Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Foods that Fight Pain - N. Barnard, M.D.

I thought I would devote today's post to the above issue. I wanted to focus on the impact that foods may have on our health and that for some people it is vital that they have access to information that might help improve their quality of life. I just thought it was so exciting that something as simple as 1/2 teaspoon of ginger each day could potentially help relieve migraine suffering! If that even helps one person out there it would be worth doing this post. I believe that the PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) website is an excellent resource and that is why I'm doing this post devoted to them and to one of the directors, Dr. Neal Barnard. What is PCRM? Doctors and laypersons working together for compassionate and effective medical practice, research, and health promotion.
Vegetarians of Alberta has sponsored lectures featuring Dr. Neal Barnard several times in the past decade and it's always inspiring to hear him speak. He has authored several books/dvd's. Check the public library as I'm sure they'll have several of his books/dvd's on the shelf. The Edmonton Public Library has 12 of his books/dvd's including his latest DVD -- Eating for Cancer Survival. Today I thought I'd highlight one of his articles on migraines as I have some friends and family members that suffer from this condition and according to one statistic one out of four people do as well. In light of that I thought I'd just copy the first page for you to read and if you want to download and/or read the rest just click on migraines above.

A Natural Approach to Migraines
Research has shown surprising links between migraines and food. Certain foods can cause migraines, while others can prevent or even treat them. Coffee, for example, can sometimes knock out a migraine, and foods rich in magnesium, calcium, complex carbohydrates, and fiber have been used to cure migraines. Some reports suggest that ginger—the ordinary kitchen spice—may help prevent and treat migraines with none of the side effects of drugs. ( 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon (1 to 2 grams) of fresh powdered ginger per day.) The herb feverfew also effectively prevented migraines in placebo-controlled research studies. A migraine is not just a bad headache. It has a characteristic pattern, usually involving just one side of your head. It is a throbbing pain (rather than a dull, constant ache), often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sounds. See your doctor to evaluate your headache, especially if headaches are new for you, are unusually severe or persistent, or are accompanied by any of these characteristics:

• fever
• a change in your strength, coordination, or senses
• neck or back pain
• a chronic run-down feeling with pain in your muscles or joints
• drowsiness
• difficulty thinking or concentrating
• progressive worsening over time
• the headache awakens you from sleep
• the headache follows head trauma

Find Your Migraine Triggers
In 1983, researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children in London reported their results for 88 children with severe, frequent migraines who began an elimination diet. In this group, 78 children recovered completely and 4 improved greatly. In addition, some children who also had seizures found that their seizures stopped. The researchers then reintroduced various foods and found that they sparked migraine in all but eight children. In subsequent tests using disguised foods, the vast majority of children again became symptom-free when trigger foods were avoided. Migraines returned when trigger foods were added to the diet. Since that time, additional research has confirmed that dietary factors can trigger migraines in children and adolescents.Anywhere between 20 and 50 percent of adults experience a reduction or elimination of their headaches when common trigger foods are avoided.

Pain-Safe Foods
Pain-safe foods virtually never contribute to headaches or other painful conditions. These include:
• Rice, especially brown rice
• Cooked green vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, or collards
• Cooked orange vegetables, such as carrots or sweet potatoes
• Cooked yellow vegetables, such as summer squash
• Cooked or dried non-citrus fruits, such as cherries, cranberries, pears, or prunes (but not citrus fruits, apples, bananas, peaches, or tomatoes)
• Water: Plain water or carbonated forms, such as Perrier, are fine. Other beverages—even herbal teas—can be triggers.
• Condiments: Modest amounts of salt, maple syrup, and vanilla extract are usually well-tolerated.

Common Triggers
Common triggers often cause headaches in susceptible people. Just as some food sensitivities manifest as a rash on your skin, migraine sufferers have a reaction in the blood vessels and nerves. Turn the page for a list of the common food triggers, also known as the “Dirty Dozen,” in order of importance:

1. dairy products*
2. chocolate
3. eggs
4. citrus fruits
5. meat**
6. wheat (bread, pasta, etc.)
7. nuts and peanuts
8. tomatoes
9. onions
10. corn
11. apples
12. bananas

* Includes skim or whole cow’s milk, goat’s milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
** Includes beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, etc.

Certain beverages and additives are also among the worst triggers, including alcoholic beverages (especially red wine), caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, and colas), monosodium glutamate, aspartame (NutraSweet), and nitrites. Foods that are neither on the pain-safe list nor the common trigger list should be considered possible but unlikely triggers. Almost any common food, other than those on the pain-safe list, has triggered migraines in an isolated individual in a research study, so these foods cannot be considered completely above suspicion (but they are far from the most likely culprits).

The Two-Week Test
The first step in tackling your migraines is to check whether any of the common triggers are causing them. To do this, you simply avoid these foods. At the same time, include generous amounts of pain-safe foods in your routine and see whether migraines occur, and, if so, how often.
Here is how to start with anti-migraine foods. For two weeks:
1. Have an abundance of foods from the pain-safe list.
2. Avoid the common triggers completely.
3. Foods that are not on either list can be eaten freely.
The key is to be very careful in avoiding the common triggers. See Foods That Fight Pain by PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., for trigger-free recipes.

Veggie Prairie Girl Rambles
I hope you find this to be a useful post. I have several of Dr.Barnard's books on my book shelf so I'll go browse through them and try out a few of his recipes. I'll have to lay off the cuppycake recipes for a while but hey that will be to my benefit as well! I also have a book I borrowed from the library entitled Superfoods for Healthy Kids that I plan to try a few recipes out of. Hopefully I will have some to post from both sources later this week.

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