histamine need more niacin to get the flush than people who already have high histamine (and migraines) do.  It is said that people with high histamine will flush with just 50mg of niacin whereas people with low histamine may need as much as 150mg to flush.

One Major Cause of Low Vitamin B (and Niacin) Levels:
Gut Flora Imbalances

It could be said that migraine is essentially, at its root, a chemical sensitivity and lymphatic congestion issue caused by gut dysbiosis and excessive chemical pollution including pharmaceutical medications.  The solution is to heal the gut by rehabilitating gut flora (with help from B vitamins), and in so doing also support the building blocks for optimal nutrient absorption, enzyme function, blood sugar metabolism, blood pressure regulation, and detoxification.

Our gut flora normally manufacture B vitamins in our body for us (with the exception of B12) – assuming the particular gut flora that produce them have not been depleted by antibiotics and medications.  When our guts are assaulted by pharmaceuticals and stress, the healthy gut flora are thrown off in favor of histamine-producing bacteria and we become deficient in B vitamins; hence, the need for supplementation.  Different B vitamins have different functions, but they work together as a whole family (which is why I question the use of single B vitamins).

The human gut microbiota supplies its host with essential nutrients, including B-vitamins.. . . [H]uman gut bacteria actively exchange B-vitamins among each other, thereby enabling the survival of organisms that do not synthesize any of these essential cofactors. . .  [I]n addition to diet, the gut microbiota is an important source of B-vitamins, and . . . changes in the gut microbiota composition can severely affect our dietary B-vitamin requirements. (Source)

If gut flora produce B vitamins, would supplementing with a probiotic to replenish the gut flora help with B vitamin production? Maybe, in theory – but because probiotics are made through fermentation they can often trigger migraine as well. Normally I am not in favor of probiotics for migraine because the “good”, histamine-degrading bacteria are mixed in with some histamine-producing bacteria.  Fine and good if you have great gut health – not so great if you already have an overload of histamine.

Dr. Stasha Gominak, a neurologist who started to help her migraine patients by improving their sleep and gut health, is NOT in favor of probiotic supplementation, but she IS in favor of vitamin D and B supplementation:

Current suggested treatments for the ‘wrong’ intestinal bacteria are probiotics and fecal transplants (poop from one person given as an enema to another person to implant the ‘right’ bacteria). Neither of these work for very long. I think  the problem is not the supply of the bacteria it is the intestinal environment. We have to supply the happy, helpful bacteria what they need to thrive and they’ll replace the bad guys.  My experience has been that the ‘happy, helpful’ bacteria need the proper amount of vitamin D (enough so we aren’t sucking up every bit of it for our own use, this is usually a D25OH blood level of greater than 40 ng/ml. ) plus larger doses of B vitamins for about 3 months. (Source)

The bottom line is that when gut flora are thrown off and detoxification pathways are compromised, inflammation and histamine increase as the body tries to flush out the waste that would otherwise have another means of exiting the body.

Which Bacteria Produce Niacin?

Recently, it was discovered which bacteria produce niacin:

The two most commonly synthesized vitamins of the human gut microbiota genomes were riboflavin and niacin, with 166 and 162 predicted producers, respectively. . . . . However, the two synthesis pathways are distributed differently over the five phyla. Riboflavin synthesis is mainly found in Bacteroidetes, Proteobacteria, and Fusobacteria, but it is only found in half of the Firmicutes genomes and very few Actinobacteria. In contrast, the niacin biosynthesis pathway is more evenly distributed over the genomes of the five phyla. Such differences between the distributions of these two pathways can have various explanations. First, this variation may reflect their evolutionary history; riboflavin synthesis appears to be more ancient than the NAD biosynthesis pathway. Second, the biosynthesis of riboflavin and its derivatives is a quite straightforward pathway, whereas the biosynthesis of NAD is very complex and includes numerous versions of salvage pathways in various bacterial taxa. (Source)

It’s also great news that at least one of the histamine-degrading probiotic bacteria – b.infantis – also produces niacin:

Niacin, or vitamin B3/nicotinic acid, is an essential nutrient, whose importance is often characterized by the consequences of insufficient intake. Symptoms such as nausea, skin problems, headaches, and, in severe cases, pellagra can result from niacin deficiency. . . . Similar to other B vitamins, B. bifidum and B. infantis appear to be good producers of niacin. (Source)

Methylation and Niacin

Phase 2 detoxification pathways are the routes through which our cells hook activated toxic substances up with small nutrient groups, neutralizing them and making them water-soluble so they can be eliminated in urine.  One of the major detoxification pathways is called methylation. Our detoxification pathways get overwhelmed by chemical assaults, some of them exacerbated by genetic polymorphisms (like MTHFR, but also those related to sulfation and glutathionation).

