Struggling with Migraines? Try the Plant-Based Migraine Diet

The recent news about migraines is enough to give anyone a headache. An experimental drug therapy may prevent migraines by disrupting the pathways, though it could be years before the medication is in development, and scientists don’t know the long-term effects of this drug. But the key to treating migraines might not be in your medicine cabinet—it could be in your fridge.

Migraines are much worse than the usual type of headache. Migraine sufferers experience a debilitating, throbbing pain with sensitivity to light and sound, often accompanied by nausea.

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Certain foods have been known to trigger migraines, including dairy, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, citrus, meat, tomatoes, onions, corn, and even apples.
Generally, safe foods include rice, cooked green/orange/yellow vegetables, and cooked fruits that aren’t citrus.

A recent study by Physicians Committee researchers shows that a plant-based diet, followed by an elimination diet may reduce migraine pain. An elimination diet helps to identify any food-based triggers. The basic process of an elimination diet is removing all types of trigger foods for two weeks while stocking up on foods from the safe list. After two weeks, reintroduce the potential trigger foods one at a time to see if there is any negative reaction.

For more information about trigger foods and how to reduce migraine pain naturally, check out the Physicians Committee’s guide to the Migraine Diet: http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/a-natural-approach-to-migraines

Here are several migraine-safe recipes to get you started:

Fruited Breakfast Quinoa
Rice Pasta with Creamy Zucchini Pesto
Summer Squash with Basil
Braised Kale or Collard Greens
Black-Eyed Peas  with Sweet Potatoes and Greens
Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges
Carob Fondue

Sunscreen Can’t Protect You from This Summer Cancer Risk

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Spending hours in the sun without slathering on sunscreen isn’t the only cancer concern to have this summer. Some popular barbecue foods—such as grilled chicken and hot dogs—can increase your risk for several types of cancer.

When meat is grilled, it releases carcinogens known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs), including a compound called PhIP. Studies have linked PhIP with multiple cancers—breast cancer in particular. The Physicians Committee has fought to add warning labels to grilled chicken products and we won a lawsuit against Burger King locations in California. However, there are no governmental regulations in the United States surrounding the consumption or sale of products containing HCAs.

It’s not just grilled meat that can increase cancer risk. Research has connected red and processed meat consumption with cancer. Most notably, eating just one serving per day of processed meat products, like hot dogs and bacon, increases colorectal cancer risk by 21 percent. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, no amount of processed meat is considered safe for consumption.

Fortunately, these risk factors are only found in animal products. Grilling some portobello mushroom caps or veggie skewers can help increase your dietary fiber and potentially increase your lifespan!

So put down the hot dog and pick up the sunscreen! Protect your body from cancer inside and out.

Not sure what to take to the barbecue? Try our grilled peaches with balsamic glaze!
Other recipes available at NutritionMD.org and DropTheDog.org.

Plant-Based Rx: The Future of Health Care?

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Healthful plant-based diets are no longer just a fad or a secret regimen of Hollywood stars. They are now everywhere. From Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Carrie Underwood, to Kim Williams, M.D., the president of the American College of Cardiology, we continue to hear success stories that inspire fans and patients to follow suit.

From a medical standpoint, study after study shows this approach helps people lose weight, lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and stabilize blood sugar. If a pill could do all these things, it would become a blockbuster drug overnight. So why aren’t more physicians prescribing a trip to the grocery store—especially if all the side effects of a dietary intervention are positive? The truth is, less than 25 percent of doctors talk to their patients about the link between disease prevention and diet, nutrition, and exercise. It’s no wonder that nearly 70 percent of our population has at least one metabolic risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.

Doctors don’t need a degree in nutrition to help patients improve their diets. Spending just five minutes talking to patients about the importance of moving plant-based fare—vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes—to the center of the plate can yield significant results.

Here are four tips to get started:

  1. Ask your patients if they are aware about the value of a plant-based diet.
  2. Recommend resources where they can learn more. Several leading medical organizations now have consumer-friendly guides for plant-based nutrition.
  3. Schedule a follow-up visit to a dietitian, nutritionist, or weekly cooking class. Meet again in four to six weeks to assess results.
  4. Track biometric risk factors and praise any sign of progress, large or small.

Hosting a weekly after-hours nutrition education class in your office is another effective way to establish a built-in-support system for patients. One instructor—a nurse, dietitian, doctor, or health coach—can teach 15-20 people. It is a model of efficiency!

As more physicians adopt this approach, and as the government integrates a plant-based prescription into its next set of dietary guidelines, slashing dangerous fats and excess sodium along the way, the question reverberating out of exam rooms will likely be “How soon can I get started?”

As health care providers our job is to plant the seed.

Want to learn more about plant-based nutrition and preventive medicine? Test-drive the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. Physicians can also attend this summer’s International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine: Cardiovascular Disease, which will feature a panel of health care professionals discussing how to implement nutrition conversations into clinical practice.