We all want to eat well so that we can extend our lives and the quality of them.
But often times it can seem like we are eating really healthy but still experiencing migraines and as we now know, food is one of the biggest causes of neurological stress.
I suffered from terrible, gut wrenching, make me hide in a dark room and grip a bucket migraines, but after changing what I was eating(and a few other things) they went away and I’ve been migraine free for over 5 years now.
In this article I am going to talk about what you can do if you feel like you are eating healthy but your migraines just won’t stop.
If we eat a meal and feel tired, get cravings, get jittery, start yawning or feel brain fog, we are not eating right.
The way we know we are eating the right foods at the right times in the right proportions is that we go from a slight dip in our energy before the meal to a smooth and steady transition to energy again.
No dips, no cravings, no mess.
1. Manipulate Macronutrients
This is the biggest factor in post meal energy.
Our body is always asking for varying ratios of our macronutrients and we can understand these as proportions.
Macronutrients are the big categories our food falls into like protein, fat and carbohydrates.
If we eat a meal and feel tired, chances are our meal proportions were off during that meal and likely the last few meals too.
Now, we can fall into different categories depending on our ancestry because a norwegian’s ancestors have distinctly different needs than a zimbabweans.
In the north there was little to no sources of carbohydrates in the winter because the ground froze so they had to depend on proteins and fats from animal sources…
Near the equator there was consistent vegetation all year long providing carbohydrates so animal sources weren’t as necessary.
The extremes end up with a 90/10 ratio either way.
So you could be 90% animal foods and 10% plant foods in the north…
Or you could be 90% plant foods and 10% animal foods near the equator.
But those are the extremes.
Often times our needs end up changing throughout the day.
Where my morning meal may be best suited toward steady clean sources of energy with proteins and fats, my evening meal may have some more carbohydrates to help my body’s cortisol levels drop so that I can sleep easy.
If I am training hard my body does much better with more animal foods.
If im sedentary then it loves vegetables.
During the winter, warming slow cooked foods help me function at a much higher level…
And during the summer, fruits keep me cool.
Seeing the play here?
It’s very real and our body is constantly asking for changes.
Don’t make everything the same and switch it up based on your needs.
Often times I find sedentary people eating too many refined sources of carbohydrates which cause huge problems because the body doesn’t know what to do with it all, this leads to the brain getting an overload of sugar and subsequent spikes and crashes while the body tries to re-regulate itself.
Que the fatigue and cravings…
2. Deal with GI issues
If you are eating a “clean diet”, do you still experience bloating, burping, gas, indigestion, reflux etc.?
It’s important to understand that it’s no longer just about what we eat.
It’s also about what we absorb.
Digests -> absorbs -> assimilates and eliminates food
When it’s functioning properly.
If we are having GI issues with a good diet then there are deeper pieces of the puzzle to look at and these most likely aren’t working right.
Some deeper issues include:
Parasites and funguses
Physical impingements etc.
Go for a deeper dive and look at yourself and your life objectively. Because everything in your body and its functioning is connected.
If we are experiencing an overload in one area, it can spill over into everything else.
Assess these areas:
Daily chemical intake
Variety of movement
Check out this video on great foods for some GI issues
3. Is the food digesting?
If we are digesting our food properly then our digestion goes like this:
– First and foremost we think of the food and our digestive juices start forming
– Our mouth salivates and we make sure we chew our food thoroughly to break it down into liquid because our body only absorbs liquids
– Food enters our stomach where if we are healthy, our stomach secretes hydrochloric acid and the pH in the stomach drops very very low, enough to further break down the food
– Our stomach releases its contents into our intestines and bile gets secreted to neutralize the acidic pH and release enzymes like lipase(fat digesting), protease(protein digesting), amylase(carbohydrate digesting)
– Then this broken down food that should be liquid at this point moves through the intestines where it gets further broken down into the building blocks of life
– Proteins -> amino acids
– Carbohydrates -> sugar
– Fats -> fatty acids
– As it moves through our intestines the massive amount of bacteria we have breaks it down further, creates vitamins for us to use and assists with the absorption process of those nutrients
But each piece in this process can go wrong.
If it does, we are set up for gastrointestinal issues and indigestion.
Some problems include:
– Not connecting to the food so digestive juices are delayed which often happens when we are rushing through life
– Not chewing food causing large food particles to enter our digestion making their break down difficult
– Not having enough stomach acid because of high levels of stress, infections, medications, not being present with the food etc.
– Lack of digestive enzymes and bile to neutralize pH because of a weak digestive system from a number of stressors
– Imbalance of bacteria which cause the formation of waste, overgrowth, infections, indigestion of food, creation of gas etc.
Digestion is everything and health begins in the gut.
Our gut health is directly proportional to our head health and its crucial we take care of our digestion and fix these steps along the way so that food provides nutrients for us instead of more problems to deal with.
4. Double check it’s actually “clean”
There are 5 extremely important ingredients that can be hidden inside food and can turn it from a healthy food, to a head banger.
But of course at the end of the day, the foods your body is asking for is individual to you.
These 5 are:
– Hydrogenated oils
– Food additives
– Food preservatives
– Empty carbohydrates
– Processed meats and meat products
Hydrogenated oils are everywhere.
If you have a packaged food and the ingredients lists a type of oil, it’s likely hydrogenated.
The problem is these hydrogenated oils are absolutely poisonous for our physiology and especially our brains.
With headaches we need to be very weary of sources of fat because our brain is mostly fat so any time we eat these sources we don’t want our body substituting our tissues with toxic building blocks.
They are one of the biggest causes of GI distress and inflammation across the board.
