National Migraine Awareness Month

Migraine
The National Headache Foundation (NHF) has designated June as National Migraine Awareness Month. Migraines affect at least 30 million Americans, yet they are under-recognized within the community.

I confess to not really knowing much about migraines until about 10 years ago. Until then, I didn’t really know the difference between a headache and a migraine. Seriously, I thought a migraine was just a really bad headache. Not true at all. In fact, the mechanisms behind headache and migraine are quite different.

Imagine my own surprise when, 10 years ago, I learned that I had been experiencing migraines since I was 16, perhaps younger. I know it now because I can tell, within my own body, the difference between a migraine and a headache.

Migraine diagnosis is difficult. There’s no definitive test. And there’s no clearly defined symptoms. Here are migraine characteristics as listed by NHF:

  • Pain typically on one side of the head
  • Pain has a pulsating or throbbing quality
  • Moderate to intense pain affecting daily activities
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Attacks last four to 72 hours, sometimes longer
  • Visual disturbances or aura
  • Exertion such as climbing stairs makes headache worse

A person need not experience all of those characteristics to have migraines. This can make diagnosis more difficult and also make it more difficult for others to understand. In fact, only 20% of migraineurs experience visual disturbances or aura. Myself? My migraines aren’t specifically one-sided, are rarely throbbing, and typically don’t come with aura.

What can you do to help yourself if you have migraines? Here are some suggestions:

  1. See your doctor. There can be life-threatening causes of migraine that you want to be sure & rule out.
  2. Know what triggers your migraines. This was critical for me in controlling my migraines. Until I knew and eliminated all triggers, no medication would help in either prevention or treatment. There are many, many possible triggers including:
    • Certain foods – they vary by person so it’s important to determine if there are foods that trigger your migraines.
    • Fragrances and chemicals in the environment
    • Barometric pressure
    • Fatigue
    • Stress & anxiety
    • Hormones
  3. Don’t skip meals as this can also trigger a migraine
  4. Get a good night’s sleep every night.
  5. Avoid bright lights & bright sunshine. Sunglasses can help.
  6. Avoid fluorescent lights and monitors that flicker.
  7. Trust your instincts. There’s so much that is not known about migraines and how they’re triggered. Only you know for certain what is triggering yours.

Think your migraines could be food, fragrance or chemical related? My migraines are triggered by a combination of foods, fragrances and chemicals. By avoiding triggers, I am migraine free most of the time. I would love to connect and help you figure out your migraine triggers. Let’s connect via my contact page.

CIA Boot Camp – Day 1

Picture of CIA Duffel Bag
This is part 1 of a 5 part series on my adventures at the CIA Boot Camp. You can see other posts here:

In March, I attended a 5 day Culinary Boot Camp offered at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio.Class started promptly at 7:00 AM each day and ended around 1:30 PM. We started with lecture and usually by 9:30 or 10:00 we were in the kitchen. These awesome duffel bags were waiting for us on our first day. They contained:

  • Two uniforms – White jackets and black and white herringbone pants.
  • Two toques – the funny paper hats that chefs wear.
  • One travel coffee mug.
  • Our name tag.
  • A binder with all the notes in it.

Class met from 7:00 AM until 1:30 PM. Or until we were finished. This was our schedule:

  • 7:00 AM – 8:15 AM – Lecture
  • 8:15 AM – 9:00 AM – Review the recipes for the day
  • 9:15 AM – 12:00 PM – Kitchen work – food preparation & demonstrations
  • 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM – Lunch – usually what we cooked
  • 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM – Clean up & Review/Critique

Pictures of the veggies we cut up

On day 1, we did no cooking. We spent our kitchen time practicing various cuts. We learned a lot on day one. Starting with how to hold a knife properly. I have been doing it wrong all my life! We worked on slicing, dicing, batonnet cuts, oblique-cuts, mincing, and more. Our food didn’t go to waste. We packaged it up for use by other classes at the school.

Since we did no food prep, we dined on food prepared by one of the other classes. (Presumably the students who are in the degree program.) They were working on breakfast that day. We finished right on time on day one. The rest of the week we ran over a bit.

Got questions about my CIA Boot Camp experience? Leave a comment below or use my contact page.

This is the first in a series of 5 blog posts on my adventures at the CIA. Look for the series to continue for the next few Fridays.

This is part 1 of a 5 part series on my adventures at the CIA Boot Camp. You can see other posts here:

Lunch & Learn at Redland Oaks

Allergies

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at a Lunch & Learn at Redland Oaks Elementary.
It turned out to be a very rainy day in San Antonio, so the turn out was low. I couldn’t blame them as I wasn’t thrilled about being out in the rain. But with our recent years of drought, and the fact that we still haven’t recovered from the droughts, San Antonio does NOT complain about rain. BUT, the parents in attendance were eager to learn.

