Naturopath Rhaya Jordan tells us how we can get the better of a splitting headache
Flashing zigzag patterns, feeling nauseous, wobbly concentration and co-ordination, hot and cold sweats, tingling in your neck and shoulders and, above all, a crippling headache are all symptoms of a migraine. This debilitating ailment affects more people than asthma, diabetes and epilepsy combined. It is our most common neurological complaint.
Each person's migraine triggers are unique, and it usually takes a combination of factors to get you over your migraine `threshold'. One of the best ways to work out what your individual triggers are is to keep a food and symptom diary. To be able to manage your migraines, you really do need this information ± it will be almost impossible to put this issue behind you without it.
A migraine diary doesn't need to be very detailed. Just jot down what you've been eating, how much sleep you've had and any medications you've taken. After a month it may become clearer to you what your own individual patterns are. Perhaps you will discover you can tolerate a glass of red wine when well fed and rested, but if you are tired, stressed or premenstrual, that same glass of Merlot may lead to three days in bed feeling violently ill. Consider yourself your own experiment, where n=1.
Caffeine seems to have a role in migraines and you could ditch it altogether. If that's not possible, then it is important to try to balance your caffeine intake during the week and on the weekend, especially if you are prone to a Saturday headache. Try to drink less coffee and tea during the week so you do not have a mini withdrawal crisis on the weekend, when you may sleep in and not have coffee 'til mid-morning, by which time you are in the prodromal stage of a headache. Changes in sleep patterns can also trigger headaches, so include details about your bedtime and weekend lie ins in your migraine diary so you can work out whether the trigger is changes in your sleep pattern or caffeine.
If you want to keep caffeine in your diet while reducing your intake, why not try better quality caffeine drinks? Green and white tea contain caffeine, but also have high antioxidant levels and are easily available as tea bags. If you want coffee, then bring a small cafetière into work and make a good quality, organic coffee. It takes only seconds longer to make than instant, and is a more worthwhile food to put in your body.
If you suffer from migraines, it's just not worth it to skip meals or let yourself get too hungry, as low blood sugar seems to be a common trigger. This can be difficult if you have a demanding lifestyle, so have good quality snacks on hand. And if you are caught out and getting hungry, prioritise your health and go and grab a snack.
Although there is no doubt that specific triggers set migraines off, in naturopathy we are very interested in the background inflammation in your system and how to increase your resilience, not just avoid your triggers. In naturopathy, migraines are considered an illness that's linked to liver and gut function. If you are constipated, take some psyllium or flax seed, drink more water, and make sure you resolve the issue. Try the best quality liver formula you can from your health food store and take it for at least three months. Look for one with milk thistle and artichoke. Add a good multivitamin with high levels of B vitamins and Magnesium as well.
Even more than supplements, food has a huge impact on the liver, and vegetables are the most important aspect of your diet. Eat lots of green things! If you keep a migraine diary, it should be easy to identify if your diet is full of white foods, with too little fruit and vegetables. Go for at least five servings of vegetables, and keep white bread, pasties and white sugar to a minimum.
If the work biscuit tin tempts you, get your own good quality, tasty snacks to have on hand. Even an organic wholemeal biscuit is going to be better than a jaffa cake (in terms of headaches, that is!), and nothing beats fresh fruit.
Start your day with a glass of water with some fresh lemon squeezed in, also good for the liver.
You might already be aware of the high amine foods that migraine sufferers are cautioned to avoid: red wine, cheese and chocolate. If you are really suffering, then it may be worth the pain of an elimination diet ± but one based on a little more evidence than most. Basically, this means going back to how we ate before the 70s ± home cooked fresh food, bread from a bakery that doesn't use preservatives and nothing out of a packet. Colourings, preservatives, hydrolysed vegetable protein flavour additives including MSG have been found to contribute to migraines. It is not easy to avoid foods that have been doctored for flavour and shelf life, but it is definitely worth doing.