These days, it’s all the rage to blame all manner of histamine issue on gene polymorphisms such as MTHFR.  And that’s clearly playing a role in people’s elevated histamine issues and histamine intolerance – since those who have high histamine are undermethylated.

But as pharmacist and functional medicine practitioner Suzy Cohen points out, you can be undermethylated without the MTHFR polymorphism – because pharmaceutical medications can also compromise your methylation:

The biggest mistake you could make is thinking that methylation problems don’t apply to you because you don’t have the gene mutation . . . I assure you that your medicine has the capacity to mess up your methylation! (Source)

It’s also worth considering an alternative viewpoint on methylation, Anthony William’s perspective as a medical medium that:

The MTHFR gene mutation test is currently in its infancy and is not as accurate as the medical community believes. . . The MTHFR gene mutation test . . .  is just a basic test that reveals inflammation in the body. Although this test is given under the guise of a gene test and a real gene is being looked at, it is ultimately only able to indicate if there is inflammation in the body. . . The inflammation that triggers off a positive MTHFR gene mutation test stems from toxic byproduct wreaking havoc as it moves from the liver into the bloodstream. This can play a part in producing abnormal homocysteine levels. Eventually, this “dirty” blood prevents proper methylation or the conversion of folate or folic acid. (Source)
People can also be OVERmethylated and LOW in histamine.  While that’s not generally a problem people with migraine have (if their migraine is part of a picture of histamine intolerance or overload), using B vitamins such as methylfolate and methylcobalamin CAN eventually tip people into an overmethylated state.  At this point, niacin is very useful, because it mops up methyl. (For more information on overmethylation as compared to undermethylation, click here). 

But for those of us who are generally UNDERmethylated, taking a B complex vitamin that includes both methylated forms of B12 and Folate will be counterbalanced by the presence of the niacin.  And if the amount of niacin is very high, the total overall effect could theoretically result in a deepening of the methyl depletion.

So, it’s complex.

Some Additional Considerations Re: Niacin and Methylation

When I spoke with one of the formulators at NOW supplements, they explained to me that 1) quantities of niacin in B complex vitamins are formulated based on a general target market and the ratios presented by the marketplace and competition, as well as by recommended daily allowances set by the National Institutes of Health – B complexes are NOT formulated in ratios meant to prevent undermethylation or specifically for those with migraine.

Also, you can get migraine from both under-and-over methylation, though they are accompanied by different psychological states (undermethylated being more depressive, foggy, and lethargic – overmethylated being more amped and full of tension and anxiety).

There is more to migraine than methylation.

 

Niacin Can Both Trigger and Treat Migraine.
What is Going on Here?

The literature and anecdotal evidence for how niacin affects migraine is all over the board. There are case reports of people getting rid of headaches using high doses of niacin, as well as a few studies that show people getting resolution of migraine with niacin (some with intravenous niacin, some via the oral route). Finally, there are also anecdotal reports of people’s migraines being triggered by niacin.

There is more to consider about niacin than the fact that it is a methyl sponge. Niacin is also a “histamine liberator”, which might be why taking it would initially raise histamine but eventually clear it out.  The ability of niacin to clear out histamine (and glutamate) may explain its ability to benefit those with migraine.  Dr. Hoffer, the founder of Orthomolecular medicine and huge proponent of niacin, said:

“It is necessary to give enough (B3) to empty the histamine storage sites to a level at which there is no time to replenish them by the time the next dose is taken. It may require 6 to 8 grams per day for some people.” (Source)
As it turns out, niacin has been used to treat histadelia (high histamine), as well as histapenia (low histamine). Jonathan Prousky, ND, points out that:
Using niacin to treat histadelia might seem contradictory considering it will augment the release of histamine from basophils and tissue mast cells. However, there is evidence that the niacin flush is mediated by the release of prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) from dermal macrophages and not from degranulation of basophil and tissue mast cells. Further, Hoffer suggested that daily intake of niacin gradually lowers total body histamine by chronically depleting storage levels. Niacin has a complicated mechanism of action that modulates histamine release, lowers total blood histamine, and increases the production of PGD2. (Source)

 

What to Do?