With summer coming, I was asked to speak about “Allergy-Free Nutritious Snacks For Kids.” But I started with a different approach. I knew that parents of kids with allergies were clear on how to cope with their particular food allergens. The problem is more in understanding how all the other food system issues can contribute to allergies.

For example:

  • Hidden allergen sources buried in ingredient lists.
  • Sugar in the body can cause inflammation which can cause the immune system to overreact.
  • GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) soy has been shown to impact other allergies, especially peanut allergies.

It was primarily a talk to inform parents of the things they should watch out for in our food system; e.g. sugar, soy & derivatives, pesticides, hormones & antibiotics in dairy & beef, GMOs. The first step is to reduce processed foods. Buying organic is another good idea, especially for certain foods.

I really had a good time at this Lunch & Learn and was encouraged by the feedback I got from parents. For many, the talk opened their eyes about their need to look at their food choices more closely and change their shopping habits. Parents also are interested in learning more, knowing how to plan better and having hands-on classes.

What might you want to learn about what you feed your family?

Photo Courtesy Jim Lukach via Flickr

ADHD – The Neurotoxin Connection

ADD-ADHD

Modern chemistry has brought us many things, but not all of them are good. We live in a world where we create substances in the laboratory that wind up in our foods, our personal care products, our laundry detergents, our household cleaning supplies and our “air fresheners.” We want to believe that they’ve all been tested and shown to be safe, but that just isn’t true.

We’ve seen an increase in a number of conditions recently, and the modern chemicals are a likely culprit.

FOOD:

  • Processed foods
  • Food additives
  • Food dyes
  • Aspartame & other artificial sweeteners
  • MSG
  • Sugar
  • Foods treated with pesticides

ENVIRONMENT:

  • Cleaning products containing solvents or fragrances
  • “Air fresheners”, plugins, candles, even potpourri which has added fragrance
  • Fragrances, colognes, perfumes, after-shaves
  • Personal care products with added fragrance – even with “masking fragrance”
    Pesticides
  • Clothes that have been dry-cleaned using PERC
  • Petroleum disinfectants (Lysol, Pine-Sol)
  • Moth balls
  • Anything containing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

I found this article on Neurotoxins And ADHD: Connecting The Dots. The neurotoxins referred to come from home cleaning products. But the author goes on to talk about many things that can be neurotoxic:

  • Solvent-based markers
  • Furniture polish
  • Conventionally dry-cleaned clothes (using PERC)
  • Moth balls
  • Cleaning products containing VOCs
  • Most modern fragrances
  • and more

References:

Photo Courtesy chris.corwin via Flickr.

Roasted Pumpkin or Sunflower Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin and Sunflower Seeds

I like to buy raw seeds and then roast them myself. Often the pre-roasted seeds have added oil and salt. I like to roast pumpkin and sunflower seeds together and then put them on salads.

Roasted Pumpkin or Sunflower Seeds
 
Ingredients
  • Raw Pumpkin seeds
  • Raw Sunflower seeds
Instructions
  1. Place seeds in a skillet, using enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
  2. Heat the skillet over medium high heat.
  3. Stir often and cook until the seeds begin to brown.

Planting Seeds

Planting Seeds
Last February, I gave a talk at a local Christian networking event. The title was “Good Things From Above” with the premise being that we should be eating food in the way that God intended. I stressed the importance of whole foods and whole grains over processed foods with lots of added sugars.

I didn’t get much feedback after the talk. And personally I felt that it wasn’t that good of a talk. It was one of the first I had given and I felt that I tried to cover way too much.

Well, this week I was talking to someone who was at that talk. She told me that she and her husband had decided to work on eating better for 2012. She still had the handouts from that talk and is currently implementing them. They are eating only whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta and reducing the overall amount of grains.

What health tips have you heard that you’re thinking of implementing?

Photo Courtesy LollyKnit via Flickr

Mushroom & Onion Frittata

Mushroom & Onion Frittata
Mushroom & Onion Frittata

I’ve been creating frittatas for the past year and experimenting. This was my own invention one Sunday morning, inspired by what I found in my fridge. Enjoy!

Mushroom & Onion Frittata
 
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • Medium Onion, chopped
  • ½ lb Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 6 Eggs
  • 2 Tbsp Milk
  • ¼ cup grated Cheddar Cheese
  • 2 oz. Goat Cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In an oven proof skillet, saute onions in butter until translucent.
  3. Add mushrooms, cover and cook until soft.
  4. Beat the eggs together in a bowl.
  5. Add milk, grated cheese and salt & pepper to taste.
  6. Pour egg mixture into pan, gently lifting the onion mushroom mixture to spread the eggs.
  7. Top with goat cheese and sprinkle with paprika.
  8. Cook on stove until half set – about 5 minutes.
  9. Put the pan into the oven and cook until eggs are set and beginning to brown – 10-15 minutes.
  10. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Anna’s Chicken

Anna's Chicken

Anna’s Chicken was named for my niece. She came to our house to visit and fell in love with this chicken. She ate this chicken, and only this chicken, for dinner, breakfast and then lunch.

