Making sense of the 123 heal your headache diet / food trigger list

Healing your headache can range anywhere from a minor delay, all the way to years of life-changing habits.

Luckily, we have experts who lead the way in terms of research and treatment with patients of all types of headaches, from migraines, to clusters to trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias and everything in between.

One of these experts who spent many decades in the field is Dr. David Buccholz, the creator of the 123 plan to heal your headache.

In this article, we will be talking about what the 123 plan is as talked about in his book and how we can incorporate it into the new understanding we have of migraines from the most recent research done.

What is the heal your headache diet?

The heal your headache diet was devised by Dr. David Buccholz after many decades of experience treating patients as a headache specialist.

The 1, 2 and 3 of the plan are to:

  1. Stop using quick fix medications
  2. Eliminate the food triggers on his food trigger list
  3. If needed after these two steps, find a great preventive that works for you

Let’s get into the specifics.

Heal Your Headache

The heal your headache 123

The 1, 2 and 3 are based on:

1. Avoiding the quick fix

2. Reducing your triggers

3. Raising your threshold

In avoiding the quick fix section, Dr. Buccholz highlights that medications and painkillers that are commonly used to abort migraines are in fact contributing to the majority of the problem.

He says that when we take a “quick fix” medication that even though we may be getting relief from an immediate headache or migraine, we are actually lowering our bodies’ threshold to trigger.

This is one of the reasons quick fix medications cause rebound headaches or what are called medication overuse headaches.

See the infographic below for some of the most common rebound medications.

Common migraine headache rebound medications

What are our trigger levels and threshold levels?

Trigger level is talked about a bit differently by David Buccholz than by me but it is essentially the sum total of all of the stress on your body.

The higher the stress coming in from all mental, emotional, physical, environmental, dietary etc areas, the higher our trigger level.

Our threshold is the level of tolerance our body has to stress.

We are both born with a predisposed tolerance….

(Some peoples’ bodies can take more of a beating than others)

But we also raise and lower our bodies’ tolerance depending on what we go through in life.

These two are talked about by Dr Buccholz but the way I approach migraines with patients is by understanding a third factor which is our foundations.

Our body is constantly trying to reduce the tension of stresses but also get stronger and increase its tolerance to them.

It does this through its main healing, regenerating and detoxifying systems.

These are the foundation principles and more information on them can be found in our article on the foundation principles of migraine health here.

Reducing your triggers

David Buccholz method of reducing your triggers comes from foods that have substances in them that may cause the dilation or constriction of blood vessels in the brain leading to trigger.

But over the years, the dilating and constricting theory of migraines has been found to be very flimsy and many migraine sufferers do not experience this.

Some of the foods he lists include:

  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine
  • MSG
  • processed meats
  • Cheese and other dairy products
  • Nuts
  • Alcohol and vinegar
  • Certain fruits and juices like citruses and those with preservatives
  • Yeast baked goods
  • Artificial sweeteners like aspartame
  • Possible connections to soy and processed proteins

This list is actually quite good and many would see improvement with it.

But it is missing some key points.

1. It is not accounting for individual sensitivities to foods, of which we all have and of which all of them cause our trigger levels to go up.

2. It is not accounting for the most inflammatory foods in our diets which place a huge load on our bodies.

3. It is not accounting for all of the biogenic amine filled foods that can create histamine and tyramine issues in the migraine sufferer. Migraine sufferers have been found to hold lower levels of an enzyme called DAO which is actually supposed to break these substances down and protect us from their damage. (Study)

See the infographic below for a list of often sensitive foods. This is similar to the heal your headache food trigger list but more in depth.

Foods to Eat

This is one of the reasons I created the food triggers guide which breaks the three areas down into simple steps.

Then at the end, I go through a step by step of applying and troubleshooting the food triggers guide and how to go about making the dietary changes.

If you’d like to learn more about the food triggers guide go here.

Raising your threshold

Dr. Buccholz goes on to say how to raise your threshold to trigger.

His approach is mainly through the use of a preventive medication, but this is only once the individual has come off of any quick fix rebounds and has removed the worst offenders from their diet.

This makes sense as preventing something you keep causing is counter-intuitive.

But instead of relying on medications, I like to look at more natural methods of relief. This usually comes in the form of nutritional supplementation.

Nutritional deficiencies are one of the biggest causes of migraines because without having the building blocks for our brain to run its systems, everything starts breaking down and waste piles up.

But when we can fix the deficiency and support the cleaning up of the waste so that it doesn’t damage more brain cells, we can get amazing relief.

There are many amazing supplements to use but this is specific to what is going on with you.

Many find magnesium, CoQ10, and riboflavin to be the star players in their relief and these have been shown to work well and be safe and well tolerated.

Always ask your doctor before making any changes to your routine.

Watch this video to learn about Dr Buccholz’ work.

How do we incorporate the 1 2 3 heal your headache plan into today’s understanding of brain, body and migraine health?

The 123 heal your headache plan is a great start but we want to tackle these areas deeper and I personally prefer to use more natural methods and correct deficiencies as opposed to just medicating.

This means we definitely want to:

– Lower our use of “quick fixes” and in some cases, we will want to use more natural supports like turmeric, ginger and other herbs

– Cut out all sensitive, inflammatory and amine filled foods according to the food triggers guide (See our article on the most common migraine triggers)

– Support our bodies and brains with more nutrients that diet may not be able to satisfy, especially if we are not eating a wild meat and organic food diet (See the migraineur food pyramid)

By taking these 3 areas laid out by Dr. Buccholz, we can take the more recent understanding of migraines as a protective mechanism often contributed to by nutritional deficiencies, hormonal dysregulation, structural issues, gut dysfunction and environmental sensitivity and we can take our healing program to the next level to have more pain-free days.

To become a part of this movement because you love natural solutions and learning about your pain join the migraine professional community here.

Have you ever read the book heal your headache?

Let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.

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