Given that people with digestive-based migraines generally already have high histamine, LOW blood pressure, and blood vessel dilation, it seems logical that their symptoms would be exacerbated by niacin.  Because niacin depletes B6, which is needed to make the histamine-degrading enzyme DAO (diamine oxidase), additional supplementation with B6 may be beneficial for those choosing to supplement with niacin.

Upon reviewing all of this evidence for and against niacin, I initially felt very cautious about niacin, and thought it might even be the culprit B vitamin causing so many migraines in people who take a B complex. But ultimately, I’ve found that intellectual and research-based ideas of how beneficial something is only go so far.  Especially when the evidence is mixed or split as to different qualities of a substance, it comes time to experiment. This is where the rubber meets the road.

While everyone may react differently, my observation in clients taking niacin with migraine is that it is actually very beneficial.  It appears that its glutamate-lowering and serotonin-raising effects far outweigh its undermethylating and other effects, at least in those people with migraine who have excess glutamate as its cause. Furthermore, it appears that the flushing form of niacin works to abort migraine while the non-flushing forms do not.  I also found out that coffee contains a fair amount of niacin and this may be one reason it helps to get rid of migraine.  Intriguing!

Other Potential B Vitamin Migraine Triggers

I was always suspicious of methyl B12 as a stand-alone supplement, because I’ve personally experienced migraines triggered by B12. I have come across some evidence that B12 can be toxic in the presence of glutathione depletion.  Glutathione is our most powerful and abundant antioxidant in the body, and migraineurs are generally low in it. (As it turns out, triptans – the most popular drug for the treatment of migraine – also deplete glutathione.  This is another way of saying that triptans cause inflammation).

Not only folic acid, but also methylated forms of folate can be problematic also because they may increase glutamate and lower serotonin levels. The politics of methylfolate and which forms are available in supplement form as compared to prescription form are especially complex.

I will share more research on this topic in my online course, as well as my blog post on how I make my own customized vitamin B blend.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.simplywell.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Marya.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Marya Gendron is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist, health coach, and wellness researcher. She specializes in chronic migraine headache relief and alleviation of brain fog, indigestion, and histamine intolerance through plant-based solutions.

The SimplyWell Protocol is available here, or you can book a consultation with Marya.
Learn more about Marya’s healing journey here.
[/author_info] [/author]

Three Incredible Cheese-free Pesto Recipes

I frequently get asked for help with recipe ideas for sauces and dressings to spruce up low-histamine foods, so I wanted to offer these pesto recipes up for your consideration. Eating low-histamine needn’t be bland! I found these amazing pesto recipes in my friend Helen Spieth’s “Guided Fall Cleanse and Nutritional Program”, which she does twice a year out of Portland, OR. I wanted to feature and highlight these different versions of pesto because pesto is a great way to get olive oil into your diet.  As you may know, olive oil is high in oleic acid and has been shown to decrease histamine load, especially in the lymphatic system.  It also increases the enzyme DAO (which breaks down histamine), so I recommend people get a lot of olive oil in their diet (cold-pressed organic virgin of course!).

Directions: combine all ingredients except oil in a food processor and pulse until well combined.  Add a little extra olive oil to get it going.  While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the oil until the desired consistency is achieved, adding more if necessary.  Put in jars and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Cleansing Pesto

2 cups basil
1 bunch cilantro
2 cups parsley
2 cups soaked sprouted almonds skins removed
3-4 garlic cloves
3/4-1 cup olive oil
1/2 a lemon
1/2 tsp salt

Spinach Lemon Basil Pesto

1.5 cups fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh spinach
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemons (2-3)
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
3-4 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon Dill Pesto

1 bunch fresh dill
4-5 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 Tbsp lemon juice
1-2 tsp lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.simplywell.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Marya.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Marya Gendron is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist, health coach, and wellness researcher. She specializes in chronic migraine headache relief and alleviation of brain fog, indigestion, and histamine intolerance through plant-based solutions.

