When Denise called me to ask if I could help her long-suffering husband Albert with his migraine headaches, I could only reply: "Well, I've helped others with migraines." That was all they needed to hear. Little did they know what they were getting into.

Albert's migraines had plagued him for over 20 years; and by now he was fed up with all the medications he had tried. They were only treating the symptoms, he felt and just barely so. In fact, the 45-year-old welder's migraine was constant. It was just that it wasn't so bad if he took the pills.
After a work-up and lengthy discussion, I suggested that Albert try an "elimination diet." This is a "less is more" diet, commonly used by special allergists called clinical ecologists, naturopaths, and herbalists, like myself. It's designed to eliminate and later reintroduce foods that might be provoking a person's symptoms. The principle is that sometimes the best medicine is not what to take but what not to take.
Although well-controlled studies have repeatedly shown that many, if not most, migraineurs can obtain relief by avoiding foods and beverages that trigger their headaches under double-blind testing conditions, I cautioned Albert: "This approach is not a guarantee, but it probably will eliminate at least some of the causes of your migraine."

Albert took the bait; I mean bite, I mean...

On day four of the diet, which had Albert avoiding all foods and beverages commonly incriminated as migraine triggers, a rattled Denise called me. "Albert is not doing well. In fact, he's getting worse!"
This was my cue to explain the concept of a "healing crisis." Sometimes, I told a somewhat skeptical Denise, you have to get worse before you get better especially when the foods that are making you ill are like addictive drugs that provoke "withdrawal symptoms" when you begin to avoid them.
I don't always have to tell my clients this. Healing crises are not inevitable, and most people do not get worse before they get better. But sometimes just expecting one to happen can make it more likely to occur. Unfortunately, Albert's crisis was so intense that the last I heard from him and Denise that week was that he'd reached back into the painkiller bottle in desperation. I anticipated that one of two things would happen: Albert would give in to the cravings he was probably feeling for his "addictive allergens," or he would trust me enough to weather the storm.
On the day Albert returned to my clinic for his follow-up visit, I was smiling broadly when I strode into the consulting room. I could afford to, because I knew what to expect. Another client who works with Denise had told me Albert had already been completely migraine-free for ten days. Smiling right back at me, Albert confirmed that he was doing much better. As rough a ride as the elimination diet had been, it had taught him that one of the most common allergens in the Western diet was likely the cause of his twenty-year "my grain." Wheat.
Not every case of allergic migraine is due to "my grain." The law of "different strokes for different folks" truly applies here. But among the most common triggers/ allergens are cow's milk, eggs, nitrates, tomatoes, grapes, bananas, benzoic acid (including benzoate food additives, monosodium glutamate, shellfish, peanuts, potatoes, chocolate, cheese, cured meats, alcoholic beverages, coffee, and oranges. And, of course, not every migraine is allergic either.

Copyright (c) 2002-2010 by Rand Smith.