For quite a few people who live with chronic migraine conditions, the holiday season if not only filled with cheer but also with dread at the thought of encountering environmental and nutritional triggers that could ruin the time they are supposed to enjoy with their loved ones.
For migraine patients whose headache episodes are triggered by certain scents and foods, the holidays can be a time of concern. Those who already keep migraine diaries that list the foods that they know will trigger episodes are already ahead of the game. In many cases, migraine prevention can be achieved with careful planning and management. To this effect, there are three main approaches to holiday meals for migraine patients:
- Avoiding known triggers and excesses
- Knowing how to politely turn down invitations and offerings
- Preparing migraine-friendly meals
Foods to Avoid and Knowing When to StopDietary plans for preventing migraines are based on health factors that are mainly related to controlling histamine intake, which essentially boils down to avoiding certain foods that have a high risk of prompting allergies. This approach is two-pronged: On one hand, even mild allergic reactions cause a certain degree of stress, which is the main known trigger of migraine episodes. On the other hand, foods that have a high content of histamines can also have a dilation and constrictive effect on blood vessels, which calls up the vascular factor of migraines.
The main food groups to avoid are those that contain added sugar, gluten flours, oils made from grains, preservatives, aged cheeses and berry fruits. One holiday treat that main contain all of the preceding elements would be a packaged or frozen cheesecake with a lush blueberry topping.
Needless to saying, steering clear from alcoholic beverages is also highly recommended for migraine patients who wish to avoid headache episodes during the holidays. This is particularly the case with red wines, but even white wine can be problematic when consumed to excess. Actually, anything consumed in excess by migraine patients could become a headache trigger; for this reason, it is very important to exercise moderation during this season.
Turning Down Invitations and Staying PoliteBeing too reserved or afraid of turning down invitations to social gathering or declining offers of eggnog, hot toddies and other enticing holiday cocktails can result in stressful situation, and we all know what can happen when migraine patients experience stress.
A major aspect of politeness is honesty. If you are invited to a holiday party that you suspect will be crawling with potential triggers, the best approach is to talk to the host about your health issues in way that leaves the conversation open to questions. You would be surprised at how many people are not aware of migraine triggers, and the best that can happen is your host being understanding to the point of trying to accommodate your presence at the party. In this case, turning down an invitation is not recommended; in fact, you should attend and develop a closer bond with this gracious host for future social interaction.
Migraine-Friendly Holiday MealsDepending on your tolerance for potential food triggers, preparing holiday meals that will agree with your migraine condition can be a fun and delicious activity. Try these two recipes:
Custard Pumpkin PancakesThe key to preparing migraine-free pancakes is to look at traditional recipes and replacing certain ingredients. To this effect, try using sorghum flour, almond meal, tapioca starch, coconut milk, spiced pumpkin pure, unsalted butter and no eggs. The dry ingredients should be mixed ahead of the wet ingredients and later incorporated. The texture of the pancake mix should be bubbly and baking powder can be added at your discretion. The mix should be gently ladled into a pan over low to medium heat.
Gallo Pinto, the Traditional Breakfast of Costa Rica
This delicious and unusual breakfast is easy to make and migraine-free as long as grain or seed oil is not used. The idea is to mix cooked white rice and black beans together in a pan as diced onions, bell peppers, fresh cilantro bits and poultry seasoning are gradually added. The ratio of white rice to cooked beans should be about 3:1, and they will taste better if they were made the day before. It is very easy to know when gallo pinto is ready to be served: Simply wait for the rice and beans mix to turn an appealing dark color and allow the mix of cilantro, onion and peppers to lightly emanate from the pan.
*Image courtesy of foodswings