The SimplyWell Protocol is available here, or you can book a consultation with Marya.
Learn more about Marya’s healing journey here.
[/author_info] [/author]

Easy Tangy Herbed Cashew “Chevre”

This cashew chevre recipe is one that I adapted from other recipes online which contained histamine-triggering ingredients like apple cider vinegar and nutritional yeast.  This version is free of those trigger ingredients, and tastes similar to the almond “feta” recipe, but is much less labor intensive because it requires no straining of the excess liquid, and no baking.

2 cups cashews, soaked for 3-6 hours and drained
2 clove garlic
1/3 cup of lemon juice (juice from 2 lemons)
1/8 t lemon zest
2 t salt
3 T refined coconut oil (so there is no coconut flavor)
3 T virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water

Directions: After soaking and draining your cashews, blend cashews and all other ingredients at high speed until very creamy and smooth. Scrape the mixture out of the blender into a bowl and keep covered in the fridge overnight.  Prior to serving, scoop the desired amount out of the bowl and roll it into a log or roll shape across your favorite blend of fresh chopped herbs.  You can use chive, rosemary, parsley, basil, thyme, black pepper, or oregano.  I also like to roll (or sprinkle) mine with sweet roasted paprika powder, which imparts an amazing smoky flavur and, unlike other chillis, is generally not a histamine trigger.

If you a prefer a milder, less tangy, less salty version of this soft “cheese”, adjust ratios to make more of a sour cream like cheese using, for example, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1.5 t salt, and 1 clove garlic instead of the above quantities.  For sour cream, you don’t have to chill it or roll it in herbs.

Another alternative is to mix the chopped fresh herbs into cheese mixture.

This cheese is excellent over tacos, on rice chips, or spread onto vegetables.

Enjoy!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.simplywell.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Marya.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Marya Gendron is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist, health coach, and wellness researcher. She specializes in chronic migraine headache relief and alleviation of brain fog, indigestion, and histamine intolerance through plant-based solutions.

The SimplyWell Protocol is available here, or you can book a consultation with Marya.
Learn more about Marya’s healing journey here.
[/author_info] [/author]

The Cheese That Won’t Trigger Migraines: DIY Almond Feta Recipe

A few years ago, my parents decided to experiment with going vegan for three months.  They loved it so much, they are still vegan now.  Whenever I go home to visit them, my father serves up this delicious almond cheese with many meals.  He makes it a few times a week, and many of his non-vegan neighbors also make it now just because it tastes so good.

This exquisite vegan cheese has a lot to offer those of us who are migraine prone (even if we are not vegan) because it is not fermented and therefore won’t trigger a histamine response like most cheeses or fermented dairy will.

Through all of my experimenting with different ways to eat, I’ve learned that anything that is perceived as a limitation (such as not being able to eat cheese) is really just an invitation to explore a whole new world of options that would have never been discovered otherwise.

This almond feta cheese shows us that we can avoid fermented dairy products and still enjoy creamy, savory, “cheese”. This cheese is also great for those of us who are migraine-prone because the almonds are full of magnesium and oleic acid, the olive oil increases DAO and reduces histamine, the salt improves electrolyte balance, and the rosemary reduces CGRP, an inflammatory neuropeptide implicated in migraine.

Yes, it will take some time to make this cheese (more than going to the store to buy some cheese) – but the more involved we are in our own food production, the more we are likely to savor and appreciate every bite.  And yes, almonds are more expensive than cheese (thanks to big subsidies for corn and soy fed to milking cows), and require a ton of water as well as imported pollinating bees to produce.  All the more reason so appreciate every single morsel rather than gorge on it.  Bottom line: I think we can all agree that having this cheese substitute is much preferable to caving into a cheese craving and then spending the next day with brain fog or a migraine headache.

So enjoy this recipe from Vegetarian Times!

