Ask Dr. T, Episode 1: “Aren’t there triggers in your recipes?”

askdrtMany of you have reached out to me over the cyberwaves with questions and comments about the book. Over time, I notice certain themes emerging. I figure if a few people are asking me the same type of thing, then there are bound to be other readers out there with similar concerns. And so, from time to time on the blog I’ll be tackling these subjects on the “Ask Dr. T” segment. Today’s correspondence comes from reader Dione, and concerns my inclusion of some of the traditional migraine trigger foods in our recipes.

Here’s her question, which she first posed back in December 2013:

“…my biggest question is that in your book you talk about many triggers (i.e. smoked meat, dairy, nuts and bananas) but your recipes include some of them. I know you say once I adapt the diet my threshold will be a far way away, but then shouldn’t I wait a while before I try your diets that are filled with migraine triggers?

Please let me know your thoughts, Dione.”

And this was my reply:

As far as the traditional triggers are concerned, here are a couple of points to keep in mind:

1. Most of the potential trigger foods (from chapter 2) that are also ingredients in the recipes are a problem primarily when they’re eaten in isolation, but much less so when they’re part of a larger meal or a prepared dish. In the case of dairy (milk especially) and bananas, for example, the primary problem is with the rapid rise in blood sugar that comes if you consume these in isolation. When they’re eaten as part of a larger meal, or in a recipe, the blood sugar effects are far less significant.

2. Most of the traditional migraine triggers are only relevant if you are also consuming a standard western diet. So transitioning to an ancestral approach will render most of them insignificant. As I talk about in the book, this is likely largely due to stabilization of blood sugar (from improved metabolic flexibility) and the healing of the gut lining (which then prevents migraine-inducing components of foods from entering the bloodstream) that results from an ancestral diet.

The main reason I included a discussion of the traditional triggers in the book was because I figured not everyone would be ready to take the plunge to change to an ancestral diet, at least right away, so I wanted the book to still function as a useful resource for those readers.
That said, if you’ve found that an ingredient in one of the recipes has been an especially potent migraine trigger for you in the past, it might be worth either substituting something different or not making it, at least in the beginning as you’re making the transition (to allow time for your metabolism to shift and for the gut to heal).

Here was Dione’s initial response:

“Your responses makes sense, and I can’t wait to start changing my diet to reap all the benefits you talk about in your book.
Happy Holidays!”

And just last week she sent in this follow-up report:

“I’ve lost about 6 pounds from going Gluten and Sugar Free, but most importantly I have not had ONE migraine!!!

I have had hints of headaches around the hormonal times if I haven’t gotten enough sleep – there’s my balloons creeping up towards my threshold, but the small headaches are treated with one advil (no more Tylenol), and I can get back to my normal day.

I practice the 100% gluten free/sugar free diet 80% of the time – which takes a lot of stress off every day living. I don’t need to shy away from dinners with family and friends (and I can always choose the right option, and treat with a little dessert – keeping in mind my threshold level).

I owe you my life! Thank you so much for writing your book.

I even shared it with my doctor who I’ve been begging to send me for an MRI on my brain for the last 10 years. Hopefully she will share it with others who suffer like I did.

Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Thanks so much to Dione for sharing her story, and kudos to her for taking charge of her health.

If you have a question to ask or a story to share, please get in touch. I love getting feedback of any kind, as every person’s experience is a learning opportunity for us all.