fireandearth: (Default)
I brought sulfite-free kosher grape juice to Seder at my aunt's house this year, and had my first Seder without a migraine!  Yay!!!  I'm getting better at this.
fireandearth: (Default)
I just read a fascinating National Geographic article from December.

Billed on the cover of the December issue as being on "the healing power of faith" it's actually mostly about harnessing the placebo effect. The exciting piece is that scientists/doctors have been able to create a "conditioned placebo response". I want one. 

Relevant quotes:
"Scientists have been able to train the immune systems of rats by pairing sweet liquids with cyclosporine A, a drug that blocks the function of immune cells to keep patients from rejecting transplanted organs. Every time the rat has a sweet drink, it also gets the drug. But after enough trials, the drug is unnecessary: The sweet drink alone is enough to shut down the rat’s immune response."

"The most interesting part was what the brain scans showed. Normal pain sensations begin at an injury and travel in a split second up through the spine to a network of brain areas that recognize the sensation as pain. A placebo response travels in the opposite direction, beginning in the brain. An expectation of healing in the prefrontal cortex sends signals to parts of the brain stem, which creates opioids and releases them down to the spinal cord. We don’t imagine we’re not in pain. We self-medicate, literally, by expecting the relief we’ve been conditioned to receive."

"When Spevak first meets patients, he doesn’t ask about their injuries or their medical histories—he has all that on file. Instead he asks them about themselves. He might learn that in childhood a person had a favorite eucalyptus tree outside his house or loved peppermint candies. Eventually, if Spevak prescribes opioid painkillers, every time the patient takes one, he also has eucalyptus oil to smell or a peppermint to eat—whatever stimulus Spevak knows will resonate. Over time, just as with Jensen’s quick-flash faces or Wager’s skin cream (or for that matter, Pavlov’s bell), patients start linking the sensory experience to the drugs. After a while, Spevak cuts down on the drug and just provides the sounds or smells. The patient’s brain can go to an internal pharmacy for the needed drugs."

I have a drug that makes migraines go away - maxalt.  Love it.  What if I could teach my brain to associate maxalt with something else, like the eucalyptus oil or peppermint mentioned below?  Could I teach my brain to shut down a migraine without drugs? I salivate just thinking about it. 

fireandearth: (kiwi)
In which my neurologist loses a patient.  )

Does anyone have a good neurologist in DC/Northern Virginia/Southern Maryland who can work with me to determine food triggers and who doesn't just want to give me more drugs?
fireandearth: (kiwi)
I've been avoiding gluten (to varying levels of success) for about 6 months, and I think that maybe gluten isn't really the answer. My migraines have decreased, but not consistently. Every month isn't better, but some of them have been significantly better. I'm still trying to figure out what the culprits are. I've gotten away with eating some gluten enough times that I'm starting to doubt it's responsible.

Lynk suggested a gluten-testing experiment where he makes me a couple of loaves of very simple bread with no preservatives - just flour and water and yeast and salt - and I try eating a lot of it for a week and see what happens. That's the purest test I can come up with.

Right now citric acid is highest on the list of suspects. It's in almost all of the candy that sets me off, as well as many other foods, like Papa John's pizza. And I already know that citrus can be a problem in sufficient quantity. I'd like to buy some citric acid and directly test that. I can find small containers of it designed for canning, but I'm not sure quite how to test it yet. It's not really meant to be consumed by itself.

Lynk pointed out this weekend that the months where my migraines were best were when I was trying to figure out what I could eat, and therefore not eating as many different things and not eating a lot of processed or gluten-replacement foods.

I want to stop guessing and know what the answer is already. Part of the problem is that hormones are also a contributing factor, so I often wonder whether something I ate was a trigger that isn't strong enough to show itself depending on where I am in my cycle (which is difficult to monitor now that I have an IUD).

Gluten, soy, preservatives, MSG, dairy (aged cheeses are high in tyramine) are all worth testing.

Tyramine is high in several (but not all) of the foods that set me off. I need to test more nuts directly. I know almonds, walnuts, and pecans are triggers but I haven't tested all of the rest. Peanuts and pinenuts are safe. Caffeine is a known trigger.


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