• citrus fruit and dried fruit • preserved meats like ham and salami • full fat milk – try skimmed or a milk alternative, such as soy, almond, coconut, hemp, hazlenut or oat milk instead • preservatives, colourings and flavour enhancers • chocolate
No more headache baked beans on toast
Gurpareet Bains’ No More Headache, Baked Beans on Toast uses a medicinal quantity of the analgesic spices nigella and caraway to help soothe away aches and pains. This recipe is extracted from Gurpareet’s latest recipe book Indian Superspices, £12.99. Visit his website, Gurpareetbains.co.uk for more...
"I love these beans hot and steaming, poured over freshly toasted wholegrain bread. The caraway and nigella seeds come together with the wholegrains to perform a symphony of tastes and textures on your palate. Marvellous!" Gurpareet Bains
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp nigella seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp curry powder
400g (14oz) can baked beans
Freshly chopped coriander
Pour some olive oil into a deep saucepan; add the caraway, nigella and mustard seeds and cook over low-medium heat until the seeds start to pop. This should take no longer than 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately sprinkle in the curry powder, mixing well.
Pour the beans into the saucepan and heat through, stirring occasionally.
Garnish with the freshly chopped coriander (cilantro), and serve on hot toast.
For more information or support for migraines, contact Rhaya at Londonnaturopathy.com. For more information about the dietary research of The Royal Prince Alfred Allergy Unit, and their programme Friendly Food go to Sswahs.nsw.gov.au/rpa/allergy/default.htm
Juice goddess Karen Boyle tells us how to embrace the wonderful world of juicing...
There has been a huge surge of popularity in juicing in recent years, from juice bars popping up everywhere to a huge range of home juicers on the market that enable us all to juice from the comfort of our very own homes. So why is there such a buzz about juicing?
Well, it's fairly simple. Freshly squeezed juices are abundant in vitamins, minerals and enzymes which flood your cells instantly. Juices boost the health and vitality of each individual cell in the body and provide a powerful boost for cell regeneration. Some people proclaim juicing to be the fountain of youth!
So why bother to juice rather than just eating the fresh fruit and veg, you may ask yourself? Well, the high nutrient value of a pint of freshly squeezed juice cannot be compared to eating the equivalent in fruit and vegetables. In order to make a pint of organic carrot juice, four or five large carrots would be required. Not many of us would sit and chomp our way through five raw carrots for breakfast!
We also have to factor in the digestion of raw fruits and vegetables. It requires a lot more energy and time to break down the fibre and release all those wonderful nutrients when you eat raw vegetables. In comparison, by drinking those same vegetables in a juice, the nutrients are absorbed through the stomach much faster and are sent straight to our cells.
Juicing has a whole host of health benefits. Many people report glowing skin, hair and nails when incorporating juices into their daily diets. Juicing is fantastic for a variety of skin issues such as psoriasis and eczema, and many people have noticed huge improvements in these conditions.
Weight loss is also an added bonus because when the body receives the correct fuel and nutrients, it doesn't have to send out signals of hunger for more sustenance, so you won't be reaching for those munchies as often.
A greater sense of mental clarity and focus can be found on a high juice diet, especially by starting your day with a fresh juice in the morning rather than reaching for your usual caffeine-packed cuppa.
Internally, juicing helps to alkalise and detoxify the body. If we don't include plenty of raw plant food in our diet and tend to consume an abundance of meat, dairy, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol, then we create an unhappily acidic environment for our cells to live in. This can cause chronic inflammation over time, which will eventually lead to heart disease and cancer.
It has been reported that 51 per cent of our diet should consist of raw living plant foods. Juicing for breakfast with some fruit, seeds and nuts as a mid morning snack can account for 33 per cent of your daily diet being raw. So you don't need to ditch the solid food completely in favour of fresh juices. By simply introducing even one juice a day, you'll start to notice the difference in your levels of vitality and wellbeing.
You can pretty much juice any fruit or vegetable, but remember not to only juice fruit as you'll create a sudden spike in blood sugar levels which will leave you feeling pretty hungry and tired shortly after. A good mix of fruit and vegetables will create the ideal nutritional juice.
