Food For Thought

It’s all in the timing.

Bob Hope

After stuffing ourselves a few days ago, I’m sure that this week, many will welcome tips on lightening their eating habits. How can diet be curbed or eliminated as a migraine headache trigger?

Acupuncture and shiatsu teach us that the energy channel most closely related to the migraine condition is the gallbladder meridian. (Full marks to Eastern wisdom!)

East meets West: During the time I still suffered from migraines, I suffered a couple of very painful gallbladder attacks. The second attack felt as if a donkey had kicked me. I could feel the little hoofprint on my right side. My medical doctor advised: “One more attack and you’re going in for surgery.”

I’m a big wuss: I reasoned that I was born with a gallbladder, and I intended to die with one. General anesthesia did not appeal to me (experience has proven I take local anesthesia really well – to each his own!). The convalescent period I had observed in several others who had had the surgery didn’t thrill me either.

I’ll go into detail in a future column as to what helped to rid me of 100 “stones” without surgery, but I can state that thanks to a much lighter (and yet still delicious) diet, I’ve had only a couple of episodes of discomfort in the past decades – both when I fell off the dietary wagon for some time. I’m going to keep my gallbladder until the end!

To prevent further gallbladder attacks and develop significant pain relief from excruciating migraine headaches, I needed to lighten my diet. As it turns out – bonus! – anything that favored gallbladder function also benefited my overall health – and that’s quite a long list.

I’m successfully working at losing weight, so I believe I’ve found a winning combination. Can it be improved? Always!

Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”


Find your vitamins on the supermarket shelveS

Doctor Elliot Emmanuel, M.D.

Do I follow a particular diet? It’s mostly a whole foods, plant-based diet. The goal is to substitute one migraine-triggering eating habit for a new, healthier food or drink, one that won’t leave me feeling deprived and that I will be able to sustain for the rest of my life.

Less is more.

Mies van der Rohe, architect
(A principle that works for more than architecture!)

“Search & Replace” doesn’t just work in word processing – it’s good for lightening your diet. Aside from my tips, try doing an Internet search for: “List of replacements for (insert food or spice you are seeking to replace) in a recipe.”

Here are a few replacements:

Fat in a recipe carries the flavor to your taste buds. Can some of the fat be replaced with another ingredient? I have a Middle Eastern lady friend who cooks marvelous dishes. From that region, we get (my apologies if I get the spelling or name wrong) hamarrah, an addictive dip of ground walnuts, bread crumbs, spices, rosewater and oil. I copy that recipe and find that I get a fresher flavor and a lighter dish if I use more water and less oil.

Other options: Replace some fat with:

  • lime, lemon or fruit or vegetable juice
  • apple puree
  • oven roasting or air frying allows you to mist the ingredients in fat, instead of tossing or drenching them
  • your imagination and inventiveness

I now have to step off my soapbox and admit I will probably never achieve dietary perfection by completely eliminating refined sugar. Emotionally and intellectually, I know that I would live longer and better if I did, with remarkably less degenerative disease impact. I may never reach perfection, but I will continue to strive for it. So, with regard to cutting down and eliminating sugar:

  • include desiccated fruit powder (“DIY How To” on the internet!)
  • If you toss fresh fruit pie ingredients in a beaten egg before filling the pie crust, you can use less sugar
  • replace some of the sugar in a cake or pie filling with a mild-tasting pureed fruit such as banana, pineapple or mango 
  • spice it up! A mix of ground spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper (!)) will distract you from the sugar craving.

How to lower your salt consumption:

  • learn how to replace some highly salted commercial recipes with your own home recipes where you control salt content – For example: potato chips (replace salt with a mix of powdered dried herbs which will “stick” onto the potatoes thanks to a misting of oil – you may decide to found your own company to market those!)
  • make salt-free popcorn in a hot air popcorn maker – add that powdered mix of dried herbs to the oil you toss the popcorn in while it’s still hot from the air fryer.
  • gradually cut the salt content, slowly weaning yourself from the salt. 
  • drenching and tossing a steamed hot vegetable with lemon juice and allowing it to evaporate will leave a surprisingly salty residue.
  • I theorize that we like salt for its “bite” effect on our tastebuds. I haven’t yet tried desiccated, powdered vegetables (oven – or air-dried vegetable slices, ground to a powder in a spice grinder. Add a heaping generous tablespoon to a recipe you are preparing of the same vegetable – or mix of vegetables). I think the intense flavor will be even more satisfying than the salt.


  • Carla Piringer

    Related to noted medical professionals, afflicted with an inherited excruciating migraine condition, the author followed traditional medical and alternative therapies, now living migraine-free for over 35 years. She now shares her doctor-recommended method in her book to inspire sufferers to find significant pain relief.

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