Anna’s Chicken
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • 1¼ lbs chicken breast, sliced lengthwise. OR 1¼ lbs chicken tenders
  • ¾ c whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c buttermilk (sub milk)
  • ¼ tsp Tabasco sauce
  • ⅔ c bread crumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix flour, paprika, salt & pepper. Dredge chicken in mixture.
  3. Whisk egg and milk. Dip chicken in milk/egg mixture.
  4. Add bread crumbs to remaining flour mixture. Dredge chicken in this mixture.
  5. Saute chicken in 2 Tbsp olive oil on medium high heat in oven-proof skillet – 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  6. Put pan in oven and bake for 8 minutes.
  7. Use caution with the skillet handle when the skillet is removed from the oven.
Notes
You could even cut the chicken into nugget sized pieces, for when the kids are asking for chicken nuggets.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year 2012You have no doubt read many blog posts this week talking about your New Year Resolutions, most of them talking about losing weight and getting in shape. While I think all of that is important, I want you to focus on your self-care first. Because once you address these needs, then losing weight and getting in shape just come naturally!

Increasing self-care is also one of the best ways to improve your energy level. When you do things that you are passionate about, it fuels your soul. When you allow yourself to take a break and relax, you feel refreshed and have all the energy to take on the world.

Here are some ideas to nourish your soul:

  1. Clean, fresh air – According to the EPA, Americans spend only 10% of our time outdoors. That’s only 2.4 hours. How much time do you spend in fresh air? (Sorry, your car doesn’t count!)
  2. Exercise/movement – Personally, I long for those days when I was moving and exercising. Usually without thinking of it as work. Wouldn’t you love to be back there?
  3. Meaningful relationship – If our relationships aren’t nourishing, then they can become toxic and be a drain on your energy.
  4. Fulfilling career – You spend a minimum of 40 hours per week at your job. If it isn’t fulfilling, look for ways to change it.
  5. Rest and relaxation – Time with friends, just enjoying life, relaxation – it’s so very important in nourishing your soul!
  6. Spiritual practice – Whatever your beliefs, take time to to honor them.

Create a “nourishment menu” for yourself. When you feel like you need a boost, take the list out and do one of the things that fuels your soul. Some ideas: take a walk in a park, call your loved ones, do yoga or stretching exercises, take your dog for a walk, take a walk with a friend to catch up, or work on a hobby.

Photo Courtesy KhE via Flickr

Seven Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Seven Tips for Surviving the Holidays
Seven Tips for Surviving the Holidays
There are many blog posts written this time of year on how to avoid fighting with you in-laws. Or how to avoid gaining weight. My tips are for those of us who are sensitive or allergic to things in our every day world. For me, I need to avoid perfumes, cleaners, air fresheners and a number of foods. Here are some tips that can help you:

[1] Avoid Crowds – This one can be hard, especially if you have shopping to do. Try shopping at non-peak times. Avoid weekend shopping. Perhaps you can take a day off work to shop. In my experience, mornings are the best times. Be there when the stores open.

[2] Watch Where You Shop – You probably already know this, but it bears repeating. There are shops & stores that I refuse to go in because they have too many smells. Especially bad are the places that have chosen to ‘brand’ their location with a unique scent. I avoid these at all costs!

[3] Be Careful What You Eat – There are lots of parties this time of year, plus more dining out. If you have sensitivities or allergies, this can be dangerous. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the food. If you’re unsure, sometimes the best bet is to not eat it.

[4] Beware the Potluck – I used to love pot luck dinners. It was an opportunity to try new dishes. Now, not so much. I have to spend too much time asking questions, that aren’t always well received. I either don’t go or make sure I bring a casserole that can be my meal, if need be.

[5] Beware the Greenery – Christmas trees, greenery, etc can be a real issue. For me, I am allergic to much of the real greenery and trees. And the artificial ones are often sprayed with a scent.

[6] Plan Your Hair/Nail Appointments – If you’re sensitivity to the chemicals used in salons, then pick a time when they’re less busy. The shop I go to is closed Sunday & Monday. So I usually go early Tuesday morning.

[7] Get Some Fresh Air – If you’re at an event and it gets to be too much, step outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air.

[BONUS] Walk Away – For some reason, people tend to wear more perfume this time of year. It’s a combination of the party atmosphere and the perfumes people get as gifts. If you find yourself in a situation where you just cannot cope, then leave. It’s hard to miss events this time of year. But ask yourself: Is it worth it to be at this party when I know that I’ll be miserable for the next few days?

Do you want to know more about coping with sensitivities or allergies? Contact me for a free initial consultation.

For a Toxin-Free Experience