Ingredients:

1 cup whole blanched almonds
¼ cup lemon juice
3 Tbs. plus ¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 ¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves

Instructions:

1. Place almonds in medium bowl, and cover with 3 inches cold water. Let soak 24 hours. Drain soaking liquid, rinse almonds under cold running water, and drain again.

2. Purée almonds, lemon juice, 3 Tbs. oil, garlic, salt, and 1/2 cup cold water in food processor 6 minutes, or until very smooth and creamy.

3. Place large strainer over bowl, and line with triple layer of cheesecloth. Spoon almond mixture into cheesecloth. Bring corners and sides of cloth together, and twist around cheese, forming into orange-size ball and squeezing to help extract moisture. Secure with rubber band or kitchen twine. Chill 12 hours, or overnight. Discard excess liquid.

4. Preheat oven to 200°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap cheese (it will be soft), and transfer from cheesecloth to prepared baking sheet. Flatten to form 6-inch round about 3/4-inch thick. Bake 40 minutes, or until top is slightly firm. Cool, then chill. (Cheese can be made up to this point 2 days ahead; keep refrigerated.)

5. Combine remaining 1/4 cup oil, thyme, and rosemary in small saucepan. Warm oil over medium-low heat 2 minutes, or until very hot but not simmering. Cool to room temperature. Drizzle herb oil over cheese just before serving.

Histamine Intolerance: What it is, and Foods to Avoid (Video)

Histamine Intolerance: What is it?

Histamine Intolerance is an overall state of inflammation characterized by an overly full “bucket” of histamine, which is caused mostly by various pharmaceutical medications and dietary habits. For a more detailed paper on Histamine Intolerance, click here.

Histamine & Tyramine Rich Foods

Antihistamine Foods

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Antihistamine Recipe Links

Anti-inflammatory Chai with Turmeric, Ginger, & Coconut
Antihistamine Mint, Jicama, and Radish Prebiotic Salad

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.simplywell.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Marya.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Marya Gendron is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist and health coach specializing in chronic migraine headache relief and alleviation of brain fog, indigestion, and histamine intolerance through plant-based solutions. She practices out of Portland, Oregon. In January of 2016, Marya healed herself of chronic debilitating migraine headaches caused by pharmaceutical medications she received after a c-section operation. Her life purpose is to educate people about broader health-care and self-care options through promotion of specific fabulous medicinal foods that have been forgotten or ignored. She is actively trying to form a Folk Medicine movement to transform the culture of suppresive and poisonous medications to one of holistic health accomplished through an educated, pro-active, and mutually-supportive community.[/author_info] [/author]

Anti-inflammatory Chai with Ginger, & Coconut

Antihistamine Ginger Turmeric Chai Simplywell Migraine Protocol

If you’re familiar with the low-histamine diet as a way to manage histamine intolerance symtoms, you’re probably aware that many spices traditionally used in delicious chai contain histamine – especially cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice.  I love cinnamon, and am so grateful I can eat it again.  Cinnamon is a plant that is dear to my heart, because it was the ingredient that clued me in to my migraines and histamine intolerance.  Early on in my migraine hell post c-section, a naturopath prescribed a Chinese remedy that contained cinnamon in it as its first ingredient.  She was trying to help me with my peripheral neuropathy issues, and thought cinnamon would be great for increasing circulation to my limbs.  But while on the remedy, my migraines got even worse (she also prescribed vitamin B12 to me, which increases histamine). I examined the ingredients and started doing some online research.  It was the realization that cinnamon contains histamine that tipped me off to the whole concept of histamine intolerance, which was one step on the path towards me finally healing my migraines.

The beauty of my protocol, the SimplyWell Migraine Protocol, is that elimination of histamine and tyramine rich foods is only a temporary step while your gut heals.  So, you should be able to drink normal chai with all the cinnamon and nutmeg in it again – but you may not want to after tasting this delicious and creamy antihistamine chai.  Eventhough I can consume traditional chai spices now, I stick to this chai recipe because I love the benefits all the ingredients confer, and it tastes amazing.

This chai imparts an incredible creaminess without the use of dairy, thanks to the coconut oil.  You can use coconut manna too (which has arabinogalactan prebiotics in it) but it will be a little bit gritty.  I prefer just the oil. Cardamom is anti-inflammatory and incredibly delicious.