Next there is food additives and preservatives.
When we think of our brain health we also need to think of our gut health because anything that will compromise the gut, get through it, and into circulation, can get into the brain.
Additives and preservatives like sodium benzoate cause our body to say no way.
They can aggravate our gut, creating immune and inflammatory responses and push up the total stress load(trigger level) on our bodies.
For common food additives and preservatives to avoid click here.
Then of course we hit the empty carbohydrates.
This is most commonly present in processed and packaged food, and ingredients like high fructose corn syrup are notorious for it.
They cause our blood sugar to go up, but without nutrient complexes.
Nutrient complexes are where macronutrients like carbohydrates are bound to all the other nutrients like vitamins, minerals, enzymes, cofactors etc.
For example, when we eat a strawberry, we are eating strawberry cells which contain sugar but the cell is so much more than just sugar and comes with millions of different nutrients we need.
Processed meats and meat derivatives are usually conventionally raised and this means it was not fed well, it did not have a good life and the problems that it has had will transfer through into its meat.
For example, if we feel sad we can feel it head to toe.
Not only do we feel the effects of it but every cell in our body will suffer because of it. Painful emotions release chemicals like cortisol that have harmful effects on every cell in our bodies and this makes for very sick meat products.
Make sure you know where your meat is coming from.
5. Experiment with intermittent fasting/ changing meal times
One of the most common reports I get is that a patient is just not hungry in the morning so it’s hard for them to start off with breakfast being the biggest meal(which it should be for a dozen different reasons).
But it’s usually that they are also eating very very late at night and throwing off their circadian rhythms(day/night cycles).
This is really hard on the body and will destroy digestive ability.
Our body needs sleep to: rest, recover and repair.
Not to digest food.
Avoid eating late unless you have blood sugar issues in which case you need to have a nutritionist guide you on what to eat so that you can sleep sound and recover your blood sugars variability.
One of the best ways to improve digestion, heal hormones, stabilize blood sugar and activate the cleaning up processes of the body is intermittent fasting.
An intermittent fast is basically a mini fast.
The standard is fasting 16 hours and eating 8 hours a day.
This means only water for the 16 hours and during the 8 hours you fit in all your meals to make sure you get enough nutrients and calories.
But again, experimenting with meal times is important and ideally you would start off your 8 hour eating cycle first thing in the morning when you wake up.
Giving your body this 16 hour break from digestion helps heal up any problems you’ve developed over the years.
6. Get Tested
“Current research in parasite books says that approximately 90% of the world population has an active parasite infection”(Link)
This is everyone, not just third world countries like many people believe.
Now I’ve mentioned parasites a few times but this is highly underrated and almost every single patient I’ve tested has a gut imbalance, whether that be a pathogen or just dysbiosis(imbalanced good:bad gut bacteria ratio).
The way we can understand this simply is that when our body gets weak, when we don’t have proper hygiene, when we are highly stressed or put into foreign situations that our body isn’t adapted to like tropical vacations…
We can succumb to these tiny tiny organisms taking over our gut and becoming harmful.
This will kill our digestive capacity and any healthy food we eat will feed them instead of us.
If you have trouble with digestion or unexplainable illnesses and are told by specialists that you are fine then I suggest getting tested.
A regular doctor will usually not run the right labs so I recommend a functional medicine practitioner or naturopath.
7. Hone your other foundations
Now I’ve talked about the foundation principles before in an article here.
Without having them running at least half decently, our body will be under so much stress that it won’t be able to digest properly.
Each of the foundation principles is a staple in how our body functions so that it can maintain itself.
If you are eating clean and still having issues digesting then make sure the others are running at full capacity.
It can often take a while to reprogram patterns that we’ve been using for years especially things like breathing into our chest.
But consistent practise of them will create a cascade of beneficial reactions that are so much more powerful than just adding a supplement or changing a drug.
For example breathing is not just necessary for oxygen delivery but also CO2 delivery because we need them both to survive.
Breathing is also necessary for our organ function because it acts like a massage for them which without they wouldn’t clean themselves out properly.
Breathing is also a huge lymphatic pump. Our lymphatic system is like the waste management system of our body but it doesn’t have a pump like our blood does with our heart.
Where we have 3L of blood, we have 10L of lymph in our body. But this fluid relies on muscular contractions and the expansion of our diaphragm through breathing to be pumped.
Not only that but breathing also activates digestive and relaxing receptors if we do it right, or stress and anxiety receptors if we do it wrong.
All of these things can be improved if we breath right and this is just one example of how strong the foundation principles are for health.
If you want to know more about the foundation principles start the 10 steps program that has a dedicated module in week 7 for the foundation principles.
You can click here for the 10 steps program.
Eating a great diet is the absolute foundation for migraine and headache health.
Just the simple removal of food we are sensitive to from our diet has been shown in studies to provide near 100% improvement.
This is the basis for my new guide that is currently in its pre-release.
The food triggers guide is a one stop guide to clear up the confusion around food triggers.
In the guide I go into depth about:
– What causes food triggers
– How to heal your food triggers
– The most successful studies with food on headaches
– Gut healing basics
Get on the pre-release list here to be notified before everyone else when it comes out.
Click here to join the list.
Looking for a simple pyramid that lays out what foods to eat and what foods to avoid? Check out the migraineur food pyramid here.
Holistic Health Practitioner
Mark Canadic is a writer, speaker, holistic health practitioner and migraine community leader. Read Mark’s inspiring comeback story, “My Burnout and Brain Fires that Lead me to the Root.” Feel free to send Mark a message here.