Aim for roughly 60 per cent of very low to moderate sugar vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, peppers, fennel, courgettes, celery, cucumber, lemons, limes, ginger, beetroot and carrots. Then to this, you can add roughly 30 per cent of sweet fruits such as apples, pears, oranges, berries ± anything that takes your fancy. It really comes down to personal choice but remember to experiment and use a variety of fruit and vegetables.
Finding your favourite juice is all part of the fun, and you'll be amazed at the many different varieties of plant that are game for a bit of juicing action. Green leafy vegetables may not sound like ideal candidates, but they make some of the best juices. Below are some of my favourite recipes. Experiment with quantities until you find the juice that suits your tastes best:
Beetroot, fennel, pear and lime
Kale, courgette, rhubarb, apple and blueberries
Celery, cucumber, apple, lemon and ginger Remember to drink plenty of natural spring water alongside your juices. By keeping hydrated, you help the body to flush out all the toxins, creating more space that can be filled with juicy health. n
On Karen Boyle's detox and weight loss retreat, Anamcharadetox.com, guests receive five varied juices daily. If you have any juicing questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ian Marber AKA the Food Doctor tells us that a low budget shouldn't stand in the way of a healthy lifestyle…
We all know that we should be eating a healthy diet, with options ranging from vegan to organic and low fat to high fibre. But whatever your chosen version of eating well might be, sometimes it simply isn’t possible. Aside from time constraints, the notion that eating healthily is more expensive and will add to the burden of an already stretched family budget is widespread. Of course, if you choose organic food, your expenditure will increase, but aside from that, eating healthily is more affordable than you might think.
I believe that a good diet consists of a few basics – eating little and often, combining the food groups, choosing naturally lean proteins, eating essential (or omega) fats and eating as little sugar and salt as possible. Translating that into what to eat is easier said than done, especially when it comes to getting enough protein in the diet.
Protein is especially important for people who work long hours, as it can help achieve sustained energy levels. As you may know, carbohydrates are digested relatively quickly (simple ones such as white pasta and refined foods more so than complex carbohydrates like wholegrains) while protein takes longer. When complex carbohydrates are eaten with a little protein, the digestive system is able to break them down to release glucose at a slow, steady rate. The result is that we are likely to experience consistent energy levels and less hunger, so that when it’s time to eat, we are not ravenous. This helps us make better food choices throughout the day. Keeping glucose levels more balanced can also help with long term weight management as well as reduce the need to rely on tea and coffee to keep going through the day.
Protein contains amino acids, eight of which are considered ‘essential’ as they come from food. Once the body gets all eight, it can divide them up and use them to create what it needs. Not all proteins are created equal. Those that contain all eight are considered a ‘complete protein’ while those that contain any less are ‘incomplete’.
Complete proteins tend to come from animal sources, such as poultry and fish, while some vegetable-based proteins are incomplete, such as legumes. Here is the potential problem; complete proteins cost more than incomplete ones and are more expensive than carbohydrates. They also require refrigeration, and a higher degree of food safety applies. Budget eating can focus too readily on carbs which, when eaten alone, create short term energy followed by fatigue and more hunger.
One easy way to get good quality protein that still helps you eat on a budget is to combine incomplete proteins, as any combination of foods will result in a complete one. For example, lentils with chick peas, or kidney beans with quinoa, or why not sprinkle a few chopped nuts or mixed seeds for a guaranteed mix of the amino acids? While we are on the subject of nuts and seeds, they are inexpensive sources of omega 6 and 3 fats, too
Here is my ideal food day, with one eye on good nutrition and sustainable energy, and the other on budget – just a few examples of how to eat well without breaking the bank. Find plenty of other recipes, free to download, at thefooddoctor.com
Plain bio-yogurt with chopped walnuts and a banana, or a wholegrain cereal with semi- skimmed milk mixed with hazelnuts and sliced banana
An apple and a palmful of mixed unsalted seeds
Chicken salad sandwich on wholegrain bread, or a baked potato with tuna and salad
Snack Crispbread with hummus or cottage cheese on oat cakes and a couple of dried apricots
Dinner: Vegetable soup with mixed bean salad added (drain and allow it to warm with the soup), or baked trout with almonds, spinach and brown rice