This chai will spice up your antihistamine diet during the temporary month long elimination phase of the Simplywell Migraine Protocol.  The majority of antihistamine foods are bland and have little flavor – so this chai will bring some much-needed character and kick to an otherise bland diet.

Anti-inflammatory Chai Recipe

2.5 thumbs of chopped raw ginger (a thumb is the width and length of the tip of your thumb to its first joint)
3 cups of water
seeds from 2 pods of fresh cardamom, or 1/8 t of turmeric powder
a dash of fresh black peppepr
honey or maple syrup to taste (I use 1.5 teaspoons)
1.5 T coconut oil (or manna)

Important Note: I also like to add 1 thumb of fresh turmeric (or 1.5 teaspoons of dry turmeric powder) to this mix, but I don’t include it in the main recipe here because turmeric is a DAO inhibitor.  If you get migraines relatively infrequently, adding turmeric to this drink will probably be overall very beneficial for you, but if you get constant migraines, you should probably leave the turmeric out.  Now that I no longer get migraines thanks to the SimplyWell Protocol, I use turmeric liberally.  Turmeric is not a migraine trigger, but because it is a DAO inhibitor, it is not supportive of the breakdown of histamine.

To make this, simply blend together all the ingredients except for the coconut and honey in a blender on high.  Transfer this mixture into a saucepan and simmer for about 5 minutes.  The color will change from a lite to a deep orange.  Strain the mixture back into the blender so that only liquid remains.  Add the honey and coconut and blend for about 30-60 seconds so that the coconut gets fully whipped into the chai.  I like my tea very strong but if you prefer it less concentrated, just add a little more hot water.

Enjoy!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.simplywell.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Marya.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Marya Gendron is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist and health coach specializing in chronic migraine headache relief and alleviation of brain fog, indigestion, and histamine intolerance through plant-based solutions. She practices out of Portland, Oregon. In January of 2016, Marya healed herself of chronic debilitating migraine headaches caused by pharmaceutical medications she received after a c-section operation. Her life purpose is to educate people about broader health-care and self-care options through promotion of specific fabulous medicinal foods that have been forgotten or ignored. She is actively trying to form a Folk Medicine movement to transform the culture of suppresive and poisonous medications to one of holistic health accomplished through an educated, pro-active, and mutually-supportive community.[/author_info] [/author]

Migraine Relief Coaching & Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis

I offer health coaching over the phone or via Skype to people globally. Health consultations for migraine headache relief come with a complimentary copy of the SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol.

Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) is a very helpful tool and service that I offer to get accurate information about your mineral status.  A HTMA is not required for migraine coaching but it is highly recommended. To learn more about HTMA and mineral balancing, visit this page.

Rates

OPTION 1: Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) Lab and Report
This option involves a hair analysis without a one-on-one coaching session.  After receiving your intake and lab report from Trace Elements, I will write up a report including my analysis of the results.
Cost: $155 including lab fee of $55

OPTION 2: One-on-One migraine coaching
This includes a free copy of the SimplyWell Protocol, a one hour phone or Skype session with Marya, and a follow-up email including all instructions and summary of the consult.
Cost: $150

OPTION 3: One-on-One migraine coaching with HTMA:
This includes a free copy of the SimplyWell Protocol, a one hour phone or Skype session with Marya, a HTMA lab and mineral analysis written report, and a follow-up email including all instructions and summary of the consult.
Cost: $205 including lab fee of $55

To Schedule an Appointment

To schedule an appointment, email me at marya at simplywell.info, or call 802.281.2948. In your introductory email, please let me know 1) where you live and your time zone 2) your schedule and preferred time frame for a session, and 3) your Skype username if you have a Skype account.

Coaching Intake Form

Here is the intake form in

Some people print it out and scan or photograph it and send it back to me. If you don’t feel like you want to share personal info over the web we can go over the intake during the session, but this will cut back on our time discussing other things. If you do get the intake to me before the session, please do so at least one day prior to the session so that I can review it.

How to Cut Your Hair Sample

Complete instructions for how to obtain a hair sample for Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis are available here.