Friday, April 6, 2007

Migraine-Friendly/Gluten-Free Cooking

Ever since I was three years old, I can clearly recall dizzy spells accompanied by nausea after eating and on overcast days. As a child and teenager, my symptoms usually became especially difficult during the early fall. Although I mentioned this to doctors at annual physicals, no one had an explanation. Symptoms increased over time until I was 27. It was the summer before I got married, and it seemed like no matter what I ate, I got sick.

Finally, at the urging of a good friend, I saw a neurologist. Diagnosis: migraines. The doc sent me home with a Foods To Avoid list which included, among other things, caffeine, chocolate, cheese, dried fruit, peanuts, and yeast. I think I was 15 when I last consumed caffeine on a regular basis. And chocolate went when I was 25. I immediately removed the rest of those items from my diet and began to see improvement. Over time, I found other things that my system couldn't handle - preservatives, additives, even "natural" products (like xantham, guar and carob bean gums along with carageenan and natural flavors). Probably the biggest improvement came when I finally stopped eating sugar and sugar-substitutes.

My husband came into our marriage with his own set of food intolerances/allergies. Having struggled with asthma since childhood, he hadn't really considered that a change in diet might improve his symptoms. I can't remember when, but in the middle of a conversation with some friends, he mentioned having been tested for allergies. Wheat had come up positive. No wonder he was so miserable - I had been baking bread for him and making muffins and desserts... As I started reading on the subject, I wondered if I should just stop using anything with gluten in our home. Thus began a new world of trial and error in the kitchen!

Now the reality is that Ben and I love food - GOOD food - delicious flavors and tempting textures. But I can no longer just follow a recipe. Most call for a host of ingredients that don't agree with one or both of us. So I've taken to adapting or concocting. And my husband has asked me for a long time to share my "recipes" with others. The time has finally come.

In days to come, I hope to share ideas and recipes along with the brands and stores where I find products that I can enjoy. Unfortunately, I have to read labels EVERY TIME I grocery shop. Sometimes manufacturers change their recipes but don't make it obvious except on the ingredients list. So what I might note this month as "migraine-friendly" may become "unfriendly" next month. I'll try to post any changes as soon as I become aware of them.

So here's to enjoyable eating in spite of a limited diet!

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